Women Offender Substance Abuse Programming
The Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (WOSAP) was implemented in June 2003 and every women’s institution offers the WOSAP to women who are assessed as having a moderate to high need for substance abuse intervention.
Experts have suggested that programming is most effective when it includes all aspects of the environment. A key component of WOSAP is community building. The framework for WOSAP is a strengthening of the community or ‘milieu’ through program integration. WOSAP involves a shift from a separate collection of programs to a systemic approach to substance abuse. The interdependency of the different programming components can create momentum and move programming beyond structure and content to living and experiencing change, therefore, creating a supportive environment for remaining drug and alcohol free in the immediate surrounding community. Community building efforts reinforce program goals by fostering a positive institutional culture. As a community building strategy, the implementation of Intensive Support Units in the women’s institutions complements programming by offering supportive housing to those women who are committed to remaining alcohol and drug free. Additional community building strategies include: peer support, self-help groups, and community forums.
The WOSAP is a holistic program. Although the main treatment target is stated as being substance abuse, the content and design engage the women on other areas of their lives that are linked to substance abuse and criminal behaviour. The Program targets: personal emotional issues such as self awareness and self esteem, symptoms linked to past experiences of abuse, issues linked to sexuality; emotion regulation issues; and relationship issues linked to intimate partners, children, friendships and acquaintances.
The Program components of WOSAP are:
- Initial Engagement;
- Education & Engagement;
- Intensive Therapeutic Intervention;
- Institutional and Community Relapse Prevention/Maintenance.
The Institutional and Community Relapse Prevention/Maintenance Program for Women (referred to as Module 3 of WOSAP) targets more than one criminogenic need. In fact, the program is designed in a way that the participants are engaged to discuss and process all daily concerns and high risk situations with the group. Therefore, the group deals with substance abuse issues, emotion management issues, aggressive behaviours, relationships and parenting issues, associations, emotional issues, community functioning issues, etc. The Program content is generic. All women can be assigned to the Program. Admissions are based on risk and need. In fact, Parole Officers in the community are encouraged to refer to the Program as a risk management tool. Women can enter the Program at the start of any session. They can do as much or as little as is required for effective management of risk. Participants can do as many cycles of the 20 sessions as deemed necessary.
The Institutional and Community Relapse Prevention/Maintenance Program for Women is available at all the women’s institutions and in all the major cities in Canada. The Program is delivered by staff or agencies under contract with CSC. All facilitators complete the full training for WOSAP so they can gain a better understanding of the Program in its entirety and a better understanding of how women’s life experiences are linked to substance abuse. Since a vast majority of federally sentenced women present substance abuse issues, staff members working with women need to be well informed of the best intervention methods.