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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Nova 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 Financial assistance should be provided to visitors who are not able to visit due to financial hardship. (3.69)

9.13 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. (6.57)

9.14 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. (6.58)

9.15 Women lifers in maximum secure conditions should have their classification reviewed at least every 90 days. (8.50)

 
 
Action points To the warden
 
  Arrival in custody
 
9.16 New arrivals should be offered food and drink when they arrive. (1.27)

9.17 There should be a proper cubicle for strip-searching, and women should not be asked to remove all of their clothing at one time during searching. (1.28)

9.18 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. (1.29)

9.19 Women at risk of self-harm when they arrive should not be held in the segregation unit. (1.30)
9.20 There should be adequate time for new arrivals to read and understand all documentation they are required to sign. (1.31)

9.21 Discretion should be used to allow new arrivals to make more than one telephone call to their family. (1.32)

9.22 A trained person should complete the suicide risk assessment and referral form in a suitable environment and at a pace appropriate for this sensitive work. (1.33)

9.23 Interviews with new arrivals should include a discussion about possible concerns about children or other family members. (1.34)

9.24 Women should be given essential information immediately to help them cope on their first night and the first few days in custody. (1.35)

9.25 A peer support scheme should be developed. (1.36)

9.26 Orientation should begin on the first full working day following reception. (1.37)

 
  Residential units
 
9.27 Telephones on the minimum-security houses should be in booths or fitted with privacy hoods. (2.17)

9.28 Managers should ensure that emergency calls are responded to quickly. (2.18)

9.29 Reception clothing should be provided in appropriate sizes. (2.19)

9.30 Women should be able to exchange their clothes at least four times a year. (2.20)

9.31 Mattresses should be regularly checked, cleaned and disposed of where necessary. (2.21)

 
  Staff-inmate relationships
 
9.32 Primary workers should be encouraged to take longer on their house patrols and to spend time interacting with women inmates. (2.30)

9.33 The impact of staff wearing uniforms on relationships between inmates and staff should be evaluated, taking full account of the specific perspectives of women and the principles of Creating Choices . (2.31)

 
  Primary workers
 
9.34 Primary workers should make direct contact with families in appropriate cases to encourage the maintenance of family ties to support successful reintegration. (2.37)

 
  Bullying behaviour ('muscling')
 
9.35 All incidents of muscling should be recorded and monitored to develop a profile of this behaviour across the institution. (3.10)

9.36 There should be an annual confidential survey of women's experiences and perceptions of muscling, to inform the strategy. (3.11)

9.37 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. (3.12)

 
  Self-harm and suicide
 
9.38 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. (3.32)

9.39 The published information and advice on the help available for women at risk of self-harm should be improved. (3.33)

9.40 The psychology-led behaviourist approach to women at risk of self-harm should be developed to involve primary workers in managing cases and there should be a formal support scheme with overnight facilities where peer supporters can help women at risk. (3.34)  

9.41 Alternatives to segregation and camera watch for those identified as at risk of self-harm should be developed, including a formal peer support scheme. (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)

9.43 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. (3.37)

 
  Race relations and diversity
 
9.44 A system for staff and inmates to report perceived racist incidents should be introduced, with complaints about racism identified and investigated separately. (3.45)

9.45 There should be ongoing promotion of race equality and diversity for staff and inmates. (3.46)

9.46 The Aboriginal support group liaison staff and elder should be issued with keys to allow access through the prison and to their office space. (3.47)

 
  Family and friends
 
9.47 The process of security checks on telephone contacts and visitors should be revised, especially for those visiting minimum-security women. (3.66)

9.48 Women should be given basic information about their entitlements to visits during the reception process. (3.67)

9.49 The importance of maintaining family contact should be recognized in correctional plans. (3.68)

9.50 Detailed data on closed visits should be collected and routinely aggregated to ensure that the system is operating correctly. (3.70)

 
  Requests and complaints
 
9.51 Primary workers should take verbal requests daily to reduce overuse of the formal system. (3.85)

9.52 Requests to all departments should be logged so that there is an audit trail. (3.86)

9.53 There should be a separate post box for complaints, and access to it should be restricted for confidentiality. (3.87)

9.54 All complaints should be responded to within seven days, either with a resolution or an interim reply explaining what is being done. (3.88)

9.55 Complaints should be quality assured to ensure that responses are timely, respectful, legible, and address the issues raised. (3.89)

9.56 There should be regular analysis of complaints to identify patterns and trends. (3.90)

9.57 Managers should satisfy themselves that women are not being pressured to withdraw complaints and a written record, signed by the complainant, should be kept on the complaint form explaining the reasons for it being withdrawn. (3.91)

9.58 A supply of request and complaint forms should be freely available to women in the segregation unit. (3.92)

 
  Healthcare
 
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. (4.40)

9.60 A chief of healthcare should be appointed. (4.41)

9.61 The healthcare department should be large enough for purpose, and should include a dental suite. (4.42)

9.62 An automated external defibrillator should be included in the emergency medical kit, and there should be an emergency childbirth kit. (4.43)

9.63 All healthcare staff should have appropriate clinical supervision. (4.44)

9.64 There should be annual training for staff in resuscitation, first aid and 'first on scene' situations. (4.45)

9.65 Triage algorithms should be used to ensure consistent assessment and advice. (4.46)

9.66 Women should not have to wait outdoors for their medications. (4.47)

9.67 The systems for obtaining prescribed medications and administration of medications should be improved to reduce possible transcription and administration errors. (4.48)

9.68 There should be provision for all women, including those in the secure and segregation units, to receive night sedation at an appropriate time. (4.49)

9.69 Women attending the Aboriginal ceremony at weekends should not miss medications. (4.50)

9.70 Medical, nursing and security staff should develop a local drugs formulary and a formal risk assessment for in-possession medications. (4.51)

9.71 Healthcare standing orders should be reviewed, clearly dated and based on evidence-based practice. All staff should be familiar with their contents. (4.52)

9.72 Nurses should be trained to undertake dental assessments. (4.53)

9.73 Women's access to healthcare services should not be restricted by their security status. (4.54)

9.74 More general practitioner time should be provided so that women do not have to wait so long for an appointment. (4.55)

9.75 Health promotion activities should include weight loss, healthy eating and smoking cessation programs. (4.56)

9.76 The psychologists should share their notes with healthcare staff. (4.57)

9.77 Clinical notes should provide a continuous, contemporaneous record of interventions. (4.58)

9.78 The database for patients' annual health assessments should be contemporaneous. (4.59)

 
  Education, schooling and library provision
 
9.79 Links with the local college should be developed and opportunities provided for students to study there on unescorted temporary absences. (5.17)

9.80 Supervised access to the internet should be provided. (5.18)

9.81 A part-time qualified librarian should be employed to manage the book stock and develop the library service. (5.19)

9.82 There should be an annual survey of women's use and views of the library. (5.20)

 
  Employment and vocational skills
 
9.83 The job application and appointment processes should be monitored. (5.35)

9.84 There should be more opportunities for job release. (5.36)

 
  Physical education and health promotion
 
9.85 Women should have a formal orientation on the use of the gymnasium, cardiovascular equipment and weights room. (5.44)

9.86 Health promotion activities should be encouraged, and a physical education teacher should be employed to provide leadership and exercise classes. (5.45)

 
  Spirituality
 
9.87 There should be a larger and more accessible spirituality centre to meet the needs of all faiths at Nova. (5.54)

9.88 The chaplain should be informed of all inmate bereavements known to the institution. (5.55)

9.89 The chaplain should be informed at the outset of all cases when a woman is regarded as a risk of suicide and self-harm to provide pastoral support and assist in case management in appropriate cases. (5.56)

9.90 Indoor Aboriginal sisterhood ceremonies and meetings should be accommodated in the spirituality room. (5.57)

9.91 Funds should be provided to establish a coordinator to develop circles of support. (5.58)

 
  Time out of room
 
9.92 There should be an annual survey of inmates to establish their views on leisure time and structured activities. This should aim to increase the numbers participating in activities. (5.69)

9.93 More structured activities should be offered at weekends. (5.70)

9.94 There should be improved leisure facilities for women held on the secure unit. (5.71)

 
  Security and rules
 
9.95 All life sentenced women should have their initial security classification decided on the basis of an individual risk assessment. (6.16)

9.96 Patrols of houses should be frequent but unpredictable. (6.23)

9.97 More information should be monitored and cross-referenced locally to help target security resources more effectively and ensure women's safety. (6.24)

9.98 Minimum-security women should have increased access to community programs and activities and accommodation outside the perimeter fence. (6.25)

9.99 Risk assessments should result in individual management plans that provide a consistent and proportionate response to managing each woman's individual risk. (6.26)

9.100 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. (6.27)

9.101 More programs and activities should be provided for women in the secure unit. (6.28)

 
  Discipline
 
9.102 Disciplinary procedures, including informal resolution, should be monitored to ensure compliance with procedures and consistency and fairness of approach in charges and punishments. (6.56)

9.103 Chemical agent should not be used to incapacitate disturbed mentally ill women. (6.59)

9.104 Segregated women should not be held on the maximum secure unit unless there are exceptional circumstances. (6.60)

9.105 The programs and regime for a segregated woman should be individually tailored to address the reasons for her segregation. (6.61)

9.106 Women in the segregation unit should not be spoken to or served meals through the door hatch. (6.62)

9.107 Patterns in the use of segregation should be monitored to identify trends, including length of stay, reasons for segregation and ethnicity with the aim of reducing its use. (6.63)

 
  Catering
 
9.108 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. (7.14)

9.109 All new women should receive a meal on the day of their arrival, and food allowances should be allocated to houses quickly. (7.15)

9.110 All new arrivals should be given theoretical and practical training about food preparation, personal and food hygiene, and catering staff should ensure that every woman is able to prepare a variety of meals for herself. (7.16)

9.111 The system of catering on the houses should be reviewed and the introduction of a formal trained 'house cook' considered. (7.17)

9.112 The food available should be sufficiently culturally diverse to meet the needs of the population. (7.18)

 
  Canteen (prison shop)
 
9.113 The canteen advance should be increased to cover a four-week period, and repayment staged. (7.25)

 
  Reintegration strategy and planning
 
9.114 There should be a clear local reintegration policy which sets out how the reintegration needs of inmates at Nova will be met within the framework of the national community strategy for women offenders and the national program strategy for women offenders. (8.11)

9.115 A reintegration committee or policy group should oversee the local reintegration policy and monitor or coordinate all aspects of reintegration. (8.12)

9.116 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)

9.117 There should be better provision to assist women to secure welfare support, employment, further education or training before their release. (8.14)

9.118 There should be greater use of escorted and unescorted temporary release as part of a staged process of reintegration. (8.15)

 
  Correctional planning
 
9.119 All women should be fully involved in the formulation of reports that relate to their correctional plan. (8.24)

 
  Correctional and mental health programs
 
9.120 An annual needs assessment should be conducted to ensure that programs offered continue to meet the identified needs of women at Nova. (8.38)

9.121 The waiting list for programs should prioritize applicants by their earliest parole eligibility dates. (8.39)

9.122 Feedback from the survivors of abuse and trauma program facilitator should be included in correctional plan progress reports. (8.40)

 
  Life-sentenced inmates
 
9.123 Women lifers in maximum secure conditions should have their classification reviewed at least every 90 days. (8.50)

9.124 An annual review of progress against the correctional plan should be held with the full casework team, including the woman lifer. (8.51)

9.125 Better employment opportunities should be offered to allow lifers to acquire appropriate vocational skills. (8.52)

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

9.127 Drug or alcohol dependent inmates should be given symptomatic relief within 24 hours of arrival at Nova, if clinically indicated. (8.66)

9.128 A comprehensive assessment should be carried out within 48 hours of arrival of a woman with a history of substance use, and a suitable detoxification or maintenance prescribing program should then be provided. (8.67)

9.129 More therapeutic and structured help should be provided to women in the intensive support unit and more women should be encouraged to take part in the program. (8.68)

9.130 The leaflet about the intensive support unit program should be woman-focused. (8.69)

 
Housekeeping points
 
  Arrival in custody
 
9.131 The reception area should be kept clean and tidy at all times. (1.38)

9.132 Property boxes should be stored correctly and dispatched to women within the specified timescales. (1.39)

9.133 There should be an adequate stock of inmate handbooks at all times. (1.40)

9.134 Rooms should be prepared so that they are clean and tidy for new arrivals. (1.41)

 
  Family and friends
 
9.135 Arrangements for distribution of mail should ensure that there are no delays. (3.71)

 
  Healthcare
 
9.136 Minimum and maximum temperatures of all fridges used to store heat-sensitive medications should be recorded daily, and these medications should be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. (4.60)

9.137 Food should not be stored in the same fridge as vaccinations. (4.61)

9.138 Tubes of cream/ointment etc should be for individual patient use only and open tubes should be discarded. (4.62)

9.139 Patient information leaflets should be available for all medications. (4.63)

 
  Discipline
 
9.140 Audio tapes of disciplinary hearings should be audible and record the whole hearing. (6.63)

9.141 The chair of the disciplinary hearings should identify themselves at the beginning of each hearing. (6.64)
 
  Canteen (prison shop)
 
9.142 All canteen committee agenda items should be clearly actioned and followed up at the next meeting. (7.26)
 
Good practice
 
  Residential units
 
9.143 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. (2.22)

9.144 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 . (2.23)
 
  Healthcare
 
9.145 The infectious diseases screening and program was exemplary. (4.64)

9.146 The efforts by nursing staff to ensure that women had continuity of care when they left Nova, often with little notice of their discharge, were commendable. (4.65)

 
  Discipline
 
9.147 Video recording of the use of force and related administrative briefing and assessments safeguarded inmates and staff against unobserved assault or false allegations arising from the incident. (6.65)

 
  Reintegration strategy and planning
 
9.148 Women were given a grant of $250 for release shopping and could order clothing from catalogues a month before they were due to leave. (8.16)

 
  Correctional and mental health programs
 
9.149 The SLE (structured living environment) was a 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. (8.41)

 
  Substance use
 
9.150 The methadone multidisciplinary meeting involved women in the management of their addiction/relapse prevention. (8.70)