Assessment of the Aboriginal Women Offender Correctional Programs (AWOCP): Outcomes

Research Highlights: Completing AWOCP increases skills and significantly decreases rates of returns to custody for women offenders


Why we did this study

Beginning in 2010, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) implemented a comprehensive model of Aboriginal Women Offender Correctional Programs (AWOCP). The overall goal was to provide a holistic, culturally responsive, women-centred program model that enhances accessibility and participation and facilitated treatment gains and offender reintegration.

The current study assessed if the program’s intermediate objectives were met and also examined the impact of participation in components in the AWOCP continuum, including the Aboriginal women offender Engagement Program, Moderate Intensity and High Intensity Programs, and the Self-Management Program on release patterns and post-release outcomes.

What we did

The overall sample included 889 federally-sentenced women offenders enrolled in one or more of the AWOCP components between September 1, 2010 and March 31, 2015 (n = 549), as well as all women in CSC custody during the same time frame who did not participate in any component of AWOCP (n = 340).  Enrollments, attrition rates, treatment gain, release types, and rates of return to custody were assessed based for each level of program participation

What we found

Attrition rates for AWOCP components ranged from a low of 8% in the engagement component to 44% for the community self-management program. Results examining treatment change based on self-report measures and facilitators’ ratings indicated that AWOCP was successful in improving participants’ skills and attitudes as well as increasing their motivation.

Women who completed all of their required program assignments were more likely to receive discretionary, than statutory release, while the majority of non-completers and partial program completers were more likely to receive statutory release. Time to beginning the first program component has decreased since initial implementation.

Of those released (n = 621), 32% returned to custody; 8% returned with a new offence. Further, with respect to the impact of the program on correctional outcomes in the community, results indicated significantly lower rates of returns to custody in full program completers compared with non-completers after controlling for outcome-related factors such as motivation, risk, age, criminogenic need, responsivity, and number of additional correctional programs completed.  Profile and outcome results suggest that partial program completers represent a subgroup of participants who may require additional program support to improve their retention in the program, possibly through application of motivational techniques.

What it means

These results suggest that AWOCP is meeting its primary objective of decreasing rates of return for program completers. Program managers should continue to the utilization of AWOCP in women’s federal institutions to ensure that the positive results for program participants are maintained. These results provide further evidence of the benefits of correctional programs that are responsive to both culture and gender. 

For more information

Derkzen, D., Harris, A., & Wardrop, K. (2017). Assessment of Aboriginal Women Offender Correctional Programming (AWOCP): Outcomes(Research Report R-391).Ottawa, Ontario: Correctional Service of Canada.

To obtain a PDF version of the full report, or for other inquiries, please e-mail the Research Branch or contact us by phone at (613) 995-3975.

You can also visit the Research Publications section for a full list of reports and one-page summaries.

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