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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections



CSC Action Plan Update – March 2006

Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston,
The Honourable Louise Arbour, Commissioner

April 1996

Arbour Recommendations
With respect to Aboriginal women and the Healing Lodge, I recommend:  
7(a) with respect to the Healing Lodge itself:  
that access to the Healing Lodge be available to all Aboriginal federally sentenced women, regardless of their present classification; NOT ACCEPTED.

This recommendation was made in both the Arbour Report and the CHRC report. CSC did not accept the recommendations for the reasons reiterated below.

Foremost, it is important to note that, pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, CSC has a legal obligation to ensure that the penitentiary environment is safe. Research, assessment and experience have shown that the community-living model within the fenced perimeter of the regional institutions is not appropriate for offenders with a maximum security classification. In terms of Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge (OOHL) specifically, it has no perimeter fence and does not have the staffing levels required to accommodate and manage the needs and the risks of women classified at the maximum-security level.

The community-living model at OOHL is situated within the healing framework of Aboriginal culture and philosophy. CSC recognizes that the OOHL context places even higher demands on individual women particularly in terms of the level of interaction required on a daily basis with staff, Elders and Nekaneet community representatives.

Input from those who have worked with the maximum-security women, including Elders, suggests that Healing Lodge candidates must have demonstrated a level of readiness to be able to benefit from the healing processes at the Lodge. Women classified at the maximum security level require considerable structure, intervention and support. To prematurely transfer these women to the more open environment of the Healing Lodge, where their focus needs to be on the healing process, could jeopardize their chance of success.

CSC will continue to work with Aboriginal staff and Elders and community representatives/
organizations to conduct the research and program development to increase correctional effectiveness for Aboriginal offenders including those interventions that potentially will support moves to lower security levels.

Since OOHL opened, CSC has been committed to ensuring that, first, the assessment of “healing readiness” is driven by Aboriginal staff and Elders who work with maximum-security women and, second, that it is explicitly considered in the security reclassification process for maximum-security women.

Healing Lodge readiness assessment process:

A more structured and proactive Healing Lodge readiness assessment framework and a Healing Readiness Commitment Form have been completed and implemented. The Commitment Form provides a tool for staff to work with maximum security Aboriginal women who are ready to pursue their healing path and eventual transfer to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge. A copy of the form was issued to staff in November 2005.

The Women Offender Sector will monitor the results of this process on a quarterly basis and the results will be shared with the Wardens and Kikawinaw (equivalent title for

Warden at Okimaw Ohci, meaning “Our Mother”). A video conference took place in January 2006, with representatives from the Women Offender Sector and the women’s institutions, to further discuss implementation and process issues.

The Aboriginal Pathways vision at Fraser Valley Institution (based on a similar model in men’s institutions) has established an environment where Aboriginal women may access services in a culturally appropriate manner through a continuum of Aboriginal specific programs, activities and spiritual ceremonies from Intake Assessment to community release and finally to warrant expiry. Fraser Valley provides a culturally supportive environment and resources where women offenders can commit to a healing journey. This offers elements that fully support and encourage healing for women at all security levels. The Pathways program is also being planned for Edmonton Institution for Women to complement the existing programs and services that have been in place at that site. For women who are not yet ready to access the Healing Lodge, and wish to do so, Pathways affords them the opportunity to better prepare them for a healing process at the Healing Lodge.

that evaluation of the Healing Lodge be undertaken, and include non-traditional criteria of success, to be developed under the authority of the Deputy Commissioner for Women, in consultation with Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal prisoners, and women’s group if necessary. Personal, cultural, and spiritual growth should be acknowledged as a valued component of the evaluation; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

In June 1994, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between CSC and the Nekaneet Band. The Agreement designated a portion of Nekaneet land for the construction of a women’s healing lodge. Section 8 of the Memorandum of Agreement requires that an evaluation be conducted every five years to ensure that the stated objectives of the Agreement are met.

The evaluation took place in 2002 and was designed to examine areas such as: sustaining the Vision of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge; documenting the extent to which CSC has adhered to its commitments to the Nekaneet First Nation, and identifying issues faced by the former residents of the Healing Lodge while they are on conditional release.

The evaluation work included: interviews with key parties, a review and analysis of CSC documents and CSC databases (Offender Management System, PeopleSoft, IFMMS), and an assessment of staff and management perceptions as to whether their expectations of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge Vision have been met. The Evaluation Team visited three women’s institutions, three community offices and a community residential facility. Interviews and discussions were held with more than 35 CSC staff. In addition, the Evaluation Team interviewed the Chief and two Band Council Members of the Nekaneet First Nation, National Parole Board staff in Saskatoon and members of the advisory group, the Kekunwemkonawuk (Keepers of the Vision).

The Evaluation Report was completed in September 2002. The findings reflect the overall view of the Evaluation Team that the Vision of the Healing Lodge remains workable if consideration is given to examining the areas of management and operations discussed in this report. The evaluation report pulls together forms of consensus and best practices from other areas, and offers them for the consideration of the staff and management team at the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge.

An action plan was initiated to respond to the findings. Eight of the nine recommendations contained in the Evaluation Report have been addressed. With respect to the one remaining recommendation, an assessment of the Nekaneet First Nation’s capacity to enter into a CCRA Section 81 agreement was initiated in Spring 2005. Although a methodology was developed and interviews were conducted, it was concluded that more work was required on how to analyze the specific cultural elements in capacity assessments of Canadian Aboriginal communities. This work is required before CSC can proceed with these assessments. The Nekaneet community and the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge have been advised. The Aboriginal Initiatives Branch will follow-up as appropriate.

The Aboriginal Initiatives and Research Branches of CSC also completed a research report entitled An Examination of Healing Lodges for Federal Offenders in Canada. Action plans to respond to the findings of this report focus on building relationships through communication tools and a network of "Champions"; training; and the establishment of nationally consistent protocols for the selection of offenders for transfer to Healing Lodges. Follow-up action is ongoing.

that consideration be given to the development of a facility modelled after the Healing Lodge, to serve the needs of all incarcerated women in eastern Canada; NOT ACCEPTED.

The small number of Aboriginal women offenders in eastern Canada does not support the establishment of another Healing Lodge. However, Aboriginal programming and access to Elders/Aboriginal Liaison Officers is provided in all institutions. Offenders are supported in their efforts to begin their healing journey in their home institution in preparation for a transfer to Okimaw Ohci, should they wish to request a transfer to western Canada.

7(b) with respect to the regional facilities other than the Healing Lodge:  
that under the supervision of the Deputy Commissioner for Women, all regional facilities draw on the resources of the Healing Lodge for the development of programs and correctional approaches relevant to the particular needs and circumstances of Aboriginal women; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

The DCW will continue to develop and support linkages and communication between the women’s institutions and the Lodge. Champions have been nominated in each of the five institutions and through their efforts, ongoing information about the Lodge is shared with offenders on a regular basis. Aboriginal women offenders interested in transferring to the Lodge are encouraged to do so at the most appropriate time in their sentence.

As part of the ongoing assessment of long-term strategies to manage all maximum-security women, approaches specific to Aboriginal women were considered. For example, a Healing Readiness Commitment Process has been designed for use with this small group of offenders (refer to response to Recommendation 7(i)). Staff in all Secure Units will ensure that newcomers receive information on this process. Support is available to those interested, with the eventual outcome being a possible reduction in security level and an opportunity to transfer to Okimaw Ohci. Use of this process will be monitored and adjusted to ensure it remains a viable option for Aboriginal maximum-security women offenders.

that links be established and facilitated between the various Native sisterhoods in regional prisons and the committee of inmates in place, if any, at the Healing Lodge; Aboriginal Sisterhoods and Brotherhoods are able to communicate through correspondence. They share best practices and support one another in this way.
that in each regional facility: In each regional facility:
  • access to Elders be formalized and facilitated;
  • Each women’s institution provides Elder services on a regular basis. The number of hours is dependent upon the number of women for whom this service is required.
  • Aboriginal staff and contract workers be recruited;
  • Aboriginal Liaison Officers are available in all institutions. These staff work closely with the woman and her Case Management Team to ensure Aboriginal options specific to her case are considered. Each facility follows national staffing guidelines in that their staffing complement is reflective of the community around them. Institutions in the west have a higher percentage of Aboriginal staff overall due to the makeup of the surrounding community.
  • culturally sensitive training be provided to all staff;
  • Culturally sensitive training is provided to all staff as part of the CSC Orientation Process, regardless of the position. As with all staff at women’s institutions, staff at the Healing Lodge also attend Women-Centred Training which also contains culturally sensitive material.
  • culturally relevant programs be made available to Aboriginal women; and
  • Culturally relevant programs such as Spirit of a Warrior and Circles of Change, have continued to be developed for Aboriginal women offenders. The National Committee on Programs for Aboriginal Women is examining an overall program strategy to better meet the needs of Aboriginal women offenders.
  • access to Aboriginal forms of healing be facilitated through Elders, Aboriginal counsellors, social workers, psychologists, etc.
  • Access by the women to Aboriginal forms of healing are facilitated through Elders and Aboriginal Liaison Officers at the Lodge. However, these services are also available to Aboriginal women offenders in other facilities. Staff encourage and support these efforts, realizing how difficult this path can be.
that the Deputy Commissioner for Women take the initiative of identifying incarcerated Aboriginal women who would benefit from placement into the care and custody of an Aboriginal community, as contemplated by s.81(3) of the CCRA, and report within six months on his or her efforts at implementing that option; that priority be given to women who have children in their Aboriginal community; and that community placement be accompanied by appropriate financial assistance to the community. CSC’s Aboriginal Initiatives Branch is leading the development of CSC’s national and regional action plans to move forward on the Aboriginal Corrections’ agenda and to support achievement. CSC’s Women Offender Sector is working in collaboration with Aborginal Initiatives with regard to Aboriginal women offenders.
With respect to correctional issues more generally, I recommend:  
8(a) that the Department of Justice, at the initiative of the Solicitor General, examine legislative mechanisms by which to create sanctions for correctional interference with the integrity of a sentence; REFERRED TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

The Solicitor General complied with the recommendation to refer the matters to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice reviewed the recommendations; however, there is no indication that the Department will pursue legislative amendments in support of those recommendations.

8(b) that such sanctions provide, in substance, that if illegalities, gross mismanagement or unfairness in the administration of a sentence renders the sentence harsher than that imposed by the court: REFERRED TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

Refer to response under Recommendation 8(a).

in the case of non-mandatory sentence, a reduction of the period of imprisonment be granted, to reflect the fact that the punishment administered was more punitive than the one intended, should court so find; and
in the case of a mandatory sentence, the same factors be considered as militating towards earlier release; Refer to response under Recommendation 8(a).
8(c) that the Correctional Service properly educate its employees with respect to the rights of incarcerated offenders and inform them of the Service’s commitment to seeing that these rights are respected and enforced. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Legal Services has established a legal awareness training unit and is responsible for the coordination and delivery, on an ongoing basis, of legal awareness training.

The Human Rights Division established within CSC identifies the application of evolving human rights issues in the correctional environment, respecting the requirements of the CCRA. The Human Rights Division, in conjunction with the Women Offender Sector, piloted training sessions in February and March 2006 at Edmonton Institution for Women and Nova Institution. The sessions were attended by staff and offenders and included issues of human rights, values and ethic and advocacy. In addition, two Human Rights bulletins have been issued and are available for staff on CSC’s intranet site. The development of additional bulletins is planned on an ongoing basis.

With respect to segregation, I recommend
9(a) that when administrative segregation is used, it be administered in compliance with the law and appropriately monitored. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

A Task Force on Segregation was established in July 1996 and reported in March 1997. As part of its work, audits on compliance of all segregation units have taken place and appropriate training has been provided. The Task Force Report was released in February 1998, and is available on the CSC website . A Manual on Administrative Segregation is available to all managers and staff through the CSC intranet, and each region is assigned a regional segregation oversight manager to conduct the reviews of segregated inmates every 60 days and to provide advice and leadership on segregation issues within the region. Accountability is with the institutional head and assessed vis-à-vis the Management Control Framework process and performance agreements.

9(b) that daily visits to segregation units by senior prison managers be required, and that the discharge of that duty be specifically made part of any performance evaluation of these managers; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

This requirement is identified in Commissioner’s Directive 590, Administrative Segregation (paragraph 25). Accountability is with the institutional head and assessed vis-à-vis the Management Control Framework process and performance agreements.

9(c) that the obligation to conduct daily visits to segregation not be delegated below the level of Unit Manager, or its equivalent, except in very small institutions where, on weekends, this function could be performed by the officer in charge of the institution; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

This requirement is identified in Commissioner’s Directive 590, Administrative Segregation (paragraph 25).

9(d) that the practice of long-term confinement in administrative segregation be brought to an end; ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE.

There is agreement with the principle that long-term segregation should be used in the rarest of situations and under the least restrictive conditions possible while taking into consideration staff and inmate safety. In response to a recommendation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, CSC has established a Segregation Advisory Committee as a pilot in one women’s institution (Edmonton Institution for Women) to review the cases of women in segregation over 30 consecutive days, and all women whose cumulative stay in segregation exceeds 60 days over a one-year period. Membership includes one CSC staff member and two external members with knowledge of, and experience working with, Aboriginal women offenders and knowledge of mental health issues.

9(e) that, in order to so achieve, a time limit be imposed along the following lines:
if the existing statutory pre-conditions for administrative segregation are met, an inmate be segregated for a maximum of three days, as directed by the institutional head, in response to an immediate incident;
after three days, a documented review take place, if further detention in segregation is contemplated;
the administrative review specify what further period of segregation, if any, is authorized, up to a maximum of 30 days, no more than twice in a calendar year, with the effect that an inmate not be made to spend more than 60 non-consecutive days in segregation in a year;
after 30 days, or if the total days served in segregation during that year already approaches 60, the institution be made to consider and apply other options, such as transfer, placement in a mental health unit, or other forms of intensive supervision, but involving interaction with the general population;
if these options proved unavailable, or if the Correctional Service is of the view that a longer period segregation was required, the Service be required to apply to a court for a determination of the necessity of further segregation;
that upon being seized of such application, the court be required to consider all the components of the sentence, including its duration, so as to make an order consistent with the original intent of the sentence, and the present circumstances of the offender.

CSC’s goal is to alleviate the segregation status of an offender as soon as possible. As per sections 19‑23 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations:

  • within one working day after the confinement, the institutional head must review and confirm the confinement or order that the inmate be returned to general inmate population;
  • within 5 working days and at least once every 30 days thereafter, the Segregation Review Board must conduct a hearing.
  • at least once every 60 days, the head of the Region or a designated staff member must review the inmate’s case to determine whether the administrative segregation of the inmates continues to be justified.

Various avenues of recourse are available to an offender should they wish to raise issues regarding their segregation status. These include the complaints and grievance process, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the Deputy Commissioner for Women and the courts.

9(f) failing a willingness to put segregation under judicial supervision, I would recommend:
that segregation decisions be made at an institutional level subject to confirmation within five days by an independent adjudicator;
that the independent adjudicator be a lawyer, and that he or she be required to give reasons for a decision to maintain segregation;
that segregation reviews be conducted every 30 days, before a different adjudicator each time, who should also be a lawyer, and who should also be required to give reasons for his or her decision to maintain segregation;

CSC has no plans to introduce independent adjudication at this time given that:

  • decisions and accountability related to matters of security and personal safety are best left with CSC whose legal mandate includes the safe custody of offenders.
  • offenders have various avenues of recourse that may be pursued, including the courts, the Offender Redress System and the Office of the Correctional Investigator;
  • CSC is unaware of any other jurisdiction which has introduced such a model and there is, therefore, no evidence that decisions would be different;
  • implementing independent adjudication would divert focus and resources from other higher corporate priorities (e.g., aboriginal, mental health);
  • there is a Segregation Advisory Committee pilot underway at Edmonton Institution for Women, including external members to CSC, which will be reviewed for effectiveness regarding placement decisions, length of stay and fairness (refer to Recommendation 9(d));
  • CSC has introduced a national Population Management Committee to monitor case management and transfers, including long-term segregation; and
  • CSC has committed to strengthening monitoring and reporting of administrative segregation decisions.
9(g) that failure to comply with any of the above provisions be treated as having rendered the conditions of imprisonment harsher than that contemplated by the sentence, for the purposes of the remedy contemplated in recommendation 8(b) and (c). REFERRED TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

Refer to response under Recommendation 8(a).

With respect to accountability in operations, I recommend:  
10(a) that all National Boards of Investigations include a member from outside the Correctional Service; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

This practice, which is reflected in CSC policy on investigations, has been in place since July 1996.

10(b) that the outside member be drawn from a list of agreeable candidates compiled from suggestions generated within the Correctional Service, and also from organizations such as the John Howard Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and any group with similar interests or expertise; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The lists of external representatives for investigation boards are updated on a regular basis to ensure an adequate number of persons from a broad range of backgrounds.

10(c) that a core of specialized investigators be trained to sit on National Boards of Investigation and, if need be, on some Regional Boards; that training be developed in consultation with techniques and expertise of various police oversight bodies; ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE. (COMPLETE)

At present CSC has 11 permanent investigators assigned to investigate incidents, usually chairing CSC national Boards. All permanent investigators, CSC staff or external representatives must receive the CSC training program prior to participating in an investigation.

10(d) that mandates given to Boards of Investigation standardly require them to monitor the Correctional Service’s compliance with the law, particularly the law dealing with prisoners’ right; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

All Convening Orders for investigations include a reference to compliance with the law and correctional policies.

10(e) that mandates given to Boards of Investigation be expressed in clear and specific terms and contain a realistic reporting date; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

There are standard terms of reference for specific types of investigations, with the option to add further specifications unique to a particular incident. The deadline for submission of investigation reports is normally eight weeks, with provision for extensions if circumstances require additional time.

10(f) that adequate resources be made available to Boards of Investigation, including secretarial resources; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Boards are given all assistance they require as well as access to and awareness of documents available. CSC staff who are members of Boards of Investigation are relieved of their normal duties until an initial draft of the findings is complete.

10(g) that there be no input from persons other than the Boards of Investigation members into the production of the final report; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Since July 1996 all Boards of Investigation are advised in writing that they are under absolutely no obligation to make any changes whatsoever to the report as a result of comments provided to them during the quality control process. As of January 2004, procedures were changed so that Boards submit their final signed report on the due date and no further changes are made to the document by any party other than the Board of Investigation.

10(h) that Boards of Investigations consider their obligation to give notice to persons, including inmates, pursuant to s.13 of the Inquiries Act; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

All terms of reference require national Boards of Investigation to examine the requirement to issue Section 13 notices under the Inquiries Act as a result of their investigation report (i.e., giving a person reasonable notice to respond before adverse comments are made in an investigation report). They must also advise all persons interviewed of the existence and purpose of Section 13. All Boards of Investigation that are convened under the general management powers, and therefore not under the Inquiries Act, are expected to conform to the Duty to Act Fairly, which requires that any person about whom the report may make negative findings be provided a copy of the draft statements and an opportunity to make representations in writing to the Board.