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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections
1996-2006

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Principal Themes: Progress, Challenges and Future Direction

Phase II of the Arbour Commission of Inquiry was dedicated to policy consultations and roundtable discussions on selected topics in which CSC participated and provided submissions. These submissions included detailed overviews on the work to date in implementing the operational plans for the regional women’s institutions, as well as cross-gender staffing issues, Aboriginal Women, gender-informed program development, security classification and crisis management. Phase II also included a site visit by the Commission to the recently opened Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge. The Arbour recommendations, and those of all the major reviewers on women’s corrections that ensued, served to build on what had already commenced and to ensure a vision that would further advance our capacity to safely reintegrate women offenders into their home communities.

CSC accepted the vast majority of the recommendations in the Arbour Report and the reports of the Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee and Canadian Human Rights Commission. To assess the progress of the past ten years, some pertinent questions were generally considered for this Status Report: What changes did CSC implement to address recommendations from the major reviews? What accomplishments have been made? What challenges did we face in doing so? What are the next steps?

A comprehensive examination of the key reviews on women’s corrections from 1996-2006 highlight the following principal theme areas: human rights, cross-gender staffing issues, Aboriginal women offenders, security classification, management of security incidents, segregation, programs and community transition. In the following sections, these will be examined to demonstrate the ongoing efforts, evolution of progress and challenges in these areas.

This Status Report focuses on the principal themes that emerged from the referenced reviews of women’s corrections. Mental health was not examined as a key area in the reviews and is not discussed as a principal theme in this Status Report, but rather discussed throughout the report in applicable areas. The number of offenders with mental health problems is increasing. For example, one out of four women offenders identified at admission presents mental health problems and this proportion has doubled since 1997, from 13% to 26% (CSC Research Branch, Profiles and Forecasts, 2005). While there have been considerable efforts and progress to date in addressing the mental health needs of women offenders, CSC will be focusing further attention on this important area in the coming years.