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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Federally Sentenced Women On Conditional Release: A Survey Of Community Supervisors

The preceding suggestions for future research are in direct response to the results of this survey. This list is not exhaustive.

The indication that women with longer sentences were serving proportionately more of their sentence was disconcerting. Follow-up on possible mitigating factors, e.g., risk assessments, institutional behavior, should be investigated to clarify the relationship between women with longer sentences serving more of their sentence. Empirical exploration of risk assessment, violent index crimes and time served by FSW is required to ensure that women who have committed violent crimes are not simply being labeled high risk and thus serving more of their sentence than women who are serving time for a non-violent offense.

Seventy one percent (71%) of FSW in the community are not primary caregivers for their children. Investigating the women's attitude toward this fact, changes in custody that occur 6 months to a year after their release and support for women's choices regarding their caregiving responsibilities are worthy of further exploration.

Research into the education and employment link for FSW in the community is needed. Why are women with extensive education and women with minimal education both requiring assistance in finding employment? Why is there not a significant relationship between the amount of education the FSW have and their employment status? When and where are women getting employment after release? Are educational/vocational programs being offered in and out of the institution for FSW directly related to their employment status after release? These are pertinent questions to be answered.

Figures in this survey revealed that in the past three years 7 women have been indirectly supervised (defined earlier in this document), for instance by Elizabeth Fry Society, and 194 women were directly supervised by CSC personnel. Exploration into the possibility of having more women supervised indirectly is warranted. Follow up of those women indirectly supervised regarding community adjustment, e.g., recidivism may eventually lead to alleviating increasingly heavy caseloads if the effectiveness of indirect supervision can be empirically supported.

Further investigation of risk assessments on FSW is a glaring issue to be dealt with from the results of this survey. Comparisons between the supervisor's "feeling" of risk of their clients and a risk level derived by a an objective risk measurement is needed. Follow-up on both of these methods of "risk assessments" would exhibit whether supervisor's "feel" for the risk of the FSW is as effective as using objective risk measurements.

Investigating: (1) attitudes (2) reintegration potential and (3) the level of commitment that FSW are displaying, needs to be undertaken. These were the top three "methods" that supervisors were using to assess FSW for risk for re-offending. Firstly, follow-up on the accuracy of their assessments need to be completed. Secondly, these concepts need to be operationalized and assessment tools developed to access these constructs of attitude, reintegration potential and level of commitment.

A survey of those supervisors who responded to this questionnaire regarding reasons for the lack of using (7%) objective risk assessments for determining potential risk may provide insight and potential remedy to the fact that objective risk assessments are not being utilized.

Further investigation is needed for development and implementation of programs requested by the five regions. How many FSW require these services in this region? What programs are available now? What programs have worked well in other regions? Are there programs established for other offenders in the community, e.g., provincially sentenced women that could be shared? Potential of utilizing established community services, as well as implementing those programs unavailable should be examined.