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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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This study reviewed the cases of 181 women serving a federal sentence for homicide (incarcerated, on conditional release, deported or escaped) as of December 1996. Federal offenders are persons sentenced by the courts to a period of incarceration in federal institutions for 2 years or more.

In this study, homicide offences included convictions for first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter and murder reduced to manslaughter 1. Convictions for capital2 and non-capital murder 3, although these terms are no longer in use, were also included in the study since a few women in the sample were convicted before the Criminal Code was revised and this terminology was replaced. Convictions for infanticide were not found within our sample and other homicide related convictions such as attempted murder and conspire to commit murder were excluded.

A list of variables to be included in the study was developed based on previous research. These variables included demographic information, offence-related details, and previous criminal record. After determining a list of variables to include in the study, a list of women offenders currently incarcerated or on parole for a homicide offence was obtained from the Offender Management System (OMS). OMS is the Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC) database that contains all case information on federal offenders. As of December 1996, there were 191 women meeting the inclusion criteria for the study. However, 10 women were consistently excluded from specific analyses due to the insufficient amount of information available pertaining to the variables being analyzed.

A data base file was created using the statistical software package "Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows". Information pertaining to the identified variables was then gathered. The primary source of information was OMS, which was used to access demographic information, criminal profiles, psychological reports and any other files which contained details of the homicide offence. As well, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) was used within OMS to gather data pertaining to prior

convictions and sentences received. Hard copies of files (paper files), previously sent to NHQ for use in other studies, were an additional source of information for several of the women, particularly those offenders accommodated in provincial institutions (under the Exchange of Services Agreement) whose information on OMS was limited.

After reviewing the primary sources of information during data collection a significant amount of information remained missing. A questionnaire was designed to collect information regarding the missing variables. The questionnaire was sent to the institutions and community offices (both federal parole and provincial probation offices) which held the offenders' files. After data collection was complete all information was entered and analyzed using SPSS.

1 According to Section 232 (1) of the Criminal Code, murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the person who committed it did so in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation.

2 Prior to 1961 all murder was capital murder punishable by death. In 1967, the Criminal Code differentiated capital murder and non-capital murder. Capital murder included murders which were planned and deliberate, murders committed during the commission of another criminal act and murders of police officers and similar persons acting in the course of duty. From 1967-73, capital murder referred only to the murder of a police officer or similar official. In 1974, amendments to the Criminal Code classified murder or murders of police officers as murders punishable by death. This was practice until 1976 when the death sentence was abolished (Statistics Canada 1976, Nouwens 1991).

3 From 1967 to 1973, non-capital murder included all murders other than murders of police officers and similar officials. From 1973-76, non-capital murders were associated with the penalty provided by law, and all murders not given the death sentence were considered to be non-capital (Nouwens 1991).