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The 26th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts reviewed the April 2003 report of the Auditor General of Canada (Chapter 4, Correctional Service of Canada, Reintegration of Women Offenders) and the Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC's) response to it. The objective of the Auditor General's report was to assess how well CSC is managing the reintegration of women offenders. While the Auditor General's report acknowledges the significant progress that has been made to change the face of correctional services for women offenders, it notes that challenges remain and that additional advancement is necessary.
Subsequent to the release of the Auditor General's 2003 report, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts held hearings on the audit results. Lucie McClung, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, testified before the Committee on May 14, 2003. During this meeting, Mr. John Williams, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, noted that few Canadians are aware of, or understand the work that is accomplished by the Service. Mr. Williams further stated that he and other parliamentarians acknowledge the complexity of CSC's mandate, and expressed appreciation for the challenging work performed by staff.
In its 26th report, the Standing Committee also acknowledges the advances made by the Service in terms of accommodation and rehabilitation of women offenders. Notwithstanding these advancements, the Report includes a series of twelve recommendations to help guide improvements to the Correctional Service of Canada's agenda. The Report, and the recommendations contained therein, were presented to the House of Commons on November 6, 2003.
The twelve recommendations and the Government's response to them are detailed below.
Background and Context:
The impetus for change began with the September 1990 government acceptance of the Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women, Creating Choices. The main recommendations were to close the one federal institution for women, the Prison for Women in Kingston (where all federal women were sent) and to open regional institutions so the women could remain closer to their communities and support networks. The Correctional Service of Canada has made tremendous progress over the last 14 years to develop a correctional approach, including staffing, staff training, reintegration programs and mental health interventions that address the needs of women and CSC is considered a world leader in women's corrections.
Creating Choices outlined five guiding principles for the development of a women-centred approach:
Women offenders tend to come from impoverished backgrounds, lacking education and employment skills. Between 50-60% of non-Aboriginal offenders and between 80-90% of Aboriginal offenders have been victims of violence and abuse. However, many have also perpetrated violence against others and this must be addressed in conjunction with their victimisation issues. Many are mothers who may or may not have contact with their children. Many have serious substance abuse problems (often developed as a result of previous victimisation). The level of mental illness is greater in the women's incarcerated population than the men's incarcerated population or the general female public.
Furthermore, as a result of the recommendations of Creating Choices, institutional accommodation for women changed from the traditional cell and range structure of the Prison for Women to the stand alone duplex housing units which hold 7-10 women (at the Healing Lodge, the houses hold a maximum of 3 inmates) where women are responsible for their daily living including all the cooking, cleaning and other household chores. Staff are not present in the houses on a permanent basis, but do regular rounds through the houses.
The Prison for Women closed its doors in July 2000. Between 1995 and 1997, four new regional institutions were opened as well as a Healing Lodge for Aboriginal women:
Following the British Columbia government's decision to close down the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women (with which the Service has had a long term Exchange of Services Agreement), the Service is in the process of opening a fifth regional institution for women, Fraser Valley Institution. This institution will be a stand alone regional women's institution situated on the Matsqui complex in Abbottsford, British Columbia. The capacity will be 60. In the spring of 2004, the minimum and medium security women will transfer from the Burnaby Correctional Centre into Fraser Valley. The Secure Unit, to house women requiring strengthened maximum-security structure is currently under construction and it is anticipated it will be operational in the fall of 2005. Women classified at the maximum security level will be transferred to other regional Secure Units or they may request to remain in British Columbia at an existing provincial facility under an Exchange of Services Agreement.
During the 1990s, the Correctional Service also developed and implemented a Correctional Program Strategy for Women Offenders to ensure that programs meet the specific needs of women offenders; a Mental Health Strategy for Women Offenders which provides the framework for a continuum of care and ensures that women's mental health needs are addressed in a timely and appropriate way; a specific selection process for front line workers (called Primary Workers) in institutions for women; and a training program for all staff working in institutions that addresses the specific needs and problems of women offenders.
Following the publication of the 1996 report of Madam Justice Louise Arbour entitled, Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, the Deputy Commissioner for Women was appointed. This position oversees the policy and program development for women offenders. A number of changes were also made to Correctional Service policies including those governing the management of segregation, use of force, cross-gender staffing (men working with women offenders) and the grievance system.
Since 2001, each regional institution has a Structured Living Environment house with dedicated staff specially trained in mental health interventions to assist women with mental health problems or cognitive difficulties. Since 2003, Secure Units are operational in 3 of the 5 regions to address the risks and needs of women classified at the maximum security level. These units also have dedicated staff who have received additional training in mental health interventions.
Currently, there are approximately 810 women serving federal sentences (2 years or more). Of these, about 48% are incarcerated and about 52% are serving the remainder of their sentences in the community under various forms of conditional release (day parole, full parole or statutory release). However, with respect to the Aboriginal women's population (172), further challenges remain as almost 60% (103) of Aboriginal women are incarcerated compared to just over 40% (72) who are in the community.
The percentage of women offenders in the community on conditional release is higher than men because women have generally demonstrated they are better able to meet the conditions of their release. Additional details are provided in Recommendation 9.
That Correctional Service Canada complete plans to house all women offenders in institutions that are entirely separate from institutions for male offenders, and that are designed specifically to meet their particular needs.
When the purpose-built regional institutions first opened in the mid-1990's, it was assumed that women classified at the maximum security level could be housed in small wings attached to the administration building that had a few cells providing more traditional accommodation. However, that assumption soon proved erroneous as some of these women had needs (often related to aggressive or self-harming behaviours) that could not be met in these small units. Given that there were several escapes during this time, some women clearly required a greater degree of structure and control. The Service made the decision to move the women classified as maximum security out of the regional institutions and into units in men's institutions as a transition to a more effective strategy. The women were housed separately from the men and had no contact with them. During this time, CSC developed the Intensive Intervention Strategy and during 2003, as the Secure Units opened at Nova Institution for Women, Joliette Institution and Edmonton Institution for Women, the units in the men's institutions closed.
The Secure Units include more traditional cell accommodation, as well as program space and staff offices. Women housed in the Secure Units have little contact with the other women in the institution (those classified at the minimum or medium security level have lower risks and needs than those classified at the maximum level) unless they are beginning a reintegration plan to move back into the main part of the institution. This is done to ensure safety of the lower level security women. When these plans are in place, the contact is always under direct supervision of staff.
The Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne des Plaines, Quebec, still houses 7 women classified at the maximum security level from the Ontario region. However, this unit will close when the Secure Unit at Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVIW) opens. GVIW's Secure Unit is expected to open in the summer of 2004. Once these women are transferred and the unit at the Regional Reception Centre closes, all women offenders will be housed in women-only institutions.
However, women requiring specialised mental health treatment will continue to be accommodated in CSC psychiatric centres or in provincial psychiatric hospitals. These types of hospitals reflect community standards, which means they are geared towards the treatment of both men and women. CSC will ensure to the extent possible (and based on their individual needs) that women are accommodated in units separate from men in these hospitals.
That Correctional Service Canada implement its action plan that addresses the recommendations contained in Chapter 4 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General according to the timetable set forth in the plan, and report the results to Parliament in its annual performance reports.
The Auditor General's report addressed these general areas: assessment or "classification" instruments; case management issues; program delivery and programs designed specifically for women; work and other forms of release; employment issues for women offenders; and accommodation, programs and services in the community.
In the summer of 2003, CSC developed and provided its Action Plan to the Auditor General to address the 11 recommendations and the Service is currently implementing the plan. While the Service provides occasional progress reports to the Auditor General, the latter will conduct a follow-up in 2 years.
Progress will also be reported in the Service's annual performance reports.
That Correctional Service Canada (a) develop a classification instrument based on the specific characteristics of women, and (b) draw up a schedule for reliability testing and the completion of validity testing of classification instruments used for women offenders to ensure that they are placed in an appropriate level of security and submit it to the Committee no later than 31 March 2004.
That upon completion of the tests, Correctional Service Canada report the results and any actions taken in response to the outcomes in its annual performance report for the year in which testing occurred.
When an inmate is first admitted to an institution, a complete assessment is conducted. The Offender Intake Assessment (OIA) process helps to determine the individual programming needs of the offender. The OIA process also includes the application of the Custody Rating Scale (CRS) which aids in the determination of the initial security classification of each offender. At regular intervals later in the sentence, each offender's security classification is reassessed through an examination of three risk domains: escape risk, risk to public safety and institutional adjustment.
CSC will provide a schedule for testing to the Committee by March 31, 2004.
CSC tested the applicability of the Custody Rating Scale and the Offender Intake Assessment process for women offenders in the early 1990s. The Custody Rating Scale has since been revalidated for women offenders. While the reliability and validity of both the CRS and the OIA process were confirmed at that time, the Auditor General recommended that external experts retest their reliability and validity. Reliability testing will be completed by March 31, 2004. This testing includes inter-rater reliability, which assesses whether different people using the scale will come to the same conclusion regarding institutional placement. Validity testing by external experts will begin in the spring of 2004. Testing should be complete by the fall of 2004 and CSC will submit results to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts at that time.
CSC has designed a gender-specific Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW) to be used at regular intervals later in the sentence. The scale is based on the specific characteristics of this population. Field test validation of the scale is now complete and data are currently being analysed (for both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal women). It is anticipated the SRSW, including the integrated Offender Management System component, will be implemented in the fall of 2004.
However, given the concerns expressed by the Public Accounts Committee and community-based organisations for a gender specific classification scale, CSC will work with experts to develop a new gender specific approach to classification of women offenders. It is likely that development could take three years. This is due to the few number of women; the incarcerated population has been fairly stable between 350 and 390 over the past few years and an appropriate sample size is needed to ensure the instrument is valid. In the meantime, the Custody Rating Scale and Offender Intake Assessment process will continue to be used as a guide for decision-making.
Progress on this project will be reported in CSC's annual performance reports.
That Correctional Service Canada conduct and integrate into its decision-making process a regular evaluation of its intervention programs for women to determine their effectiveness and report the results to Parliament in its annual performance report. The Service should also reference any adjustments to its intervention programs made in response to the evaluation findings. Correctional Service Canada's evaluation should include programs to address the physical and sexual abuse suffered by offenders in their lives, and the accessibility of mental health support programs and the linkages between programs intended for women offenders within institutions and the community.
Since the development in 1994 of the Correctional Program Strategy for Federally Sentenced Women (it is currently being revised), CSC continues to focus on developing programs that address the specific needs of women offenders. Women offenders of all cultural groups often present many inter-related problems which need to be addressed (simultaneously or comprehensively) in order to effectively enable them to move forward. Common issues are low self-esteem, dependency, poor educational and vocational achievement, parental death at an early age, foster care placement, constant changes in the location of foster care, residential placement, living on the streets, participation in the sex trade, suicide attempts, self-injury, and substance abuse.
Although some basic elements of effective correctional programming may apply to both men and women offenders, there are some elements that differentiate the two. Gender-specific programming must reflect an understanding of the psychological development of women which is supported by the "relational theory" approach. It focuses on building and maintaining positive connections and relationships. The main goal is to increase women's capacity to engage in mutually empathic and mutually empowering relationships.
CSC offers women several programs to address the reasons that led to their incarceration, as well as other needs identified by the women themselves in order that they may be empowered to take responsibility for their lives. These include, for example, education programs (grade 1 through high school graduation), substance abuse programs, cognitive skills programs to address problem solving and critical thinking; programs for those who have survived abuse and trauma, parenting programs, community reintegration programs, various leisure programs (to teach women new ways to use spare time effectively and productively), etc.
The evaluation process for correctional programs1 for women offenders links specified program goals to measurable outcomes. Currently, all of CSC's women offender correctional programs include a 'built-in' evaluation plan where offenders are assessed both pre- and post- program participation. The evaluation process follows a multi-method approach, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative assessment measures. The process also requires sufficient data and sample sizes to properly assess programs. Given the few numbers of women, these evaluations take time.
CSC is in the process of evaluating a number of its correctional programs for women offenders, including: the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (WOSAP), Spirit of a Warrior (an Aboriginal-specific violence prevention program), Circles of Change (Aboriginal-specific program that addresses problem solving and thinking skills), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) that addresses emotion control and coping skills-the preliminary evaluation will take place in 2004-2005), and Psychosocial Rehabilitation (to help with quality of life and day to day living skills). These programs have been designed specifically for women.
The Service continues to work to refine these gender specific programs and will report current and future program evaluation results in its annual performance reports.
Given that the Committee was concerned about delays in delivering programs, CSC has worked closely with the institutions and community parole offices over the past few months to ensure delays are minimised. Institutional and community programs are being adjusted to allow for open-entry, where appropriate. At this time, two programs, the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (including the Relapse Prevention / Maintenance Module) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, allow for such. Others have been adjusted to allow for small group and/or one-to-one intervention. These changes are resulting in a reduction of the time offenders spend waiting to enroll in programs.
The Committee was also concerned about the number of women who return to the institution from their conditional release because of substance abuse or mental health issues. With the implementation of the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (a gender specific program) and the Structured Living Environment houses to address the needs of women with mental health problems, CSC is working towards ensuring that women receive the help they require prior to their release. With the implementation of the Substance Abuse Maintenance / Relapse Prevention Program for women offenders in the community, the Service is also ensuring there is appropriate support while on conditional release.
Abuse issues are addressed in the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program and the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy program. These issues are also the focus of the Survivors of Abuse and Trauma program, developed specifically for women. The program content is based on national guidelines that were developed in consultation with sexual assault and family violence experts. A preliminary review of this program was conducted in 2001 and some refinements were made to the program at that time. This program is delivered by community experts (based on the national guidelines). As such, content and delivery styles may vary, making a full evaluation difficult; however, CSC will examine ways that a more comprehensive review can be done to ensure the women's needs in this area are being met.
A Substance Abuse Maintenance/Relapse Prevention Program for women offenders has been implemented in twelve community districts. The Program is in the process of being piloted and evaluated.
A Community Integration Program has also been implemented to assist women offenders with their transition back into the community.
To further develop supportive and consistent relationships with women offenders, CSC recently placed Community Integration Workers in each of its Structured Living Environment houses. These workers serve as vital links between the institution and the community. They help to nurture and establish contacts with resources such as social services, housing registry, literacy groups, adult education and vocational services, health education, family planning and employment support agencies to facilitate transition from institution to community.
That Correctional Service Canada place an emphasis on the timely provision of, and full access to, adequately resourced programs that will assist women offenders to obtain skills relevant to the current job market and secure meaningful, rewarding employment following completion of their sentences. This emphasis must result in an employment strategy for inclusion in the Service's Report on Plans and Priorities for 2004.
RECOMMENDATION 7 That following implementation of programs geared towards the provision of marketable skills for women offenders, Correctional Service Canada regularly evaluate the success of its efforts and report the results to Parliament in its annual performance reports.
CSC consolidated all of its employment programs (for men and women offenders) under the umbrella of the Employment and Employability Program (EEP). This program is designed to:
The Service has also restructured its vocational training programs to enhance the job readiness of offenders. Vocational program components now include:
An Evaluation Framework for the Employment and Employability Program has been completed and implementation progress is being monitored.
While women make up four percent of the federal offender population, CSC has invested in the women's institutions almost 10% ($140,000) of the total resources ($1.5M) allotted to vocational training and/or Employment and Employability programs. Results will be reported in CSC's annual departmental performance reports.
The Service's Research Branch is conducting a survey with both incarcerated women and women on conditional release to obtain an enhanced understanding of their work experience, training and skills before and during incarceration, their perceived employment competencies and suggested strategies for overcoming impediments to obtaining and maintaining meaningful work in the community on release and an assessment of their interests in pursuing particular vocational training and employment experiences. Survey dissemination to offenders and staff began in February 2004. Data collection and analysis will be completed by the fall of 2004.
The information derived from the above survey will serve as the basis for developing a national employment strategy framework for women offenders. Progress related to this strategy will be reported in CSC's annual performance reports.
That Correctional Service Canada work with its counterparts in the provinces and territories and with non-governmental women's advocacy organisations to develop a shared approach to addressing the needs of female offenders under community supervision and discuss the results in its annual performance reports to Parliament.
The Committee was concerned about the limited access to programs providing psychiatric and other forms of support and was encouraged by the Commissioner's ideas involving possible cooperation with provincial counterparts.
CSC will meet with its federal, provincial and territorial counterparts and with non-governmental women's groups in the coming fiscal year. The goal will be to further develop a shared approach to addressing the unique needs of women offenders in the community and how to overcome some of the obstacles faced by this small and dispersed population (for example limited access to specialists in both urban and rural areas).
CSC held a National Community Initiatives Meeting with stakeholders in June 2003 and will hold a National Aboriginal Community Initiatives Meeting with stakeholders in the spring of 2004. Similar to the National Community Initiatives Meeting, the purpose will be to examine current Aboriginal-specific program and service delivery in the community, and to further enhance community initiatives for Aboriginal women offenders.
Partnership initiative results will be included in CSC's annual performance reports.
That Correctional Service Canada in each region together with its provincial and territorial counterparts and community stakeholders establish targets for the significant improvement of community accommodation for women in conflict with the law and make every effort to secure adequate public funding to meet those targets.
There are approximately 421 women offenders on various forms of conditional release:
Currently, there are approximately 810 women serving federal sentences (2 years or more). Of these, about 48% are incarcerated and about 52% are serving the remainder of their sentences in the community under various forms of conditional release (day parole, full parole or statutory release). In comparison, CSC is responsible for administering the sentences of almost 20,000 male offenders; however, approximately 12,000 (60%) are incarcerated and 8000 (40%) are on conditional release.
The percentage of federal women in the community who commit a new crime within two years of their warrant expiry date (the end of the sentence) is lower than for men. For example in 1999-2000, 36% of men (1485) committed a new crime within two years of their warrant expiry, while only 22% of women (44) did the same.
The percentage of women offenders in the community on conditional release is higher than men because women generally have demonstrated that they are better able to meet the conditions of their release. Although challenges remain, results are indicative of the fact that women are benefiting from programs, services and assistance provided by the Service.
CSC has arrangements with community service providers for 144 beds in the community for women on day parole or on statutory release with residency (women accommodated in a half way house). While there is sufficient bed space to meet the residential accommodation needs of women on day parole or residency, CSC continues to work with its partners to expand and strengthen these and other residential options for women in the community.
Building on the release of the Auditor General's Report, CSC committed to increasing its accommodation capacity for women which will provide more options. The target is a 15% increase by March 31, 2004. Progress will be detailed in the annual performance reports.
Once a woman is on full parole, she taps into the existing social service networks. CSC recognises the importance of staff working with each woman to establish and strengthen her links to the community and social service networks so these social safety nets are already in place whenever required.
Because many are wary of establishing residential facilities in their communities, CSC works continually with its partners and stakeholders to raise community awareness and support for such accommodation. Citizens' Advisory Committees (established in each institution and community parole office) and non-governmental organisations such as the Elizabeth Fry Societies of Canada are instrumental in helping CSC to raise awareness about the importance of residential accommodation options. The Service is committed to engage communities as partners in the continuum of care for offenders transitioning from institutions into the community.
That Correctional Service Canada work closely with interested Aboriginal communities to help them develop the capacity to participate in reintegration efforts for Aboriginal women offenders, and report progress in its annual performance reports to Parliament. In so doing, that Correctional Service Canada, together with other federal government departments, its provincial and territorial counterparts and Aboriginal organisations, explore new means of providing the necessary financial resources to those communities wishing to undertake the responsibility of assisting in the reintegration of women offenders.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is the legislation that governs the Correctional Service of Canada (and the National Parole Board). Section 81 of the Act allows the Minister to enter into agreements with Aboriginal communities for the provision of services and the care and custody of offenders. Section 84 makes it possible for CSC to provide an Aboriginal community with the opportunity to propose a plan covering an Aboriginal offender's release and integration into that community.
CSC is already involved in a number of initiatives to help develop the capacity of Aboriginal communities to participate in the reintegration efforts of Aboriginal women offenders. Examples include:
CSC will report progress on these initiatives in its annual performance reports.
Safe reintegration requires strong community supervision and support by both CSC and community members. One of CSC's priorities for 2004-2005 is to strengthen citizen and community engagement and criminal justice partnerships in correctional endeavours.
Some of the resources allocated for this priority will be dedicated to enhancing the role of Aboriginal communities in the correctional process. The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will explore new means of providing assistance to communities wishing to undertake the responsibility of assisting in the reintegration of Aboriginal women offenders.
That all staff working with federally sentenced women receive in depth and ongoing training on sex, race, and disability sensitisation.
CSC recognises the social context from which many women offenders come and the need to ensure staff understand the disenfranchisement which many women offenders have experienced. CSC makes every effort to ensure these situations are not aggravated during incarceration and takes these human rights issues (sex, race, disability) very seriously. The Service continuously monitors any problems brought to its attention.
Frontline staff who work in the regional women's institutions and the Healing Lodge receive the 10-day Women-Centred Training Program. This training program sensitises staff to various issues, including sexism, racism, disability, sexual orientation, physical and/or sexual abuse, self-injurious and suicidal behaviour, addictions, mental health, Aboriginal traditions, and spirituality. CSC continues to be committed to ensuring that all staff receive this mandatory training.
Modified versions of this training program will be implemented during the spring of 2004 for staff in the women's institutions who do not work directly with women.
In addition to the Women-Centred Training Program, all CSC staff must participate in a mandatory Anti-Harassment Training Workshop. This Workshop is designed to promote an awareness and sensitivity to human rights issues and a better understanding of their role in the prevention, identification and resolution of harassment complaints.
CSC's Primary Worker Selection Process employs a variety of methods to enable Selection Boards to search out the best staff, regardless of sex. Selection standards are directly related to the required duties and to the candidate's ability to work in a women-centred environment (in a sensitive and respectful manner).
In 1997, CSC instituted a National Cross Gender Protocol for Frontline Staffing in Women's Institutions. The Protocol serves to standardise frontline worker duties and responsibilities in an effort to better respect the privacy and dignity of women offenders.
That Correctional Service Canada establish an external body to monitor the grievance system in place for federally sentenced women.
CSC works under the legislative and regulatory framework of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations. The Act and Regulations assign responsibility and accountability for offenders to the Commissioner of Corrections and in turn to the Regional Deputy Commissioners, Institutional Heads and District Directors.
The position of the Deputy Commissioner for Women, created in 1996, also has role with respect to oversight of the management of women offenders. All third level women offender grievances are reviewed by the Deputy Commissioner for Women.
All offenders are informed of their right to seek redress through the Offender Complaint and Grievance System. The purpose of the system is to ensure that offender complaints and grievances are dealt with promptly and fairly at the lowest level possible in a manner that is consistent with the law, and spirit and intent of the Mission Document.
It is important to note that CSC's internal grievance process provides inmates with an opportunity to request that their grievance be reviewed by an Outside Review Board comprised of neutral community members. The Board reviews the grievance and any pertinent documents as well as conducting a hearing if they so choose and presents recommendations to the Institutional Head. This step occurs after the Institutional Head has reviewed and responded to the grievance. Provisions for such are outlined in section 79 of the Regulations and paragraphs 21 and 22 of Commissioner's Directive 081 (Offender Complaints and Grievances).
A number of other independent mechanisms are already in place to monitor issues raised by inmates. They include: the Office of the Correctional Investigator (who also monitors the grievance system), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), local Elizabeth Fry Societies and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Citizens' Advisory Committees, other non-governmental groups with whom inmates have contact, their Members of Parliament and the Federal Court.
Given the level of accountability imposed by law, the impact of an additional external review board upon CSC would have to be very carefully considered; however, CSC will examine this issue further.
1 A correctional program is a structured intervention that addresses the factors directly linked to an offender's criminal behaviour.