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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"?

7. Research Findings and Identified Needs

What Presently Works in Reducing Security Levels

Research findings and identified needs that help (or would help) Aboriginal women reduce their security levels are the following:

  • Correctional Plans that are clearly explained to the women as to how they work in increasing or lowering security levels and why certain programs are required. Regular consultation with the Aboriginal women to update them on their progress and discuss their Correctional Plan.

  • New and interesting programs based on healing and experiential learning that are culturally sensitive and are delivered by Aboriginal facilitators and Elders. Presently, this is not the case in most instances.

  • Facilitators that are creative in making their programs interesting, flexible and not authoritarian nor judgmental; however, presently they are authoritarian and some are judgmental.

  • Full-time Elder counselling services and Aboriginal ceremonies would help; but are not presently available full-time.

  • On-going and in-depth treatment programs for alcohol and drug abuse; however, this is not available. Preventing drugs coming into the institution helps the women stay drug-free and avoids charges.

  • Staff and program facilitators that give support and encouragement to the women; however, they are not always readily available.

  • Community re-integration programs that are taken prior to release and for extensive periods. Well developed pre-release plans that identify community contact and support systems. These are not presently available.

  • Women gain credibility through escorted and unescorted temporary absences; however, these are few and far between.

  • Family and community contact through socials and events organized by various individuals and organizations. These are also few in number and do not occur regularly.

  • Remaining charge-free.

  • Aboriginal women encouraging each other to stay out of the institution (peer support).

  • Separating women who are motivated from those who are not motivated. This also eliminates muscling or sabotaging each other.

What Does Not Work in Reducing Security Levels

The following practices do not work in reducing Aboriginal women's security level:

  • Correctional Plans that are not properly understood. Listing numerous programs that have to be completed overwhelms Aboriginal women. This makes the Correctional Plan intimidating and the women become frustrated with their Correctional Plan.

  • Correctional Plans that are not individually based. Some women have special needs that need to be addressed in their Correctional Plan.

  • Correctional Plans that are delayed and not up-to-date.

  • Not explaining security levels or reasons for changes in security levels to the women.

  • Having CO2's or former CO2's as facilitators creates animosity with the Aboriginal women who consider the programs to be security based and not treatment based.

  • Intellectually based programs (e.g. "Cog Skills") are boring and repeating them over and over again adds to the boredom.

  • Programs that are not culturally appropriate.

  • Delays in providing the required programs and withholding programs to punish the women to get them to conform and obey CSC staff.

  • Not all correctional institutions are supportive environments. Discrimination and racism has been recognized which does not encourage the Aboriginal women to reduce their security level.

  • Inconsistency in the day to day rules and procedures of an institution creates difficulty for Aboriginal women to adjust to a daily routine or have any trust in the system.

  • Transferring the Aboriginal women from institution to institution, from province to province (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan) to the detriment of their family contact and support.

  • Breeches of confidentiality when staff talk to women prisoners about other sentenced women. There is no confidentiality in the prisons because everyone (staff and sentenced women) finds out what is going on with any one of the Aboriginal women.

  • Housing women next to men's facilities creates problems; for example, a number of women accumulating charges for talking or yelling to their boyfriends or common-law partners.

  • Lack of communication between management, primary workers and prisoners.

  • Treating the women with a lack of respect and dignity. Discriminating against the women because they are Aboriginal.

  • Substance abuse that is still occurring in some of the institutions.