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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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



The mean age of FSW in the community at the time the survey was completed was 39 years old. The average age at admission was 33 years.


The majority of the surveyed FSW in the community were Caucasian (70.4%). Thirteen percent of the sample were Aboriginal -- 16 women in this sample (see page 64 for section on Aboriginal FSW). Another 16% were a combination of other ethnic groups.

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Releasing Institution

The majority of FSW (64%) in the community were released from Prison for Women in the Ontario Region. This large number of women released from Prison For Women is expected due to the fact that at the time of the survey it was the only federal institution for women in operation. As can be seen below the remaining 45 women were discharged from various provincial institutions across the country.

Prison for Women 81
Maison Tanguay 13
Fort Saskatchewan 7
Pinegrove Correctional Center 7
Bow River Correctional Center 5
Oskana 2
Red Deer Remand Center 2
Portage Correction Center 1
Orsainville 1
Regional Psychiatric Center (Prairies) 1
Lethbridge Correction 2
Belmont Correct. Center 1
Unavailable 3
Total # FSW 126

Index Offense

An index offense is the offense that the offender committed which led to her current term of incarceration. If an FSW committed murder and was admitted to an institution, then murder would be her index offense -- it is the most recent convicted offense. For the purpose of this survey, only the most serious index offense (according to CSC Offense Classification) was reported. Thus, a woman convicted of theft, fraud and murder would have her index offense recorded as murder.

Crimes committed by the women were generally violent in nature (58%). Violent crimes were murder, manslaughter, assaults, sex offenses, attempted murders and robberies. Forty two percent of the index offenses were non-violent, such as drugs, theft, break and enter, conspiracy and "other" crimes.

It is important to note that a violent index offense does not equate an offender with being "high risk". It is not correct to interpret that 58% of the FSW in the community are high risk. Objective risk assessments involve past criminal history, e.g., index offense, as well as other characteristics of the offender and their situation. Note that the most frequent individual offense was drug related (22%), e.g., trafficking, importing/ exporting, followed by second degree murder (16%) and manslaughter (16%).

Drug/Narcotic Offense 22
Second Degree Murder 16
Manslaughter 16
Robbery 10
Theft/B & E 10
Assault 6
Conspiracy 3
Attempted Murder 3
Non capital Murder 3
Other 3
Sex Offenses 2
First Degree 2
Arson 2
Conspire To Commit Murder 1

A comparison was made with FSW in the community for whom we did not receive a completed survey. They had comparable proportions of violent (52%) and nonviolent (48%) offenses. Offense information for the comparison group was gathered from CSC's Offender Management System (OMS).

Community Incidents By FSW

Based on OMS information, the number of major incidents committed by FSW in the community is relatively low. From 1991-92 to 1994-95, there were 15 major incidents (i.e., incidents reported to National Headquarters) committed by FSW under community supervision. In 1994-95, there were three major incidents committed by FSW on community release. This represents approximately 1% of the total FSW population under community supervision.

Release Type

Eighty six percent of the FSW in the community were out on either Full Parole (71%) or Day Parole (17%). Only 13% were out on Statutory Release.

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Time Served

There were 27 FSW serving life sentences in this sample (21%). They are not included in the following calculation of sentence length and time served.

The average sentence length which the women received at the time of conviction was 3.9 years. Actual time served in an institution ranged from 6 months to 19 years.

The average amount of time a FSW was institutionalized was 4 years. It is noteworthy that the average amount of time incarcerated is actually longer than the average amount of time sentenced. This may be due to the fact that the women who are serving longer sentences are serving more of their sentence than those women with shorter sentences.

Marital Status

The majority of women in this survey were single (40%). Thirty two percent were engaged in a relationship, i.e., married, common law or homosexual partner at the time of this survey. Twenty two percent were separated, e.g., divorced or separated and 8% widowed.

Marital Status Percent Women
Single 40
Divorced 17
Married 17
Common Law 11
Widowed 8
Separated 5
Homosexual Partner 2


In terms of the FSW's children, the survey was intended to gain insight into the responsibilities of the women in this area, their potential needs and support/assistance required. Therefore, rather than reporting how many FSW have children the data reflects the percentage of FSW with primary caregiving responsibility.

The vast majority (71%) of FSW in the community did not have primary caregiver responsibility for their children. This is not to be construed that 71% do not have children, but rather that the children are not in the mother's care. This is not surprising as many women were released recently (less than 6 months) and their children could possibly still have been in someone else's custody until the mother was established in the community.

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Seventy percent of the women who did have primary caregiver responsibilities were living with all of her children. Only 11% did not have their children living with them. Twenty percent were living with some of her children. In the cases where the children did not reside with their mother, it was not reported where these children were residing. Typically, these children reside in foster care or with other family members and follow up could potentially indicate more FSW having primary caregiving responsibilities for children after they have been on community release for a longer period of time.

There was no relationship between an FSW receiving financial assistance and the number of children she cared for or had living with her. Also, there were no more single mothers (including divorced and widowed) in the sample than married mothers (common law relationships included). That is, the majority of FSW in the community with children in their care are not "on their own".

As well, FSW with children were not more likely to be in a particular type of place for accommodations, e.g., subsidized housing. They could just as easily be in their own apartment, living with family or in their own home.

FSW in the community who are primary caregivers for their children are not any more likely to be unemployed than a woman who is not caregiving to her children.

Age Of Children

Children's ages ranged from less than one year to over twenty years old. There was no single age that constituted the majority of children in the care of FSW in the community. The minority of children were toddler/pre-school age.

Ages of Children # of Children
<1 year old 3
1 - 2 years old 7
3 - 6 years old 15
7 -10 years old 14
11-14 years old 15
15 - 20 years old 12
Total # of Children 66


"Upon release, our clients need Parent Aid to assist with the reintegration of their children into the home." (Prairies)

"Need for single parent support groups." (Ontario)

"We need day care." (Ontario)

"We need subsidized child care." (Quebec)

"There is a need for mother-child programs." (Atlantic)

Regional Location Of FSW

The majority of released FSW that were surveyed were in Ontario (48%). The Prairies (23%) and Quebec (14%) also have substantial numbers of FSW in their communities. The Atlantic Region reported having 10% of the sample, while in the Pacific only 6% of the FSW were located by this survey. Again, the apparent low number of FSW in the Pacific and Quebec Regions is due to the lack of jurisdiction and access to FSW under provincial supervision.

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Municipal Location Of FSW

There was a very significant relationship between the releasing institution and where the FSW lived after release, e.g., province and city. That is, the women were not moving far from where they were released. If a woman was released from Prison for Women in Kingston, then she was likely to be living in Toronto, Ottawa or Kingston. Exactly which town or city they were living in is tabulated in the following tables.

Note the number of women in each region is not the exhaustive number of FSW on release in these communities. These are simply the number of women who were covered in the survey.


Seven FSW were living in the Pacific Region. They were dispersed among 6 communities.

Town/City # of FSW
Victoria 2
Oweenko Bay 1
Surrey 1
Fort St. John 1
Sardis 1
Quesnel 1
Total Number 7


In the Prairies the majority of FSW were living in Edmonton (n=8) as well as Calgary (n=4) and Regina (n=4). A total of 29 FSW in the community were in the Prairie Region.

Town/City # of FSW
Edmonton, Alt. 8
Calgary, Alt. 4
Regina, Sask. 4
Prince Albert, Sask. 3
Winnipeg, Man. 3
Saskatoon,Sask. 2
Thunder Bay, Ont. 1
Milden, Sask. 1
Morinville, Alta. 1
in transition 2
Total Number 29


There were a total of 12 FSW living in the Atlantic Region. These women were dispersed among nine different communities.

Town/City # of FSW
Truro, NS 2
Halifax, NS 2
Dartmouth, NS 2
Sydney, NS 1
Yarmouth, NS 1
Saint John, NB 1
Fairfield, NS 1
Richibucto, NB 1
St. John's, Nfld 1
Total Number 12


Most of the FSW released into the community in Ontario were living in Kingston (n=19). There was also a substantial number of women living in Toronto (n=7), Brampton (n=7) and Ottawa (n=7). A total of 60 FSW were living in the Ontario Region.

Town/City # of FSW
Kingston 19
Brampton 7
Ottawa 7
Toronto 7
Sudbury 4
North York 2
Barrie 1
Chatham 1
Elliot Lake 1
Englehart 1
Kingsville 1
Mississauga 1
Newcastle 1
Peterborough 1
Port Hope 1
Rexdale 1
Scarborough 1
Timmins 1
Windsor 1
in transition 1
Total Number 60


In Quebec, most of the FSW were living in Montreal (n=10). A total of 18 women were living in the Quebec Region.

Town/City # of FSW
Montreal 10
Laval 3
St-Francois du Lac 1
Lac Lavering 1
Limite Oka 1
Lac Beauport 1
in transition 1
Total Number 18

Location In The Community

The majority (83%) of FSW in the community are residing in an urban setting. Another 8% of the 126 women surveyed were dwelling in either a town or a rural area. Only 1% of the population were living on a reserve. This finding of the majority of FSW are living in the city with fewer FSW in rural/small town locations was consistently found in all regions.

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Residential Facilities

Twenty nine percent (29%) of FSW in the community live in a residential facility. Facilities that provided housing are found below. There was no statistical difference among regions regarding utilization of the facilities for the FSW in the community. That is there were proportionately no more women in residential facilities in the Atlantic Region than in Ontario or Quebec.


Eight of the 18 women in Quebec Region (44%) were residing in the residential facilities at the time the survey was completed.

Therese Casgrain 7
Foyer d'accuoil Dorval 1
Total Number 8


Eighteen of the 60 women (30%) in the Ontario Region were utilizing residential facilities at the time of this survey.

Joyce Detweiler 5
Ellen House 5
Newberry House 3
Ferguson House (CRF) 2
Ecuhomes 1
Brentwood Discovery 1
Stonehenge Therapeutic 1
Total Number 18


Eight of the 29 women in the Prairie Region (28%) were living in residential facilities at the time of this survey.

Oskana (CCC) 2
Eacel Resource Society 1
Operation Friendship 1
United Church (HH) 1
Seven Steps 1
Total Number 8


Two of the 12 FSW in the Maritimes (17%) were living in residential facilities.

Lavers House 2
Total Number 2


One woman (14%) was dwelling in a residential facility in the Pacific Region during this survey.

Manchester House 1
Total Number 1


"We need a female halfway house with programming that deals with basic self esteem, parenting, budgeting, employment and social skills." (Prairies)

Funding For Residential Facility Programs

Programs are offered directly through residential facilities. The facilities were surveyed regarding available programs and their cost to CSC. The majority of services were provided by CSC. Annual costs for program contracts ranged from $6,000 to $272,000. CSC annual programming costs on average were $175,000. A detailed account of funding for contracted services and CSC programs is in Appendix E.

Non-Residential Dwellings

Where is the FSW if she is not in a residential facility? The majority of women (37%) are in non-subsidized housing which could be their own home, sharing an apartment or living in a rooming house. They may also be living with friends or relatives (21%). Together these two living arrangements account for the majority of FSW in the community (58%). Only 11% of FSW live in shelters, treatment centers or subsidized housing.

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There are no significant differences among regions as to where the FSW is living. That is women in the Pacific Region are not any more likely to be living in the home of relative than FSW released in a Quebec community.


• "Finding suitable housing in pro-social neighborhoods is almost impossible for the parolees given the assistance they are provided and the waiting list for better quality subsidized housing." (Prairies)

"Waiting lists for native housing are very long."

"Non-profit/rent-geared-to income housing would be beneficial." (Ontario)

"There is a need for subsidized housing." (Ontario and Quebec)

"Additional assistance for housing is needed. " (Prairies)

Employment Status In The Community

Women who are released into the community have various status' concerning work. Thirty four percent (34%) are unemployed. Forty eight percent, however, are employed in some capacity. Six percent (6%) hold stable part time or full time (19%) jobs outside their home while 18% are at home. Five percent (5%) presently hold unstable jobs. Eighteen percent of the FSW are in school or taking courses. There were no significant regional differences.

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"Work placement programs need to be accessible and are not presently available." (Prairies)

"Need help for women to start their own business". (Ontario)

"Need to broaden perspectives for employment possibilities (services, programs, etc)." (Atlantic)


Twenty five percent of the sample graduated from high school, with another 20% going on to some post secondary education. The majority of women however, have not finished high school and have attained minimal education in the formal school system.

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There are regional disparities with FSW and education levels attained. The women in this survey from the Pacific and Ontario Regions have significantly (p<.01) higher education than those FSW released in other regions.

Interestingly enough, there was no significant association with education attained

and a woman's need for assistance in finding a job. Both well and poorly educated women needed assistance in finding employment. As well, there was no relationship between a woman's education and her employment status in the community. That is better educated women were not employed significantly more than less educated women.

Financial Support

The majority of FSW were receiving some sort of financial assistance. Sixty four percent were receiving government support that would include among other benefits; Day Parole allowance, disability support or social assistance. Two percent were obtaining an educational/vocational allowance. Thirty four percent of the FSW were not receiving any support from public funds. All regions displayed the same trend of need for financial assistance among the FSW. For example, Atlantic Region FSW were not requiring financial assistance more than women in Ontario. There was no association between a woman receiving financial assistance and her requiring help in this area from her supervisor in the community (eg., budgeting assistance, etc.).

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"The Indian Band, which is supposed to supply the client with financial assistance for general living and university expenses, does not manage its financial obligations in a stable manner. This results in stress and financial difficulties for the client." (Prairies)

"Funding is required for the FSW to attend university or pursue educational upgrading." (Prairies)

"Improvements in student loan funding are in needed to ease the economic stress on students and relieve an unnecessary and excessive dependence on family." (Prairies)

"A responsible organization should be appointed to handle financial matters, particularly when financial assistance for educational pursuits is of major importance." (Prairies)

"Lacking the financial means to leave CRC because social assistance does not meet their needs." (Ontario)

"Need accessibility to social assistance for the purpose of education/employment." (Atlantic)