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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Literature Review on Women's Anger and Other Emotions

Recommendations For Future Programme Development

Based on material found in the literature, the following recommendations are made for future programme development:

1. There should be an understanding among all involved with the programme, of women's anger/aggression in and of itself apart from the experience of what is understood of male anger/aggression, as well as an understanding of the cultural, social, and psychological circumstances surrounding it.

2. Consideration of race and ethnic background that recognizes the uniqueness of varying cultural influences, must be made.

3. A programme should encourage representations of women's anger that separate it from aggression.

4. To facilitate a healthy perception of the expression of emotion, the social context of women's anger should be emphasized, addressing the negative cultural view of the direct communication of feminine anger. Women's anger must be recognized as visible and legitimate.

5. Programmes may be most productive when using a multifaceted group approach employing cognitive-relaxation with social skills and problem-solving training. The programme must have enough flexibility to allow for discussion of personal issues as they arise among groups members.

6. The power of story (Estés, 1992) to promote change is highly recommended, and can be incorporated into any programme design.

7. An intensive format is recommended, consisting of three hour group sessions conducted daily over a one or, ideally two week period, permitting sufficient time to establish the basis of trust necessary for disclosure of personal emotion.

8. Where a daily group is not possible, an alternative format is suggested. To facilitate situations where win/win solutions may be encouraged, and incremental mastery of trust is possible, experiential trust building exercises that focus on experiencing as well as discussing emotions are recommended. It is suggested a three day intensive group combined with a ten week, two hour follow up group would provide optimum possibility for this.

9. Wilderness trips are suggested as a distinct possibility, involving an emphasis on building positive relationships, increasing levels of self-esteem and trust, positive stress management, and a creative non violent approach to conflict resolution.

10. Groups should be co-facilitated by female leaders from outside the prison environment who are skilled in an understanding of emotions, how they develop, are suppressed, and expressed among women.

11. Recognizing that often underlying deep anger is the pain, loss, and grief associated with previous violations, facilitators must be highly skilled in dealing with early life physical, emotional, and sexual trauma among women.

12. Facilitators must be knowledgable of, and sensitive to, the

13. issues for women who have lost or given up custody of their children.

14. Attention should be made to differences in treatment for women who readily express anger and women who hold anger in.

15. The ventilation of anger should be viewed with extreme caution.

16. Intensive orientation to the programme should be conducted with prison staff to facilitate a coordinated approach, an understanding of the critical life issues women are addressing, and an awareness of the principles underlying the programme.

17. A priority should be placed on women in the context of relationships with partners, children, and friends, recognizing both heterosexual and same-sex relationships as valid and acceptable.

18. A children's visitation programme is recommended to ensure bonds between mothers and children are not broken while women are incarcerated. This would ideally be accomplished in an outdoor setting.