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In the interest of public safety, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) works towards the successful community reintegration of offenders under its jurisdiction and is guided in this process by legislation, by CSC’s Mission, and its national policy framework. Important principles articulated in current policy, the CSC Review Panel (2007) and CSC’s priorities refer to fundamental justice and fairness, shared responsibility, enhancing offender accountability, respect for an individual’s worth and dignity, privacy and diversity, and other key concepts necessary in strengthening community corrections, which apply to the community reintegration of all offenders.
Women offenders have unique needs, which must be considered in formulating the most effective response to their reintegration requirements. The necessity for a gender-informed approach is noted in both legislation and in CSC’s Mission, and has been reinforced in several correctional reviews and reports. The following three aspects need to be considered in determining the best measures to facilitate a woman offender's successful transition into the community: the diverse profile of women offenders; their relatively small numbers; and their geographic dispersion upon release.
A national strategic approach to the reintegration of women offenders is important to ensure that this relatively small but growing population, spread across many communities, is not marginalized and that their unique risks and needs are consistently and effectively addressed. This approach will require contributions at all levels, will be inter-jurisdictional in nature and will involve governmental and non-governmental partners (external stakeholders).
The National Community Strategy for Women Offenders (2002) provided a framework for the approaches to be taken with respect to women offenders upon their release into the community. Following an extensive consultation process, it has been reviewed and updated to reflect several recent developments, proposed legislative amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and advances in the reintegration of women offenders. The revised strategy continues to provide a guideline for community staff to assist them in addressing the unique challenges posed by women offenders while supporting the continuum of care model, which includes the integration between institutional and community case management.
External events since 1990, starting with the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women, also had a significant impact on expectations and measures taken to enhance the reintegration of women offenders. Creating Choices: the Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women (1990)identified five (5) principles to apply in women’s corrections including: empowerment; meaningful and responsible choices; respect and dignity; a supportive environment; and shared responsibility. The development of correctional interventions for women continues to be guided by these fundamental principles. This reportrecommended not only the closure of Kingston Ontario’s Prison for Women and the creation of regional facilities, but also the development of a separate community strategy for women offenders. The first recommendation was undertaken during the 1990s and completed with the opening of the most recent regional facility (Fraser Valley Institution, in British Columbia) in 2004. The second was achieved by the creation of a National Community Strategy for Women Offenders in 2002.
The CCRA, its regulations, the Canadian Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have a direct impact on our activities. CSC's Mission Statement, Creating Choices; The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women and the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston (Arbour Report) have had a significant influence on a national strategic approach to the reintegration of women offenders.
The CCRA governs CSC’s practices and clearly prescribes obligations with respect to gender equality, ethnicity and cultural and linguistic differences. Specifically, it requires CSC to regularly consult with interest groups and with experts who have experience working with women offenders in order to develop programs for women (section 77 of the CCRA). The CCRA (sections 81 and 84) also sets out the role of Aboriginal communities in addressing the needs of Aboriginal offenders and providing correctional services to assist in this reintegration. CSC’s Mission refers to the requirement to meet the specific needs of women and Aboriginal offenders. Given that approximately one in four women offenders under federal jurisdiction is Aboriginal (Corporate Reporting System (CRS), August 2009, CSC), the response to their needs requires careful attention.
The current proposed legislative amendments, specifically with respect to enhancing offender responsibility, accountability, engagement, motivation and strengthening the management of offenders and their reintegration, if enacted, will have an impact both institutionally and in the community.
The 2002 Community Strategy was the result of research as well as extensive field consultation with offenders, Parole Offices (Parole Officers, Program Officers, Psychologists, etc.) and representatives of agencies working with women offenders. Some of the steps preceding the development of the 2002 Community Strategy included:
Since 2002, a number of community focused meetings have taken place:
Also since 2002, important documents have been released relating specifically to women offenders:
These meetings and documents reinforce the dominant and persistent challenges identified in the 2002 strategy and the need for ongoing attention to them. In particular, CSC’s response to the recommendations of the Expert Committee’s report, Moving Forward with Women’s Corrections (2006), recommended that “CSC make women’s community corrections a higher priority in order to increase opportunities for successful reintegration in the community” (CSC’s Action Plan in Response to the Recommendations in the Report: Moving Forward with Women’s Corrections - The Expert Committee Review of the Correctional Service of Canada’s Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections, 1996-2006, p.1).
Furthermore, the CSC Review Panel (A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety, 2007) made 109 theme-focussed recommendations, which included: offender accountability, eliminating drugs from prison, offender employability to enhance reintegration, modernizing physical infrastructure and enhancing and strengthening community corrections. The CSC Review Panel Report guides CSC’s current strategic direction through the Transformation agenda and supported the Expert Committee’s recommendations. The present revision of the National Community Strategy for Women Offenders responds to the related recommendations of the Expert Committee and the CSC Review Panel, specifically recommendation 71, which states:
71. The Panel recommends that CSC update the Community Strategy for Women and enhance transition services in the areas of supervision, accommodation and intervention, including the consideration of initiatives supporting employment and employability for women on conditional release.
The CSC Review Panel recognized the importance of community corrections and included recommendations specifically related to establishing closer linkages between institutional interventions and a gradual supervised release into the community. These recommendations can be categorized according to the following areas:
The 2008 Federal Budget endorsed CSC’s comprehensive response to the recommendations of the CSC Review Panel and allocated funding for its first phase. With this funding, CSC focussed attention on working towards enhancing and strengthening the “safe transition of offenders into the community.”
CSC identified a number of initiatives that could be implemented in the short-term to assist with enhancing public safety results including: reviewing the Community-Based Residential Facilities (CBRFs); expanding job opportunities for offenders in the community; expanding federal-provincial-territorial partnerships; and enhancing the supervision and intervention of offenders on statutory release. These initiatives are ongoing.
CSC is also focussed on integrating community programs and interventions with institutional initiatives, with a particular focus on Aboriginal and women offenders’ risks and needs. CSC will also continue to enhance community partnerships in order to assist offenders with mental health issues.
The Women Offender Sector (WOS) was established at National Headquarters (NHQ) in 1995 and the Deputy Commissioner for Women (DCW) position was created in 1996 to provide support in the delivery of women’s correctional activities in the regions.
WOS provides corporate expertise on women offender issues at the national, regional, and local levels working in collaboration with other sectors at NHQ and Regional Headquarters (RHQ). WOS also provides advice and guidance to other sector heads as they develop policies, plans and procedures that will impact women offenders and works in close collaboration with community and external stakeholders and other CSC sectors to monitor operational activities at the institutional and community levels. In addition, WOS works to ensure that research and programs for women offenders are gender-informed.
With respect to the CSC Review Panel report, the Panel agreed that the DCW should maintain a “strong functional and leadership role” rather than a line authority role and concurred with CSC’s commitment to “enhance and strengthen the relationship of the DCW and her staff with all levels of the organization in order to ensure a clear and sharpened women-centered focus in support of the women’s correctional model.”<
The DCW is a member of EXCOM and is accountable to the Commissioner as the principal advisor for women’s corrections. The Wardens of the women offender institutions (WOIs) report directly to their Assistant Deputy Commissioners, Institutional Operations (ADCIOs) in each region and they are accountable to their respective Regional Deputy Commissioners (RDCs). The District Directors (DDs) report to the RDCs in each region and are accountable for meeting the community corrections responsibilities associated with the supervision of women offenders in their jurisdictions. The DCW continues to work with the regions, through the RDCs, to focus on fostering and enhancing community initiatives.
There has been an increase of 21% in the federal women offender population since March 31, 2003; an increase of 34% for women incarcerated and an increase of 12% for women on conditional release in the community (CSC’s Women Offender Statistical Overview, 2007).
As of August 2009, women under federal correctional jurisdiction constitute approximately 5% of the federal offender population, (approximately 4% of the incarcerated and approximately 6% under community supervision). There are currently 1089 women offenders, with 44% incarcerated and 56% under community supervision (CRS, August 2009, CSC).
Women are incarcerated at one of eight facilities (i.e. five multi-level regional facilities, a healing lodge, and two national treatment centres) including: Fraser Valley Institution in the Pacific Region; Edmonton Institution for Women, the Regional Psychiatric Centre and Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in the Prairie Region; Grand Valley Institution for Women in the Ontario Region; Joliette Institution and l’Institut Philippe-Pinel de Montreal (a provincial forensic hospital with which CSC contracts for mental health services) in the Quebec Region; and Nova Institution in the Atlantic Region.
Upon release to the community, this relatively small population is spread across a very expansive geographic area. Approximately 50% of the women under community supervision (CRS, August 2009, CSC) are supervised by one of the following large urban centers: New Westminster, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal with the remainder located in many smaller communities throughout the country.
CSC is faced with the challenge of meeting the varied reintegration needs of this highly dispersed population, while respecting the rule of law and applying the key principles of Creating Choices. This translates into a need to maintain acontinuum of care and service from institutions to a community environment. An individualized approach for women offenders, starting with early release planning, followed by a collaborative and integrated response, which includes utilizing local community-based resources and support in the destination community, is essential to successful transition. This approach would assist in reducing the feelings of isolation and a sense of reduced support that women offenders sometimes experience in leaving institutions.
It is important to note that the profile of offenders entering CSC institutions has become more complex and diverse in recent years. This underscores the need to regularly conduct reviews of programs and operations to ensure the needs of women offenders are met. This is particularly significant with respect to minority offender populations. CSC is committed, as outlined in policy, to ensuring that the needs and cultural interests of offenders belonging to ethno cultural minority groups are identified and that programs and services are developed and maintained to meet those needs. Providing culturally appropriate programs and services is not only fair but important in assisting in the rehabilitation process.
The following information represents the current women offender population profile that is uniquely different from the male offender population profile (Unless otherwise stated, statistics come from: The Changing Offender Profile (FY 2007/08), CSC and Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, 2008, CSC):
The above-noted population profile indicates the need for certain fundamental principles to be in place in order to identify, develop and implement responsive strategies for federally sentenced women offenders.
The following principles are derived from “Creating Choices; The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women.”
Empowerment: Women gain insight into their situation, identify their strengths, and are supported and challenged to take positive action to gain control of their lives. This process acknowledges and holds women offenders accountable for their actions while recognizing that actions occur within a social context.
Meaningful and Responsible Choices: Women need to be advised of the availability of programs, services, and the implications of their choices so they are able to make informed decisions and select the most appropriate options for them. Having the opportunity to make informed decisions provides women with a sense of control over their lives while building their self-esteem and self-worth.
Respect and Dignity: Mutual respect is essential between and among women offenders and staff of CSC. By treating a person with respect and dignity, they are likely to gain self-respect and to respond to others in the same way.
Supportive Environment: A return to the community often means a return to the same pressures and challenges that were present prior to incarceration (e.g. dysfunctional relationships, unemployment, housing, and financial difficulties) with the added concern of re-incarceration and abiding by release conditions. While respecting a woman’s responsibility for her own progress, a positive and supportive environment can foster personal development, encourage use of learned skills, empower a woman to acknowledge her strengths, and promote physical and psychological health. A supportive environment also ensures quality of services in a respectful atmosphere while allowing for meaningful and responsible choices to be made. Positive community support and engagement such as assistance in finding resources for safe and affordable housing, employment, child care, mental and physical health, and other needs, is important to achieving a means of greater economic self-sufficiency and autonomy. This allows a woman to sustain herself and her dependents in a crime-free lifestyle over the long-term.
Shared Responsibility: All levels of government, non-governmental agencies, voluntary and private sectors, and the community at large share responsibility in receiving women offenders back into the community and facilitating their successful reintegration, which includes development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programming services for women offenders. As indicated earlier, achieving stability in the community requires a holistic approach, normally engaging a range of service providers (e.g. addictions services, mental health specialists, employment centres, police, Elders, Aboriginal Liaison Officers (ALOs), Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers (ACLOs) and Aboriginal Community Development Officers (ACDOs), Aboriginal organizations, aftercare agencies, social services, volunteers, etc.) each with a special role to play in meeting the specific reintegration needs of the woman. Acknowledgement of a woman’s strengths and accountabilities is essential to this concept and encourages her to make responsible choices and decisions for herself.
In addition, support, interventions, programs and services for women offenders are based on the following concepts:
Women-Centered: While a common framework of case management is used for both men and women under community supervision, the reality of women’s lives must be considered in the process. Women have had unique experiences and a collective history different from that of men and often have children for whom they are the sole provider. To achieve community stability, these realities must be considered in all aspects of their reintegration, including access to services and programs suited to their needs.
Holistic Approach: Multiple needs cannot be addressed in isolation of each other. Attaining community stability often demands that various reintegration issues (health, substance abuse, associates, housing, etc.) be considered in an integrated fashion. They must address the social context of women’s lives and target those areas that have contributed to their criminal behaviour.
Integration between Institution and Community: Institutional and community staff must work collaboratively to make the transition for women offenders to the community as seamless as possible and to support the gains made prior to release. The regionalization of women's institutions provides women the opportunity to be closer to their support networks which contributes to the maintenance of positive relationships with family members and other community support. The families of women offenders can more easily and affordably maintain regular contact via regular or Private Family Visits. Women offenders can also maintain stronger ties with the community by participating in escorted temporary absences (ETAs), unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) and work releases.
Continuum of Care: Reintegration is an ongoing process that begins on admission. From the time an offender is sentenced to a federal term, communication between the community and the institution will be initiated. Within a week of being sentenced, a community Parole Officer meets with the woman offender1 to determine immediate and longer term needs, including available community support and preferred release destination. This information, and information from community support person(s) and available community resources, is then shared with the institution and will be considered in the development of the woman offender’s Correctional Plan.
Throughout her incarceration, the goal for the woman offender is to be practically and emotionally prepared for her eventual release via programming, education and/or employment training/counselling etc. based on identified needs in related areas. Ensuring that a viable release plan is in place prior to a woman’s release is essential if reintegration is to be successful and this will necessarily involve significant communication between the institution and the community as well as collaboration with multiple sources of community-based support. This is particularly important for jurisdictions where specialized services for women may be limited.
Individual Approach: Engaging women offenders in the development and implementation of an individualized plan for her transition to the community serves to reinforce principles of empowerment, shared responsibility and accountability.
Creativity and Flexibility: An individual approach, often necessitated by relatively small numbers and limited community services, favours innovative measures and flexibility. These may include customized contracted services (e.g. residential, mental health treatment, etc.), individual program delivery, video-conferencing, consultation with Aboriginal communities or escorted temporary absences to meet with community personnel prior to release. This approach also upholds principles of responsible and meaningful choices and the pursuit of a supportive environment.
In recent years institutions have been challenged by their institutional capacity in meeting the needs of women, especially those classified as maximum security and those with mental health needs. This Strategy is directly linked and is a key component of the overall CSC Population Management strategy. The continuum of care is central to the successful reintegration of offenders and ensures the availability of resources at the appropriate times for effective intervention, including beyond Warrant Expiry.
Community reintegration has many components which need to be integrated. These include: integration between institution and community, programs, education, employment and employability, health services, residential services, Aboriginal women and community partnerships.
INTEGRATION (Institution and Community)
Ongoing assessment and management of risk is the central function of community supervision in ensuring public safety. CSC staff including Parole Officers, Supervisors and Managers must be well acquainted with the needs of women offenders and develop strategic plans to enhance community partnerships with Aboriginal communities, ethno-cultural service providers, and mental health initiatives, for example.
Whether a woman offender is released to a CBRF or to her own private accommodation, the first few months of her release are critical to her continued stay in the community. Support is particularly important for women who participate in a more structured and graduated release plan that would include an eventual transition to more independent living arrangements. The Community Parole Officer determines the level of involvement necessary based on the woman’s risk and needs.
There are several Women Supervision Units (WSU's) including: 1) the New Westminster Area community corrections, B.C.; 2) the Edmonton Parole Office, AB; 3) Calgary Parole Office, AB; 4) Winnipeg Parole Office, MB; 5) Women’s Supervision Unit/Downtown Toronto Area Parole Office, Toronto, ON; and 6) Ville Marie Area Parole Office, Montréal, QC. The WSU's have dedicated Parole Officers who supervise women offenders and utilize a team-based, gender sensitive approach towards supervision. The WSU staff value a team approach with respect to the sharing of information and resources and the development of accurate assessments of the current risk and needs of women offenders. Several other parole offices have dedicated Parole Officers supervising women offenders.
Recent research (Gobeil, 2008) indicates that a significant proportion of women offenders who succeeded in their transition to the community identified a positive relationship with their Parole Officer as a key factor in sustaining their release. Given there can be a complexity of issues with women offenders, the benefit of building solid relationships and developing an awareness of processes with relevant community agencies should be considered.
In terms of correctional results, outcomes for women offenders are relatively positive in terms of sustained release. For example, in 2007-08, the percentage of successful full paroles was higher for women than men (78.8% versus 72.2% respectively) (Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, 2008). As noted earlier, the majority of women offenders do not commit offences while under supervision, and the rate of violent re-offending is extremely low (Gobeil and Barrett, 2008). However, challenges persist in decreasing the proportion of women returned to federal custody for either non-violent offences or breaches of conditions, most notably those related to substance abuse. CSC continues to explore alternatives to suspension with regard to the above-mentioned while ensuring protection of the public remains paramount. In cases where a woman offender's release has been revoked, the institutional case management team (CMT) will support access to resources for any women offender who has recognized the need for more program/treatment intervention and is motivated towards addressing her need areas.
In order to assist staff working with women offenders CSC provides a ten-day Women-Centered training (WCT) with a one-day refresher course for front-line staff, a three-day course for Parole Officers or other non-CX staff, and a one-day overview of WCT for managers. The objectives of these courses are to provide individuals with a sound knowledge of women offender issues and support in the areas of setting boundaries, to learn mediation and problem-solving techniques and to ensure the right balance between empowerment and the safe and secure reintegration of women offenders (National Training Standards (2008/09). Community staff are encouraged to participate in women-centered training opportunities to strengthen their knowledge of women’s issues.
Supervision of Women with Children
Women offenders who have children may require different levels of support and preparation from their community case management team (CMT). Firstly, in the cases where the woman has been in the institutional Mother-Child Program (CD 768), preparations for establishing relevant community connections will start at the earliest stage in her sentence. In consultation with the institutional Mother Child Program Coordinator, the Institutional Parole Officer will prepare a plan to meet her needs in the community in consultation with the destination community Parole Office. These needs may include child protection services involvement, accommodations, financial assistance and social support.
Secondly, CD 715-5 Community Supervision of Women with Children affords women who did not have their child/children in the institution, nor were expecting to assume responsibility of their child/children, the opportunity to be reunited with their child/children in a participating CBRF. Each CBRF determines whether or not the facility can accommodate children and if they do, a protocol to support the child/children must be established in consultation with the local Parole Office. The woman offender's community CMT, including staff from the CBRF, would determine if the woman met the pre-determined criteria. For example, the review would consider the dynamics of the child/children, the woman's progress to date, the woman's current risk, her community release plan, and the dynamics of the CBRF.
Lastly, women who reside independently with their child/children (full parole or statutory release) may require support or assistance from their community CMT with regard to accessing resources.
As referenced in CD 715-5 Community Supervision of Women with Children, the significance of a woman's familial and parental role in the post-release period is often a key element to her stabilization and community reintegration. The need to link women, who may require additional community services and resources in any of the aforementioned situations, is essential to the mother and her child/children and enhances the successful reunification of the family unit.
Whether an Aboriginal woman is returning to her Aboriginal community via a section 84 or another form of conditional release, the Institutional Parole Officer will work closely with the Aboriginal Community Development Officer (ACDO), the Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO community and/or institutional), as well as the destination Parole Office to develop a community based release plan that will utilise resources offered by the Aboriginal community to develop a support structure for the woman and her child/children.
Comprehensive Release Planning
There are some women offenders whose risks and needs may present a particular challenge to CSC in terms of community release planning. They often include women offenders who prior to release, were managed under the Intensive Intervention Strategy, that is, accommodated in a Secure Unit or Structured Living Environment. Other women offenders, for example those being released from segregation, on long-term supervision orders, with a residency condition imposed on their statutory release, with chronic and significant mental health issues, or with a chronic history of failed releases to the community, may also require more comprehensive release planning. The key factor in these areas is to begin planning the release at the earliest opportunity to ensure that resources required to support a woman offender’s release are in place in order to facilitate a safe transition from the institution to the community
It is recommended, in preparation for a woman offender’s release, that a representative(s) from the destination community CMT be included in an initial meeting with the woman at her parent institution to establish contact. Representatives may include: a Community Parole Officer, a CBRF Caseworker, a Mental Health Worker, a Psychologist, and/or a Community Corrections Liaison Officer (CCLO). The intent of this meeting would be to facilitate a positive, trust building relationship between the community CMT and the woman offender and the institutional CMT and to create an awareness of opportunities and programs available in the community to better guide progress and programming in the institution. This teamwork approach would help to reduce the woman’s anxiety of being released to the community. The involvement of the institutional CMT in this initial meeting is important given the rapport that has been developed with the woman offender.
When travel is not possible due to geographic issues, video conferencing or a conference call will take place with the institutional and community CMTs and the woman offender as soon as the release destination has been determined in order to facilitate a comprehensive release plan.
Preparation is the key to both increasing the woman’s chances of success in the community and protection of the public. There are various strategies that could be considered for enhancing supervision including: escort/accompaniment from the institution, CBRF placements, initial restricted leave from the CBRF, a team approach to parole supervision, regular communication with the CCLO, increased family involvement, and a community support worker.
The aforementioned supervision requirements need to be taken into account by Managers and Supervisors when assigning caseloads as well as the availability of supplementary services (e.g. service contracts, volunteers, CACs, Elders, ACLOs, ALOs, ACDOs, etc.). It is also important to recruit and support motivated staff to work with women offenders.
Available supports could include the following:
Spiritual Support: District personnel should be aware of community resources that a woman can access for ongoing spiritual support upon her transition to the community. Institutional Chaplaincy and Elder services have a collaborative role to play in facilitating referrals to these community services.
Volunteers: Women offenders who are supervised outside of an urban core may be faced with limited resources in terms of programs and specialized services. Many women also report a sense of personal isolation in the early phase of transition from institutions to the community. In these situations trained volunteers, either through a CSC volunteer program or a community based organization, can provide a very valuable service to women in terms of providing companionship, assistance in accessing resources, providing transportation, etc. It is worthwhile supporting volunteer programs, which engage citizens interested in working with women offenders, particularly in smaller and more isolated communities. This not only benefits the women offenders but provides the community with an opportunity to become involved in the reintegration process.
Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) members:CAC members provide impartial advice and recommendations on issues related to the federal correctional process and its impact on the community. When possible, CACs strive to engage offenders as part of this process. CAC’s exist in both institutions and community. Consequently, capitalizing on their support, where possible, may contribute to a continuity of care and, consequently, more successful reintegration efforts.
COMMUNITY MAINTENANCE PROGRAMS
The principles within the Program Strategy for Women Offenders (2004) apply to both community and institutional programs. Community programming is a complement to, and necessitates, working in partnership with community agencies and organizations. The majority of women offenders are involved with CSC for a defined period of time in their lives. It is therefore essential for women offenders to develop a positive community network to provide them with the assistance they require to lead healthy pro-social lives both during their period of supervision and after their warrant expiry. Over the years, parole offices have developed close relationships with their local partners. These partner-based relationships must continue and be strengthened, as they are an integral part of programming in the community.
In 2010, revised correctional programs and plans are being implemented to transition focus from relapse prevention to self-management.
Current community maintenance programs are multi-purpose using a cognitive-behavioural approach in self-management and self-regulation. The program modules were designed to support the women as they continue to make and maintain changes both in the institution and the community. The focus is on enhancing strengths, solidifying coping strategies, and increasing self-awareness. The modules are based primarily on the principles of self-management and provide the women the opportunity to develop, revise, and implement an individualized self-management plan. Assisting women to build their confidence in areas of potential risk management is essential to their recovery process. In the group format, women are encouraged to learn from each others’ experiences, knowledge and skills.
Each session is designed with the underlying assumption that the principles and process of behaviour change and the maintenance of that change are consistent across behaviours. Thus, the sessions do not focus on substance use, anger or crime exclusively, but allow for application of self-management and self-regulation to a broad array of problematic behaviours. The overarching goal of the community maintenance program is to reduce recidivism by addressing contributing factors of women offenders. Any of these problematic behaviours can be targeted in these modules.
Maintenance sessions are offered to all women in institutions and in the community. The maintenance module serves as a follow up to other programs, including the intensive phase of the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program (WOSAP). There is no pre-requisite for participation in the Community Relapse Prevention/Maintenance Program or the Aboriginal Women’s Maintenance Program. Continuous entry is also designed to significantly reduce the period women will wait prior to participating. Given the increased risk of relapse in the first weeks and months of release, early engagement in the group is a priority.
Evaluations to date have shown that women who previously participated in the Maintenance
Program have considerably better results for sustained release in the community (Matheson, Doherty and Grant 2009). It is important that districts ensure adequate staff capacity to provide these services either in groups or on an individual basis. Continued staff training and development are in line with the Transformation themes of enhancing correctional programs and interventions, offender accountability, and strengthening community corrections.
Women who have successfully completed correctional programs play a role as a peer assistant. While this is not a formal initiative in the community, it is viewed as another opportunity to promote empowerment and accountability for women offenders.
Community-based service providers, including those operating residential facilities, offer locally designed programs and services that address a multitude of needs (e.g. substance abuse, education and vocational needs, employment, social skills, parenting, relapse prevention, etc.). Likewise, flexibility and creativity in program delivery and service provision is important, especially in rural communities.
EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT AND EMPLOYABILITY
According to CD 720 Education Programs and Services for Offenders, women offenders entering the federal system will have their functional grade or achievement level assessed at the time of intake. If the woman rates below the grade 12 level or equivalent, education will be a program requirement.
The Choices Vocational Assessment tool is a standardized tool for assessing vocational interests and aptitudes as a means to better prepare offenders for entry into the existing labour market. This tool is currently being piloted at all of the women’s intake institutions and has replaced CAPS (Career Ability Placement Survey) and COPS (Career and Occupational Preference System).
Guiding Circles is a program developed by the Aboriginal Human Resource Council and is now delivered in CSC institutions. Guiding Circles is an approach that combines contemporary career coaching strategies with Aboriginal cultural values such as story telling, community and work/life balance in the process of career planning.
In October 2006, the development of the National Employment Strategy for Women Offenders was guided by the National Survey on Employment for Women Offenders. This survey found that women offenders who have employment needs are at higher risk for recidivism than those without significant needs in this area. For a variety of reasons, many of which were related to their socio-economic conditions pre-conviction, employment needs are more prevalent for the women offender population compared to their male counterparts. Women offenders are more likely to have an unstable or absent employment history (Delveaux, Blanchette, and Wickett, 2005).
Women offenders also have significant needs in areas other than employment, which may interfere with their ability to find and maintain employment, including physical and mental health problems, substance abuse/addictions, access to child care, low self-esteem/self-confidence, and less awareness of their own skills (Delveaux, Blanchette, and Wickett, 2005).
The survey also indicated that the most common barriers to employment for women were their criminal records and lack of necessary training or experience. Other practical issues included: lack of transportation, lack of appropriate apparel for job interviews and the workplace, and limited access to child care (Delveaux, Blanchette, and Wickett, 2005).
Several of the National Employment Strategy’s measures prior to or during the transition from institutions to the community are particularly relevant for reference in the community strategy. These include attention given to employment planning through the Social Integration Program for Women (SIPW) and the National Employability Skills Program (NESP), which are offered prior to release.
The SIPW was introduced in 2007 and replaced the Community Integration Program (CIP). The SIPW meets a broader notion of 'community reintegration' by reflecting a holistic and comprehensive perspective on women's needs in relation to their releases and reintegration. The aim was to develop a program, which not only targeted community living issues, but also integrated support systems and social networks, meaningful occupations, reunification with children and other concerns that women offenders experience. The program includes four modules entitled: 1) wellness, 2) relationships, 3) meaningful occupations, and 4) community functioning (SIPW manual, 2006). As part of the SIPW, women who successfully complete the program will gain assistance accessing relevant documentation such as personal identification, proof of education/training, diplomas, and driver’s licenses, so as not to pose delays in entering the job market immediately upon release.
NESP was developed by the Conference Board of Canada and is currently utilized by CSC. It is a third party certified program built specifically to aid individuals in understanding the skills required by employers to get, keep and advance in employment opportunities in the community. The program is divided into three main groups, with several skills in each, including: 1) fundamental skills (skills needed to get a job); 2) personal management skills (attitudes and behaviours to keep a job); and 3) teamwork skills (skills needed to contribute productively and advance). Women who have an identified need in the area of employment are referred to this program (NESP manual, 2009).
The CSC Review Panel’s Report references the need to promote more transitional work experience, including work releases to the community. As noted by Delveaux, Blanchette, and Wickett (2005), given that more than one-third of women are considered to be low risk to the public and that more than half are assessed as having high motivation and high reintegration potential at intake, sites could consider the use of temporary absences and work releases for employment searches/interviews, training, and transitional employment.<
As well, joint initiatives shared and convened by both institutional and community staff (such as employment forums, job fairs, etc.), need to be fostered to enhance knowledge and actual work placements for women upon release and to integrate efforts to better manage the transition experience.
The CSC Review Panel’s report stressed that successful reintegration would be improved if women offenders were adequately skilled to maintain a job in the community. Community Employment Center (CEC) Coordinators have a critical role to play along this continuum of care model for employment success. The CECs are a key resource to both women and men, for training, employment counselling, and providing bridges to actual employment after release.
Both institutional staff (which includes Employment Counsellors) and community staff must work closely with the CEC Coordinators from the point of developing pre-release plans for the community, for timely referrals and to ensure women are well aware of their services. The CEC Coordinators are assigned particular institutions to where they travel and meet with offenders with employment needs who are being released to their area. They communicate with the Employment Counsellors to assist in bridging the gap between the institution and community. The CEC Coordinators conduct the individual intake assessment in which needs and realistic objectives are identified and set for implementation upon women offenders’ releases.
The CEC Coordinators focus both on the offender’s immediate employment needs and longer term goals. They should be acquainted with the relevant challenges specific to women and be prepared to work with other partners in an integrated manner on an individual level to accommodate their different learning styles, culture, and ability to sustain employment. Some women may seek only part-time training or work in order to accommodate other life circumstances such as parental commitments, child care responsibilities, health issues, or mental health concerns.
As documented in the National Employment Strategy, some women may require resource assistance (transportation, appropriate work clothes, tools, etc.) to deal with a range of practical impediments in accessing training and/or employment opportunities. The CEC Coordinator must be aware of services and programs offered through community-based organizations and of volunteers who may be able to provide specialized resources to address needs in relation to training, job readiness, and employment placement. A longer term goal is to cultivate inter-jurisdictional partnerships with other government agencies, including formalized Memoranda of Agreements (MOAs) to meet this common objective of shared responsibility.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The Mental Health Strategy for Women Offenders (2002)provided a framework for the development of mental health services for all women offenders under CSC jurisdiction.
It acknowledged the mental health needs of women in general and of women offenders in particular. The ongoing goal of the Mental Health Strategyis to develop and maintain a coordinated continuum of care that addresses the varied mental health needs of women offenders to maximize well-being and to promote effective reintegration.
The provision of mental health services must recognize gender differences in the causes and classification of mental health problems, the prevalence of specific categories of mental disorders, and the context in which these problems develop. Some mental health problems of women offenders can be linked directly to past experiences of sexual abuse and assault, as well as substance abuse and poverty.
Overall, women outnumber men in all major psychiatric diagnoses, with the exception of anti-social personality disorder. Differences also exist in the behavioural manifestations of mental illness between men and women. Women are approximately twice as likely as men to suffer from depression (federally incarcerated women are three times as likely to be moderately to severely depressed compared to incarcerated men). Men tend to be more physically and sexually threatening and assaultive while women are more self-abusive and tend to engage in more self-mutilating behaviours.
Incarcerated women have been found to have a significantly higher incidence of mental disorders than women in the broader societal population, including: schizophrenia, major depression, substance abuse disorders, psychosexual dysfunction and anti-social personality disorders.
The principles of the Mental Health Strategy related to wellness, access, women-centred, client participation and use of the least restrictive measures, apply where public safety is paramount. In light of the shared responsibility in this matter, there is likely no other type of community service that is more challenging to secure than the Mental Health Continuum of Care.
The type and extent of mental health services available are often dependent on the size of communities. Partnerships with community-based volunteer agencies, as well as with public services for mental health care are crucial to supporting a continuum of care into the community.
In 2005, CSC secured resources to implement the Community Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) for men and women as part of a larger strategy supportive of a strengthened continuum of care through the Health Services Sector. In the CMHI, an enhanced national infrastructure was incorporated which involved a highly integrated process of service providers beginning with pre-release preparation and community follow-up and support. Institutional and community case management team members have the support of a discharge planner in the institution who is directly involved in planning the transition process prior to release for offenders meeting the CMHI criteria. Community Mental Health Specialists (Psychiatric Nurses and Social Workers) in the larger parole offices work with discharge planners to assist offenders making the transition to the community to secure appropriate resources and treatment in the mental health community. In cases where the individual may not meet the CMHI criteria or may not be willing to participate in the initiative, both discharge planners and community specialists are available as consultants to institutional and community staff.
The CMHI has offered financial assistance towards enhancing services for those offenders who meet the CMHI criteria. For example, additional funds have allowed for enhanced residential services and specialized staff. The CMHI has also facilitated development for those staff at CBRFs who work with women who have mental health needs. This type of initiative is directly in line with the Transformation agenda themes and CSC’s priorities, specifically, community transition and mental health.
In October 2008, the CMHI initiated a pilot project for community-based Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in order to enhance the continuum of care between institutional and community treatment for women. Three sites were selected (New Westminster, Calgary Parole, and Edmonton Parole) for piloting community DBT. An examination of the first six months of the pilot revealed that participants tended to apply adaptive skills more often, their impulsivity decreased, and they demonstrated greater ability to manage their behaviour and emotions. Of particular importance for improvement of participants’ well-being was the frequency of contacts they had with the Treatment Team. Results suggest that greater number of contacts with the Skills Trainers and Psychologists increased the likelihood for improvement, over and above the motivation and insight participants showed during treatment.
Community staff, including mental health care specialists, work in collaboration within their jurisdictions to support the mental health service capacity for women offenders. This enables an integrated approach for CSC to work closely with community-based partners and local public resources. It is important to ensure the mental health community services for women are available beyond warrant expiration.
Community Psychologists also play a critical role in providing individual psychological counselling or referrals to mental health services (e.g. psychiatric) in many locations. They work closely with case management personnel to ensure timely intervention. Similarly, Elders are recognized for their support in the healing and mental well-being of Aboriginal women.
Community public health is also an invaluable resource for health promotion and disease prevention. Street health clinics are available for infectious disease testing, support, and primary health care, particularly for those women who do not have health cards or the funds to pay for medication.
A gradual, structured and supportive release is often necessary to make a successful transition to the community. Community residential service providers play an invaluable role in this process. Their services provide not only safe and secure accommodations, but also a positive living environment in which a woman can prepare herself for independent living in the community.
The November 2008 survey of CBRFs in Canada was conducted in response to recommendation # 67 of the CSC Review Panel Report which states:
“67. The Panel recommends a full review of the capacity and capability of community residential facilities; in particular the current lack of community accommodation alternatives available for women offenders, as well as CCRA s. 81/84 agreements with Aboriginal communities.”
There are three types of residences available for offenders on conditional release:
The 2008 CBRF survey highlighted some relevant areas that may serve to reduce service gaps for women including: further women specific training for CSC and CBRF staff, better utilization of gradual release strategies (moving from a CBRF to independent apartments to independent living), and creation of more residences that support women with children. CSC is currently reviewing the results of this survey.
As previously indicated, children are an important part of the lives of many women offenders, and the reintegration process must take these relationships into account. Each district is encouraged to have a sufficiently diverse service network including at least one facility for a woman to reside with her child/children.
Approximately 25% of women under federal correctional jurisdiction are Aboriginal, and approximately 19% of the women under community supervision are Aboriginal (CRS, August 2009, CSC). The disproportionate representation of Aboriginal offenders in correctional systems is expected to increase for the next five years (The Strategy for Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework, 2009); therefore, a response to their needs requires careful attention.
Generally, the population of Aboriginal women present higher risks and needs than non-Aboriginal women, and this is also reflected in their lower success rates upon release. Aboriginal women are more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be classified as maximum-security and to be serving sentences for homicide, assault or robbery offences (The Strategy for Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework, 2009).
While many of the needs of Aboriginal women are similar in nature, they differ in their extent and development, and require different means to address them.
In 1999, the Supreme Court rendered its decision on the case of R. vs. Gladue. The 2004 document, Commentary: Aboriginal Initiatives Branch Supreme Court Canada Decision on R. vs. Gladue, analyzed the decision of the Supreme Court and the impact of this legal determination on CSC. As a result of this decision, an onus has been placed on CSC to ensure an appropriate continuum of care is applied to all federally incarcerated offenders, particularly Aboriginal offenders. While the decision was largely referring to sentencing reforms, the Service was proactive in taking steps to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginals in the system as well as the disproportionate rate at which they were returned to prison. Some initiatives include strengthening partnerships with Aboriginal communities through sections 81 and 84; developing Aboriginal specific programming, and providing a continuity of Elder and Aboriginal Liaison Services.
The document also recommended that CSC "must recognize that Aboriginal offenders bring with them specific historical experiences, that they are a marginalized group that is over-represented in the ‘system’ and that they require specific and unique intervention strategies (culturally relevant continuum of care), if they are to successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate into society." Throughout their sentences, the document stressed the importance of taking into account the Aboriginal social history or what has become known as the “Gladue principles,” which may include: the effects of residential school systems, either personally or inter-generationally, the “60's scoop”3, any family or community history of suicide, substance abuse, victimization, or fragmentation.
The Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Offenders 2006-2011 (2006) outlined a prospective plan for Aboriginal corrections and highlighted the 2003 Aboriginal Continuum of Care Model, which was developed by Aboriginal stakeholders working with CSC. This continuum, beginning at intake, leads to paths of healing in institutions, and works toward the safe and successful reintegration of Aboriginal offenders.
The Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework (2009) is a document that has been initiated to incorporate many recommendations from the CSC Review Panel report that were not included in the Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Offenders 2006-2011. The intention of this document is to operationalize and update the above-mentioned strategic plan, identify successes and gaps in the Aboriginal Continuum of Care, and establish both concrete actions and accountabilities.
Expected results of this continuum include: enhanced culturally appropriate programs and effective correctional interventions that address the needs of Aboriginal offenders; comprehensive clinical mental health assessments and screening of employment needs of offenders at intake; enhanced roles for Pathways Units; increases in Aboriginal communities’ capacities to support section 84 releases and provide section 81 services; and increase employment opportunities and employability of offenders.
To ensure the Aboriginal Continuum of Care from institutions to communities, ACDOs, Elders, Spiritual Advisors, ACLOs, ALOs, Discharge Planners, Case Managers, Parole Officers, and Program Officers need to be involved. CSC is considering the need to increase the number of Elders and Spiritual Advisors who provide cultural, traditional, and spiritual services in institutions and is reviewing the roles and responsibilities of ACDOs, ACLOs, ALOs and Elders.
CSC is also committed to working horizontally with other government departments at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels and to building community capacity with Aboriginal communities to address the issues that contribute to the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal people in the Criminal Justice System. The safe and successful community reintegration of Aboriginal women requires a highly integrated and collaborative effort towards all forms of residential service models as well as interventions related to mental and physical health, substance abuse, spirituality, family services, education, and employment.
The CSC Review Panel specifically recommended that “CSC re-develop its Aboriginal Employment Strategy” and that “employment be CSC’s first priority in supporting Aboriginal offenders in returning to the community.” To address this recommendation, CORCAN, in collaboration with the Aboriginal Initiative Directorate, drafted the National Employment Strategy for Aboriginal Offenders, which is an extension of ongoing efforts under the Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework. The objective of the strategy is to enhance CSC’s capacities to provide Aboriginal offenders with the necessary education, skills, and training for gainful employment within the Aboriginal Continuum of Care model. CORCAN has also developed an Employment Continuum, which presents the four key components leading to employment from the institution to the community.
CSC continues to focus on employability and employment opportunities specifically for Aboriginal offenders. The previously mentioned “Guiding Circles,” a career assessment process, is an example of a CSC employment and employability initiative to address the needs of Aboriginal women offenders. Guiding Circles has been implemented at all women’s regional institutions and is focused on contemporary career coaching strategies with Aboriginal cultural values and labour market capacity.
CSC encourages the development of partnerships with external agencies and other levels of government with a view of fostering collaboration on initiatives of mutual interests. It also encourages such initiatives as focus groups, multi-sector working groups, inter-jurisdictional committees and sharing of information.
For the reasons identified at the outset, and as articulated in section 77 of the CCRA, collaboration with other governmental and non governmental organizations, specifically those with expertise and experience in working with women, is essential for the effective community reintegration of women offenders (Annex A). In particular, a strong working relationship with external resources (NGOs) is a crucial element to the sustained and long term success for women offenders in the community since they will often be involved with the women beyond their warrant expiry.
All levels and areas of CSC have a shared role and responsibility in ensuring this strategy is implemented.
Senior management is responsible for ensuring that policy direction, resources, and advice is provided to operations. WOS will work in close collaboration with other sectors and branches including the Community Reintegration Operations Branch, Institutional Reintegration Operations Branch, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate, Research Branch, Public Affairs and Parliamentary Relations (formerly Communications and Community Engagement), CORCAN, Health Services Sector, Strategic Policy (formerly the Policy Branch), Corporate Services, Chaplaincy Division, the Evaluation Branch, and others on matters pertaining to reintegration of women offenders.
Federal partnerships need to be fostered and maintained with other government agencies including the National Parole Board, Human Resource and Social Development Canada, Service Canada, National Crime Prevention Centre, Status of Women, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, Heritage Canada, and the Department of Justice, among others on matters of mutual interest and shared mandates.
NHQ personnel will ensure ongoing liaison and consultation with representatives of the NHQ CAC, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other bodies who represent the interests and the unique and varied risks and needs of women.
WOS will work in collaboration with regional, institutional and district staff who are knowledgeable of the needs of their population, to assist them in enhancing the successful reintegration of women offenders.
Regional, institutional, and district staff will be aware of the women offender related issues specific to their regions or districts in order to contribute to strategic planning and the development and implementation of strategies that coordinate the efforts of all participants.
National policy requires the District Directors to conduct ongoing assessments of offender needs within their jurisdictions and to plan and ensure facilitation of community correctional programs that are responsive to those needs. While the fundamental principles and activities apply to all districts, the level and types of needs vary considerably, particularly given the diversity, demographics, culture and wealth of community resources within different geographical boundaries.
One advantage of the relatively small number of federal institutions for women is that it provides a unique opportunity for regular dialogue between district and institutional managers as well as other levels and groups of personnel. While each region is different, there remains an opportunity to develop a structured process of communication and dialogue between the institution and community through conference calls or face-to-face meetings, which include senior managers (District Directors, Assistant District Directors, Area Directors, and Parole Supervisors with their institutional counterparts), representatives from Regional Headquarters, the National Parole Board and WSUs, where applicable.
A Community Strategy Action Plan is in place to support the National Community Strategy for Women. The Community Strategy Action Plan outlines the approved measures designed to enable and strengthen community integration and to facilitate the safe reintegration of women offenders.
The National Community Strategy for Women Offenders should be reviewed at a minimum of three-year intervals at the initiative of WOS, and in collaboration with the Community Reintegration Branch, to ensure it is up-to-date, achievable, and responsive to the diverse needs of women. As such, this strategy, along with the Community Strategy Action Plan, should be considered a living document that will be revised as required.
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1 Except in circumstances when the offender is admitted to an Intake Assessment Unit immediately following federal sentencing.
2 With the exception of CCC Martineau in Quebec, women offenders are not accommodated in CCCs.
3 the widespread adoption of aboriginal children out to non-native families in the '60s, '70s and early '80s