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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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CREATING CHOICES:THE REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON FEDERALLY SENTENCED WOMEN

CHAPTER XII
MAKING THE VISION REAL

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY

The Vision for Change embodied in the recommended plan represents a comprehensive approach for responding to the needs of federally sentenced women in Canada. It represents a departure from traditional corrections on a number of fronts, but it provides an attainable and realistic approach to the long-standing problems faced by this particular group of women. The Plan is consistent with the Mission of the Correctional Service of Canada and reflective of the concerns and perspectives of a variety of community and Aboriginal groups

In order to implement this Plan, the Correctional Service of Canada must proceed with the view that action on all components of the Plan is required immediately. Although the Task Force has, under separate cover, made a number of recommendations for immediate change at the Prison for Women, it must be made clear that these very short term measures must be implemented in conjunction with parallel activity on the recommended Plan. Immediate action must not substitute for or delay action on the total recommended plan. Of equally critical importance, the principles, premises, and spirit on which the plan is based, must not be lost while converting the Plan to concrete reality.

In order to fully achieve these implementation objectives, the Task Force recommends that the Commissioner establish an externally based implementation committee which would report directly to him on this major initiative. This committee should be small in order to be responsive and action-oriented. It should be comprised of a federally sentenced woman as well as representatives from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, an Aboriginal Women's Caucus and Status of Women Canada.

In addition, the Task Force recommends the creation of an Aboriginal Advisory Council to provide assistance with respect to the development of the Healing Lodge. The membership will be drawn from the Aboriginal Women's Caucus and representatives of the Aboriginal Women's community who have demonstrated and involvement in the issue. A direct line of communication will be open to the Commissioner of Corrections. It is recognized that Aboriginal communities must provide the leadership for all Aboriginal initiatives. This Council will provide that vital link to Correctional Service of Canada.

Furthermore, it is recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada establish a very senior management position for the sole purpose of implementing the plan. The senior manager must be assigned adequate resources since the recommended implementation time frames demand parallel action on all components, from facility design to staffing policy to program development.

Through these three recommendations, the Correctional Service of Canada can signal a concrete and committed expression of its intent to act comprehensively and quickly.

With respect to a time frame, the Task Force recommends the following targets, which need to be detailed as part of implementation planning:

  • that the planning and construction of the regional Women's Facilities be completed during fiscal year 1993/94. This requires that the plan be submitted by the Correctional Service of Canada for Treasury Board approval in the fall 1990 Capital Plan.
  • that with respect to the Community Accommodation Option, the target for the opening of some new Residential Facilities fro women should be fiscal year 1991-92. Resource estimates therefore, must be incorporated into the next Correctional Service of Canada budget submission to Treasury Board.

The Aboriginal Healing Lodge requires its own time frame. It is a new concept and a matter of utmost urgency. Its implementation requires extensive meaningful consultation and negotiation with Aboriginal communities. The Lodge must be connected integrally to Aboriginal Communities.

Financial approvals for the Healing Lodge must proceed at the same time as financial approvals for the Regional Facilities accommodation plan because of the importance of the Healing Lodge to the overall plan.

In summary, the Task Force members support an implementation approach that is holistic, pro-active and reflective of the partnership which created the vision.

CONCLUSION

"The time for ACTION is NOW!" has been the unifying cry of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. The conviction that fundamental change in our treatment of federally sentenced women is needed now , that it is finally possible, has energized Task Force members, empowering them to create a vision which offers renewed hope.

This creative vision is founded upon voices, The federally sentenced women who shared their experiences, and the many others in communities across Canada who wrote submissions and talked to Task Force members, spoke eloquently of the need for a deeper understanding of the lives, the crimes, the pain, the needs and the hopes of federally sentenced women. They urged a more woman-centered approach. They spoke of new solutions based on meaningful choices. they spoke of shared responsibility between governments, federally sentenced women and the community, both for the harm done through the crimes committed by women under federal sentence, and for preventive solutions to reduce further suffering.

Many are impatient with the time, expense and energy that has been devoted to looking for solutions in the past with little movement toward change. Much of the information gathered by this Task Force has simply repeated or amplified facts and revelations from previous studies, task forces and commissions...ideas which have never been acted upon in a comprehensive, meaningful way.

However, this Task Force stands alone because it took old findings and new perspectives and went beyond them. Through the sometimes rewarding, sometimes difficult Task Force process, through the struggle to truly listen to disparate and even contradictory viewpoints and demands, through a constant return to the voices of federally sentenced women, we moved beyond confusion and impatience, to creative, dynamic and holistic solutions. We created an alternative based on choice.

The Task Force report is grounded in the principles of empowerment, meaningful choices, respect and dignity, shared responsibility and a belief in supportive environments. It recognizes that in creating choices we must never forget to respect the dignity, rights, needs and hopes of women. It is built on the acceptance of responsibility by the women, by the justice system, by governments and by communities. But while this responsibility includes the need to address and repair harm done by federally sentence women, it puts these incidents into the context of social inequalities and structures which define and lead to crime.

The plan presented by this Task Force finally closes the Prison for Women and brings women closer to their families, cultures and communities.

What is needed now is the collective will to convert this plan into action. What is needed now is the courage to voice the truth. What is needed now is the creation of action-oriented partnerships to build on the growing consensus that fundamental change is necessary.

The time for ACTION is NOW! We must not compromise our shared vision. We must not fail federally sentenced womenAGAIN!