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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 9: Recommendations, action points, housekeeping points and good practice

The following is a listing of recommendations, action points, housekeeping points and examples of good practice included in this report. The reference numbers at the end of each refer to the paragraph location in the main report.

Recommendations   To Correctional Service Canada
9.1 There should be specific first night and orientation support, initially in separate accommodation, so that newly arrived women have access to objective and full information about the institutions and are prepared to move on to the houses. (1)

9.2 The role of primary workers should be reviewed and reinforced, with a view to ensuring that properly trained staff have sufficient skills and time to carry out both the role of supportive role-models envisaged in Creating Choices , and the task of providing timely and high-quality parole reports. (2)

9.3 Each institution should have a local anti-muscling policy and strategy to identify and prevent intimidation and assaults.   It should include interventions for bullies and support for victims.   Staff should receive training in this so that they are vigilant in identifying bullies and actively intervene to challenge them.   The policy should be publicized and promoted to women inmates. (3)

9.4 Implementation of the CHRC recommendations in relation to gender and culturally specific classification and assessment tools and programs should proceed swiftly, informed by expert advice.   In particular, tools and interventions that recognize the specific needs of Aboriginal women should be developed as a matter of urgency, and pathways to the Healing Lodge and out of maximum secure accommodation developed.   (4)

9.5 Race and ethnic monitoring of all key areas of prison life within each institution should be established.   This should include access to programs and facilities, and all disciplinary measures and classification decisions.   Results should be published and any disproportionate patterns investigated. (5)

9.6 There should be a comprehensive review of the management of difficult or disruptive women, with a view to ensuring that

•    the number of women in maximum security units is reduced, and the criteria for allocating women to those units reviewed to ensure that they are used only for women whose behaviour poses exceptional risks to others, and when other, less restrictive, interventions have failed;

•    a multi-disciplinary strategy, including mental health support, is devised to provide individual support and case management of women who require additional supervision and intervention outside maximum security conditions;

•    an expert Advisory Committee is set up to receive and comment on reports on the use of, and conditions for women in, maximum secure and segregation units, including those held under the Management Protocol. (6)

9.7 Minimum security women should have the opportunity to have increased access to the community. (7)

9.8 Leg irons should not be used on women inmates. (8)

9.9 The Correctional Service of Canada, together with CORCAN, should draw up a strategy for education and skills training and employment for federally sentenced women, with a view to enhancing employability.   Such training should form part of correctional plans. (9)

9.10 More efforts should be made to encourage and support family ties. A social worker should be appointed in each institution to act as a family liaison/link worker to support and promote the maintenance of family ties and help with child custody matters.   Financial support should be provided to help families on low incomes visit women in CSC institutions.   (10)

9.11 The CSC should consult with stakeholders to examine the monitoring mechanisms that currently exist, to determine whether and how they need to be strengthened to provide a national preventive mechanism, as set out in the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. (11)

Action points To Correctional Service Canada
9.12 Women caring for their babies in custody should have access to the same state financial benefits as mothers in the community. (2.33)

9.13 Financial assistance should be provided to visitors who are not able to visit due to financial hardship. (3.70)

9.14 Chairs of minor and serious disciplinary courts should satisfy themselves by reasonable enquiry that charges are proved before coming to a verdict, irrespective of whether an inmate pleads guilty. (6.55)

9.15 In the light of better, alternative interventions to manage violent or self-harming women protocols to allow women to be restrained to beds or chairs should be abolished. (6.56)

9.16 Full briefings in the appropriate language should be prepared before a woman at risk to others or herself is transferred between institutions. (6.60)

Action points To the warden
  Arrival in custody
9.17 New arrivals should be offered food and drink when they arrive. (1.20)

9.18 The reception area should have enough seating for new arrivals. (1.21)

9.19 New arrivals should be offered the opportunity to shower before they are taken to their house unit. (1.22)

9.20 Interviews with new arrivals should include a discussion about possible concerns about children or other family members. (1.23)

9.21 New arrivals should be given enough funds to ensure that they can manage during their first few weeks in custody and until their finances are organized. (1.24)

9.22 New arrivals should be able to call for peer or Samaritan support in confidence. (1.25)

9.23 Trained peer supporters should be available in reception. (1.26)

9.24 Orientation sessions led by staff should begin the next working day after the arrival of new receptions and staff responsible for delivering these sessions should attend and do so on time. (1.27)

  Residential units
9.25 Women should be able to exchange their clothes at least four times a year. (2.14)

  Mothers and children
9.26 The facilities and arrangements for the care of children in the institution should be subject to the same auditing and inspection arrangements as other residential child care facilities in the community. (2.31)

9.27 Child protection protocols should be agreed with the local child and family services and an individual child care plan should be developed for each child in the prison. (2.32)

  Staff-inmate relationships
9.28 Primary workers should be encouraged to take longer on their house patrols and to spend time interacting with women inmates. (2.43)

9.29 The impact of staff wearing uniforms on relationships between inmates and staff should be evaluated, taking full account of the specific perspective of women and the principles of Creating Choices. (2.44)

  Primary workers
9.30 Primary workers should introduce themselves to the women for whom they are responsible within the first week. (2.51)

9.31 Primary workers should have a personal talk with women at least once a month at a reasonable time in order to complete structured casework records. (2.52)

9.32 Primary workers should make direct contact with inmates' families in appropriate cases to encourage the maintenance of family ties to support successful reintegration. (2.53)

  Bullying behaviour ('muscling')
9.33 All incidents of muscling should be recorded and monitored to develop a profile of this behaviour across the institution. (3.13)

9.34 Investigations into incidents of muscling should show evidence of action taken, and incidents should be followed up to support victims and challenge bullies about their behaviour. (3.14)

9.35 There should be an annual confidential survey of women's experiences and perceptions of muscling, to inform the strategy. (3.15)

  Self-harm and suicide
9.36 The records of incidents of self-harm should be improved to identify any emerging trends, and record use of segregation, protective clothing and other interventions. (3.30)

9.37 The psychology-led behaviourist approach to women at risk of self-harm should be developed to involve primary workers in managing cases and a formal support scheme which should include overnight facilities where peer supporters can help women at risk. (3.31)

9.38 All recommendations from the coroner's investigation into the self-inflicted death in custody should be implemented. (3.32)

9.39 The resources available to the psychology department should be reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of the entire population. (3.33)

9.40 Systems should be put in place to ensure appropriate care for Francophone women at risk of self-harm and that all relevant reports are available in English before a transfer to GVIW. (3.34)

9.41 Families and other significant people should be contacted and involved when a woman is at risk of self-harm, where this is appropriate and with the woman's agreement. (3.35)

9.42 A safer custody forum should be developed to consider the relationship between the policy areas that contribute to feelings of safety. These include muscling, early days of custody, peer support and alternatives to segregation. (3.36)

  Race relations and diversity
9.43 A system for staff and inmates to report perceived racist incidents should be introduced with complaints about racism identified and investigated separately. (3.44)

9.44 There should be ongoing promotion of race equality and diversity for staff and inmates. (3.45)

9.45 The support group liaison staff and elder should be issued with keys to allow them access through the prison. (3.46)

  Family and friends
9.46 The process of security checks on telephone contacts and visitors should be revised and speeded up especially for those visiting minimum-security women. (3.69)

9.47 The importance of maintaining family contact should be recognized in correctional plans. (3.71)

9.48 Detailed data on the imposition of closed visits should be collected and routinely aggregated to ensure that the system is operating correctly. (3.72)

9.49 Visitors should not be offered restricted visits solely on a drug dog indication. (3.73)

9.50 Women should not be kept in restraints during a visit. (3.74)

  Requests and complaints
9.51 The inmate handbook should outline the system for requests, and information should be displayed on notice boards. (3.88)

9.52 In addition to the supply retained by the inmate committee, request and complaint forms should be made freely available. (3.89)

9.53 Requests to all departments should be logged so that there is an audit trail. (3.90)

9.54 Primary workers should take verbal requests daily to reduce the overuse of the formal system. (3.91)

9.55 All complaints should be responded to within seven days, either with a resolution or interim reply explaining what was being done. (3.92)

9.56 Complaints should be quality assured to ensure that responses are timely, respectful, legible, and address the issues raised. (3.93)

9.57 There should be regular analysis of complaints to identify patterns and trends. (3.94)

9.58 A supply of request and complaint forms should be freely available to women in the segregation unit. (3.95)

9.59 A health needs assessment should be carried out to determine whether the services meet the needs of the population including mental health needs. This should include a workforce and skill mix review. (4.44)

9.60 There should be a formal system to check the licences of all healthcare professionals. (4.45)

9.61 All healthcare staff should have appropriate clinical supervision. (4.46)

9.62 All healthcare professionals working at GVIW as indeterminate, determinate, casual or contract staff should have training on security issues and working with offenders. (4.47)

9.63 Training in resuscitation, first aid and 'first on scene' for all staff should be annual. (4.48)

9.64 An automated external defibrillator and an emergency childbirth kit should be provided. (4.49)

9.65 Provision should be made for annual leave and sickness cover for all healthcare staff. (4.50)

9.66 All medicine administration records should be annotated at the time of the administration of the medication. (4.51)

9.67 Records of requests, waiting lists and other healthcare-related activities such as the use of the observation beds should be easily auditable. (4.52)

9.68 Triage algorithms should be used and triage assessments should involve the patient, rather than being undertaken solely from a written request. (4.53)

9.69 Provision should be made for all women (including those in the maximum security and segregation units) to receive night sedation at an appropriate time. (4.54)

9.70 The administration of all medications, including to women in the maximum security and segregation units, should be undertaken in a safe manner to ensure that medicines are secure at all time and neither the patient nor staff are subject to unnecessary risks. (4.55)

9.71 Women in the maximum security and segregation units should have confidential access to nursing staff. (4.56)

9.72 Women should be able to speak to a pharmacist about their medication if they wish to do so. (4.57)

9.73 Medical, nursing and security staff should develop a local drugs formulary and audit the use of prescribed medications. (4.58)

9.74 Women's access to healthcare services should not be restricted by their security status. (4.59)

9.75 Health promotion activities should include weight loss and healthy eating programs. (4.60)

9.76 There should be a formal system of liaison between the psychologists and the psychiatrist to ensure continuity of care to women seen by them. (4.61)

9.77 Clinical notes should provide a continuous, contemporaneous record of interventions. (4.62)

9.78 All prescriptions should include a start date. (4.63)

9.79 The system for delivering passes for healthcare appointments should be audited to ensure that women are receiving them with enough notice to be able to attend the department. (4.64)

  Education, schooling and library provision
9.80 Teaching provision for women held on the secure unit should be improved. (5.17)

9.81 Computers for home study should be provided. (5.18)

9.82 Supervised access to the internet should be provided. (5.19)

9.83 Links with the local college should be developed and opportunities provided for students to study there on unescorted temporary absences. (5.20)

9.84 Library staff and assistants should be trained in the computer-based program to monitor book loan and aid stock control. (5.21)

9.85 The opening hours of the library should be extended to improve access to those women not attending activities in the programs department. (5.22)

9.86 Computer resources in the library should be improved. Women should have access to a computer from which they can research current commissioner's directives and standing orders. (5.23)

9.87 There should be an annual survey of women's use and views of the library. (5.24)

  Employment and vocational skills
9.88 Greater emphasis should be given to the employment and employability program to generate more realistic employment opportunities, qualifications and vocational skills relevant to reintegration and to ensure women are 'job ready' on release. (5.37)

9.89 The job application and appointment processes should be monitored, including ethnic monitoring. (5.38)

  Physical education and health promotion
9.90 Women should have a formal orientation on the use of the gymnasium, cardiovascular equipment and weights room. (5.45)

9.91 The fixed weights machines should be replaced and housed in a room that is adequately ventilated and fit for purpose. (5.46)

9.92 Health promotion activities should be encouraged and a physical education teacher should be employed to provide leadership and exercise classes. (5.47)

9.93 Full chaplaincy services should be provided to women in the segregation and secure units. (5.60)

9.94 The chaplain should be informed at the outset of all cases when a woman is regarded as a risk of suicide and self-harm in order to provide pastoral support and assist in case management in appropriate cases. (5.61)

9.95 Chaplains should be able to authorize telephone calls when they judge this is necessary for the pastoral support of women. (5.62)

9.96 Chaplaincy volunteers should be allowed to bring in home-produced food. (5.63)

9.97 Efforts should be made to support a community chaplain scheme in the Toronto area. (5.64)

9.98 Sweat lodge ceremonies should be provided weekly. (5.65)

  Time out of room
9.99 There should be improved leisure facilities for women held on the secure unit. (5.76)

9.100 Volunteers should be given good notice when activities are cancelled and the reasons for cancellations should be recorded. (5.77)

  Security and rules
9.101 All life sentenced women should have their initial security classification decided on the basis of an individual risk assessment. (6.17)

9.102 Security procedures on entry to the institution should be reviewed to ensure that they are necessary and effective. (6.26)

9.103 Security intelligence should be developed and analysed using the computer system to help target security resources effectively to ensure inmate safety. (6.27)

9.104 The drug dog should not be used when it is overdue for its annual retraining and retesting. (6.28)

9.105 Minimum-security women should have increased access to community programs and activities outside the perimeter fence. (6.29)

9.106 Sufficient minimum-security places should be provided in the institution to match the number of women. (6.30)

9.107 The overall number of women held in maximum security should be reduced by more focussed and frequent assessments concentrating on risk to the public rather than institutional adjustment and specific interventions to enable women to live in less secure conditions. (6.31)

9.108 Risk assessments should result in individual management plans that provide a consistent and proportionate response to managing each woman's individual risk. (6.32)

9.109 Each of the four levels of maximum security should represent a stage of identifiable progress to act as an incentive. Not all women should be started on level one unless this is merited by their risk assessment. (6.33)

9.110 More programs and purposeful activity should be provided for women in the secure unit. (6.34)

9.111 Disciplinary procedures, including informal resolution, should be monitored to ensure compliance with procedures and consistency and fairness of approach in charges and punishments. (6.54)

9.112 The programs and regime for a segregated woman should be individually tailored to address the reasons for her segregation. (6.57)

9.113 Women in the segregation unit should not be spoken to or served meals though the door hatch. (6.58)

9.114 Patterns in the use of segregation should be monitored to identify trends, including length of stay, reasons for segregation, ethnicity with the aim of reducing its use. (6.59)

9.115 The amount of money allocated for food for each woman should be independently reviewed to ensure that it is adequate to provide a healthy and nutritious diet. (7.12)

9.116 All women should be given theoretical and practical training about food preparation and personal and food hygiene, and catering staff should ensure that every woman is able to prepare a variety of meals for herself. (7.13)

9.117 A decision should be made in consultation with women whether house cooks are required. If so, there should be a healthcare screening process and managers should ensure that all houses have an appointed cook at all times. (7.14)

9.118 Monthly checks of the living unit kitchens should record whether action has been taken to rectify previously identified problems. (7.15)

9.119 The food available should be sufficiently culturally diverse to meet the needs of the population. (7.16)

9.120 Breakfast should be prepared and served on the maximum security and segregation units on the day it is to be eaten. (7.17)

  Reintegration strategy and planning
9.121 All aspects of reintegration should be monitored and coordinated by the reintegration committee or policy group. (8.12)

9.122 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. (8.13)

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

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

  Correctional planning
9.125 All women should be involved in the formulation of reports that relate to their correctional plan. (8.22)

  Correctional and mental health programs
9.126 An annual needs assessment should be conducted to ensure that programs continued to meet the identified needs of women at GVIW. (8.36)

9.127 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. (8.37)

  Life-sentenced inmates
9.128 Orientation should ensure that needs of lifers are covered. (8.48)

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

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

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

9.132 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. (8.52)

  Substance use
9.133 There should be a local drug strategy. (8.65)

9.134 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. (8.66)

9.135 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. (8.67)

Housekeeping points
  Mothers and children
9.136 Wall decorations should be appropriate to support the sensory development of babies and children. (2.34)

9.137 Minimum and maximum temperatures of all fridges used to store thermolabile medications should be recorded daily. These medications should be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. (4.65)

9.138 The filing system for clinical records should be reviewed; previous sets of notes should be kept with the current set. (4.66)

9.139 Standing orders should be signed, dated and based on evidence-based practice. (4.67)

  Education, schooling and library provision
9.140 Computers in the computer suite should be networked to aid learning. (5.25)

9.141 A wider range of daily newspapers should be provided and made accessible in the library. (5.26)

Good practice
  Residential units
9.142 The housing for minimum- and medium-security women and the relatively free movement within the boundaries of the institution provided a relatively normal living environment and allowed women to exercise some control over their day-to-day lives. (2.15)

9.143 Women due to be discharged were provided with free release clothing, which was particularly beneficial to those with no private savings and/or who had been in the institution for some time. This allowed women to maintain some dignity and relieved them of one financial burden immediately following their release. (2.16)

9.144 The resident status form that was sent to the pharmacy for all new arrivals provided an audit trail and method of cross-checking for prescriptions. (4.68)

9.145 The fact that most women were able to have their medications in-possession and that they received a patient information leaflet meant that they were able to manage their medications as they would in the community. (4.69)

9.146 The system to allow night sedation to be administered when nurses were not available was a pragmatic solution to the problem and allowed women to make decisions about their medications. (4.70)

9.147 The use of inmate peer education counsellors and the new healthcare inmate advisory committee provided useful conduits between healthcare staff and women. (4.71)

  Time out of room
9.148 The Stride volunteers provided good support and activity for women within the institution and promoted their services in the community to aid reintegration. (5.78)

9.149 The video recording of the use of force and related administrative briefing and assessments safeguarded women and staff against unobserved assault or from false allegations arising from the incident. (6.61)

9.150 Women were able to supplement their food order with home-grown produce and were therefore able to take a pride in their own efforts. (7.18)

9.151 The provision of barbecues provided an alternative method of cooking and opportunities for socialization. (7.19)

  Correctional and mental health programs
9.152 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. (8.38)