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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Federally Sentenced Women Maximum Security Interview Project: "Not Letting the Time Do You"

Personal factors

6.1 Responsibility for Reducing Security Levels
6.2 Security Classification Review Process
6.3 What Can CSC do to Help Address Reasons Behind Classification
6.4 Identified Obstacles to Security Classification Reduction
6.5 Women's Attempts to Reduce Their Security Classification
6.6 Factors Women Consider as Helpful When Trying to Reduce Their Security Classification
6.7 Factors Women Consider Not Helpful When Trying to Reduce Their Security Classification

In the previous section women's general perceptions regarding security classification reduction were summarized. In Section 6, general aspects relating to the actual process of security classification reduction are discussed. More specifically, presented in this section are women's opinions regarding whose responsibility is it for reducing security levels, the security classification review process, what CSC could do to help address the reasons for their maximum security classification, and what they perceive as obstacles to their security classification reduction. Also considered in this section are women's responses to questions regarding whether they have attempted to reduce their security classification, and if so, what factors they considered helpful or not helpful.

 

6.1 Responsibility for Reducing Security Levels

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The question was asked, "Whose responsibility is it for reducing the security levels of maximum security women - CSC's, the individual woman's, or both?" Nine women answered the question and all felt that the responsibility was shared between the woman and CSC (four SNP women did not comprehend the meaning of the question, one SNP woman did not answer the question). Changing behaviour/attitude and following one's correctional plan, including participating in programming, were seen as the individual woman's responsibility, while offering appropriate programming, presenting a willingness to alter one's perceptions of inmates, and recognizing an inmate's attempts at change were seen as the primary responsibility of staff.

    Both. Definitely both. All the psychologists and all the guards and all the case management officers - they can't do it unless you're willing to do it. But once you're willing to do it they have to meet you half way. If you're showing effort, then I think that they should really recognize it... (Kerry)

    I think everyone should have an input into it, you know....I think that you have like a meeting - and you discuss things - because a lot of women have factors that case management might not know about - and it could be important you know. (Tanya)

    I think that everybody has to work together - that's the way that it should be...the individual, CSC, and the Warden, because she's the leader of the institution - so those should be the three people that should have work on getting the security lowered. (Chris)

    Both. 'Cus the woman got to change - change their attitude and everything and then CSC got to make sure that they be ready for it. (Nicki)

    It's the woman's responsibility to prove theirself [sic] - yes. But then CSC['s] responsibility, if they want us - the woman - the inmate - to help and reduce her level, they need - CSC - to get programs in place for them. Programs and different things in place for them so they can help theirself [sic] to become medium, I think. (Tina)

 

6.2 Security Classification Review Process

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A number of questions that relate to the process of security classification review were explored in the interviews. Questions were asked relating to women's awareness of the frequency of security classification reviews for maximum security women, whether the women were in agreement with the frequency, and their general understanding and comments on the review process, including how it might be improved.

Nine women (64%) were aware that security classification reviews were conducted quarterly. Seven women (50%) were in agreement with quarterly security classification reviews. As discussed below, women in the GP segment demonstrated greater awareness and understanding of the security classification review process.

General population segment

  • All of the women in the GP segment volunteered the information that security classification reviews were conducted every three months.
  • Four of the women in the GP segment (67%) were in agreement with quarterly security classification reviews; one woman thought the reviews should be every six months, another felt they should be every six weeks.
  • Three of the women thought that more information about how the review process worked should be shared with the inmate.
  • Four of the women in the GP segment (67%) volunteered their opinion that more people should be involved in the security classification review process; two of these women felt that the individual inmate should also be included.

    They do it every three months, I think. I think that's good. It gives you three months just to stabilize good behaviour...I think that when they do the review the offender should be present - they have plenty of things to say, right? - instead of them [staff] just sitting over there and making all the decisions. (Tanya)

    I think they should involve the psychology department, CO2s [Correctional Officer II; also functions as Primary Worker], I think that everybody that's involved with the person - like maybe the Chaplain as well - everyone that interacts with the person, you know. (Melissa)

    ...And maybe even be allowed to sit in on these meetings where they're either raising or lowering your security level. I know that they have a lot of things that they want to talk about - but when it becomes your case - like same as you're allowed to sit on your seg [segregation] review board if you're in segregation - I believe that you should be allowed to attend these meetings where they're talking about you and where they're deciding your life - I think that you should be able to defend yourself. (Alison)

Special needs population segment

  • Six of the eight women in the SNP segment understood the questioning regarding security classification review. Of these six women, half were aware that security classification reviews were conducted every three months.
  • Half the women were in agreement with quarterly security classification reviews. Of those who were not in agreement, one woman thought reviews should be conducted every 30 days, another thought every 2 months, and one woman did not have an opinion.
  • None of the women in the SNP segment offered any comments on the security classification review process as it stands or with respect to how the process might be improved.

 

6.3 What Can CSC do to Help Address Reasons Behind Classification

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In terms of facilitating security classification reduction, women were specifically asked how they thought CSC could help them address the reasons behind their maximum security classification, particularly their criminogenic needs. Understandably, the impacts of various factors on security classification were explored throughout the interviews. This sub-section identifies those factors suggested by women when specifically asked this question.

Six women (3 GP, 3 SNP) raised programming suggestions, including the need for greater access to programs. Programming considerations will be dealt with separately in Section 7. Six women (2GP, 4 SNP) raised issues related to staffing. These concerns are presented here, however, inmate-staff interpersonal relations will be dealt with in more detail in Section 8.4. Again, there were differences noted between the two population segments with respect to both the content and extent of their suggestions regarding ways that CSC could help them address the reasons for their maximum security classification.

General Population Segment

  • All six women in the GP segment volunteered the information that greater access to psychological and/or psychiatric services would help them with the reasons they are classified maximum. (These services are specifically dealt with in Section 7.5.)
  • Two women (33%) suggested that more encouragement from staff would be helpful.

    It doesn't matter what you do that's good - the negativity is always focused on. And I don't think that that's right, they should recognize the positives. (Chris)

  • One woman felt that having more things to do to occupy her time would be beneficial.

    It's a good idea for us to be productive - to have things to do. I don't want to speak for the others but it's not always a good idea to have too much time on one's hands. Sometimes that means that everyone gets involved in everyone else's business and some people can focus in and get over involved. That can lead to trouble. (Alison)

Special needs population segment

  • The most prevalent factor identified by women in the SNP segment in regard to how CSC could help them address the reasons they are classified maximum related to staffing concerns, particularly with respect to staff sensitivity to mental health issues (n=4, or 50%).
  • Number one...I have to say staff need more training to deal - they need more training, to deal with knowing and understanding about mental illness. (Tina)

    ...we just want our regular staff - because our regular staff knows - works well here - you got a problem, comes down and talks to you - but if you gets different staff members - that don't know what the hell is going on in this unit - causes big trouble for us. (Nicki)

  • One woman stated that there was nothing CSC could do to help her:

    I don't think that they can help in any way - I just have to finish the time. (Kim)

 

6.4 Identified Obstacles to Security Classification Reduction

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Interviews explored what women considered as the biggest obstacle standing in the way of reducing their security level. Women in the GP segment were much more likely to identify obstacles and to provide considerably more detail in the accompanying explanation.

General population segment

Although the wording of the question prompted the women to identify "the" biggest obstacle standing in the way of reducing their security level, several of the women in the GP segment named more than one obstacle.

  • Four women (67%) identified behaviours, namely their institutional behaviour, as the biggest obstacle standing in their way of security classification reduction. Two of these women also specifically identified substance abuse concerns.

    I think it was the trying to stay charge-free - because it's easy to get charges here. (Pam)

    The drug issue...oh the other biggest obstacle is not being steady behaviour - not so much behaviour as in bad behaviour, but as in being depressed a lot and cutting myself. (Melissa)

    The biggest obstacle...the drugs...every three weeks, every four weeks - oh they were nailing me, nailing me, nailing me - piss test, piss test, piss test. And I'd refuse. And if I didn't refuse it came up dirty. And it's a $50.00 fine either way - so you can't win. (Kerry)

  • Three women (50%) identified a lack of support (institutional and/or family) as the biggest obstacle in reducing their security classification.

    My fear - it was a fear of - I didn't have my family accepting me, I didn't have any support, you know, so why bother...I really believe personally if I hadn't have got over that fear and if I hadn't have reestablished a relationship with my family - I probably would have just been letting the time do me - I wouldn't have been doing my own time, I wouldn't have been being productive in a way that I am now - I would have just been letting the time do me and just waiting 'til my warrant expiry and get out and probably end up back in because I didn't deal with anything. (Alison)

Special needs population segment

Three of the eight women in the SNP segment (38%) did not provide an answer when asked to identify obstacles to security classification reduction.

  • Of the five women in the SNP segment who answered this question, two women (40%) felt that there were no obstacles in the way of reducing their classification.
  • Two women (40%) identified their assaultive behaviour as the major obstacle to reducing their security classification.
  • One woman felt that the parole board was her biggest obstacle.

 

6.5 Women's Attempts to Reduce Their Security Classification

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Women were asked a number of questions related to exploring their efforts toward security classification reduction. Specifically explored were: whether they had tried to do things to reduce their security level and if so, what were these things; and what was generally helpful and not helpful when trying to reduce their security classification. Two thirds of the women (n=9, or 64%) reported having tried to do things specifically in order to reduce their security level.

General population segment

  • Five of the six women in the GP segment (83%) reported having made attempts to reduce their security level. Each of these five women identified a variety of things they had attempted to do in order to reduce their security level-all involved following their correctional plan and/or improving their institutional behaviour.

    Good performance at work - eight months at the same jobs - going to see the psychologist that's here - taking these programs now - and the adjustment that I've made on the range [transferred to the general population]. (Pam)

    Well, I worked with psychology, and this was the goal always - was to try and stay clean. To try and battle the drug scene. But I never, ever could do it. (Kerry)

  • One woman reported that she has tried nothing to reduce her security classification.

    I don't know - because part of me doesn't care about it - and that's the part that usually wins out so I usually do nothing. (Tanya)

Special needs population segment

  • Four of the eight women in the SNP segment (50%) reported having made attempts to reduce their security level. Three of these four women each identified a single thing they had attempted to do in order to reduce their security level - most involved improving their behaviour (e.g. "I be good" or "I hold my temper"). The fourth woman expressed her frustration that her efforts to both remain charge free and to participate more fully in programming had not been recognized promptly.

    The thing is, I done that and I didn't get down to medium - I never received no charges for three months, I was doing programs and they never reduced me to medium. (Tina)

  • Two women (25%) clearly stated that they were not interested in doing things in order to reduce their level; one woman stated that she was going to try and "be good" in order to reduce her classification, and the other woman did not comprehend the question.

    Nothing - not anything...I just take it as it comes. I have nothing to say about anything. (Kim)

    I haven't tried to be good yet, but I would like to try it, yeah. (Clara)

 

6.6 Factors Women Consider as Helpful When Trying to Reduce Their Security Classification

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Women were asked to identify and discuss what they considered as helpful when trying to reduce security classification. Seven women (50%, or 4 GP, 3 SNP) volunteered the information that programming (explored in Section 7) was helpful to them when trying to reduce their level. There were differences between the answers of the women in the GP and SNP segments with respect to the nature and extent of the factors they identified as helpful. In particular, women in the GP segment each identified numerous factors and engaged in this question with a greater degree of interest and depth, compared to women in the SNP segment who, for the most part, volunteered one factor - usually staff related.

General population segment

The women in the GP segment identified both personal and institutional factors as helpful when trying to reduce their security classification. Their responses are grouped accordingly.

Personal factors

Women in the GP segment identified a variety of personal factors as helpful to them when trying to reduce their security level, included greater self-awareness, self-discipline and self-respect. Women did acknowledge the role of programs and psychology or counseling in helping to facilitate these personal factors (explored in detail in Section7.6).

  • In their answers regarding what is helpful for them in terms of reducing their security classification, four of the GP women (67%) spoke about the importance of a positive or good cycle that broadly encompassed their attitude and behavioural change. Commonly identified in this theme were the components of: women 'doing their own time,' focussing on their own issues, distancing themselves from a guard - inmate mentality, and not being discouraged by, or upset with, institutional decisions. In order to capture the comprehensiveness of this theme, a number of fairly lengthy quotations are shared below.

The fact that I'm doing well here - the longer I do well, the better it makes me feel about myself, and the better I feel about myself, the better I do - so it's like a good cycle then - instead of a bad cycle where the worse you feel about yourself, the worse your behaviour, the worse you feel, the more time you get, the more crap you get. It's a cycle...like getting away from the drugs...like it was hard - sometimes - like there is a lot of fear there, because you're really anxious. But then you realize you're doing it on your own, like, when you don't react to something or when, you know, you don't slash for a month - or two months goes by and you still didn't slash. And a situation comes up that would've made you freak out or would've made you slash and you didn't. And every time like that happens it makes you feel better and better about yourself. You know, because you know you're doing it on your own...I've been drug free completely since May - and that's the first time in my life since I started using drugs that I could ever say that. I got a clean urinalysis and I felt like framing it because I never had any. (Kerry)

    My attitude change is what really helped me...I guess the change came to me when I landed in segregation...And the way that I got in trouble - it was just like a bop - I had nine charges right in a row - like threatening staff - then they had to come in my cell and quiet me down - they had to restrain me...But then when I went over in seg - I don't know - I was thinking about everything and I just said, "[Alison] you're not getting anywhere - like look where you're going - you're just going down, down, down...you were going to work on getting down to medium and you were going to go to the new institution and now look at you. You're getting caught up in everybody else's business, you're not doing your own time - you're making someone else's problem your problem - you're getting stressed out." I guess the light bulb went on and I said, "something has to change. I have to really start working on my problems because I've been bullshittin' myself." Now for about three years...I was bullshittin' myself like I had it all together - and I said "there's no way you have it all together when you're freakin' out in your cell like some sort of maniac - when there's nothing psychologically wrong with you in that area" - I'm not mentally disturbed - but I was acting like a mentally disturbed person - I really was...because I really wasn't keying into what my problem was - and that was deal with your alcohol issues, deal with anger problem, deal with things. And I remember, I knocked on the door - and my CO2 [primary worker] was in the office and I just said to her, "can you please help me get out of prison." I said, "I really want to - I'm really ready to change." I guess I just got sick and tired of everything, sick and tired of my behaviour, sick and tired of the reactions I was getting, everything I was trying to do...and then when you start changing your attitude it begins to fit together - helps you realize, well yeah - if I change my attitude a little bit, you know, things are going to happen for me. We're going to start communicating and I'm going to start addressing the areas that I need to address...It had to be within me, oh absolutely, because people [staff] were trying to talk to me all this time - it's like "oh yeah, you guys don't know what you're talking about, I got it all together." But I really didn't. And I had to change inside to come as far as I've come - to come this far...and then it all started making sense - all these things people were trying to put in my head. My CMO [Case Management Officer], my CO2 - they knew - kept telling me you have potential, you're going to be okay, you just have to believe in yourself and have a little bit more confidence. I really didn't have any confidence...and when I began the change inside, everything started to make sense. I never developed a [received another] charge. (Alison)

    It starts coming naturally - since I'm doing good in one area then...as more time goes by and I keep doing good also in other areas. And since I've been doing good for like three months without - like, eating properly and all that - I find it's like - I find it hard to believe that I was that way before. When I think about it now it's like - I was a different person or something. (Pam)

Institutional factors

Women in the GP segment identified various institutional factors as helpful to them when trying to reduce their security level. These included positive staff communication and interaction, positive reinforcement from staff, less availability of drugs, a correctional treatment plan that is perceived as appropriate and realistic, and various incentives (e.g. family visits).

  • Four of the six women in the GP segment (67%) reinforced the importance that positive staff communication and interaction had for them in terms of helping them reduce their security level.

    Well, I think the more open the communication lines are between the staff and inmates the more that it's helpful. It really helps. At first I didn't think it was helping because I still had my attitude...and I said, "oh, this is fucked - they're sitting down there trying to play scrabble with us, they're talking to us, they're asking us how we're doing - what is this bull?" Because, you know, heaven forbid if you should talk to a guard. Now when you think about it, you think is that ever silly - because you have to be out on the street, and you have to talk to people and be sociable - I mean this is silly to think this way...And okay, to talk to the guards and to communicate doesn't mean that you're being a rat, doesn't mean that you're ratting out on your friend or anything like that. It's about communication. And I mean, as long as you're doing your own time and you're sticking to your own business and you're discussing with the guards about what your problems are, then I don't see anything wrong with it...it really did help me. (Alison)

    It's all in the way that the staff interact with you, without having to push [you] over for this or that. There's a common respect there - they respect us, we respect them, it goes both ways...I have learned that just because someone wears a uniform doesn't mean that they're my enemy. And I never, ever felt that [before] - never, ever, you know. It's all in the interaction - staff-inmate - it works, it works. It really helps. All it takes is, you know, for them to deal with things a little differently. They deal with us a little differently, we deal with them differently. We get closer and closer to meeting in the middle, yeah. (Kerry)

  • In particular, four of the six women in the GP segment (67%) identified the importance of receiving positive reinforcement from staff, in particular that staff recognize women's attempts toward positive changes. Similarly, three women (50%) commented that it was very helpful for staff to adapt their own behaviour in response to changes in attitude and behavior that the women were making.

    What was helpful? That as I changed, the staff seemed to change their attitude towards me. Because if they had stayed the same then it would have been frustrating on top of thinking that this doesn't work either, what do I do? I probably would have felt like I was in purgatory there and I wasn't going anywhere. But I noticed that they were changing their attitude toward me - so I said, oh, okay now I get it - give respect and I get respect back - and I do get it - sometimes there's glitches - here and there - but that's no big deal, that's the way life is you know, there's always ups and downs - deal with it. (Alison)

    The effort has got to be recognized. Like [in the past] I found that I could be good for 2 or 3 months and still nothing changed - so then I would end up going up. But [now], you know, you get the encouragement...when I started getting to know staff and they started getting to know me - I was really giving an effort - and they really recognized that - they recognized and you know, and they really were the first ones to give you credit for that. And that really helped...When you know you're doing it, it's okay, but when somebody else recognizes it, it makes a big difference. Encouragement. (Kerry)

  • Two women commented on less availability of drugs as helpful to them.

    Well, there is less availability [of drugs] for one. So there's not too many times when you have to be strong - so, you know...that helps. (Kerry)

  • Two women mentioned various incentives, such as family visits as helpful to them.

    The Little House [private family visit house] visits - that was [helpful], yeah, showing that I was able to cope and I was trusted to be out there. (Melissa)

    ...that was the deal - if I could stay clean for three months they'd give me a family visit - and I did it once. Because when you're a maximum, you cannot get an open visit with your family. Like, if you have any kind of dirty urinalysis or anything, they wouldn't give me an open visit for two-and-a-half years, you know, with my own family...usually it's six months before they will consider giving you open visits, but in my case, I made a deal - only because she [CMOI] didn't think I could do it...so that was helpful for that time. (Kerry)

  • Finally, one woman commented that being given a "fresh start" was very important to her in terms of her working toward security classification reduction.

    I think the fact that it was made clear to me that I was getting a fresh start made a difference. And that gave me a shot. It was like, yes, you know these people are willing to give me a chance, I'm going to take it...That was very important - very, very important. (Kerry)

Special needs population segment

  • Six of the eight women in the SNP segment (75%) provided answers to this line of questioning. Again the answers that were provided were brief, and all tended to concentrate on staff resources, particularly on staff encouragement and help.

    Staff notice obeying the rules and everything. Yeah - the women here and the staff. They give me support. (Nicki)

    People - they all work together to try and get me there [classified down to medium security]. Staff. They talk to me about it - and they might be on the phone and do some paperwork about it. That's what they did last year. (Rita)

    [Name of CMOI] - Well, she talks to me a little bit...she's helpful. I like all the guards here. (Susan)

    Interacting with the guards - like instead of the guards sticking in their office half of the time - get to know the people you're working with and sit down - say, this is who I am, this is who you are. Now I need your help. You're getting paid to help me so I want you to get off your ass and start helping me - instead of sitting down doing nothing. That's how I feel. (Tina)

 

6.7 Factors Women Consider Not Helpful When Trying to Reduce Their Security Classification

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Women's responses to questions regarding what is not helpful to them in terms of trying to reduce their security level were very much the opposite of what they considered as helpful. Consequently at first glance, this section may appear redundant. However, the reverse position on some of these factors does provide interesting insight.

General population segment

  • Four of the six women (67%) identified lack of positive recognition by staff and/or problematic staff interactions as factors that were not helpful in reducing their security level. The following quotes illustrate the women's sentiments.

    I tried a few times - but it's really difficult. Even when you're doing well, when you're doing better - it's such a big place - it's really hard to get someone to notice. I find up there once you get the reputation, you can't shake it. I haven't seen anybody who has shaken it inside an institution. (Kerry)

    ...Where I feel like I've done a lot since then to better myself. And they should be looking at that, but they just focus on the negatives. And since then I've done so much positive things - work performances and everything else. But that's what they do in here - the staff - they just focus on the negativity, the negativity... It's very frustrating - because you can go and do programs 'til you're blue in the face, get work records and all that - and it's just well - you're going to give a dirty piss test - like last year - and they're just focusing on that. (Chris)

    I guess not giving credit where credit is due - that's a big thing...if we did something good we weren't - it wasn't acknowledged, it wasn't given credit for... (Alison)

  • Although recognizing the need for a three- or four-month time period between classification reviews to monitor changes in behaviour, two women (33%) did comment on their difficulty in dealing with this time period.

    Well, the stuff that interferes mostly - I guess the time limits - maybe. Sometimes your behaviour is really good but you still have that time limit to go through. There's a certain standard amount of time-I think it's four months or something - that you have to be charge-free following your correctional plan. I think it's hard sometimes to follow your correctional plan as far as behaviour, you know. I know I've been good for a few months and it was a long haul trying to get things done, but things are starting to work for me. But it's just more or less the time limit. (Alison)

  • Two women (33%) identified what they considered an inappropriate or unrealistic correctional plan as unhelpful in reducing their security classification.

    The other ones [correctional plans] were really negative - the whole thing was all, like negative. And it was seen I thought...some of it wasn't even true - but when I just seen it all in black and white I thought that I could never change...like when I seen it [the correctional plan] there were a lot of areas to be addressed and I thought - I can't do this because I thought it was just too much for me to do and so little time. It made me feel overwhelmed. (Pam)

  • One woman commented on feeling it necessary and difficult to "bottle up" her emotions so as not to affect staff decisions concerning her.

    But the one thing that wasn't helpful was that when I was mad I didn't let them [staff] know I was mad. If I was angry about something, I didn't let them know I was angry, so that wasn't helpful because then that makes me bottle up my anger and not express it...I didn't want that to affect how they were viewing me...but that's not helpful to hold in - I think it's good to express yourself - again, in a non-violent way, of course. (Alison)

Special needs population segment
  • Five of the eight women in the SNP segment (63%) provided answers to this line of questioning. Once again, these answers were brief, this time concentrating on negative staff interactions. It is important to note, however, that women did not associate these negative interactions as having much effect on their security classification.

    Certain staff sometimes gets on my nerves - and then...what are you starting at eight o'clock in the morning with your attitude problem - I says, I don't know why you're working on this unit. (Nicki)

    They get upset - the staff - with the inmates and they shouldn't be allowed to...that's not helpful. (Denise)