Examining Change in Criminogenic Need Levels Associated with Correctional Program Participation among Federally Sentenced Women

Research Highlights: Participation in women offender correctional programming decreases criminogenic needs.

Why we did this study

In 2010, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) commenced implementation of a holistic, gender- and culture-informed model of correctional programing for women offenders.

To fulfill a recommendation in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s report, Preparing Women Offenders for Release (2017), the current study aimed to clarify whether components of this approach were associated with positive change. Specifically, the study examined change in women’s criminogenic need areas following participation in Moderate Intensity, High Intensity, Women Sex Offender, and Self-Management programs.

What we did

The sample included 2,030 women offenders (32.6% Indigenous) who had been admitted to federal custody between April 2010 and March 2018 and had completed at least one core correctional program during this period. The final sample comprised 3,715 program completions.

Women’s criminogenic needs were assessed pre- and post-treatment by the Generic Program Performance Measure (GPPM) and the Dynamic Factor Identification and Analysis – Revised (DFIA-R) domain ratings. Post-program reports completed by program facilitators were also reviewed for a random subsample for evidence of treatment gain in identified areas of need (n = 100).

What we found

Findings indicated that the majority of women saw a decrease in need level across most areas identified pre-treatment as program targets. The majority of Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants saw improvements in skills and prosocial thinking as reflected on the GPPM. Women who did not see a decrease in need after program participation were those who already had a good level of skills and prosocial attitudes prior to program participation.

Change in DFIA-R domain ratings was examined for offenders who had dynamic need assessments occurring within 90 days of program start and end. Following participation in all programs, most women were rated as having made positive change in most need domains. An exception to this were needs on the personal/emotional orientation domain.

Program performance reports indicated that the majority of women who had specific needs (targets) identified prior to treatment as areas for priority focus improved in these areas. Exceptions to this were needs related to the marital and family domain for women completing self-management institutional programs, and the community functioning domain for women completing high intensity programs. This suggests that women may need additional assistance related to these domains such as: identifying suitable stable accommodation and establishing a network of community support as they prepare for release. Many women had more needs than could be feasibly addressed during a single program; 50% of reports indicated that all identified program targets had been met.

What it means

Program completers saw gains in self-management skills, prosocial attitudes, motivation for change, and knowledge relevant to the core correctional program they completed. The majority of women also saw a reduction in most of the criminogenic needs identified as areas of priority focus prior program participation.

These results provide further support for the effectiveness of gender- and culturally-informed programming for women offenders. Further research should examine how program-related changes in level of criminogenic need affect community outcomes.

For more information

Wardrop, K. & Pardoel, K. (2018). Examining change in criminogenic need levels associated with correctional program participation among federally sentenced women. (Research Report R-422). 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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