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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections


Annex D

CSC Action Plan Update – March 2006

Protecting Their Rights – A Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for Federally Sentenced Women

Canadian Human Rights Commission

December 2003

CHRC Recommendation
1. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada develop and implement a needs-assessment process that responds to the needs of federally sentenced women, including Aboriginal women, women who are members of racialized groups and women with disabilities. ACCEPTED.

Review of Dynamic Factor Identification and Analysis (DFIA) (COMPLETE):

The DFIA, CSC’s research-based needs analysis, has been an important tool in shaping correctional responses for all offenders. In terms of women offenders, for example, the Structured Living Environment was developed based on needs’ data that suggested more high need women could be accommodated at lower security levels and kept out of long-term segregation if they received more intensive and structured interventions and support. As well, the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program was developed specifically for women offenders given consistent demonstration through the DFIA that substance abuse is a significant need area for the majority of women offenders.

At the time of CSC’s consultation on our Action Plan to the CHRC report, the DFIA instrument was being updated, as is periodically done to reflect new research, consultation and statistical reviews. A series of gender- and culturally-responsive interview prompts and rating guidelines have been added, based on extensive literature reviews, consultation with women’s institutions, reviews by external experts in corrections and a statistical review of 770 women offender cases that examined the reliability/predictive validity of the indicators and corresponding dynamic factor ratings.

CSC has completed the final review of the wording for the revised DFIA tool and is ready to proceed with field testing. Research results related to the revised DFIA are presented in Research Report, 2005, R‑164: The Dynamic Factor identification and Analysis (DFIA) Component of the Offender Intake Assessment (OIA) Process: A Meta-analytic, Psychometric and Consultative Review.

Field Test of the Revised DFIA (ONGOING):

The planned field test and implementation of the revised DFIA at the women’s institutions is on schedule. Field tests will be completed in FY 2006‑07. This will allow for sufficient data collection on women offenders, including those specifically identified by the CHRC: Aboriginal women, women who are members of various racial groups and disabled women.

Review of Women’s Institutions – Offender Intake Assessment Content Guidelines (COMPLETE):

Pending implementation of the revised DFIA following field testing, the Deputy Commissioner for Women committed to reviewing and updating, as necessary, the Women’s Institutions – Offender Intake Assessment Content Guidelines. This review was completed in June 2005. The relevant information in these guidelines has been incorporated into a revised Commissioner’s Directive 705‑6, Correctional Planning and Criminal Profile. The new policy has been promulgated and will take effect in April 2006.

Related Requirement – Stakeholder participation in case reviews (COMPLETE):

In response to stakeholder concerns raised at the time of CSC’s CHRC Action Plan consultation, CSC committed to inviting stakeholders to participate in one of the reviews of Correctional Plans and security classification for some of the offenders housed in the Secure Units at the women’s institutions.

With the consent of the individual women offenders involved, stakeholders were invited to participate in this review for a total of six women in Secure Units: four at Nova Institution, one at Edmonton Institution for Women and one at Grand Valley Institution. Identified stakeholders agreed to participate in three of the six cases; in some cases, this review coincided with the woman’s regularly scheduled review. Following the review of these three cases, it was agreed that the women should be maintained at the maximum security level. In the remaining three cases, the review concluded that a medium security classification was appropriate.

2(a) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada create a security classification tool explicitly for federally sentenced women, one that takes into consideration the low risk posed to public safety by most women, within one year. ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE.

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 is 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.

The gender-informed Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW) was approved by CSC in February 2005. The three-year field test indicated that the SRSW is valid and reliable for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women. A “train the trainers” session was held in June 2005, at which time most sites started using the scale. It was implemented nationally in September 2005, and all reclassification reviews now use 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.

Related Requirement – Impact of the correctional environment on women offender risk and need:

a) Development of climate indicator and profiling model (ONGOING):
CSC’s Research Branch has implemented a national Climate Indicator and Profile System which provides institutional and community profiles, including women offenders, for areas such as risk factors, major offences, need indicators and program participation. As part of this model, the next step will be to develop a climate indicator component that will be specific to women offender institutions regarding the impact of the correctional environment on women offender risk and need. This is a multi-year project requiring 2‑3 years of data collection, consultation and analysis. A preliminary model is expected to be completed by FY 2007‑08.

b) Invitation to graduate students (ONGOING):
CSC sent letters to 15 academic institutions inviting graduate students to submit a proposal regarding the study of potential impact of the institutional environment on offender behaviour and the framing of possible methodologies for women’s institutions. One response was received and the proposal is under review.

Related Requirement – Review of women with maximum security classification (COMPLETE):

As per our commitment to the CHRC in 2004, CSC reviewed the case of each woman assigned a maximum-security classification between December 2004 to March 2005. This involved 24 women offenders (including the 6 women whose cases were reviewed in response to Recommendation 1 above). For some women offenders, this review coincided with their regularly scheduled case review.

Of the 24 women, 6 were reduced to a medium security classification and 18 remained at maximum security. In all cases, the behavioural and management expectations in support of a safe reduction in the women’s classification were outlined and shared with the offender.

A follow-up summary of results was forwarded to the Wardens of the women’s institutions highlighting the importance of clearly establishing the changes and progress that each maximum security offender must make in order to achieve a reduction in security level, and emphasizing the importance of manageable and realistic expectations and timeframes to meet behavioural objectives.

CSC continues to regular review of women classified at the maximum security level, with two additional reviews completed since the above review.

2(b) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada commission an independent study of the possible discriminatory impact of section 17(e) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations on federally sentenced offenders with disabilities. ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE – JOINT ACTION WITH PUBLIC SAFETY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS CANADA.

As CSC’s mandate is to apply the law in administering a sentence, issues related to the intent of the law and possible Charter implications of certain provisions were considered to be more appropriately examined by PSEPC and/or the Department of Justice.

Exploratory Review (COMPLETE):

CSC committed to conducting an exploratory review of women offenders, in conjunction with PSEPC, to complement CSC’s audit on the accommodation of disabilities.

The final Exploratory Review report was completed in March 2006. In terms of overall findings, the case reviews conducted for a sample group did not indicate that a higher security classification was assigned solely on the basis of a mental health illness or disorder, or a physical, learning or communication disability. It is noteworthy that 11.6% of the sample was classified at a minimum security classification and 49.3% were classified at a medium security level.

In the majority of maximum security cases where there was a mental illness or disorder, this was accompanied by high institutional adjustment, including threatening and assaultive behaviour, which required these offenders to be managed in a more structured setting. As well, in a few cases, it was noted that the offender’s compliance with taking medication was questionable, which affected her institutional behaviour. In the cases of those with physical, learning or communication disabilities, the findings do not indicate that these offenders were classified as maximum security because their needs could not be addressed at a lower security level.

Development of initial security classification tool for women and legislative provisions (COMPLETE):

In terms of the development of the gender-informed initial security classification tool, the Scope of Work specifies that the instrument must respond to the legislative provision of 17(e) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations as well as all other elements of the legislative framework.

Audit on Accommodating the Needs of Offenders with Disabilities (COMPLETE):

The audit took place from March to May 2005 on a sample of men’s institutions and one women’s institution. Action Plans have been developed and the final Audit Report will be released in April 2006.

2(c)(i) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada act immediately to address the issues concerning the disproportionate number of federally sentenced Aboriginal women classified as maximum security by immediately reassessing the classification of all Aboriginal women currently classified as maximum security using a gender-responsive reclassification tool. ACCEPTED.

Reassessment of all maximum security Aboriginal women (COMPLETE):

At the time of CSC’s response to the CHRC report, the development of the Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW) was in progress; this tool was developed to be responsive to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women offenders. CSC committed to reassessing the security classification of all maximum security Aboriginal women, on a priority basis, upon implementation of the SRSW. The reassessments using the new SRSW are complete.

A reclassification review is undertaken every six months for women who are classified at the maximum security level, which exceeds the policy requirement for an annual review (Commissioner’s Directive 710‑6, Review of Offender Security Classification).

2(c)(ii) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada act immediately to address the issues concerning the disproportionate number of federally sentenced Aboriginal women classified as maximum security by changing the blanket policy of not allowing maximum security women at the Healing Lodge to a policy that is based on individual assessment. NOT ACCEPTED.

This recommendation was made in both the Arbour Report and the CHRC report. CSC did not accept the recommendations at either of these times 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 for the public, staff and offenders.

The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge (OOHL) has neither the static security nor the staffing levels required to accommodate and manage the needs and the risks of women classified at the maximum-security level. It has no fence and its operational philosophy requires a high level of ongoing daily commitment to working intensively on their personal healing path, respect for all in the OOHL and Nekaneet community, including staff, and the ability of each individual to balance their needs with that of the community as a whole.

Research, assessment and experience have shown that the community-living model even within the fenced perimeter of the regional institutions is not appropriate for this group of offenders. The community-living model at the 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.

CSC is 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, is explicitly considered in the security reclassification process for maximum-security women. To that end, CSC will ensure that those women who are ready and who would benefit from the Lodge’s approach are identified in a more structured and proactive manner and are clear on the steps they need to take to access the Lodge.

Healing Lodge readiness assessment process (COMPLETE):

CSC is not in favour of placing maximum security women at OOHL for the reasons stated above. However, we are committed to developing a healing readiness framework to ensure that women (specifically, maximum security women), who have the potential and interest to move to the Healing Lodge, are identified and assisted in a structured and proactive manner.

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. 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.

Pathways: The Aboriginal Pathways vision at Fraser Valley Institution 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. As a multi-level institution, it can offer elements that fully support and encourage healing at all security levels. The Pathways program is also planned for implementation at Edmonton Institution for Women.

3. It is recommended that Policy Bulletin No. 107, which requires offenders serving a minimum life sentence for first or second degree murder to be classified as maximum security for at least the first two years of federal incarceration, be rescinded immediately in favour of fair and balanced individual assessment. NOT ACCEPTED.

CSC’s policy, effective February 23, 2001, is that offenders serving a life sentence for first or second degree murder spend at least the first two years of their federal sentence in a maximum-security institution. In exceptional cases, offenders could be granted an exemption and be assigned a medium-security classification initially or within that two-year period with the approval of the Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Operations and Programs. On September 1, 2005, this policy was modified such that the Wardens now have the authority to grant the exemption.

Commencing in November 2004, the Deputy Commissioner for Women reviewed all cases of newly admitted women offenders subject to Policy Bulletin 107 prior to decision by the Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Operations and Programs, as per the commitment to the CHRC in November 2004. From November 2004 until September 2005, when the policy changed, 6 cases were reviewed. In 5 of those cases, the final security classification decision was medium.

While consultation with the Deputy Commissioner for Women is no longer required prior to the Warden’s decision the number of lifers in the women’s institutions continues to be monitored. The most recent policy amendment also requires that the Regional Deputy Commissioners and the Assistant Commissioner Correctional Operations and Programs periodically monitor all placement decisions.

The Warden’s decision may be grieved by an offender. Should an offender choose to do so, the grievance will go directly to the second level as a high priority. Should the offender pursue the matter to the third level of the grievance process, the Deputy Commissioner for Women will review the decision/grievance file prior to review and sign-off by the Senior Deputy Commissioner.

4. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada implement a pilot needle exchange program in three or more correctional facilities, at least one of which should be a women’s facility, by June 2004. The results of the pilot project should be monitored, disclosed and assessed within two years. UNDER CONSIDERATION.

Consultation with the Public Health Agencies of Canada (COMPLETE):

Consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on a needle exchange program in federal penitentiaries is taking place. The Chief Public Health Officer and the previous Commissioner of CSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Spring 2005 outlining the scope of work for this project. The MOU calls for PHAC to complete a literature review on needle exchange, conduct site visits and provide a report on their findings. The site visits have been completed. It is expected that the PHAC will complete its report in 2006.

Safer Tattooing Practices Initiative pilot (ONGOING):

A women’s institution is part of the pilot and implementation is continuing. Planned completion of the evaluation is FY 2007‑08. Once the evaluation results are available, CSC will consider the next steps for this initiative.

5(a) It is recommended that the CSC take immediate steps to ensure the National Operational Protocol — Front Line Staffing be strictly respected, viz the National Operational Protocol — Front Line Staffing be made into a formal policy in the form of a Commissioner’s Directive or Standard Operating Procedure. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The National Operational Protocol was implemented in 1998 and converted into a corporate policy document following completion of a consultation process which included stakeholders. Commissioner’s Directive 577 – Operational Requirements for Cross Gender Staffing in Women Offender Institutions was promulgated in March 2006.

The policy objectives of CD 577 are “to ensure that the dignity and privacy of women offenders is respected to the fullest extent possible consistent with safety and security; and to ensure cross-gender situations in the workplace do not expose staff or offenders to vulnerable situations”.

CD 577 provides direction on operational requirements where there are men in front line positions at the regional women’s institutions. For example:

  • male and female staff shall be paired for security patrols at night;
  • strip searches shall only be conducted, witnessed and videotaped by female staff; and
  • the first response to a situation requiring pre-planned use of force will always be a women-only team.
5(b) It is recommended that the CSC take immediate steps to ensure the National Operational Protocol — Front Line Staffing be strictly respected, viz that the ten-day Women-Centered Training be mandatory for everyone who works in a women’s facility. ACCEPTED IN PART. (COMPLETE)

The Women-Centred Training Program sensitizes staff to various issues, including sexism, racism, disability, sexual orientation, physical and/or sexual abuse, self-injurious and suicidal behaviour, addictions, mental health and Aboriginal traditions and spirituality. The content of the National Operational Protocol was incorporated into the Women-Centered Training, and necessary adjustments will be incorporated with the conversion of the Protocol to CD 577 (refer to Recommendation 5(a)).

CSC provides Women-Centred Training to all staff who work in women’s institutions, in accordance with the National Training Standards (mandatory training), however, required portions differ for various staff as follows:

  • Ten‑day intensive course for all Primary Workers and Assistant Team Leaders, who work in the front line positions with women offenders;
  • Three‑day version covers the same topics and is designed for staff who periodically work with women offenders; and
  • One‑day version for managers which provides an overview of the ten-day and three-day courses. Managers are assessed through the selection process for their knowledge of, and sensitivity to, women’s issues. As a result, it was felt that the intensive training need not be mandatory for these staff.

In addition to the Women-Centred Training Program, all CSC staff must participate in a mandatory Anti-Harassment Training Workshop which promotes an awareness of, and sensitivity to, human rights issues and a better understanding of each person’s role in the prevention, identification and resolution of harassment complaints.

5(c) It is recommended that the CSC take immediate steps to ensure the National Operational Protocol — Front Line Staffing be strictly respected, viz that a refresher course on the Women-Centered Training for Correctional Service front line staff be offered annually. ACCEPTED IN PART. (COMPLETE)

The one-day refresher training program for staff working in front line positions in women’s institutions was developed and approved by CSC in March 2005 for inclusion in the National Training Standards (mandatory training).

The training has been delivered to all front line staff as part of the continuous development training. The training was well-received and delivery will continue every second year rather than annually.

5(d) It is recommended that the CSC take immediate steps to ensure the National Operational Protocol — Front Line Staffing be strictly respected, viz that the implementation of the National Operational Protocol be assessed by an independent external evaluator after two years. ACCEPTED.

CSC committed to an independent evaluation in FY 2007‑08, following implementation of the Management Control Framework tool and the availability of results. In addition, CSC uses a range of approaches, both internal and external, to assess compliance with policy and procedures:

Management Control Framework (MCF) process (ONGOING):

CSC committed to developing and implementing a MCF for the National Operational Protocol, which has now been converted to CD 577 (refer to Recommendation 5(a)). A draft MCF tool has been developed and will be implemented in the new fiscal year. The MCF results will form the basis for required corrective action.

Inmate Consultation (ONGOING):

The Deputy Commissioner for Women or her designate meets with the Inmate Committee during visits to the regional women’s institutions. The Warden and the institutional management team also have regular meetings with the local Inmate Committee, which provides a forum for discussion and resolution of issues.

6(a) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada implement independent adjudication for decisions related to involuntary segregation at all of its regional facilities for women. The impact of independent adjudication on the fairness and effectiveness of decision making should be assessed by an independent external evaluator after two years. COMPLETE.

CSC has no plans to introduce independent adjudication at this time (refer to Annex A, recommendation 9(f)).

6(b) It is recommended that a Segregation Advisory Committee for Women’s Institutions should be created with membership from both within and outside the Correctional Service, including representatives of Aboriginal communities. ACCEPT IN PRINCIPLE.

CSC is committed to examining alternatives to long-term segregation and enhanced transparency of the administrative process.

Segregation Advisory Committee Pilot Project (ONGOING):

In keeping with our commitment in the CHRC Action Plan, CSC has established a Segregation Advisory Committee, as a pilot in one women’s institution, 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. The purpose of the Committee is to identify possible reasonable alternatives to both short- and long-term segregation that are in the context of acceptable risk management. The Committee will be piloted at Edmonton Institution for Women for two years. 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. The Committee's mandate has been approved by the Deputy Commissioner for Women and the Regional Deputy Commissioner, Prairies. The training of the committee members has taken place. The first review took place in March 2006. A framework for the purpose of evaluating the pilot is being developed.

Segregation Case Reviews (ONGOING):

CSC committed to conducting case reviews for segregation cases meeting specified parameters. The review was completed and will be shared with the above-noted Segregation Advisory Committee. The following summarizes the findings of the case review.

CSC reviewed all admission placements of women offenders who were segregated for more than 30 consecutive days or more than 60 cumulative days during fiscal years 2002‑03 and 2003‑04. There were a total of thirty-three (33) women who accounted for 140 segregation placements who met the above noted criteria. It is important to note that fourteen (14) of the 33 women were placed in segregation when they were located in a women’s unit within a men’s institution, prior to the opening of the Secure Units in the regional women’s institutions.

This review concluded that the decision to place an offender in segregation and subsequent decisions to either continue or end the segregation were in keeping with the legislation and CSC policy. There was evidence that staff were aware of their roles and responsibilities in the segregation process. Decisions were made within the timeframes established in legislation and policy. The review also reinforced the need for full and complete documentation on the identification of options regarding the segregation status.

6(c) It is recommended that the Correctional Service should examine alternatives to long-term segregation for women offenders, in consultation with external stakeholders. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

CSC committed to examining alternatives to long-term segregation in the context of the Segregation Advisory Committee noted above. Refer to Recommendation 6(b).

7. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada consider the needs and low risk of minimum and medium security women inmates in the construction of additional facilities for women. ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE. (ONGOING)

CSC accommodation planning is based on population analysis – risk, needs, forecasted numbers, etc. All these elements feed into the master plans of renovations/changes to existing institutions and into the operational plans for new institutions.

Due to small numbers, the 1990 Creating Choices Task Force recommended, and CSC accepted, to accommodate women in multi-level regional-based institutions. The needs and risk requirements of all security levels were considered in the development of the regional institutions and CSC will continue to do so.

8(a) The Commission recommends that the Correctional Service of Canada ensure that the revised program strategy for women acknowledges that some of women’s criminogenic factors are unique. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The revised Program Strategy for Women Offenders (2004) describes the current state of knowledge and research with respect to women’s criminogenic factors, including those unique to women. For example, specific references can be found on pages 5 and 6 of the Program Strategy, which is posted on the CSC website As with the Program Strategy, Program Advisory Committees that are convened to assist in CSC program development include members with a background in women’s studies and research.

Ongoing commitment: The Program Strategy will be updated periodically to reflect the implications of new research.

8(b) The Commission recommends that the Correctional Service of Canada develop and implement gender-responsive programming that addresses the full range of women’s criminogenic factors. ACCEPTED.

Program development or re-development for women offenders is an ongoing activity that is conducted in the context of the Program Strategy for Women Offenders (2004). Existing programs include the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (WOSAP), Survivors of Abuse and Trauma, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and the Individualized Sex Offender Program for Women.

Violence Prevention Program (ONGOING):

In October 2005, CSC approved a proposal to develop a national Violence Prevention Program for Women. This program will be a valuable addition to the programs currently offered to address women offenders’ violent behaviour. An Advisory Committee was convened in January 2006 to proceed with program development, the completion of which is expected by December 2006.

National Committee on Programs for Aboriginal Women Offenders (ONGOING):

This Committee was formed, and Terms of Reference developed, following a national meeting in 2005 hosted by the Reintegration Programs Branch and the Aboriginal Initiatives Branch. The Committee held its first meeting in February 2006 to discuss the development of a substance abuse program for Aboriginal women offenders.

9. The Commission recommends that the Correctional Service of Canada bring a gender focus to its employment and employability programming for federally sentenced women, including the development of job opportunities in the community. 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 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 as 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.