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Public Health in
Federal Corrections

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Vol. 6, No. 1, Fall 2008

Focus on Federal Women Offenders: High Risk, High Needs, High Profile

Eighteen years have passed since the seminal document on federal women's corrections in Canada, Creating Choices, was published. In that time, six multi-level security institutions for federal women offenders (FWOs) have been constructed, including an Aboriginal healing lodge.

A Program Strategy for Women Offenders has been developed which includes substance abuse, violence prevention, sexual offending, mental health, education, employment, and social programs, all of which are based on the guiding principles of Creating Choices. In addition, there now exists a Mental Health Strategy for Women Offenders. An infectious disease strategy for women offenders is currently in development (see The Social Determinants of Health and Women Offenders' Vulnerability to Infection).

These and other positive developments for FWOs have resulted in CSC being recognized as a "world leader in women's corrections."1

This issue of Public Health in Federal Corrections (PHFC) focuses on FWOs in the context of public health. Women offenders have many unique characteristics. One in three FWOs is Aboriginal. Most FWOs have a life history of abuse, leading them on a trajectory of poverty, mental health problems, sex work, drug abuse and addiction. FWOs have higher rates of infectious diseases and related health sequelae. Issues of low self-esteem, powerlessness, apathy, shame and stigma abound. Combined, the result is a population of women with poor overall health, at high risk for infection (or reinfection), and with high needs.

Front Gate, Nova Institution for Women, Rear Area of Medium Security Houses
Front Gate, Nova Institution for Women, Truro, N.S.

Truro, N.S. Nova Institution for Women, Truro, N.S.
Rear Area of Medium Security Houses Nova Institution for Women, Truro, N.S.


1 Correctional Service of Canada (2006), Ten-Year Status Report on Women's Corrections 1996-2006.

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