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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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The 2002 Mental Health Strategy For Women Offenders

Jane Laishes
Mental Health, Health Services



Despite the numerous developments in women's mental health, there are some significant gaps in mental health interventions that remain outstanding as follows:

  1. The need for intermediate care for those who would not benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Psycho-Social Rehabilitation offered in the Structured Living Environments.
  2. The need for additional intensive care treatment beds especially in the Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic regions where transfer to the Intensive Healing Program at the Churchill Unit in Saskatoon, may be problematic.
  3. Although it is believed that the prevalence/ incidence of Fetal Alcohol Effects/ Syndrome (FAS/E) is high, especially in correctional populations, no CSC studies have been undertaken. This is due, in part, to the lack of reliable diagnostic tools for the assessment of the disorder in adults, effective interventions, and information regarding the management of those affected. There is a need for additional research in this area.

Fiscal and operational realities may override other considerations for women with mental health needs insofar as those requiring intensive care in regions without these specific treatment services may have to be transferred to another region. This then compromises the goal of attempting to ensure that women serve their sentence as near as possible to their home community.

Further, difficulties, such as the ability to acquire staff with the appropriate expertise in the highly specialized area of women offender mental health, may also place limitations on what can be developed in any particular location especially in some of the more remote locations. As well, the types of mental health services available in the community where the institution is located may play a role with respect to the range and types of services that can be offered to the institution.