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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"?

8. Conclusion

CSC has explicit policy and guidelines in regards to FSAW, this report demonstrates that CSC is not adhering to its own policies and guidelines with respect to Aboriginal women at the maximum security level. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Commissioner's Directives, CSC's Corporate Missions Objectives, and Creating Choices are policies and guidelines that recognize Aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs; however, the Aboriginal women in maximum security are stating that these programs and services are either not available or are insufficient because they are not readily accessible. The Aboriginal women in maximum security facilities face many hardships due to the improper utilization of these explicit strategies.

The FSAW and the staff were key in this study in identifying the problems associated with reducing the security levels of the Aboriginal women. These two groups have targeted very similar issues, concerns and recommendations that would enable the attainment of lower security levels by the Aboriginal women in maximum security. In addition, these groups identify the necessary role of culture and tradition.

The FSAW are not dealt with in an empowering manner. This situation contributes to instances such as self-injurious behaviour, substance abuse and behavioural problems. Strictly applying the various strategies available would provide for solutions and healing.

Those being detained and those employed by the institutions must at some point have overlapping goals. These goals must be communication, understanding and respect. This report will give one a better understanding of what the FSAW and staff believe are the issues of the Aboriginal women in maximum security. Implementing the recommendations contained in this report will acknowledge the Aboriginal women and CSC staff's views as to what is required to assist the Aboriginal women in reducing their security level in order that they may transfer out of maximum security.

CSC has a responsibility and an obligation to FSAW to review the recommendations contained in this report and implement them, so that correctional programming can respect the ethnic, cultural and spiritual beliefs of FSAW. Recognizing Aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs and implementing the recommendations will address some of the discrimination and racism that FSAW face in the correctional system.

CSC's responsibility for prisoners is identified under its Corporate Mission Objectives: to rehabilitate inmates and get them out of their incarceration, as soon as possible, as well as to develop and implement research based programs targeting the specific needs of inmates to promote successful reintegration into society. CSC and its' institutions have neglected their responsibility of implementing specific programming that is culturally and gender specific.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act states that correctional programs must respect gender, ethnic, cultural, spiritual and linguistic differences among the inmate population; however, not all institutions have provided this for FSAW. Correctional institutions must have gender specific and specialized programming for FSAW that have Aboriginal culture and spirituality as the focus.

Creating Choices recognized that a more comprehensive approach to the unique program needs of FSAW was needed. CSC has not fully adhered to the recommendations of Creating Choices as it relates to 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. The Aboriginal women also indicated that their institutional environments have not been supportive.

CSC's Commissioner's Directive #702 states the manner in which Aboriginal peoples are to be dealt with in federal penitentiaries. CSC has not been completely adhering to this policy when dealing with FSAW.

CSC's responsibility and obligation to FSAW has not been fulfilled, but has been remiss in respecting their ethnic, cultural and spiritual beliefs. Although the CSC Corporate Missions Objectives, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Creating Choices recommendations and Commissioner's Directives have mandated intentions to implement programs that recognize Aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs, discrimination and racism against FSAW have been sited. Against these odds, FSAW have not been able to reintegrate into their home communities and society successfully.