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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Report on announced inspection in Canada by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales:
Grand Valley Institution for Women

Section 8: Reintegration

Reintegration strategy and planning
Expected outcomes:
Reintegration underpins the work of the whole establishment, supported by strategic partnerships in the community and informed by assessment of inmate risk and need so as to minimize the likelihood of reoffending on release.

8.1 There was a good range of reintegration services. The institution was represented on a regional reintegration committee to coordinate services strategically. Good monitoring of individual cases was taking place but was not aggregated to build up a strategic picture. Problems with the quality of parole reports prepared by primary workers had been tackled and there was no evidence of current delay, but it was not always possible for women to complete all necessary program work before their first eligibility date. Local volunteers and community groups played a significant role in meeting the reintegration needs of the women. There were arrangements to secure accommodation on release but more could be done to help women to secure employment, further education or training and welfare benefits before discharge.

8.2 The delivery of reintegration services was based on the national community strategy for women offenders and the national program strategy for women offenders. A relatively new regional strategic reintegration committee had formed to consider the needs of Correctional Service of Canada women offenders in the Ontario region and the warden of GVIW had begun to attend. However, there was no GVIW-specific reintegration policy specifying how the reintegration needs of women would be met within the framework of the national strategies.

8.3 There were various operational committees at GVIW, involving outside parole officers, which met to discuss different aspects of reintegration such as housing, parole and programs. However, they did not have clear terms of reference, were not linked or coordinated and there was no clear strategic overview of the different strands of work. A considerable amount of data on individual cases was routinely collected and a report described as the 'reintegration report' was prepared monthly. This included information that managers could use to monitor timeliness of correctional plans and parole reports, outcomes of parole applications, escorted and unescorted temporary absences for work releases and family contact. The reports were discussed at quarterly reintegration meetings. We were told that the meetings were not minuted as they were purely a discussion of the report. The level of scrutiny of individual cases was commendable and effective but the potential to use the data to identify patterns and trends and to use it as a strategic management tool was being missed.

8.4 We heard complaints from women and members of some of the stakeholder groups that women were missing their first eligibility date for day parole because reports were not being prepared on time. Eligibility for day parole was after six months in the institution or serving one sixth of the sentence, whichever was the longer. Six months was a very tight timescale for some women with complex needs. The timescale for the completion of intake assessments was 70 days and it was therefore often difficult to ensure that women completed all necessary program work in time to apply at the first eligibility date. We examined the reintegration reports in detail and were satisfied that robust systems were in place to ensure that reports were prepared on time and that there were no examples of delays. Many women were not applying for parole at their first eligibility date but there were usually reasons: some were completing programs; some were maximum security; and some had not applied because of their deportation status. The institution had recently appointed an additional parole officer to provide reports and at the time of the inspection, we found no evidence to suggest that women were being held back from applying for parole due to inefficiencies on the part of the institution.

8.5 We met with the parole board. Its members did not express concerns about delays in receiving reports but rather about the quality of parole reports. They felt quality had deteriorated since the responsibility for prepared reports and presenting cases to the board had moved from parole officers to primary workers. Difficulties particularly occurred when primary workers were not present at hearings due to their shift pattern and an uninformed substitute had presented the case. As a result, some cases had been adjourned causing delay.

8.6 Efforts had been made to resolve this problem by allocating all primary workers an intake parole officer as a mentor. These officers could attend parole hearings to assist with the presentation of the case and were always assigned to do so in the absence of the primary worker, having been fully apprised of the case. Further training had been offered to the primary workers, although they had completed the same national training for the preparation and presentation of parole reports as parole officers. The quality assurance system for reports had also been strengthened for primary workers to ensure that all reports were checked by intake parole officers in the first instance.

8.7 Women who left on day parole all went to half-way houses until they were eligible for full parole. Those released on full parole served the remainder of their sentences under supervision in the community. Women were not released on full parole unless the parole board was satisfied that they had suitable accommodation to go to and conditions of residence were often applied as part of the supervision conditions.

8.8 Between 1 April and 31 August 2005, there had been 16 unescorted temporary absences and 214 escorted temporary absences, almost all of which had been facilitated by volunteers. Many escorted temporary absences involved volunteers escorting women to half-way houses prior to their parole application and some involved visits home to rebuild contact with family and friends. Arrangements were in place to ensure that women had suitable accommodation to go to but not enough attention was paid to ensure that they had secured employment, further education or training or welfare benefits. There were also some problems ensuring that women had all the necessary ID before they were released.

8.9 Over 600 community volunteers offered a variety of services to the women, from recreational activities such as quilting to chaplaincy volunteers who provided services and concerts. The local Elizabeth Fry Society offered one-to-one work and group activities. Other community agencies such as Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous attended regularly. Stride Circles (introducing community circles of support) was part of a community justice initiative that offered reintegration counselling and an extremely popular weekly recreation program. However, there were funding difficulties with the community circles to support women on release.

8.10 Before discharge women were able to choose from a selection of new clothing held in the institution. A range of sizes was provided and women could try clothes on before deciding which outfit to have. Women were also given an appropriate bag for their clothes and other belongings on release.

8.11 In our survey, 55% of women, significantly higher than the English comparator of 43%, said they had done something or something had happened to them during their time at GVIW that would make them less likely to reoffend on release.

  Action points
8.12 All aspects of reintegration should be monitored and coordinated by the reintegration committee or policy group.

8.13 A range of reintegration data including information on parole should be collected and monitored to ensure managers can satisfy themselves about performance in this area and inform future policy

8.14 The parole board should be consulted as part of the process of quality assurance of parole reports.

8.15 There should be better provision for assisting women with welfare support, employment, further education or training before they are released.


Correctional planning
Expected outcomes:
All inmates have a correctional plan based upon an individual assessment of risks and needs, regularly reviewed and implemented throughout and after their time in custody. Inmates, together with all relevant staff, are involved with drawing up and reviewing plans.

8.16 Correctional plans and subsequent reports were detailed and focused. Prioritized needs were relevant and achievable and based on a thorough intake assessment. The intake assessment was being revised in response to concerns that it was not sufficiently culturally or gender sensitive. Correctional plans were resumed for revokees. Women said they felt part of the correctional plan process, but their contribution to the formulation of progress reports was unclear. The use of checklists was a good initiative to quality assure reports.

8.17 All new arrivals underwent a thorough intake assessment of their offending behaviour needs within 70 days (for women with sentences under four years) or 90 days (for women with sentences of four years or more). All assessment targets had been met this fiscal year. The intake assessment included detailed contributions from the woman, the community parole officer and the woman's friends and family. Correctional plans were then developed focusing on the prioritized dynamic risk factors identified during the assessment process. In response to concerns that the Dynamic Factor Identification and Analysis (DFIA) was not sufficiently culturally or gender sensitive, the instrument had been updated to include gender and culturally-responsive interview prompts. A revised DFIA was being tested to ensure its validity for Aboriginal, racialized and disabled women.

8.18 We examined a random sample of 10 correctional plans. In all cases, the prioritized needs had been identified from the information collected during the assessment process. In our survey, 61% of respondents, against an English comparator of 26%, said they had been involved or very involved in the development of their correctional plan.

8.19 All revokees resumed their previous correctional plans. This applied to approximately 15% of the population at the time of our visit.

8.20 A case management team was assigned to each new arrival. This comprised the primary worker and the parole officer, in addition to the woman, with additional contributions from any other relevant parties such as psychology. The case management team contributed to monthly structured casework reviews as well as correctional plan progress reports that monitored the woman's progress against the correctional plan targets. Progress reports included information from relevant sources including the structured casework reviews, program feedback reports, the SLE and community contacts. Comprehensive reports to aid decisions were also completed for the warden or the national parole board. While all reports were signed by a member of staff to say that the content of the report had been shared with the woman, it was unclear from the description how involved she had been in the compiling of the report, despite being a member of the case management team.

8.21 All reports were subject to strict quality assurance before being finalized. The selection of quality assurance checklists developed in-house aided the quality assurance process. The appointment of an additional parole officer and the training and mentoring of primary workers by parole officers had been responses to previous problems with the delay and quality of reports.

  Action points
8.22 All women should be involved in the formulation of reports that relate to their correctional plan.

Correctional and mental health programs
Expected outcomes:
Effective programs are available to address identified inmate risk and need, to allow timely progression through sentence.

8.23 The correctional programs offered appeared to meet the needs of most women. Women were allocated to programs on the basis of prioritized need. Programs had been developed or adapted specifically for women and a Circles of Change program for Aboriginal women was about to be introduced. The contracted intervention for survivors of abuse and trauma was not meeting demand. The SLE was an impressive example of support for women who were finding it difficult to cope in the open environment.

8.24 The program strategy for women offenders provided a choice of gender-specific programs for women based on a needs analysis of the population. Programmes had either been developed specifically for women offenders or adapted to meet their needs. Aside from the three WOSAP (women offender substance abuse program) modules, GVIW provided dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), fraud prevention, anger and emotion management and relapse prevention programs for its general population. Sex offender therapy could be offered to those who required it. A random analysis of 10 correctional plans suggested that the correctional programs offered met the prioritized needs. We welcomed the proposed introduction of the Circles of Change program specifically designed to meet the needs of Aboriginal women.

8.25 National programs such as DBT and WOSAP had been validated and were subject to monitoring by headquarters. All facilitators for these programs had been trained according to national standards. On the SLE all the primary workers as well as the behavioural counsellors had been trained in DBT.

8.26 Following an in depth intake assessment, women were allocated to the next available program during weekly program board meetings. All programs apart from DBT were delivered a contracted number of times a year. Women were therefore prioritized for the next contracted program by their earliest date of release.

8.27 The small number of women in need of these specific programs meant that the majority were able to complete the necessary programs before their earliest release date. In addition, the six-month DBT program could be offered on an individual basis in order to meet prioritized need. However, there had been a couple of examples since April 2005 of women postponing their earliest opportunity for parole in order to finish a program. The lengthy intake assessment process and the restrictions of the contracts meant that the average length of time from admission to starting the first treatment program from April to September 2005 was 109 days. This had the potential to impact on women with short stays. Every attempt was made to prevent women missing their earliest date of release via the program board, cases brought forward and the quarterly oversight of waiting lists by the CSC. The correctional planning process also identified where a woman's needs might be met in the community.

8.28 Since April 2005, 24 women had completed one of the above programs: 12 had completed anger and emotions management, four fraud prevention and eight relapse prevention. Seven women were assigned to the anger and emotions management program due to start in October 2005, one woman was deferred to the January 2006 program and three women were attending the fraud prevention program. Four women in the secure unit were wait-listed to attend the anger and emotions program. Anger and emotions and DBT could be delivered on a one-to-one basis to women on the secure unit. Alternatively, women would be assigned to the next program once they returned to the general population.

8.29 The contract for individual sexual abuse therapy provided three cycles of 15-week interventions a year for a maximum of five women per cycle. Ongoing counselling and crisis support was offered. However, the contracted provision was not meeting the needs of the population. With existing contracted provision, it was estimated that some women on the waiting list would have to wait up to two years to receive therapy, if they were still in the institution by them.

8.30 As outlined in the program strategy for women offenders, the indirect link between a history of abuse and subsequent involvement in criminal activity supports the investment in this type of intervention, not least for a population with such a high prevalence of personal victimization experiences. We therefore welcomed the tender for a contract to provide group therapy for survivors of abuse and trauma. The challenge will be to ensure that the contracts for both individual and group therapy meet the needs of the total population.

8.31 The SLE was an impressive example of a therapeutic environment within which specific treatment interventions were delivered to women with mental health needs. Seven women were living on the SLE, all of whom were completing the DBT program. The psychosocial rehabilitation program was also available for SLE residents, although no-one had been assessed as in need at the time of our visit. Weekly community connections sessions provided contact with the community for all SLE residents in preparation for release.

8.32 Applications to the SLE were considered at weekly coordinated multidisciplinary care committee (CCC) meetings. Women were admitted to the SLE within a short period of approval. Women were able to attend a commitment week to acclimatize to the functioning of the unit before moving in. 'Catch-up' skills training groups were being run with four recent arrivals to prepare them for joining the main DBT group.

8.33 The progress of each resident was discussed by staff during the CCC meetings, and updated treatment plans outlining short-term goals and achievements were developed collaboratively between the residents and staff following each meeting. All the evidence suggested that the staff knew the women well through their constant interaction. Past and present residents of the SLE spoke highly of their treatment there both in terms of program intervention and relationships with staff.

8.34 All SLE residents were involved in activities within the general population as well as within the confines of the unit. Outreach support was provided by the SLE's behavioural counsellors to ex-residents and any member of the general population.

8.35 In our survey, 64% of respondents, against a n English comparator of 26%, felt that their correctional programs would help them on release.

  Action points
8.36 An annual needs assessment should be conducted to ensure that programs continued to meet the identified needs of women at GVIW.

8.37 The population's need for abuse and trauma intervention should be assessed and the institution should ensure that the individual and group program contracts meet this need.

  Good practice
8.38 The SLE was an impressive holistic therapeutic environment that supported women with specific mental health needs, and offered additional support to encourage and maintain their successful return to the general population.

Life-sentenced inmates
Expected outcomes:
Life-sentenced inmates should receive equal treatment in terms of their treatment and the conditions in which they are held. These expectations refer to specific issues, which relate to the management of life-sentenced inmates.

8.39 Twelve women were serving life sentences and there was some recognition of their specific needs as a group. Correctional planning was good but women lifers were not always fully involved in their case reviews. There was little opportunity for skills training and work was inadequate for women who would spend many years in the same institution with little opportunity of progression elsewhere. Reviews of security classification for those in maximum security were too infrequent.

8.40 Twelve women were serving life and were at various stages of their sentences. Immediately following sentence, when she was in a provincial facility, the woman would be seen by a community parole officer who completed a preliminary assessment. This process was the same for all women sentenced to two years or more. The assessment included relevant available material such as police reports, pre-sentence reports, information about victims and any judge's comments. Information about physical and mental health needs, history of self-harm and any security concerns was also collected and used to compile a preliminary plan on admission to federal custody. Most women sentenced to life transferred to GVIW within a month of sentencing.

8.41 We were told that the orientation program for newly admitted lifers was the same as for any other woman but with increased support from staff in the secure unit. Given the policy in place until recently that all life-sentenced women spent their first two years in maximum security conditions in the secure unit, the induction arrangements differed significantly in practice. There was no specific orientation program to explain fully the significance of a life sentence and no system to ensure that lifers received all the information they needed. There was some confusion about whether the relatively new inmate orientation team and the lifer representatives had access to lifers in the secure unit. The inmate representatives believed they had been refused access but the warden assured us this had been a misunderstanding and that the orientation team and lifer representatives would be allowed necessary access.

8.42 A new policy, issued on 1 September 2005, allowed wardens to make initial placement decisions for those serving life sentences based on the results of the custody rating scale. It was too early to assess the effect of this change. However, the policy still required a security classification review for lifers in maximum security only every two years. Given the contrast between living conditions and opportunities for women in GVIW's general population and those in the secure unit, this was too long. The two life-sentenced women in the secure unit had yet to have their classification re-assessed.

8.43 There was recognition of some of the specific needs of lifers, who were allowed to have additional allowances of clothes and access to catalogue purchases. An established lifer group met regularly with the warden and raised matters of concern. Some special lifer social and family days were held and were appreciated by the women involved. Support was also provided by a LifeLine worker.

8.44 Correctional planning for life-sentenced women was the same as for others and the cases we sampled indicated that correctional plans had been thoroughly completed. In accordance with CSC operating practice on security classification, an annual review to assess progress against the correctional plan was carried out. Lifers told us that they did not feel fully involved in these annual reviews and were not routinely invited to participate in them. Managers disputed this but there was evidence to indicate that reviews did take place without the lifer being present. In one case, the progress assessment completed on 13 March listed the case management team (CMT), which included the inmate, and then said 'consultation with CMT members occurred via email on March 13, 2005'. The response of CMT members was not apparent but the woman had clearly not been involved as the review was being drafted. She had been given the competed report for comment later the same day.

8.45 Lifers had relatively good access to their casework team and senior managers individually throughout the year and could discuss their progress with them. However, this was not a substitute for an annual casework team meeting at which each member, including the life-sentenced woman, was present and which would allow for discussions about progress and any issues arising.

8.46 As with other CSC institutions for women, a lifer could spend many years at the same institution. Women could transfer but this rarely happened in practice and was unrealistic for many. There was reasonable provision of correctional programs and education, although most of the latter was focused at a basic level, and education above that level relied on the woman's self-motivation. There was little meaningful employment to allow women to acquire useful work-related skills. This had been identified by the women lifers as one of their main concerns. Some work release opportunities were beginning to be developed but too little use was made of the minimum secure provision at Isabel McNeill House in Kingston. This was managed by GVIW and could provide a good progression opportunity for lifers with the possibility of working in the community as a staged preparation for release.

8.47 Correctional planning aimed to ensure that lifers were prepared for release gradually with escorted and unescorted absences considered at appropriate stages of sentence, and release plans agreed with community parole officers before cases went to the parole board. Some lifers expressed the view that there was insufficient awareness of how momentous it was to return to the community after many years in prison, and more frequent and supported temporary absences would help.

  Action points
8.48 Orientation should ensure that needs of lifers are covered.

8.49 Women lifers in maximum secure conditions should have their classification reviewed at least every 90 days.

8.50 An annual review of progress against the correctional plan should be held with the full casework team, including the woman lifer.

8.51 Better employment opportunities should be offered to allow lifers to acquire appropriate vocational skills.

8.52 Isabel McNeill House should be better promoted as an opportunity for lifers to progress in their sentence and potential residents taken there to view the facility.

Substance use
Expected outcomes:
Inmates with substance-related needs are identified at reception and receive effective support and treatment throughout their stay in custody, including pre-release planning. All inmates are safe from exposure to and the effects of substance use while in prison.

8.53 The women offender substance abuse program (WOSAP) met the needs of the women. It was run by staff from Stonehenge therapeutic community, an organisation with which GVIW had strong links. In our survey, 62% of women, against an English comparator of 31%, said the program would help them on release. The intensive support program was not properly resourced and provided little help for women who wished to be drug-free.

8.54 GVIW worked to the national drug strategy, which stated that each institution should develop and implement drug strategies to reflect the nature of the institution. There was no local drug strategy.

8.55 We were told that women requiring immediate detoxification from drugs or alcohol were unlikely to arrive directly at GVIW despite the fact that women could take unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) from the institution, and returned on revocation. While the healthcare department had standing order instructions for the management of a drugs overdose and specifically for a methadone overdose, there were no clear contingency protocols for dealing with women requiring symptomatic relief for drug or alcohol withdrawal. We were told that a woman needing detoxification would be sent to the local hospital.

8.56 Any woman wanting to receive methadone as an aid to relapse prevention had to submit a letter to the programs board stating her reasons and what benefits she thought would be gained. A member of the healthcare staff and her primary worker had to indicate their willingness to support her and she was then interviewed by one of the staff from Stonehenge therapeutic community. The final decision was made at the monthly multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting based on harm reduction and risk assessment, and whether the woman met the criteria set out in the CSC methadone treatment guidelines. The general physician who attended GVIW once a week was licensed to prescribe methadone and saw each of the women weekly. They had a urinalysis test for methadone twice a week and attended the MDT once a month to discuss their progress. When they were to be released, healthcare staff referred them to a methadone prescriber in the community. We were told that this was an easy process and healthcare staff had never had any problems ensuring continuity of care.

8.57 Staff from Stonehenge therapeutic community conducted the WOSAP program. Each part of the program involved pre- and post-module testing. Every woman was recommended to complete WOSAP 1, which was about the effect drugs and other substances open to abuse had on society as a whole. This was a prerequisite for undertaking the other two WOSAP programs but was not compulsory. At the time of the inspection, six women were waiting to undertake WOSAP 1, which was due to start.

8.58 WOSAP 2 was for those with a personal substance use problem if it had contributed to their crime. The program was run over three months and consisted of 40 sessions. Thirteen women were undertaking WOSAP 2. The waiting list identified one woman waiting to start the course, with a provisional start date of January 2006. WOSAP 3 was a generic relapse prevention and maintenance course, consisting of 20 sessions over as many weeks. Women could undertake it either at GVIW or in the community during ETAs or UTAs and could choose to do it more than once. Two groups were running at the time of our inspection, with a total of 13 participants.

8.59 There was no dedicated intensive support unit (ISU). Instead, women who wished to be part of the ISU program and have mandatory urinalysis merely applied to the ISU coordinator. Women were told about the program when they first arrived and there were occasional 'mail shots' to encourage participation. The scheme was under-resourced and relied on the efforts of one member of staff and only 11 were currently taking part. Women who were taking Methadone were not excluded from the program. Urinalysis testing was supposed to be carried out at least once a month. While there had been 24 on-site urinalysis tests undertaken in September 2005, none had been conducted in August, when there were four participants, and only three in July 2005, when there were also four participants (the reason for the latter being that one of the women was out of the institution on a UTA).

8.60 The ISU coordinator visited women in their house units to test them and told us that she involved the women in the testing process by encouraging them to use the test kit themselves. Anyone refusing to be tested or testing positive was removed from the program for 30 days. Women testing positive were not formally charged and the information was passed to their primary worker.

8.61 In order to encourage women to remain 'clean', they were offered incentives such as free 15-minute telephone calls to numbers on their telephone list, the ability to order items from the Sears catalogue, which they paid for, or the possibility of ordering food from local take out restaurants, which they also paid for.

8.62 Women we spoke to were dissatisfied with the scheme. They said they received no support and questioned whether the scheme was even active.

8.63 Random drug testing was carried out on 5% of the population, with the names of those to be tested supplied monthly by national headquarters. In 2004/05, there had been two positive finds (3%), and three positives (10%) in 2005/06 to date. Samples were sent away for testing and the results were provided three to four weeks later.

8.64 Many women complained about the drug dog. We were told of an instance when a woman indicated by the dog had been found clear of drugs following a body cavity search and x-rays. On another occasion, the dog had indicated positive on a woman returning to GVIW even though she had been escorted throughout her absence. Other women told us that the dog jumped up at them and on the kitchen counters when undertaking searches of the living units (see section on security). We observed the dog to be lively.

  Action points
8.65 There should be a local drug strategy.

8.66 Protocols should be in place to allow drug or alcohol dependent women to be provided with symptomatic relief within the first 24 hours of arrival if clinically indicated, and a suitable detoxification or maintenance-prescribing program should then be provided.

8.67 More therapeutic and structured help should be provided to women in the intensive support program and more women should be encouraged to take part in the program.