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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Exemplary Community Programs For Federally Sentenced Women : A Literature Review

Principles Of Successful Programming For FSW

1. Empowerment
2. Meaningful and Responsible Choices
3. Respect and Dignity
4. Supportive Environment
5. Shared Responsibility

 

In April 1990, The Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women produced a report entitled Creating Choices. The purpose of the project was to develop a model which examines the unique needs of federally sentenced women and aids them throughout the process of their sentence. While the Task Force primarily focused upon program issues related to the incarceration of FSW, their observations and recommendations can also be applied to FSW released into the community. The Task Force outlined five principles of change which formulate the basis for effective programming. These principles not only reflect a competent correctional strategy, but also a practical community program design.

 

1. Empowerment

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"Empowerment is the process through which women gain insight into their situation, identify their strengths, and are supported and challenged to take positive action to gain control of their lives" (CSC, 1994b:3). The Task Force identified the lack of power women feel to command their own lives, and the subsequent low levels of self-esteem felt among them, as a primary need. The inequities and lack of opportunity traditionally endured by women have left many with feelings of inadequacy, particularly for FSW. It was found that the women required programs which heightened self-esteem and allowed the women to become empowered in order to enable them to challenge conventional norms.

 

2. Meaningful and Responsible Choices

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Federally sentenced women require pertinent information which will allow them to make meaningful and responsible choices about their lives. Women need to be advised as to the availability of resources and the implications of their decisions so they may select the most appropriate options. Allowing women to make informed decisions provides them with a sense of control over their lives and, in turn, builds their self-esteem and self-worth.

 

3. Respect and Dignity

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This principle reflects the idea that respect is essential between and among prisoners and staff of correctional services. This precept is based upon the belief that a person treated with respect and dignity is likely to gain self-respect and to respond to others in a similar fashion.

 

4. Supportive Environment

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A positive environment can foster personal development and promote physical and psychological health. A supportive environment ensures equality of services in a respectful atmosphere while allowing for meaningful and responsible choices to be generated.

 

5. Shared Responsibility

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It is the responsibility of all levels of government, correctional services, businesses, voluntary and private sector groups, and the community to aid in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programming services for federally sentenced women. This approach allows women to gain control of their lives and become productive, contributing members of society.

The Task Force expounds that adherence to these principles will launch a strategy for creating choices for federally sentenced women, ultimately responding to their specialized needs and experiences. The Task Force proposes that the succeeding innovative statement of principle be implemented in order to shift the focus of corrections to a community-based model:

"The Correctional Service of Canada with the support of communities, has the responsibility to create the environment that empowers federally sentenced women to make meaningful and responsible choices in order that they may live with dignity and respect" (1990:112).