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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"?

9. Recommendations

Recommendation 1:

Many FSAW are between the ages of 25 to 40 years, and their young offender history is still used against them. Young Offender records need to be omitted from the intake assessment. CSC needs to determine a cut-off point in gathering criminal data against FSAW to allow for maturity and personal growth.

Recommendation 2:

FSAW indicated that security levels are not explained to them. In order for FSAW to work on decreasing their security level, reasons for changes in security levels needs to be explained, as well as deciphering how the Correctional Plan works to increase or decrease security levels.

Recommendation 3:

FSAW indicated the Intake Assessment, Correctional Plans and Specialized Programs need to be based on individual needs, as they are the assessment tool used for parole requirements. Some FSAW have special needs, for example: effects of family violence, dysfunctional family systems, cycle of abuse, incest and sexual abuses, couples counselling, fetal alcohol syndrome characteristics, battered women's syndrome characteristics, suicidal tendencies, etc..

Recommendation 4:

Because the Intake Assessment is not individually based, it is discriminatory to FSAW. To be recognized on the Correctional Plan are: the healing effects of ceremonies and the support of Elders; full-time Elder counselling (intervention in disagreements among FSAW should have the assistance of the Elder); culturally relevant programming; and, "one to one" counselling. CSC staff indicated that "one to one" counselling was the best form of disclosure for FSAW as they cannot disclose in groups.

Recommendation 5:

FSAW indicated that parole hearings are delayed or waived because the Intake Assessment has outdated information and the Correctional Plans are not completed. It is imperative that: the Intake Assessment and the Correctional Plans be done in a timely manner and kept up to date; and that CMO1 staff be more readily available.

Recommendation 6:

FSAW need to be serviced and assessed by an Aboriginal psychologist, who will be culturally sensitive. This will eliminate some of the prejudice that FSAW have experienced. One psychologist had a prejudiced attitude about FSAW.

Recommendation 7:

FSAW need to be allowed to access the Correctional Investigator. There is a 1-800 number, but they are not allowed to use the telephone.

Recommendation 8:

CSC needs to provide the required programs and address delay in all institutions - especially Saskatchewan Penitentiary, Springhill Institution and Prison for Women. Their completion is required to get to lower security, for example, Cog Skills, Anger Management, Substance Abuse are required on the Correctional Plan but are not provided in some institutions.

Recommendation 9:

FSAW should not have to repeat the same programs over and over, or start over in their programs at each institution that they are transferred to. This causes boredom and hopelessness.

Recommendation 10:

Programs need to be completed in phases or steps, so FSAW can deal with specific areas, finish them and have a sense of accomplishment. Positive behaviour needs to be recognized, not only the negative behaviour.

Recommendation 11:

FSAW want better health care. At times, their requests are disregarded by the staff. In order for FSAW to get medical attention, they need to take extreme measures, like slash themselves.

Recommendation 12:

Qualified facilitators, not social drinkers, are required for facilitating substance abuse programs. Guards or former guards are not accepted as facilitators. Facilitators should be outside agencies or individuals and need to be flexible in their facilitating, not authoritarian. Facilitators with similar experiences, like ex-prisoners, poverty and/or having lived on the street, would be more believable.

Recommendation 13:

FSAW stated the Aboriginal culture needs to be treated with respect, as it is presently ridiculed by CSC staff. At times, time limits have been put on the ceremonies. Traditional food from ceremonies is thrown in the garbage when it is to be burned.

Recommendation 14:

FSAW want more Native Liaison services for counselling and assistance with family concerns, more Elder counselling, and recognition of the healing benefits of Aboriginal ceremonies in all institutions, especially the Regional Psychiatric Centre, Prison for Women and Springhill Institution. In one of the institutions, the Native Liaison is provided only two half days a week. Hiring additional Native Liaison and ensuring they are Aboriginal would be ideal.

Recommendation 15:

CSC needs to hire more Aboriginal staff who practice their culture and don't have a judgmental attitude against prisoners.

Recommendation 16:

FSAW need a specialized treatment program to address behaviour related to slashing and suicide attempts.

Recommendation 17:

FSAW need intensive treatment for alcohol and drug abuse similar to a 28 day treatment centre program and intensive relapse prevention programs as follow-up, while incarcerated and upon release.

Recommendation 18:

FSAW want peer support counsellors, and a "breaking barriers" program.

Recommendation 19:

FSAW need a parenting skills program, to learn to parent their children during visits and upon release. Many FSAW have been absentee parents because of incarceration, and have not been able to learn parenting skills through family role modelling or support.

Recommendation 20:

FSAW need to access post secondary or university education. Some FSAW have grade ten to twelve education.

Recommendation 21:

Independent Living Programs need to be established to assist FSAW who become institutionalized and cannot live beyond the confines of an institutional environment. Securing community resources and support for institutionalized prisoners needs to be addressed.

Recommendation 22:

CSC needs to provide finances for family to visit FSAW incarcerated out of their home province, or provide finances for the relocation of families that need to be in the same community as the FSAW; for example, incarcerated mothers with small children.

Recommendation 23:

FSAW need to gain credibility through escorted temporary absences (e.t.a.'s) and unescorted temporary absences (u.t.a's) to monitor escape risk and address security level classification in the Correctional Plan. FSAW could visit their families, in their home communities, organized through agencies. Visits with family would not just be for funerals.

Recommendation 24:

Over half of FSAW need more community contact with volunteers and organizations, and more access to events and socials with family and community supporters. This prepares FSAW with knowledge on contacts and organizations available for community support.

Recommendation 25:

FSAW need pre-release plans and community re-integration programs to begin prior to release for a longer duration of time, and with continued follow-up into the community upon release. FSAW believe that community resources need to be provided and community support established prior to and upon release.

Recommendation 26:

CSC needs to arrange for Elders counselling and continued participation in cultural programs and cultural events for FSAW prior to release. These can be arranged through community agencies, such as friendship centres.

Recommendation 27:

There is a need for a women's treatment facility for FSAW that is multi-level security based which would deter transfers from institution to institution. This facility could be next to the Regional Psychiatric Centre which already speacializes in treatment programs.

Recommendation 28:

Medium security women's facilities need to build annexes to their facilities that can house maximum security FSAW. The FSAW suggested CSC build maximum security wings onto the present women's medium security institutions, so that they could be incarcerated with other women.

Recommendation 29:

More yard space is required for FSAW to be able to have sports activities outside their respective institutions.

Recommendation 30:

More access to sweatlodge grounds for quiet time needs to be provided for FSAW.