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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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

Information On Existing Programs

National Program Utilization

There are seven major types of programs available to FSW in the community. These programs are agency/residential services, counselling, community skills, educational/vocational, financial assistance, substance abuse, and violence/abuse support groups.

Supervisors were asked to "list the community programs/services which are used most often by your FSW clients". Substance abuse programs were the most utilized programs (n=57), followed closely by counselling services (n=53). Community skills programs (n=25) and agency/residential programs (n=22) were also extensively used. Programs involving education, employment, financial assistance and support for victims of violence/abuse have relatively low participation. For a list of services within each program category refer to Appendix A.

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Regional Program Utilization

Regionally, the program utilization remains comparable to the national picture.

One must keep in mind that the majority of FSW in the community that responded to the survey are in Ontario (48%), the Prairies (23%) and Quebec (14%), thus the greater number of programs used may be reflecting the greater numbers in those regions who responded to the survey. The number of programs in the regions are proportional to number of women in their community that responded to the survey. Ontario had 74 programs that were most commonly used by the women. The majority of services were counselling (n=24) and substance abuse programs (n=19). The Prairies had 48 popular programs and again substance abuse (n=13), counselling programs (n=10) and community skills programs (n=12) were all well utilized. This trend of substance abuse programs and counselling services as the most frequently used programs continued in all regions.

Program Pacific Prairies Ontario Quebec Atlantic
Agency 0 4 9 4 5
Counsel 6 10 24 9 4
Community Skills 0 12 9 2 2
Education /Vocation 0 3 6 5 2
Finance 2 4 4 2 1
Substance Abuse 3 13 19 15 7
Violence /Abuse 2 2 3 0 2
Total # Programs Region 13 48 74 37 23

Funding For Programs

Program funding across the country comes from two identified sources: contract (29%) and community services (28%). Note that 27% of the programs identified as "most often used" could not be classified relative to its funding source. CSC contributed 8% of programming, while the provincial government carries 5% of total programming. Elizabeth Fry and John Howard Society fund approximately 4% of the above referenced programs. For a more detailed description of the types of funding which correspond with different program types refer to Appendix A and for regional distributions of funding types see Appendix B. Contract services costs ranged from $1,000 to $76,000. See Appendix F for detailed regional distribution of program funding.

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Provincial Vs. Federal Programs

Supervisors were asked to comment on the differences between the types of community programs/services available to provincially sentenced women in contrast to those for a FSW.

Response # of Responses
More variety for PSW 0
More variety for FSW 2
No difference 19
No responses/left blank on survey 41
Total 62

Two respondents from Ontario (n=1) and Quebec (n=1) reported more variety in programs/services existing for FSW than for provincially sentenced women. Most responses indicated no difference between the two types of services available for provincially sentenced women and FSW (n=19). The high number of missing responses (n=41) are likely due to the fact that many people did not supervise any provincially sentenced women and, therefore, could not formulate any comparisons.

Suggested Programs For Community Strategy

Respondents were asked "what type of assistance/services/supervision would you suggest be included/stressed in the community strategy in order to make FSW more successful at re-integrating into the community". Employment programs (n=51), Counselling programs (n=51) and Substance Abuse Programs (n=49) were all strongly recommended. Groups for Survivors of Abuse (n=46), Halfway Houses (n=42) and Parenting Courses (n=41) were also popular responses. All suggested programs and the number of "votes" they received are tabulated below.

SUGGESTED PROGRAMS Number of Responses
Training Programs (Employment) 51
Counselling Programs 51
Substance Abuse Programs 49
Groups for Survivors of Abuse 46
Halfway Houses 42
Parenting Courses/Support 41
Financial Assistance 38
Subsidized Housing 34
Child Care Services 32
Communication with Agencies 32
Subsidized Child Care 27
Fitness/Exercise 26
Other 6

The "Other" category of programs included Offender/Ex-offender Support Group, Easy Access to Bonding, Aboriginal Cultural Training, Female Sex Offender Services, Cultural/Gender Sensitive Support Groups, Consultation with Sexologists.

Regional Need For Programs

Regions differed significantly concerning their opinion on what programs or services should be implemented/emphasized for FSW in the community. Below are listed the programs that received the most "number one rankings" when supervisors were asked what services should be included or emphasized for the FSW community strategy. In the Pacific Region, training programs were ranked as the most important (#1) program that could be offered. In the Prairie Region, halfway houses were the top priority. Counselling programs were number one with both the Ontario and the Atlantic Regions. Finally, Quebec ranked both parenting courses and employment training programs as the most important service to make available to the FSW in the community. Detailed information on services already established/utilized in each region can be found in Appendix B.

Pacific Training Programs (Employment)
Prairies Halfway Houses
Ontario Counselling Programs
Quebec Training Programs & Parenting Programs
Atlantic Counselling Programs

Regional Recommendations

The following is a regional summary of comments that were expressed in the survey regarding programs in their area.


"A community re-integration program as well as a recreational program would be beneficial. Women need more support and direction (to achieve goals, make plans and address problem areas). There are never enough funding resources for employment/education programs. Child care is important." - B.C.


"FSW are to a great extent ‘needy' in all areas." - Manitoba

"Because female perpetrators are categorized too often as the victims, they are often reluctant to attend appropriate treatment programs." - Saskatchewan

"All programs are important and depend on the needs of the each woman. A community pre-marriage counselling course would be beneficial." - Saskatchewan

"Extreme Substance Abuse is a serious problem. Relationships, both past and present are also of concern. A family violence program is needed. When children are present, many of the women become overwhelmed by their responsibility and are therefore unable to provide full time care." - Alberta

"Too many programs are geared towards male offenders only. Females often feel intimidated when involved in programs where other male offenders are present. Aboriginal women prefer Aboriginal counsellors. They are however difficult to access - especially female Aboriginal counselors." - Saskatchewan

"Each program is important and depends on the offender's needs. Those services that assist the female offender to obtain and maintain emotional stability should come first."- Alberta


"Toronto appears to have adequate resources."

"The women need more of a community education, including how to find a place to live, how to find employment (resume writing, filling out applications, etc.) financial expectations (food, rent, etc.) and how to face family and friends upon release."

"Some useful programs that should be considered include a ‘Living Without Violence' program, an ‘opportunities' program, cognitive skills training and specialized programming in the community for the female Aboriginal offender."

"Anger management programs are needed as well as child care and subsidized housing."

"Many of the women have multiple needs that present themselves all at once."

"Support systems tend not to be available outside of major centers like Toronto. Shared funding with existing agencies such as the provincial government might be a good way to develop services. A half-way house was recently purchased for provincially sentenced women. What about housing more FSW?"

"Psychological counselling and substance abuse relapse prevention are both adequately covered in Central Ontario."


"There are presently not enough women for the programs. The region is sufficiently able to supply services in employment, health, violence, etc."

"A program should be created relating to relationships."

"The needs of the female offender vary and are diverse. It would be beneficial for the CSC to contract the aid of professionals who could lend their expertise by responding to the psychological, psychiatric and sociological needs of the women."


"Female offenders need lots of support and encouragement. Emotional issues such as self esteem, victimization of abuse and relationships play a significant role." - New Brunswick

"There is a lack of services for both FSW and provincially sentenced women.." - Nova Scotia

"Program priorities depend on individual needs. Accommodations and finances (basic needs) must be met before programming can be considered." - Nova Scotia

"Priority of individual programs depend on individual needs. Residential programs in either a CCC or CRC situation are very important as a step for gradual integration in to the community." - Nova Scotia