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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Federally Sentenced Women On Conditional Release: A Survey Of Community Supervisors


Federally Sentenced Women (FSW) currently make up approximately 2.5% of the total federal offender population, and they are housed either in the Prison for Women, in provincial institutions under Exchange of Service Agreements or on conditional release in the community. As of November 1995, almost half (49%) of FSW were under community supervision and 51% were incarcerated. Since the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women (FSW) completed their report, Creating Choices, in 1990, the Federally Sentenced Women Initiative had focused primarily on the implementation of a key recommendation outlined in the report: the establishment of five new regional FSW facilities. Another key priority for FSW which was identified in Creating Choices was to enhance options and programming for FSW in the community. Toward this end, a survey was conducted during the summer of 1995, the objective which was to gain information about FSW on conditional release in the community and insight into their programming needs.

Information was gathered, via community supervisors, concerning several aspects of the FSW's life in the community. There was an inventory gathering demographics of FSW in the community, such as age, education, and employment status. Secondly, it targeted community supervision process. For example, it noted where, when and for how long meetings were taking place between supervisors and clients. Next, programs/services which currently exist and are being used by FSW, such as substance abuse programs or anger management classes were reviewed. The type of program, its length and the participation by the FSW in the community were examined. The questionnaire also gathered information on community program/services which are recommended for FSW in the future by their supervisor. Finally, existing programs that are available in the community were examined for variety, type, funding and utilization of these programs. Information gathered on the survey was supplemented with demographic details available from the Offender Management System (OMS).

Surveys were sent to Parole Officers who had direct supervision over at least one FSW on conditional release. The questionnaires were further distributed to appropriate agencies if the FSW were being directly supervised by agency workers rather than parole officers. For example, in Quebec the Elizabeth Fry Society contributes extensively to the supervision of FSW in the community, thus the surveys were passed to these agency workers for their comments and evaluation. These individuals were selected as respondents based on their knowledge and experience working directly with FSW in the community.

There was a 33% return rate across five regions (see Appendix G for details on regional response). The results reported in this document account for approximately half of the FSW in the community. It is noteworthy that Quebec and the Pacific Region did not have a satisfactory "return rate" (23% and 18% respectively), thus, the FSW in these two regions are not "fairly" represented relative to the other three regions.

However, the lack of response from these regions is attributed to the fact that CSC has an Exchange of Services Agreement with Burnaby Correctional Center for Women (B.C.) and Maison Tanguay (Quebec) and accordingly, the FSW incarcerated at these two facilities are under the respective provincial parole board's supervision while on community release. Although these women are "technically" still federally sentenced, information was not gathered on them given that their cases are under provincial jurisdiction.

The surveys were completed from June to August 1995, and were returned to National Headquarters in Ottawa. Data were coded and entered into SPSS Windows for statistical analysis. What follows is the analysis of the returned surveys. Also included in various sections of the analysis are comments from supervisors which were provided on some surveys. These are included as it was considered important to capture the personal comments and recommendations of those who work directly with FSW while on community release.

In general, surveys may be considered as a "snap shot" of the full picture regarding any group of persons selected for analysis. It is important to note that there is a continuous flow of FSW in and out of institutions, as well as moving from one status to another, e.g., married to divorced, or substance abuse problems to financial crisis. Nevertheless, while the information reported in this survey analysis is subject to change, these results may be tentatively generalized to the entire population of FSW in the community given that there was a satisfactory response rate. It is also important to note that a separate analysis has been conducted on the Aboriginal FSW in the survey based on the survey results, however, the Aboriginal FSW are also included in the overall analysis.