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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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FEDERALLY SENTENCED ABORIGINAL WOMEN IN MAXIMUM SECURITY: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PROMISES OF "CREATING CHOICES"?

2. Background

The following background information section identifies the current legislation and policy framework of CSC as it directly impacts on incarcerated Aboriginal women.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) states in Section 4(h): "that correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and aboriginal peoples...". Sections 79 to 84 explicitly discuss the needs of Aboriginal prisoners, including: programs, agreements, advisory committees, spiritual leaders and Elders, parole plans and other aspects that are designed to address the distinct needs of the Aboriginal prisoner. In addition, Section 74 states that "The Service shall provide inmates with the opportunity to contribute to decisions of the Service affecting the inmate population as a whole, or affecting a group within the inmate population…".

Commissioner's Directives

CSC's Commissioner's Directives #702 states the following in regards to policy objectives, spiritual practices and Aboriginal Liaison Services for Aboriginal offender programs:

Policy Objectives

1. To ensure that Aboriginal Offenders are provided with an equitable opportunity to practice their culture and traditions without discrimination and with an opportunity to implement traditional Aboriginal healing practices.

2. To recognize and respect that Aboriginal cultures and traditional practices contribute to the holistic healing of the Aboriginal Offender and his or her eventual reintegration into society.

3. To recognize that Aboriginal Offenders have the collective and individual right to maintain and develop their distinct identities and characteristics including the right to identify themselves as Aboriginal.

4. To ensure and recognize that Aboriginal Offenders have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs including the preservation, protection and access to cultural sites, ceremonial objects and traditional medicines.

5. To ensure that the needs of all Aboriginal Offenders are identified and that programs and services are developed and maintained to meet those needs.

Spiritual Practices

27. The institutional head, following consultation with Aboriginal inmates, Elders and communities, shall make arrangements for one or more Elders to provide spiritual leadership, including teaching, counselling and the conduct of traditional ceremonies, to Aboriginal inmates.

Aboriginal Liaison Services

28. The institutional head, following consultation with Aboriginal offenders, Elders and communities, shall make arrangements for one or more liaison personnel to assist in providing leadership, teaching, cultural awareness, counselling and general service to Aboriginal offenders.

CSC's Objectives

CSC's Strategic Objective 2.3 states: "to provide programs to assist offenders in meeting their individual needs, in order to enhance their potential for reintegration as law-abiding citizens". Linked is CSC's 1998/99 Corporate Objectives, which states: "significantly increase the number of aboriginal offenders safely and successfully reintegrated".

Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women

Creating Choices was adopted by the government in 1990 and was the basis for the development of the women offender program. Creating Choices recognized that a comprehensive approach to the unique program needs of federally sentenced women is required. Creating Choices lists the following "Principles for Change" which have guided the implementation of the regional women's facilities and the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge:

  • Principle #1: Empowerment
  • Principle #2: Meaningful and Responsible Choices
  • Principle #3: Respect and Dignity
  • Principle #4: Supportive Environment
  • Principle #5: Shared Responsibility (among levels of government, service
agencies, volunteer organizations, businesses and community for the development of support systems and the continuity of service).

This comprehensive approach needs to include federally sentenced Aboriginal women (FSAW), as the research data shows that they have been neglected. FSAW are not dealt with in a manner that is empowering to them. Their contact with staff has been one of feeling powerless. They have not been provided with meaningful and responsible choices, as they have had to repeat the same programs and take some programs that they believe were not necessary. They indicate that their institutional environments have not been supportive. Many FSAW asked "What happened to the promises of Creating Choices?".