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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Number of Previous Convictions
Type(s) of Previous Conviction(s)
Types of Sentences for Previous Convictions
Age at First Conviction
Juvenile History


Number of Previous Convictions

The information collected was obtained from the CPIC, which is the RCMP's database for prior convictions, including prison sentences under federal and provincial jurisdiction. CPIC information was available for 175 of the 181 women. When information was available, both juvenile and adult convictions were included in the analysis. Forty-nine percent had no previous criminal history. Research has shown that, compared to men, women arrested for homicide are less likely to have a prior criminal history (Brownstein et. al. 1994).

Of the women who did have prior convictions, 33.3% had 1 or 2 prior convictions. A similar number of women, 38.9% had between 3 and 10 convictions and 27.8% had 10 or more convictions. These percentages reflect only offences for which the offender was convicted. They do not include charges that were dismissed or acquitted. Refer to Chart 14 for a breakdown of the number of previous convictions that the women had at the time of the homicide.

Type(s) of Previous Conviction(s)

As described in the preceding section, 90 women were convicted of at least one offence prior to committing homicide. Offences were categorized according to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) 11. Schedule I of the CCRA includes serious violent offences. Schedule I offences include attempted murder and impaired driving causing death. Manslaughter, though a Schedule I offence has been excluded from this analysis to be included in the analysis regarding the number of previous convictions for homicide. Schedule II offences includes serious drug offences. Non-Schedule offences are those not included in Schedule I and Schedule II offences. It is important to note that there were no cases where the woman had been convicted strictly for Schedule II offences.

Over half the women (51.2%) had prior convictions for both Schedule and Non-Schedule offences, and 40.2% had convictions for only Non-Schedule offences. A small percentage of the women (8.5%) had been convicted for Schedule I offences. This means that only a small portion of the sample had been convicted for violent offences (refer to Chart 15).

In regards to previous convictions for homicide which includes first and second degree murder, manslaughter, capital and non-capital murder, 7.1% of the women had incurred such convictions in the past (refer to Chart 16). Interestingly all women had been previously convicted for manslaughter 12. Five of these women are currently serving a sentence for manslaughter while one was convicted of second degree murder. It is interesting that women previously convicted of manslaughter are more likely to recidivate when on statutory release than when released on full parole 13. As well, it is interesting to note that reconviction rates for women are lower than those for men when on full parole (Shaw et. al. 1992).

Types of Sentences for Previous Convictions

In addition to looking at the number of previous convictions these women had incurred, and the types of their offences, the type of sentence received for these offences was also examined. The types of sentences were categorized as custodial, non-custodial and a mix of both 14. Chart 17 below displays this data for 88 of the 90 women known to have prior offences both juvenile and adult.

The majority of women (59.1%) experienced both custodial and non-custodial sentences while a third had previously experienced non-custodial type sentences. Only 8.0% of these women experienced strictly a custodial sentence. This includes one woman who was placed in open custody as a juvenile.

Age at First Conviction

Information pertaining to the age of the women when they were first convicted was available for 86 of the 181 women. Sixty-five women were convicted as adults. Twenty-one women were first convicted as juveniles.

Excluding age at the time of juvenile convictions, the women's ages at the time of their first conviction ranged from 18 to 45 years old, with the average age being 24 years old. The highest percentage of women (36.9%) fell between the 19 to 21 years of age. There was a notable decline in the number of convictions after the age of 27 (refer to Chart 18).

A significant difference was found between women who had prior convictions versus those who did not. Women who had previous convictions committed homicide at an earlier age than those women who did not have previous convictions (t(145.14) = -5.69,p < .001). The mean age that women with previous convictions committed homicide was 24 years compared to 32 for women with no previous convictions. This is supported by a previous finding (Shaw et. al. 1992).

Juvenile History

Concerning the 21 women for whom information was available in regards to their age at the time of their first juvenile conviction, the distribution is illustrated in the following Table 6. Nearly half of the women (47.6%) who had prior juvenile convictions, were convicted at 16 years old. The small number of juvenile convictions may be due to the fact that juvenile records were not available. On the other hand, it is possible that juvenile convictions are not systematically reported in case files. The absence of much fuller information about experiences as juveniles is serious for the understanding of the development of offending histories among women (Shaw et. al.1992)


    Table 9

    Age (in years)

    Number of Women

    (N= 21)









11 The CCRA established in 1992 was amended in 1995.

12 For the purpose of this analysis, manslaughter was categorized as homicide rather than a Schedule I offence.

13 Belcourt, R., Nouwens, T. and Lefebvre, L. (1993) Examining the Unexamined: Recidivism Among Female Offenders. Forum on Corrections Research. Vol. 5 No. 3 September. Pg. 10-14.

14 Custodial signifies a sentence where the women served at least one day in custody whereas non-custodial encompasses fines, probation and community work. A woman who experienced both types of sentences was accounted for in the category "both".