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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Exemplary Community Programs For Federally Sentenced Women : A Literature Review

Criteria For Effective Programming For FSW

1. Women-Centred Principles
2. Principles of Women's Education
3. Diversity
4. Analytical Approach
5. Program Structure
6. Program Success

 

CSC (1994b) proposes a further six components which are recommended for the implementation of correctional programs for federally sentenced women (8-12). It is recommended that these principles be the guidelines for any type of program for FSW, including community-based models:

 

1. Women-Centred Principles

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Programs must take into account the social, political and economic contexts of women's lives and reflect individual needs in relation to the world in which women live. Programs are based upon a collective approach rather than a hierarchal model in order to reduce potential power imbalances between participants and the facilitator. Women are regarded as experts on their individual life experiences and treated with respect. The survival strengths within each women is focused upon in order to promote empowerment and effect change. Interactions between the women and the facilitator are regarded as most constructive when they are empathetic, accepting, supportive, encouraging, challenging and non-confrontational. Women are encouraged to listen and learn from one another and to build trusting relationships.

 

2. Principles of Women's Education

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As women tend to learn best by interacting with others and building relationships, programs should reflect a model of shared learning. However, a variety of delivery techniques, such as videos, role playing, or artistic work need to be employed in order to address individual learning styles. The benefit of humour is another technique often useful to promote a safe, supportive learning environment. Facilitators also need to acknowledge that they become role models for participants and therefore need to be observant of their own behaviour.

 

3. Diversity

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Program participants come with diverse and multifaceted backgrounds which must be reflected in the availability of programs and acknowledged in their delivery. Issues of power inequalities such as race, class, and sexual orientation must be regarded with a sense of understanding.

 

4. Analytical Approach

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Women should be encouraged to develop and use problem-solving skills, examine there own and others' value systems, to think critically and creatively, and to learn and practice appropriate social skills.

 

5. Program Structure

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Facilitators should receive adequate training in order to understand the purpose and design of programs. Programs must be made accessible to women and be flexible to meet their individualized needs, and provide sufficient opportunity for progress and healing.

 

6. Program Success

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Programs need to establish assessment criteria in order to determine whether a specific service is sufficient to address a potential client's needs. Once groups are formulated, rules must be agreed upon which adhere to feminist principles. In order to ensure that needs are adequately met, programs further require on-going monitoring by CSC, reporting between facilitators and CSC, and evaluation.

CSC (1994b) developed the preceding paradigm in order to respond to the distinct needs of FSW. Four concerns commonly identified by female offenders to be areas of need were identified and the development of specific programs to address these demands were recommended:

1. abuse/trauma issues

2. education and employment skills

3. substance abuse

4. parenting

In the review of literature, CSC (1994b) found that criminality among women is greatly influenced by their past and present life circumstances. In order to adequately address these issues, the literature recommends that programs designed for female offenders should employ a holistic and multi-dimensional approach to treatment rather than focusing on one problematic area. It is from this perspective, combined with the principles drafted by The Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women, that a review of exemplary programs was undertaken. It is evident that little is available which adheres to the model prescribed while thoroughly attending to the needs of female offenders.