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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections


Annex B

CSC Action Plan Update – March 2006

Reintegration of Women Offenders,
Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the
House of Commons,
Office of the Auditor General of Canada

April 2003

AG Recommendation
4.45 Correctional Service Canada should complete its validation and reliability tests of classification instruments used for women offenders and take any necessary action indicated by the test outcomes. ACCEPTED.

Gender-informed initial security classification tool (ONGOING):

In establishing the initial security classification of offenders, CSC uses the Custody Rating Scale (CRS) as one component of a comprehensive assessment process. This tool, the development of which was based on a research sample of male offenders, was also validated for women offenders. Nevertheless, in response to various recommendations, CSC committed to developing a specific initial classification instrument for women offenders. A contract was signed in early December 2005 and work has commenced. The first product, a Literature Review, was received on schedule in February 2006. This is a multi-year project due to the complexity of instrument development and the need for lengthy field testing to gather sufficient data, given the relatively few women admitted each year. Field testing is expected to commence by December 2006.

Gender-informed reclassification tool (COMPLETE):

The security classification level of offenders is regularly reviewed during the period of incarceration, usually as part of the process of preparing for a release or transfer decision or in response to an incident.

CSC approved the gender-informed Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW) in February 2005. The three-year field test indicated that the SRSW is valid and reliable for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women offenders. A “train the trainer” session was completed in March 2005. In June 2005, most sites started using the scale and it was implemented nationally in September 2005. All reclassification reviews now include the application of the SRSW as part of the process.

Future plans include ongoing research to re-examine its reliability and validity for Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal women.

4.52 Considering the significant impact of reclassification decisions on an offender’s rehabilitation, the Service should increase its efforts to implement the new reclassification tool for women offenders as quickly as possible. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

As noted in Recommendation 4.45, the new gender-informed Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW) was implemented nationally in September 2005. All sites are using the scale as part of every reclassification review.

4.64 Correctional Service Canada should review the process of developing correctional plans to determine the underlying causes of late completion. It should also set a target to improve the timely completion of correctional plans for women offenders and meet it within a year. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

In their December 2005 request for an Action Plan update, the Office of the Auditor General noted CSC’s full implementation of this recommendation.

CSC continues to monitor the completion of Correctional Plans through review processes that have been established at NHQ, in the regions and institutions, by examining the reasons for untimely reports and working toward improving performance.

For FY 2005-06 (to date), CSC has an overall timely completion rate of 97.5% for Correctional Plans. This has increased since 2004‑05, when the completion rate was 91.8%.

4.65 Correctional Service Canada should review how it delivers programs to women offenders and make the necessary changes to better prepare incarcerated women offenders for parole at the earliest possible date. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Over the past several years, changes have been made to improve the delivery of programs for women offenders all of which contribute to a woman’s release at the earliest eligibility date.

Women offenders must meet with their Primary Worker within 72 hours of their arrival, which ensures that program needs are targeted as soon as possible. A flexible entry system has been adopted so that women offenders may commence program

participation as soon as possible following admission. As well, the minimum group size for programs has been reduced so that it is not necessary to wait for a larger number of offenders to start a program session.

In terms of substance abuse, where 80‑90% of women offenders have this as an identified need area, improvements to program delivery mean that these women can complete Module 1 of the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (WOSAP) within the first month of their arrival and start Module 2 without waiting for a new program to commence.

4.71 Correctional Service Canada should undertake, on a priority basis, the full implementation of the proposed intensive, gender-specific substance abuse program for women offenders. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

In their December 2005 request for an Action Plan update, the Office of the Auditor General noted CSC’s full implementation of this recommendation.

WOSAP has been implemented nationally. The interim evaluation of the first two modules of WOSAP (Engagement and Education/E&E; and Intensive Therapeutic Treatment/ITT) is complete.

The preliminary results from the pilot support continued implementation of WOSAP as women are making gains in knowledge and skills to deal with substance abuse as a result of participating in the E&E and ITT modules.

4.81 Correctional Service Canada should examine the present use of temporary absences, work releases, and the use of sections 81 and 84 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act across all facilities; identify practical solutions; take action to increase their use; and assess progress within a year. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

In their December 2005 request for an Action Plan update, the Office of the Auditor General noted CSC’s full implementation of this recommendation.

CSC continues to advance the work in this area:

  • As of February 5, 2006, there were 5 women, nationally, in the community under a Section 84 arrangement. CSC has staffed Aboriginal Community Development
    Officer positions, a National Aboriginal Strategy is being established and a Section 84 Planning Kit has been distributed to all institutions. The Women Offender Sector continues to work in conjunction with the Aboriginal Initiatives Branch to monitor and assess progress.
  • There has been a significant increase in the number of Work Releases for women offenders since last year. In 2005‑06 (to date, February 2006), there have been 126 Work Releases, compared to 26 in 2004‑05.
  • There were 173 Unescorted Temporary Absences (UTA) for program purposes in 2005‑06 (to date, February 2006), representing 91.5% of all UTA’s. For the full fiscal year 2004‑05, there were 232 UTA’s for program purposes, representing 87.2% of all UTA’s.
4.88 Correctional Service Canada should develop and implement a women's employment strategy that includes certification of marketable skills in order to better prepare women for future employment. ACCEPTED.

CORCAN, a Special Operating Agency within CSC, is a key part of reintegration. CORCAN contributes to safe communities by providing employment training and employability skills to offenders in federal correctional institutions. During 2005‑06 (to February 12, 2006), 380 vocational certificates were earned by women offenders in the following areas: food safety, WHMIS, first aid, forklift safety, traffic control, employability skills, computer training construction safety, construction framing, and fundamental shop skills (compared to 361 certificates earned in 2004‑05).

CSC committed to a series of actions to further address the employment need area for women offenders in the institution and in the community:

Employability Skills Program Pilot (COMPLETE):

A gender-informed version of the national Employability Skills Program was developed in January 2005 and delivered at Joliette Institution and Fraser Valley Institution as part of a pilot project, the results of which were positive. Modifications were made to the program based on the feedback from staff and the participants, as well as a review of literature on women offenders and employability. Full implementation of the National Employability Skills Program in women offender institutions was approved and will be ongoing.

Employment Needs Survey (COMPLETE):

CSC’s Research Branch completed an employment needs survey for both incarcerated women and women on conditional release: Employment Needs, Interests, and Programming for Women Offenders, Report #R‑166, which will be posted on the CSC website‑ Some of the findings are as follows:


  • The majority of incarcerated women (57%) present some need for improvement in the employment domain.
  • Women offenders have high educational needs (66% do not have a high school diploma).
  • 58% of incarcerated women offenders do not have a skill, trade or profession to help them find a meaningful job.
  • An overwhelming 72% of women were unemployed at the time of their arrest and almost half (47%) were unemployed 90% or more of the time.


  • Majority of women in the community (65%) report that their current jobs are related to their work experience prior to incarceration and there is little association between their current employment and past institutional training.
  • Women in the community report interest in accessing employment services like those that provide links to employers, résumé writing, interview skills, job-search techniques and their perceptions that no employment services are offered or available for them.

National Employment Strategy for Women Offenders (ONGOING):

The information derived from the above-noted survey served as the basis for CSC’s development of a National Employment Strategy Framework for women offenders. Consultation will commence in April 2006.

4.94 Correctional Service should ensure that each region develops an action plan to meet the need for alternative accommodation for women and that the plan is funded appropriately. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

While the accommodation needs for women on conditional release in the community and the approaches to address them vary across the country, the Women Offender Sector (WOS) has assumed a centralized role of monitoring, supporting and promoting regional strategies to address the needs in the community.

A centralized database is maintained of beds available by type (structured houses, hostels, private home placements, satellite apartments, treatments centres and as well as bed utilization data (updated monthly).

In the past few years, progress has been made throughout the regions in increasing the overall bed capacity for women, noting in particular:

  • increased bed capacity in Atlantic Region including Nehiley House, a new facility in Halifax, and the Elizabeth Fry Society apartment in Sydney, both for women exclusively;
  • the significant expansion of 40 more beds in Pacific region in the past year; and
  • a contract for Aboriginal women established with Anderson Lodge in Vancouver.

Improvements to the funding model have helped to keep smaller, traditional halfway houses open, and progress has occurred in diversifying with alternative models in certain locations.

A representative has been identified in each region for ongoing liaison with the Women Offender Sector about the changing accommodation needs and strategies to address them.

In June 2005, a national meeting was convened that brought regional representatives together to review regional needs and strategies for women’s accommodations and to share practical information about developing alternative models in particular such as Private Home Placements (PHP’s) and satellite apartments.

However, experience indicates that alternatives such as PHP’s do not always provide sufficient structure and the monitoring considered necessary for the first step of gradual release (Day Parole) compared to the halfway house model. Satellite apartments can provide a good alternative residential model for certain cases (e.g. mothers with children) but normally are associated with an existing facility in a location that can sustain sufficient referrals.

Wherever there have been opportunities identified for engaging small scale alternative models (e.g., satellite apartments, private home placements, etc.) resources have not presented an obstacle, given the marginal impact on the national base for total residential services and the special needs of women (by number and geographic dispersement) for access to beds. The limits to this expansion of alternatives is not a question of resources as much as finding accommodation that also includes the required support and structure, often for one woman at a time.

4.100 Correctional Service should examine factors that are contributing to the high number of revocations without offence and determine the steps it can take to reduce it. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

A review of revocations without offence during FY 2003‑04 was completed and steps have been taken to address the factors contributing to the revocations, including substance abuse which is a contributing factor in over 90% of the cases:

  • Implementation of the new Community Relapse Prevention and Maintenance Program (implemented nationally in FY 2005‑06) will continue. Development of the evaluation of the program will be undertaken in FY 2006‑07 to assess the impact on results once the number of women offenders is sufficient to form a valid data sample. A substance abuse program for Aboriginal women offenders, including elements on community transition, is being developed as part of the Spirit of a Warrior Program
  • A national pre-release program for women entitled, Social Integration Program (SIP) is currently under development with completion and staff training scheduled for 2006. This Program will assist women directly prior to their community re-entry to focus on practical issues for early stabilization upon arrival in the community.
  • Many women have been identified with personal and emotional needs, and require continuity of service upon arrival in community. Specialized training in mental health is planned for staff of women’s halfway houses to be completed in FY 2006‑07 to increase their capacity to assist women with these needs.
  • Through a special national initiative, additional resources are also being made available to the community over the next four years for offenders with mental health disorders. This will serve to ease the transition of this special needs population, including women, through various supplementary contracted initiatives with local expertise, and to possibly arrange for alternatives to revocation in certain cases.
  • In-depth research for women offenders in the community is scheduled to commence in 2006-07 and will examine contributing factors for revocations in greater detail, including coping behaviour for relapse prevention for women.
4.107 Correctional Service Canada should ensure that the necessary controls are in place to identify and dedicate the funds necessary to meet the program and service needs of women offenders in the community. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Since the time of this recommendation, CSC program funds provided to regions for women in the community have been isolated and a tracking mechanism is in place to monitor actual expenditures.

From analysis of the resource investment to deliver CSC programs (i.e., program staff or contractors) and the actual level of program delivery, it is apparent that a key challenge in providing programs to women in the community persists, i.e., their numbers and geographical dispersement mitigate against sustained group program delivery in many locations. The vast majority of communities across the country have less than 6 women under federal jurisdiction and they vary in the extent and type of program needs.

CSC has invested in program development for women in the community and continues to do so, despite limitations associated with delivery issues. For example, institutional and community programs are being adjusted to allow for flexible entry, where appropriate (e.g., WOSAP and DBT). Others have been adjusted to allow for small group and/or one-to-one intervention.

Apart from funded programming, there are many examples of good practices for access to community-based programs and services at the local level across the country. Some involve specially trained volunteers providing support networks, others are inter-governmental in nature.

4.111 Correctional Service Canada should improve its annual departmental performance report section on women by outlining results against approved plans, priorities, and objectives. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

CSC’s Departmental Performance Report (DPR) is linked to the priorities identified in the Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP). The RPP outlines corporate priorities for the CSC as a whole and identifies specific initiatives within those priorities that pertain to women offenders. Progress is measured against the specific priorities in the annual Departmental Performance Report. For example, specific initiatives on women offenders for 2006‑07 include gender-informed security classification, an employment strategy for women offenders, the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program and the Violence Prevention Program for Women Offenders.