Gender Responsive Corrections for Women in Canada: The Road to Successful Reintegration

Make a Change

This is my submission entitled "Make a Change", to the art contest for women in corrections.

The chains breaking depicts a figurative representation of a girl breaking away from a past lifestyle of negativity and not allowing past struggles or one's own inner demons to hold you back from pursuing a life you desire.

Around the border, I've gathered fingerprints of fellow inmates here at Lethbridge Correctional Centre in order to portray the togetherness that we experience here, and the group collective of helping one another move forward and progress towards a brighter and better future.

It doesn't matter how old you are or what you've done in the past. It is always possible to change and become a better person, whether through finding God or pursuing your dreams. We all need to remember to never lose hope because life can always get better.

A woman from Alberta was the first place winner of the art contest for women in corrections


Correctional jurisdictions across Canada have faced challenges with determining accommodation and supervision strategies to be used with their female clients.Footnote 1 History has demonstrated that male-based correctional models present limitations for a smaller, diverse group of women with complex and unique needs. Presently, there has been a unanimous agreement amongst federal, provincial, territorial correctional authorities and stakeholders alike to do more than replicate a system designed for men.

The Gender Responsive Corrections for Women in Canada: The Road to Successful Reintegration strategy reflects the experience and collaboration of a cross-section of staff, stakeholders and offenders from across the country. We acknowledge the significant contributions made by the Heads of Corrections (HOC), and the HOC Co-champions of the Sub-committee on Women as Correctional Clients, Marg Welch (Ontario) and William Smith (Nova Scotia) towards making the Strategy a reality.

We also express sincere appreciation for the work of the members of the Sub-committee. Their continuous participation has produced a collaborative document that is reflective of concerted efforts to enhance the interventions, programs, and services for women who are involved in the correctional system.

The Sub-committee is comprised of representatives from the following jurisdictions:

  • Alberta Justice and Solicitor General
  • British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
  • Correctional Service Canada
  • Manitoba Department of Justice
  • Ministère de la sécurité publique du Québec
  • New Brunswick Department of Public Safety
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice and Public Safety
  • Northwest Territories Department of Justice
  • Nova Scotia Department of Justice (Correctional Service Division)
  • Nunavut Department of Justice
  • Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
  • Parole Board of Canada
  • Prince Edward Island Department of Justice and Public Safety
  • Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice (Corrections and Policing)
  • Yukon Department of Justice

Finally, this Strategy could not have been possible without the experience and contributions of staff, stakeholders, and women offenders from all jurisdictions across Canada.


In Canada, the responsibility for the care and custody of an individual 18 years of age and older is determined at the time of sentencing. Women and men serving sentences of less than two years and those on remand awaiting trial are referred to custody and/or community supervision programs under the jurisdiction of provincial/territorial authorities. Women and men sentenced to two years or more fall under the mandate of the federal agency, the Correctional Service of Canada.

Women represent approximately 50% of the general Canadian population. In relation to the overall population of those in the criminal justice system, women are less than one-quarter of the individuals accused of a criminal offence.Footnote 2 Furthermore, women make up a smaller share of admissions to sentenced custody with roughly 11% in the provinces and territories and 6% federally.Footnote 3 While the number of female offenders is small relative to the overall offender population in custody, Aboriginal females are disproportionately represented among the female correctional population across Canada. In all jurisdictions, the representation of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit adults in correctional services exceeds their representation in the general population, with gaps being wider in some jurisdictions than others.Footnote 4 The proportion of Aboriginal inmates in custody is higher for women than it is for Aboriginal men, highlighting even greater Aboriginal over-representation.Footnote 5 More than one-third of women admitted to custody identify as Aboriginal.Footnote 6

The majority of jurisdictions are responsible for the care and supervision of women both in a correctional environment and under supervision in the community. For those jurisdictions that do not supervise women upon their release from custody, agreements are in place with other social service agencies.

The Gender Responsive Corrections for Women in Canada: The Road to Successful Reintegration Strategy is comprised of various sections including Legal Framework and International Agreements, Research and Issues of Consideration, a Vision Statement, Guiding Principles, Key Factors, Expected Results and Priorities Moving Forward. It serves to assist jurisdictions in developing interventions, programs and services that are evidence-based, gender responsive, and trauma-informed to effectively supervise women, and to facilitate the goal of public safety.

The next sections will outline the legal framework for corrections in Canada as well as highlight the research and issues of consideration when addressing the needs of women in conflict with the law. Both sections form the foundation for the strategy.

Legal Framework and International Agreements

When providing interventions for correctional clients in Canada, specific legislation and international agreements should be respected. This section provides a brief summary of their evolution in relation to women offenders in Canada.

The British North America Act

The British North America (BNA) Act, established in 1867 created a federal dominion and defined much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including the justice system.

The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR)

In 1945 the United Nations was officially formed to maintain international peace and security to:

  1. Take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. Develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. Achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
  4. Be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

The SMR were adopted in 1955 and provided the guidelines for international and domestic law for citizens held in prison and other forms of custody. Although not legally binding, the Minimum Rules identified what is generally accepted as being good principle and practice in the treatment of those in custody and the management of institutions. When the 95 individual articles that comprise the SMR are reduced to their essence, three fundamental human rights principles clearly emerge. Firstly, a prisoner's sense of dignity and worth as a human being must be respected and maintained through the entire course of their imprisonment. Secondly, the suffering that results from the loss of liberty and freedom by the fact of incarceration is punishment enough. Finally, prisons should not be punishing places; rather, they should help prisoners rehabilitate themselves. The fact that many states, including Canada, incorporated these set of principles and rules in the legislative design of their correctional systems may be taken as evidence that the SMR were considered an essential element of international and, indeed, domestic human rights standards.

Inasmuch as they reflected that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status,Footnote 7 they fell silent on drawing sufficient attention to women's particular needs.

The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners-The Mandela Rules

The Mandela Rules are a revision of the 1955 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners and were adopted by the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, Austria on 22 May 2015. The revision focused on nine thematic areas, including healthcare in prisons, investigations of deaths in custody, disciplinary measures, professionalization of prison staff, and independent inspections. In particular, the revised Rules introduce for the first time in international standards a limitation on the use of solitary confinement and provide guidance on the use of searches, notably strict regulation of intrusive searches of prisoners.

Human Rights Acts

The Canadian Human Rights Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977 extending the law to ensure equal opportunity to individuals who may be victims of discriminatory practices based on a set of prohibited grounds such as sex, disability, or religion. The Act applies only to federally regulated activities.

Provincial and territorial jurisdictions have similar anti-discriminations laws which apply to activities that are not federally regulated.

The Constitution Act

The Constitution Act, 1982 is a part of the Constitution of Canada which is the supreme law of Canada. The Act was introduced as part of Canada's process of patriating the Constitution and introduced several amendments to the BNA Act of 1867.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forms the first thirty-five sections of the Constitution Act, 1982. It contains the powers of the federal government and those of the provincial and territorial governments in Canada. The Charter sets out those rights and freedoms that Canadians believe are necessary in a free and democratic society. Some of the rights and freedoms contained in the Charter are:

  • legal rights of persons accused of crimes;
  • the right to equality, including the equality of men and women
  • Aboriginal peoples' rights;
  • the protection of Canada's multicultural heritage;
  • the right to use either of Canada's official languages;
  • the right of French and English linguistic minorities to an education in their language;
  • the right to live and to seek employment anywhere in Canada;
  • the right to life, liberty and security;
  • freedom of expression, religion, association and peaceful assembly;
  • democratic rights

Criminal Code of Canada

The Criminal Code of Canada is a federal statute that specifies all crimes and their corresponding punishments. The Criminal Code also delineates how those charged with crimes but not yet convicted are also dealt with when being released or held in pre-trial detention.

Correctional Legislation

All offenders serving time in a federal correctional facility are subject to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. In Section 4 of this Act, Correctional Service Canada is mandated to ensure that:

(g) correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and are responsive to the special needs of women, Aboriginal peoples, persons requiring mental health care and other groups.

Provincial and territorial jurisdictions have similar legislation mandating the provision of services that are responsive to their diverse correctional populations.

United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders

In December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (also known as the Bangkok Rules). These rules set out the first specific UN standards for the treatment of women offenders. The rules are critical in protecting the rights of women in conflict with the law, and reflect the fact that female offenders generally have different needs from men and present more complex challenges.

The Bangkok rules serve as a supplement to the SMR in relation to women offenders and highlight the issues of:

  • Vulnerability of women and their dependent children (best interests of dependent children);
  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and mothers with children in prison;
  • Personal hygiene for women prisoners such as sanitary towels, regular supply of water for the personal care of children and women, in particular women involved in cooking and those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating;
  • Medical confidentiality in relation to their reproductive health history and availability of reproductive health for women prisoners;
  • Gender-specific health-care services;
  • HIV prevention, treatment, care, support and substance abuse treatment services and programs;
  • Preventive health-care measures;
  • Juvenile female prisoners;
  • The gender-sensitive risk assessment and classification of prisoners; and
  • Foreign nationals.

193 countries (including Canada) who are members of the United Nations voted unanimously for the adoption of the Bangkok Rules thereby acknowledging that women in conflict with the law have gender specific characteristics that need to be appropriately respected and addressed.

The next section is based on a growing body of research that supports the effectiveness of correctional interventions for women in conflict with the law. Increasingly, the research is reflecting a trend for gender responsive interventions to be more effective than a standard approach in addressing the unique needs of this population. The evidence-based findings will be highlighted in support of the guiding principles, key factors and expected results within the strategy.

Research and Issues of Consideration

History of Trauma and Victimization

Research indicates that a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse is a common experience within an incarcerated population of women.Footnote 8 Women involved in the criminal justice system report high rates of traumatic experiences that include childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.Footnote 9 Given the prevalence of this victimization in an incarcerated population of women and the realities of the trauma it can induce, supervision, programming and interventions for women offenders should be trauma-informed, while underscoring the importance of the establishment of trust in their delivery. Women offenders who do not feel safe in their environment are more likely to be triggered into self-protective responses thus impacting overall reception to interventions.Footnote 10

Substance Abuse

94% of women in provincial/territorial custody present with needs related to substance abuse, while 74% of their federal counterparts are identified at intake as having substance abuse as a contributing factor to their criminality.Footnote 11 This data reflects that substance abuse is a common disorder for women offenders at the provincial, territorial, and federal levels.

There is accumulating evidence that eating disorders, major affective mood disorders (e.g. depression) and history of abuse and trauma are highly prevalent in women with substance abuse disorders. Furthermore, the outcomes of offenders with these concurrent disorders are generally poor.Footnote 12 It is common for women offenders that their substance abuse has had a significant impact on their families, friends, partners, and children. Ultimately, effective treatment of substance abuse for women must be an integrated approach that focuses on past trauma, interpersonal relationships, and skills building.Footnote 13

Socio-Economic status

Data reported by Statistics Canada for women in federal, provincial, and territorial custody indicated that they were less educated, lacked employment, and were typically younger than women in the general population.Footnote 14 Additionally, incarcerated mothers were often the primary caregivers (single parent) prior to incarceration which further impacted their socio-economic standing by increasing their challenge to secure well-paid employment outside of the home. Lacking education and meaningful employment are barriers for all offenders; however, when combined with the other areas of need for women, the impact can be amplified.

Aboriginal Women

Aboriginal offenders' disproportionate representation within the criminal justice system has received considerable attention. This over representation was formally acknowledged in 1999 when the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted the Criminal Code of Canada to mandate that judges consider the long-standing systemic disadvantages of Aboriginal peoples in making sentencing decisions. For correctional staff, a better understanding of Aboriginal social history is paramount to informing policy, and to providing effective interventions for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Women. For many Aboriginal women, the pathway into the criminal justice system involves a very complex set of circumstances including colonialism, trauma, substance abuse, violence, isolation, lack of schooling, and poverty and poor living conditions. Thus, staff working with Aboriginal women must consider these complexities and support culturally relevant interventions, programs, and services that offer access to spirituality and ceremony.

Ethno-cultural Status

An ethno-cultural offender refers to any offender who has specific needs based on race, language, culture, and/or belief system, and who has a desire to preserve cultural identity and practices. Thus, in assessing needs and risks and providing interventions to women, it is imperative to ensure that cultural interests of those belonging to ethno-cultural minority groups are identified; that these interventions, programs, and services are developed and maintained to meet those needs; and, that cultural competence is exhibited by staff. This ultimately strengthens the rapport that is developed between women and staff.

In addition to programs and interventions, culturally responsive services may also include more basic provisions such as dietary considerations, interpretation services to women who do not speak either of the official languages to assist in their understanding, and ongoing engagement with organizations that assist in building partnerships with ethno-cultural communities.

Mental Health

In the Canadian correctional system, women have greater mental health needs compared to both their male counterparts and women in the general Canadian population. A recent study of the prevalence of mental health issues among federally sentenced women found that 94% of women in the studied sample experienced symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, and 80% of the sample had a history of substance or alcohol abuse. Another study reflected that 43% of women have engaged in self-injurious behaviour, and that 75% of those who had engaged in self-injurious behaviour had attempted suicide at some point in their lifetime.Footnote 15 Provincial and territorial jurisdictions have reported similar findings further demonstrating the prevalence of self-injurious behaviours, suicide, and attempted suicide. The interaction of trauma/victimization, substance abuse, and complex mental health difficulties highlights the need for consistent and adequate interventions, programs, and services in institutions and in the community that will contribute to overall successful reintegration.

Interpersonal Relationship

A woman's involvement in crime is often impacted by relationships with partners and family members.Footnote 16 Accordingly, the development of skills around building positive, pro-social relationships is a key component to effective interventions with women involved in criminal activities. To that end, interventions must be women-centred and take into account that access to well-trained, responsive staff who understand the social/relational needs is key in order to achieve and maintain a high level of success upon release. The ongoing emphasis on dynamic security/direct supervision approaches, for example, is a significant reflection of the need for all staff to consider the relational needs of women offenders.


Many women involved in the criminal justice system not only have children, but are most often the primary caregivers. For example, a recent study reflected that three in four federally incarcerated women are also mothers to children under the age of 18, and at the time of their arrest, almost two-thirds of women offenders were single caregivers with over half reported having had experiences with child welfare agencies.Footnote 17 Being able to support their children is a significant challenge for women who are lacking in education and employment options. When men are serving sentences, the mothers are often still available to provide care for the children – the reverse is often not the case when a woman is serving a custodial sentence. Despite finding appropriate child care during a period of incarceration, a woman's children can be a strong source of motivation to desist from criminal activity. Significant gains continue to be made in ensuring that women offenders have access to their children during their incarceration, and are not further isolated. For example, access to mother-child programs and the use of video technology for communication reflect the importance of maintaining the mother-child bond.


Research reflects that women enter the correctional system with unique needs. Approaches that have been consistently used with male offenders cannot always be applied to, or are not always appropriate for women offenders.

This Strategy will highlight the nature of these differences and what they mean in terms of identifying effective evidence-based approaches for women who are supervised under federal, provincial, or territorial supervision (in custody or in the community).

It is crucial that women's needs are considered when developing policies, guidelines, and procedures. The evidence provided above has demonstrated that, in order to be effective, policies, interventions, programs, practices, and approaches with women who are involved in the correctional system need to be gender responsive and holistic. Variables to consider include past victimization, trauma, substance abuse, parenting, and mental health issues as well as the role that interpersonal relationships play in their lives.

A gender responsive and trauma-informed approach reflects a shared responsibility between the woman, the community and the criminal justice system, each acknowledging that they have a role to play and are responsible for making appropriate choices as well as providing a supportive environment. In an environment where she feels safe, a woman may be more likely to share her personal thoughts, potentially leading to a better understanding by staff. The attitudes of staff are paramount to the success of creating and maintaining a productive and supportive environment. Staff have a responsibility to model pro social, responsible behaviour. This dynamic approach enhances the safety and the security for both staff and women.

painting of an hour glass

I chose to do a painting of an hour glass and two trees to represent my journey with correctional services.

The hour glass in this painting is a symbolization of progress over time and what can be changed with time. The trees describe my transition along my journey as well as my feelings and my thoughts on my past and present life.

The dark and dying tree represents my starting point with correctional services. I once felt like the first tree appears. Sometimes lifeless and other times I felt like I was in a dark place or just simply living upside down.

Over time with my experience with correctional services, I peeled through the layers of the old me. I figured out that there is always time to change if you want to. You can create new layers in which you feel more confident and proud to be a part of. I'm proud to say I no longer feel like the lifeless tree. I am a college graduate who is seeking even more knowledge by enrolling into another course for this upcoming fall. I am also mother to an awesome son. I feel now like the second tree appears. I feel like I have changed completely and beautifully blossomed into a person with all kinds of life and color within. I'm standing tall and ready to chase my dreams, and check them off my list one by one.

The creator of the art piece submitted for the art contest for women in corrections is a woman offender from Nova Scotia

Vision Statement & Guiding Principles

Vision Statement

Women in the correctional system will have access to evidence-based gender and trauma-informed interventions, programs, and services. This will improve individual supervision and maximize public safety.

Guiding Principles

The following outlines Guiding Principles for addressing the needs of women under supervision.

  • Gender Based Analysis (GBA+) is applied in the development and implementation of policies, guidelines and/or procedures.
  • A safe and supportive environment forms the foundation for building trust and contributes to the quality of interventions, programs, and services.
  • The demonstration of respect and dignity is conducive to productive and safe interactions amongst staff and offenders.
  • Women are provided access to services irrespective of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status, family status and disability (Canadian Human Rights Act, 1977, c.33, s.11).
  • All interventions, programs and services are women-centred and address the social, economical, cultural realities of women and their unique pathways into crime.
  • A comprehensive, integrated, gender and trauma informed approach is adopted when addressing mental illnesses.
Tree has roots and grows, art piece

"The Tree has roots and grows. We were all brought up differently and came together, healing for a common good."

This collaborative piece created by seven women from British Columbia was the third place winner of the art contest for women in corrections.

Key Factors & Expected Results

a) Staff Training and Support

Staff working directly with women require ongoing support as well as learning opportunities to build knowledge, skills, and abilities to enhance their effectiveness in their interactions with women offenders.

Expected Results:

  • Staff working directly with women will receive women-centred training that provides both introductory and continuous development components.
  • Staff support, including self-care and the potential impacts of workplace mental health injuries, will be available for those working directly with women.

b) Admission/Assessment under supervision

A gender responsive and trauma informed process is used from a woman's admission and continues throughout her time under supervision. Specifically, early identification and ongoing assessment of individual risk and needs is essential for providing appropriate interventions, programs, and services.

Expected Results:

  • Assignment to/participation in appropriate and relevant programming, interventions, and services.

c) Interventions

Every interaction is an intervention and includes formal and informal learning opportunities consistent with the guiding principles of this document.

Programming and interventions for women offenders are more effective when a trauma-informed approach is applied.

Expected Results:

  • A suite of programming options are available to address the needs of women who are remanded, sentenced, and under community supervision.
  • Staff will model pro-social attitudes and behaviours in all interactions with colleagues and offenders alike.

d) Suicide and Self-Injury Prevention and Management

A comprehensive approach to the prevention and management of suicide and self-injury is essential for managing the increased risk of suicide and self-injurious behaviour among individuals in the correctional system. Early identification of risk for suicide or self-injury is important in establishing mental health treatmentFootnote 18, monitoring and support plans, as well as for placement considerations. Staff are trained to identify symptoms and factors that may indicate an elevated risk for suicide or self-injury, and to intervene appropriately.

Expected Results

  • Potential risk for suicide and self-injury is screened at intake.
  • Individuals at risk for suicide or self-injurious behaviours are referred to a mental health professional for assessment.
  • Individuals at risk for suicide or self-injurious behaviours are monitored according to their level of risk.
  • Individuals at risk for suicide or self-injurious behaviours receive mental health services in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • Individuals at risk for suicide or self-injurious behaviours are housed in safe environments that maximize interaction with staff and others, and minimize experiences of isolation.
  • Correctional staff are trained to recognize and intervene when there are verbal and behavioural cues that indicate risk for suicide and self-injury.

e) Being a Mother While Incarcerated

Despite her incarceration, a mother will be able to cultivate and maintain a positive relationship with her children through regular contact over the course of her sentence, recognizing that the safety of the child is paramount. Furthermore, as per the UN Charter, children visiting or residing in correctional facilities/institutions with their mothers will never be treated as 'incarcerated'.

Expected Results:

  • Visiting and parenting program options will offer a variety of opportunities for meaningful contact that promote stability and continuity for the mother-child relationship.
  • Ongoing risk assessments will be completed to ensure that the safety of the child will not be compromised by the nature of the contact.

f) Release/Discharge Planning

Release plans for women must be holistic in nature and engage staff and stakeholders to support successful community reintegration.

Expected Results:

  • Discharge plans will be developed prior to release and will consider the woman's basic needs and risks, including housing, identification, medication continuity, transportation, appropriate clothing and information on community supports (e.g. mental health, substance abuse, etc.), employment and education.

g) Health Services

The effective delivery of health care is realised in an environment that promotes wellness, prevents illness, and recognizes the unique physical and mental health needsFootnote 19 of women.

Expected Results:

  • Offenders are provided with health promotion and education resources and/or activities to increase their overall accountability and well-being.
  • Access to essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care is ensured throughout the continuum of care, from intake to release and in accordance with professionally accepted standards.

h) Aboriginal Women

Throughout the continuum of care in the correctional system, the social histories, culture and spirituality of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women are considered and addressed on an on-going basis.

Expected Results:

  • Programs, interventions, and services for Aboriginal women are responsive to their needs and reflective of their diverse cultures.

Staff working directly with Aboriginal women receive learning opportunities regarding Aboriginal culture, spirituality, and social history, thereby cultivating their cultural experience. Staff will then be able to integrate this knowledge into their assessments, supervision and case planning for Aboriginal women.

i) Partnerships

Partnerships developed along the continuum of care for women offenders contribute to overall reintegration success and public safety. Partnerships should be established, fostered, and maintained with a gendered and cultural lens to ensure the provision of appropriate interventions, programs, and services.

Expected Results:

  • A wide-range of geographically diverse and creative partnerships (isolated, rural, and urban communities) will be in place to support women offenders throughout their sentence.
  • Policies, guidelines, and/or procedures will outline the type of information that can be shared, the process for sharing the information, and the timeframes.

j) Infrastructure

Correctional facilities that house women are most effective when their infrastructure provides for opportunities for the women to make choices concerning their daily living needs, and prepare them for present and future responsibilities. The provision of a safe, secure, and humane environment facilitates enhanced interventions that are based on relationship building through dynamic security/direct supervision approaches, and is conducive to offender rehabilitation.

Expected Results:

  • Staff with vast experience working with women offenders will be part of project teams for new facility design and construction, as well as retrofits to ensure that the infrastructure supports the needs and risks of the women.
  • Where possible and appropriate, areas exist throughout the facility that offer opportunities for women offenders to connect and bond with their children (e.g. cohabitation, in-person visits).

k) Security

Security-based practices that adhere to trauma-informed principles optimize the creation and maintenance of a safe and secure environment.

Expected Results:

  • Security classification will include formal processes during which a number of factors will be considered and assessed.
  • Where feasible, security related policies, guidelines, and procedures to mitigate the potential of triggering self-protective responses will be reviewed in areas such as:
  • Searching;
  • Segregation;
  • Responding to emergencies/Use of force;
  • The use of restraints;
  • Escorts; and
  • Discipline
Art piece

This piece was done by a woman who was just granted day parole. She chose a multitude of art mediums to portray a "sinful woman"; as depicted in her piece on a woman cleansing the foot of Jesus. The red urn is the water; the scroll speaks of forgiveness and faith. As well, the Bible is open to a page on sinful women and the power of change and forgiveness. This Artist found both the ability to change and the power of forgiveness during her incarceration.

The creator of the art piece submitted for the art contest for women in corrections is a woman from Prince Edward Island

Priorities Moving Forward

The generation and subsequent sharing of knowledge leads to effectiveness in the application of the principles outlined in this Strategy in order to improve all jurisdictions' performance. The efforts of the Sub-committee on Females as Correctional Clients in the upcoming year will be focused primarily on:

  1. Women-centred programming including programs interventions and services offered to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women.
  2. Introductory and continuous development components of training specific for staff working with women offenders.
  3. Training supporting the well-being of staff working with women offenders.
  4. Opportunities that promote stability and continuity for the mother-child relationship.
Art piece
Art piece Art piece

Art pieces submitted by women from Quebec, Newfoundland and British Columbia for the art contest for women in corrections.

art piece depicting a rainbow

After it rains, there is often a rainbow across the sky, just above the unit behind the fence.
I stand and watch until it fades. It reminds me that there is HOPE. I made this entry to remind the women here now, and to come, that there is HOPE to reach for all the opportunities to change and grow that we are given here.

There is Hope… Just Reach for It!

My submission to the Art Contest is called, "There is Hope…Just Reach for it!" It is created with scraps of material, yarn and threads and is stitched by hand.
It represents myself standing in front of a fence that is between units. You can see the top of the other unit. This has been my view for a little over five months. Sometimes when it rains, a rainbow forms right above that unit and I watch until it fades away. It reminds me that there is HOPE.

But this doesn't just represent me. It represents all the women here and all the women to come. We all have hope. We just have to reach for the promise a rainbow represents and take advantages of the programs made available to us. We can change and we can grow and there is always, always HOPE! We can leave here better and stronger than when we came in. That is what happened to me!

I decided when I came here to the New Brunswick Women’s Correctional Centre (after I stopped crying) that I would leave here better spiritually, emotionally and physically. Thanks to the programs offered here and the support of the guards and staff, I have met my goals.

I had the opportunity to work in the garden program. I did not have a green thumb. But on the first day, I planted seeds. I watched those seeds grow and we planted them in the ground. We tilled and we worked the soil and we weeded and we watered. Now, months later, we have an herb garden from which the kitchen picks fresh herbs for our meals. We have a strawberry patch from which we will all have strawberry shortcake! We also have a huge vegetable garden that we all take pride in and have eaten from its bounty – with more to come! This has been a blessing to so many of us here. We have worked hard and had fun and feel very, very rewarded from the toil. It has meant so much to me.

I have taken advantage of the gym time offered to us and am leaving here 60lbs lighter than I arrived. This was accomplished by walking everyday – inside and outside – and by going to our gym. Our guards were always encouraging and would give us tips and pointers in the weight room.

We have the opportunity to learn new skills or foster hidden talents. I count myself very fortunate to have learned to play the guitar during my time here.

The Trades program was another opportunity to learn new skills. We build child-size picnic tables to take home with us, planter boxes for the community garden, bookshelves for our library and even the box that our herb garden rests in. Several of the ladies here plan to go into trades at the Community College upon their release. That is evidence of hope for the future and they are reaching for it.

There are so many other things I could list; General Education Development classes, Yoga classes, Chapel, Librarian duties, etc. Each and every one of them have worked together to strengthen my character and to help me grow. It is truly amazing how many opportunities we are given!

I share all of this to show that it is possible to do "Good Time". It is possible to grow and to change to turn oneself around. I stand here today with my hands lifted up as a testimony to that fact.

To the ladies here now and in the future, I say "Reach for HOPE and for all the opportunities you given here – you will never regret it!"

To the staff and correctional officers, I say "Thank you – for everything. Your support and your compassion has helped me. I will never forget it!"

Always remember, there is HOPE… just reach for it!

A woman from New Brunswick was the second place winner of the art contest for women in corrections



First Nations, Inuit or Métis.
Aboriginal Social History:
The various circumstances that have affected the lives of Aboriginal people. Considering these circumstances may result in alternate options or solutions and applies only to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit offenders (not to non-Aboriginal offenders who choose to follow the Aboriginal way of life). These circumstances include the following (note that this is not an exhaustive list):
  • effects of the residential school system
  • sixties scoop into the adoption system
  • effects of the dislocation and dispossession of Inuit people
  • family or community history of suicide
  • family or community history of substance abuse
  • family or community history of victimization
  • family or community fragmentation
  • level or lack of formal education
  • level of connectivity with family/community
  • experience in the child welfare system
  • experience with poverty
  • loss of or struggle with cultural/spiritual identity.
Cultural competence:
The ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of diverse cultures, classes, races, faiths and ethnic backgrounds in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the cultural differences and similarities, the worth of individuals, families and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.
The legal exertion of supervision, care, and management of an offender.
Dynamic security/Direct supervision:
Regular and consistent interaction with offenders and timely analysis of information and sharing through observations and communication (e.g. rapport building, training, networking, intelligence gathering and strategic analysis). Dynamic security is the action that contributes to a safe working and living environment for staff and offenders, and is a key tool in assessing an offender's adjustment and stability.
Practices or results that are developed through the combination of clinical expertise, research, theory, and established practices.
Gender Based Analysis Plus:
Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) is an analytical tool used to assess the potential impacts of policies, programs, services, and other initiatives on diverse groups of women and men, taking into account gender and other identity factors. The "plus" in the name highlights that GBA+ goes beyond gender, and includes the examination of a range of other intersecting identity factors (such as age, education, language, geography, culture and income).
Gender Responsive:
The ability to consider the demographics and histories of the women offender population in delivering interventions, programs, and services as well as recognize how their various life factors have impacted their overall patterns of offending.
The interventions approach that considers an individual's overall spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical, well-being.
An individual's or organization's concern about the rights, feelings and welfare of other people.
Self-injurious behaviour:
The intentional, direct injuring of body tissue without suicidal intent.
Self-protective responses:
For the purposes of this document, self-destructive behaviours that an offender may engage in as a response to an internal or external experience that is a reminder of one or more traumatic events.
Trauma-informed Services:
  • Take into account the impact of trauma on a woman's thinking, feelings, and behaviours.
  • Avoid triggering trauma reactions and/or re-traumatizing an individual.
  • Adjust the actions and interactions of all staff to be responsive and support each woman's coping capacity.
  • Allow survivors to manage their trauma symptoms successfully so that they are able to access, retain, and benefit from services.
The empathetic, accepting, supportive, encouraging, challenging, and non-confrontational approach used to recognize the social, political, and economic contexts of women's lives as well as their unique individual needs in relation to the world in which they live.


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