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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Geographical Locations of the Homicides
Location of the Homicide
Context of the Homicide
Alcohol/Drug Use by the Offender
Alcohol/Drug Use by the Victim
Weapon Used in the Homicide
Cause of Death
Perpetrator of the Homicide

Geographical Locations of the Homicides

Ontario was the province where the highest percentage of homicides occurred (33.3%). The Ontario city with the highest percentage of homicides was Toronto (8.3%). Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta were also provinces where homicide occurred quite frequently accounting for 18.3%, 15.6% and 11.7% respectively. Prince Edward Island was the only province where a homicide did not occur.

In Table 10 below, the provinces and cities where the women committed their offences are listed. Only those cities which had two or more homicides were listed, whereas cities with only one homicide were combined and counted in the "other cities/towns" category. Information was available for 180 of the 181 women.

Table 10

Vancouver 11
Chase 3
Burnaby 2
Coquitlam 2
New Westminster 2
Other cities/towns 8
Edmonton 10
Calgary 7
Other cities/towns 4
Regina 2
Prince Albert 2
Kamsack 2
Other cities/towns 4
Winnipeg 6
Other cities/towns 2

Table 10 (Continued)

Toronto 15
Ottawa 2
Windsor 6
Chatham 2
Uxbridge 2
Scarborough 2
Belleville 2
Mississauga 2
Other cities/towns 25
Montréal 12
Québec 2
Other cities/towns 19
Chatham 1
Halifax 5
Antigonish 2
Dartmouth 2
Other cities/towns 4
St. John's 1
Other cities/towns 2


Other cities/towns 2
Whitehorse 1


Location of the Homicide

The place where the homicide occurred was available for 177 of the 181 cases. The majority of the homicides occurred at the home of the victim, who was either living apart from the offender (31.6%) or with the offender (27.1%). Other locations included: the home of the offender (6.2%); the home of the offender and her co-accused (4.0%); the home of a mutual acquaintance of both the offender and the victim (3.4%); the home of a relative of the offender (1.7%); the home of the co-accused (1.1%); and the home of a relative of the victim (0.6%).

In 9.0% of the cases, the homicide occurred outdoors and included a wooded area, city street and ditch at the side of the road. Cars and parking garages were also used as crime scenes (6.2%), as well as public institutions such as banks, universities, prisons, and hospitals (4.0%). Victims were also killed at their place of work (2.3%), at a hotel or rooming house (1.7%), or in a restaurant/bar (1.1%).

Overall, private places, such as a residence, were most often locations for the homicides than public places. This is supported by past findings (CSC 1995; Boyd 1988). Chart 19 indicates the locations that the homicide occurred and percentage.


Context of the Homicide

This variable reports information pertaining to what was happening between the offender and the victim just prior to when the homicide occurred. Information was available for 175 of the 181 cases.

As depicted in the Chart 20 below, the most frequent type of situation in which homicide occurred was when the offender was committing a robbery (16.6%). One can infer that in the process of robbing the victim the situation escalated and resulted in the death of the victim.

Another common situation, in which homicide occurred was when the offender was emotionally upset about the nature of the relationship that she had with the victim. These cases reflected factors such as physical abuse, an impending divorce, and/or infidelity. This type of situation accounted for 15.4% of the homicides examined in this study.

Arguments preceded death in 14.9% of the cases. Typically the offender and the victim were engaged in a verbal argument usually involving alcohol and/or drugs. The argument intensified, eventually resulting in the victim's death.

The next most frequent type of situation (12%) was when the offender, either alone or with others, assaulted the victim. In this context, the offender physically harmed the victim, which led to the victim's death.

Another group of women were upset about factors such as abusive relationships with their spouse at the time of the homicide, but directed their frustrations towards individuals other than their abusive spouse (10.9%). For example, one woman indicated she was upset regarding her relationship with her spouse and as a result, suffocated her infant. In these situations, the women may be taking out frustrations and aggression from other areas of their lives on their victims.

Nine percent of the women committed homicide as an act of self-defense. These homicides occurred because the offender, working as a prostitute, had to protect herself against assault or unwanted sexual advances perpetrated by a customer. Spousal homicides are included in this category, but only when the spouse is attacking the offender at the time when the homicide occurs.

In 7.4 % of the cases, women committed homicide to collect an inheritance, a life insurance policy, or another source of money that the offender could obtain in the event of the victim's death.

A small number of women (2.9%), committed homicide as an act of revenge because of the victim's past sexually abusive behavior towards a child known to the offender. Women were also convicted for homicide based on a number of other situations including: setting fires, participating in a drug deal, attempting to harm or scare the victim, assisting with someone else's suicide, avoiding the perceived shame of having an illegitimate grandchild, saving a child from an abusive parent or other individual, trying to silence the victim concerning past offences, or being hired as a contract killer. To facilitate interpretation of these circumstances, each represents between 1.0% and 2.0% of the sample and are categorized as other (8.6%).


Alcohol/Drug Use by the Offender

Alcohol and drug use by the offender at the time of the homicide was quite common. Previous research suggests that a relationship between alcohol and violent crime exists, particularly in the commission of homicide (Mann 1990). Information was available for 169 of the 181 women regarding whether or not they consumed alcohol or drugs at the time the homicide occurred. The majority of women (52.7%) had consumed alcohol prior to the commission of the homicide (Chart 21). Out of these women, 86.8% were Aboriginal and 45.4% were Caucasian.

Information pertaining to drug use, including the use of both prescription and illegal drugs, was available for 166 women. Over a third of the women (35.5%) were using drugs at the time they committed homicide. According to previous research findings, women drug users are more likely to kill a stranger or an acquaintance than to kill someone with whom intimate ties are shared (Mann 1990).

Approximately a quarter of the women in the sample used both alcohol and drugs at the time of the offence. These results suggest that drugs and alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the commission of the homicide.


Alcohol/Drug Use by the Victim

Information pertaining to alcohol and drug use by the victim at the time of the homicide was available for 158 cases. Alcohol use by the victim (Chart 23) occurred in 52.5% of the homicides. This is similar to the frequency of alcohol use by the offender.

Drug use by the victim was not as common. Only 28.4% of the victims were known to have used prescription or illegal drugs prior to the homicide. Further investigation into the context of the crimes would be helpful and would permit a better understanding of alcohol/drug use as contributing factors (Chart 24).

Based on 154 cases, analyses showed that in 46.8% of the homicides both the offender and the victim had consumed alcohol at the time of the homicide. With regards to drug use, less than a quarter (22.4%) of 143 cases, both the offender and victim had consumed drugs at the time the homicide occurred. In 39.6% the cases, neither the women nor the victim used alcohol at the time of the homicide; while in the majority of the cases (58.7%) neither the offender nor the victim used drugs.


Weapon Used in the Homicide

The most common weapon used to commit homicide was a knife (used 31.8% of the time). The second most common weapon used to commit homicide was a gun (used 20.7% of the time).

The use of bodily force was another method used to commit homicide. The category "bodily force" included assault that led to death or strangulation. This method of committing homicide accounted for 9.5% of the cases. However, the use of bodily force in conjunction with other weapons, including knives and blunt objects was a more frequent method of committing homicide. Fourteen percent of the offenders used this method. In one case, bodily force was used in conjunction with drugs.

Other types of murder weapons included fire (1.7%); water (drowning) (1.7%); ax or hammer (1.7%); a car used to drive over the victim (1.1%); poison/drugs (0.6%); bodily force and drugs (0.6%); and a plastic bag used to suffocate the victim (0.6%). In Chart 25, these weapons are categorized under other. Refer to Chart 25 for a breakdown of the weapons used in the homicides examined in this study.


Cause of Death

This variable is closely related to the variable describing the type of weapon used to commit the homicides. However, the cause of death variable provides information pertaining to the amount of force used and the various effects that the weapons had on the victims.

The most common cause of death was stab wounds, which accounted for 33.7% of the cases. The second most common cause of death was gunshot wounds, which accounted for 20.4% of the cases. Refer to Chart 26 for the various causes of death. The category "Other" includes: fire/smoke inhalation, drowning, beating and fire, strangulation and stab wounds, strangulation and drowning, shaking, neglect, getting pushed from a window, mutilation, getting crushed by a car, poison and drugs, drowning and drugs, beatings and having rocks dropped on their head, beating and suffocation, and strangulation and sexual assault.


Perpetrator of the Homicide

The women offenders involved in the homicides were responsible for killing the victim in over half of the cases (63.3%). In 16.1% of the cases the co-accused committed the crime and the women offender was charged for their role as a conspirator or accomplice. In 20.6% of the cases, both the women offender and her co-accused(s) were convicted of homicide.

    Table 11

    Perpetrator of the Homicide (N= 180)