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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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3. Research Methodology

Research Method

The data included in this research report were obtained from 17 of the 20 Aboriginal women identified as maximum security at the time of the interviews, and 8 CSC staff who work directly with them. Two Aboriginal women in the maximum security population were provincially sentenced but were serving their time in a federal facility and therefore included in this research. The interviews took place between December 1997 and February 1998. The Aboriginal women were interviewed once, while some staff were interviewed more than once because they worked directly with more than one FSAW (each staff interview focused on one Aboriginal woman). Only one of the CSC staff was Aboriginal.

The Aboriginal women who volunteered for this study were asked to sign an informed consent form to insure that they understood the purpose of the interview and to allow them the opportunity to decide whether or not they would participate in the interview process. All information gathered in the interview is confidential. Names are not associated with any complaint or recommendation that appears in this research report. Before each interview took place it was communicated to each Aboriginal woman the reason for the interview: "to gather information that will assist CSC in helping maximum security Aboriginal women reduce their security levels". This was an opportunity for the women to identify their needs and comment on how these needs are, and could be, addressed (in accordance with Section 74 of the CCRA which states: "The Service shall provide inmates with the opportunity to contribute to decisions of the Service affecting the inmate population as a whole, or affecting a group within the inmate population, except decisions relating to security matters."). The interview process took approximately one and a one-half hours per person. The women were informed that they could end the interview at any point.

A semi-structured interview method was used for both the Aboriginal women and the CSC staff in order to elicit self-reports of the opinions, beliefs or response to the various questions. This technique involved in-depth interviews with the Aboriginal women that asked a number of questions including: personal background information; questions relating to their security level; factors in the Custody Rating Scale used to determine a criminal risk rating; need factors such as physical, emotional, situational, societal, etc.; programs and their usefulness in reducing security levels; questions regarding the staff; accommodation options and other factors that help reduce their security level.

Interviews of the Aboriginal women and CSC staff were conducted as follows:

Institution Number of Aboriginal Women Interviewed Number of Interviews Conducted With CSC Staff / Contractors
Springhill Institution
Springhill, Nova Scotia
2 3
Prison for Women
Kingston, Ontario
2 3
Saskatchewan Penitentiary
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
9 7
Regional Psychiatric Centre
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
4 4
Total 17 17

Risk Assessment

Once an initial assessment and orientation has been completed for a prisoner, it is systematically reviewed and analyzed to arrive at a measure of risk posed by the prisoner. Several research-based tools and policy guidelines are used that focus on historical or "static" factors that are correlated to the risk for re-offending, such as:

  • The Criminal History Record (including young offender history where available)
  • The Offence Severity Record
  • Guidelines to assess "serious harm"

The Criminal Risk Rating of either "high", "medium" or "low" is based on the results of the above mentioned analytical tools and policy instruments.

Needs Assessment

The identification and analysis of prisoners' need is based on a systematic assessment of factors related to each of the following seven criminogenic need areas:

  • Employment
  • Marital/Family
  • Associates/Social Interaction
  • Substance Abuse
  • Community Functioning
  • Personal/Emotional Orientation
  • Attitude

The objective of the needs assessment is to gain a detailed understanding of both strengths and problems related to each of the above need areas and their relationship to the history of criminal behaviour. This assessment provides the basis for the Correctional Plan. Program requirements are developed to assist each person to achieve reductions in security level, eventual release, and long-term success in the community.