Correctional Service Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Women Offender Programs and Issues

Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.

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
10. It is recommended that, based on common guidelines, an action plan for each region should be developed to ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada meets the need for accommodation for federally sentenced women on community release. The plan should include home placement agreements, satellite apartments and other options that would permit women on conditional release to be housed with their children. ACCEPTED.

Alternative accommodation options/information sessions (ONGOING):

While the accommodation needs for women and the mechanisms to address them vary across the country, the Women Offender Sector has assumed, in the past year, a centralized role of monitoring, supporting and promoting regional strategies to address the needs in the community.

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

Training in mental health issues to community-based residential facility staff (ONGOING):

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 offenders with these needs.

11(a) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada continue to take steps to ensure greater continuity between programs offered in the institution and those offered in the community. The community programming phase of the Woman Offender Substance Abuse Program may provide a good model for doing so and should be monitored. ACCEPTED.

Each offender has a Correctional Plan developed to respond to her particular risks and needs both in the institution and the community. CSC addresses the offenders' needs through a combination of its own programs, community-based programs, specialized services and other interventions.

The revised Program Strategy for Women Offenders which frames ongoing program development addresses the requirement for continuity.

As noted by the CHRC, the maintenance/relapse prevention framework for WOSAP ensures a continuum of delivery between the institutions and the community.

CSC will continue to monitor effectiveness of community programs for women and work with community partners to continue to enhance these programs.

Evaluation of Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (WOSAP) (ONGOING):

The interim evaluation of the first two modules of WOSAP (Engagement and Education/E&E; and Intensive Therapeutic Treatment/ITT) is complete. The next stages of evaluation will focus on the continuity of programming in the institution and in the community.

The preliminary results from the pilot support continued implementation of WOSAP, e.g., 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.

Joint initiatives for federal/provincial/
territorial Heads of Corrections (ONGOING):

There is a federal/provincial/territorial Heads of Corrections’ Female Offender Sub-Committee. The Sub-Committee currently has members from all jurisdictions with the exception of Quebec. One of the current co-chairs of this Sub-Committee is the Director General, Women Offender Sector, CSC. The Sub-Committee has developed a proposed work plan, based on their discussions at their November 2005 meeting and December 2005 conference call, which will facilitate the exploration of joint initiatives amongst the various jurisdictions. The issue of programs for women offenders is a standing agenda item for information-sharing amongst the Sub-Committee, with action items outlined in their proposed work plan. In terms of community-based programming, the Sub-Committee will, for example, focus on opportunities for bi-jurisdictional partnerships for mental health programs and services, programs for Aboriginal women and substance abuse programs for women.

11(b) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada offer more assistance to women on conditional release, particularly through employment counselling and child care. ACCEPTED IN PART.

Employment counselling and child care were some of the issues raised by women in the Employment Needs Survey, the results of which will be examined and incorporated into CSC’s National Employment Strategy (refer to Recommendation 9).

Referrals to CORCAN employment centre (ONGOING):

In 2005‑06 (February 2006), 225 women offenders in the community received employment centre referrals (representing 8% of all offenders receiving services). It should be noted that one offender may receive more than one service (e.g., Internet access or writing a resumé).

CSC committed to promoting the value of employment centres with Parole Officers to increase the number of referrals. As part of Corcan’s initiatives to enhance the community corrections infrastructure, a number of actions are occurring or are planned which assist in meeting this commitment:

  • the majority of Community Employment Centres (CEC) are located in a Parole Office or have strategies in place to ensure CEC participation in the community program board;
  • a formalized referral process will be established through the Offender Management System (OMS) for Community Employment Service participation (similar to a Program Referral);
  • a reference document will be created to be appended to the existing Program Description Table outlining the employment services available in the Community. This document is used widely by all Parole Officers and Program Boards (bodies that make referrals).

Child Care (ONGOING):

CSC’s legislative mandate does not extend to child care; child care is a provincial jurisdictional issue, however, CSC does play a liaison role. A discussion document aimed at providing direction to staff working with women who have children, including reference to situations of residential accommodation, has been drafted and shared for internal review. It is based on consultations with CSC and community agency representatives, as well as with Legal Services. It reinforces the need for coordination with municipal, provincial, and federal sources responsible for children’s services. The document will be given wider consultation in early FY 2006‑07 prior to finalization and will result in an annex, possibly to the new Commissioner’s Directive on Community Supervision.

12(a) It is recommended that federally sentenced women be provided with an opportunity to consult with an Elder before finalizing their correctional plans. With the agreement of individual women, Elders should play a key role throughout case management and release planning. ACCEPTED.

Enhanced role of Elders/Aboriginal Liaison (COMPLETE):

CSC has completed consultation and policy revisions that address the issue of Elder/Aboriginal Liaison involvement in the development of Correctional Plans.

The relevant paragraphs of the new Commissioner’s Directive 705‑6, Correctional Planning and Criminal Profile, apply:

  1. Ensure that the Correctional Officer II/Primary Worker is present for the first meeting with the offender, if possible. Throughout the assessment process, if the offender is Aboriginal, or would like to be engaged in Aboriginal tradition, culture, spiritual practices or programming, an Aboriginal Liaison Officer and/or an Elder will be included as part of the assessment interview.
  1. Input from institutional and community staff, Elders and Aboriginal Liaison Officers will be obtained in applicable cases.

In addition, there is provision in Annex A of the policy (Content Guidelines – Criminal Profile Report) to obtain an Elder assessment, if possible and appropriate, for the Criminal Profile. If such is the case, there is a requirement to complete an Aboriginal Healing Plan.

12(b) It is recommended that in partnership with Aboriginal communities and organizations, the Correctional Service of Canada should review the use of section 84 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, identify barriers to its use, and create and implement an action plan to encourage its use for federally sentenced women. Progress should be reviewed and reported within one year. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Regions continue to be engaged in discussions with a number of Aboriginal communities to raise interest in participating in Section 84 arrangements.

Aboriginal Women Offenders
The consultation to establish a new National Aboriginal Strategy for men and women offenders has been completed and action plans have been developed specifically for women offenders.

CSC’s ongoing work has involved a number of initiatives to help develop the capacity of Aboriginal communities to participate in the reintegration efforts of Aboriginal women offenders:

Programs for Aboriginal Women
The Aboriginal community is represented on the National Programs Advisory Committee for consultation on the development of programs for women. A first meeting took place in February 2006 to discuss an Aboriginal substance abuse program for women offenders. Institutional, culturally-specific programs are currently offered to Aboriginal women offenders to help prepare them for release including Spirit of a Warrior and Circles of Change.

Circles of Change focuses on issues such as: process of change; increasing knowledge of Canadian Aboriginal culture; communication styles; self-esteem and self-care issues; problem-solving skills; woman’s role in her family of origin; healthy and unhealthy relationships; and social injustice.

The Spirit of a Warrior Program is divided into four sections: introduction; childhood; adolescence; and adulthood/alternatives to violence. The Program consists of an in-depth intervention that is intended to reduce the risk to re-offend with violence, reduce risk to relapse, improve family relations, improve ability to communicate with others, improve coping skills, and adapt Aboriginal culture and spirituality into all aspects of behaviour and everyday life. It is expected that with a more informed base of traditions, Aboriginal women will be better able to manage their lives.

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.

Aboriginal Community Development Officer (ACDO)
Ten ACDO positions have been staffed across the country to create links for both men and women offenders with Aboriginal communities, raise Aboriginal community interest in participating in the correctional process, and initiate Section 84 agreements. As well, an Aboriginal advisory committee has been established in the Pacific Region to explore Section 81 and 84 agreements for women offenders.

An ACDO meeting was held in March 2005 at OOHL and the development of sustainable strategies to enhance the use of Section 84 agreements for Aboriginal women offenders was discussed.

A video conference was held in January 2006 with the institutional OOHL “champions”. Further ideas for promoting OOHL were discussed:

  • forward copies of the OOHL video to all women’s institutions to share with the inmate population;
  • convene a meeting for the “Champions” at OOHL to educate staff on programs and services; and
  • development of a workbook and other tools on Aboriginal programs, to enable women at the regional institutions to begin a program prior to transferring to OOHL.

Section 84 reviews
A review of Section 84 arrangements was completed which included the input from the institutions and community. On the basis of this review, the DCW provided the Wardens of women’s institutions with some of the best practices that should be considered by all institutions:

  • compulsory information sharing session with all Aboriginal offenders;
  • ensuring interviews at Intake with an Elder, Aboriginal Liaison or representative from the Native Sisterhood; and
  • incorporating a statement with respect to Section 84 in all Correctional Plans.

Institutional awareness sessions have been held at various women’s facilities to increase both staff and inmate knowledge about Section 81 and 84 provisions. The Parole Officer Orientation Induction Training Program now includes a component on Section 81 and 84 agreements.

The Aboriginal Initiatives Branch produced a “Section 84 Conditional Release Planning Kit” that contains considerable information on the Section 84 process. The electronic version of this kit was sent to the Wardens of the women offender institutions in April 2005. Hard copy kits were distributed to all institutions in November 2005, advising that a copy should be given to all offenders at Intake who indicate an interest in this type of release process. This will increase the awareness of staff and offenders of this release option.

13. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada consider whether its current organizational structure optimizes its capacity to ensure consistent human rights compliance in women’s facilities, and that it develop an enhanced functional capacity to ensure the consistent protection and promotion of human rights across its operations. ACCEPTED.

Identification of Human Rights elements in Management Control Framework tools (ONGOING):

CSC developed a work plan to complete the identification of the human rights elements in the 94 Management Control Frameworks (MCF). To date, the Human Rights Branch has reviewed 26 MCF’s against CSC’s international treaty obligations and domestic legislative and policy framework. Proposed amendments have been drafted based on these reviews. Further consultation is planned with the Performance Assurance Sector throughout CSC.

Corporate Human Rights Monitoring Tool (ONGOING):

CSC is in the process of developing this tool and expect it will be ready for consultation in 2006.

Lessons learned approach (ONGOING):

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.

Review of national training courses (ONGOING):

CSC will be highlighting the human rights issues in each of its existing training programs, with the assistance of training specialists. A review of all mandatory national training programs is planned to ensure that they articulate the human rights elements of corrections. This will be a multi-year task, given that over 40 training programs will be subject to review. To date, the following programs have been reviewed and revised:

The Correctional Training Program (required for all new Correctional Officers): The profile and exposure on the topic of human rights has been enhanced by including, within the new CTP Stage 1 on-line component, a specific module entitled: Human Rights. This module specifically addresses the protection of the human rights of offenders. There is a specific section on the human rights of women offenders. Included is a discussion of Canada’s and CSC’s obligations to international covenants and declarations. This revised program will be implemented by January 2007.

Parole Officer Orientation (required for all new Parole Officers): In the current Parole Officer Orientation, human rights is dealt with mostly from a legal point of view. There are sessions on the rights and freedoms under the Charter and on principles of fairness within the context of parole. The topic of human rights from an ethical perspective is addressed in the session on “Ethics in Corrections”. Aboriginal and women offenders are addressed in other sessions such as risk assessment and programming. This program is being redesigned over the next several months. Staff from CSC's Human Rights division are contributing to this redesign by helping to build some scenarios that will highlight human rights issues.

New Employee Orientation Program: The concept of human rights is addressed in sessions on the Constitution, the Charter, the CCRA and CSC’s Mission.

14. It is recommended that, in consultation with its staff and inmates, the Correctional Service of Canada immediately develop and implement an anti-harassment policy and education program that applies to inmates. The policy should provide for independent anti-harassment counsellors for inmates. A short, plain-language version of the policy should also be developed and distributed. ACCEPTED IN PART.

Human Rights section for Inmate Handbook (ONGOING):

CSC committed to drafting, for inclusion in all inmate handbooks, a plain language standardized section on human rights, which would also include a question and answer section on the CSC anti-harassment policy and complaint/investigation process. As well, CSC agreed to producing an alternative communication method such as an audiotape version of the standardized section.

A standardized human rights section for inmate handbooks was developed and consultation has been completed with the institutions, community, CHRC, stakeholders and offenders. A revised version has been approved and an audio version of the human rights section will be produced and distributed to the institutions.

Policy Bulletin 186 – Harassment (COMPLETE):

CSC committed to ensuring that all offenders receive a hard copy of Policy Bulletin 186 – Harassment, and that offenders admitted after that date receive a copy during their intake interview. The Policy Bulletin was forwarded to each Warden for distribution to the inmates and meetings with the Inmate Committees also took place.

Offender Redress 1‑800 line (COMPLETE):

All staff who receive calls on the Offender Redress 1‑800 line have completed the TB/PSAC Joint Learning Program’s Anti-Harassment Training.

Human Rights/AdvocacyTraining (COMPLETE):

The Human Rights Branch, 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.

15. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada immediately develop and implement a comprehensive accommodation policy that specifically addresses the accommodation of inmates on all prohibited grounds of discrimination. A short, plain-language version of the policy geared to offenders with cognitive limitations or low literacy levels should also be developed and distributed as part of an educational program. NOT ACCEPTED AS STATED.

CSC accepts the underlying requirement to ensure human rights are accommodated appropriately.

Refer to Recommendation 14 regarding the standardized section on human rights for the Inmate Handbooks.

Refer to Recommendation 13 regarding the Human Rights Bulletins.

16(a) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada establish guidelines for institutional handbooks to ensure that complete, consistent and accurate information is provided to inmates in all facilities. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The existing Inmate Handbook from each of the women’s institutions has been reviewed by the Women Offender Sector. Based on this review, a standard framework has been developed to serve as a guideline for institutions in making necessary revisions to their handbook and to achieve consistency in content. The framework has been sent to the Wardens of the women’s institutions requesting that the established format be used as a guide in the next review and revision process of their respective handbook.

The handbook will include a human rights section (refer to Recommendation 14).

16(b) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada annually monitor the human rights-related content of inmate handbooks, orientation sessions and ongoing human rights-related training. ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE. (ONGOING)

Refer to Recommendation 13 and 14.

16(c) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada make available information suitable for women with limited cognitive abilities or low literacy levels, as well as information in alternate formats. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Refer to Recommendation 14. An audiotape version will be produced for the Q&A’s related to CSC’s anti-harassment policy and the standardized human rights content for inmate handbooks. All Wardens were asked to report on other methods used by their case management team to ensure offenders are informed of the content of the inmate handbook. The responses indicate that the institutions adopt suitable alternative approaches to address the specific needs of an offender (e.g., reading the information to the offender).

16(d) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada ensure that the accountability accords for managers include contribution to human rights compliance. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Annual Performance Agreements for senior managers currently include human rights compliance, insofar as they include compliance with CSC’s legislative and policy framework. Management Control Framework tools are used to monitor compliance. In addition, the Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator serves to identify areas of organizational accountability related to offenders’ rights.

16(e) It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada integrate human rights training vertically throughout the organization through effective knowledge management. ACCEPTED IN PART. (ONGOING)

Refer to Recommendation 13.

17. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada implement a pilot mediation project at facilities for federally sentenced women, using trained, external mediators trained in human rights to attempt to resolve complaints, as well as providing conflict resolution training for inmates. The pilot project should begin by the end of 2004, and it should be evaluated within two years of implementation by an independent contractor. ACCEPTED IN PART.

In the CHRC Action Plan, CSC highlighted the need for a conflict management strategy that employs a continuum of approaches. CSC’s commitment is to focus efforts on the complaints and grievance system as well as other broad initiatives.

Analysis on complaints and grievance issues (ONGOING):

The Women Offender Sector conducts an analysis, twice per year, on the issues raised by women offenders via the complaint and grievance process. Key issues that emerge are followed up with the respective Warden. A copy of the complaint and grievance analysis is forwarded to the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

Survey on mediation and conflict resolution strategies (ONGOING):

A letter was forwarded to all Wardens asking them to identify practices that promote formal and informal resolution to resolve offender complaints and grievances. Staff, Inmate Committees and various stakeholders were invited to participate in the survey. The internal report from this survey was completed and a pilot was developed in a men’s institution using staff mediators. Data from this pilot is being collated and an analysis of results is scheduled for completion in 2006. The results of the pilot will be reviewed to revisit options for the women’s institutions.

National Steering Committee on Restorative Justice (ONGOING):

CSC’s Action Plan identified the CSC National Steering Committee on Restorative Justice as a mechanism for ensuring that approaches to dispute resolution for offenders are consistent with the Integrated Conflict Management System (as per the Public Service Modernization Act). While the Committee has had a less active role over the past few years, the intent is to re-establish their presence with a redefined role and tasks.

18. It is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada work with the Canadian Human Rights Commission to develop, implement and assess a human rights audit model, including the identification and measurement of human rights performance indicators and public reporting. ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE.

Refer to Recommendation 13 regarding the corporate Human Rights Monitoring Tool.

Sector Head consultation on the annual audit plan has provided the opportunity for the Human Rights Branch to input on activities related to human rights issues.

The audit on accommodation of disabilities is complete. Refer to Recommendation 2(b).

The audit on Privacy and Access to Information is complete and the report will be available in Fall 2006.

19. It is recommended that the Solicitor General of Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada, in consultation with stakeholders, establish an independent external redress body for federally sentenced offenders. Review of models for independent external redress body (COMPLETE):

CSC has no plans to introduce an external redress body at this time. A review to date has not identified any other correctional jurisdiction which is known to have an oversight body that can compel compliance with its recommendations. The lack of international models to inform and guide discussions, as well as the potential implications for other government bodies in Canada, presents difficulties in conceptualizing a model that results in granting to an independent body executive powers over CSC decisions other than through the current redress through the courts.

Inspection of two women’s institutions by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (COMPLETE):

The inspections at Nova Institution and Grand Valley Institution for Women were completed in September 2005. As part of the process, national stakeholder consultation was undertaken by Anne Owers, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, and local stakeholder consultation involved the inspection team. An oral report provided upon completion of the inspection at each institution indicated that the preliminary findings were quite positive and that CSC’s approach with women offenders is commendable. The Inspectorate’s written report will be released in Summer 2006 once it is finalized and translated.

One of the components of the inspection process at Nova and Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVIW) was the Inspectorate’s administration of a pre-inspection, confidential survey to the inmate population. The purpose of the survey was to ask the women offenders about various aspects of institutional life and to use that information as a basis for further assessment during the inspection.

At each site, there was at least a 90% response rate and the overall findings were shared by the inspection team in the oral debriefing at the end of the inspection. The information amassed from the survey provided CSC with considerable insight as to the women’s perceptions regarding the reception process, legal rights, safety, health care, purposeful activity and reintegration.

To identify issues of concern and supplement the findings at Nova and GVIW, CSC had the survey administered at the remaining four women offender institutions: Joliette, Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, Edmonton Institution for Women and Fraser Valley Institution. This took place in March 2006.

The Inspectorate will provide CSC with a comparative analysis of survey results for all women’s institutions. This will be used as a basis for identifying issues of concern and where further review is required.