location: news

April 21, 2003


Ottawa, 8 April 2003 - In her Report tabled in the House of Commons on April 8, 2003, the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, says that over the last 12 years Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has made significant improvements in the conditions of incarceration for women offenders; however, there are still critical areas that need to be addressed.

In 1990, the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women provided the foundation for changing how women are incarcerated and rehabilitated. CSC met many challenges at a time when the number of women offenders was increasing significantly. It closed the Kingston Prison for Women and replaced it with five new regional facilities. It also developed a number of rehabilitation programs designed specifically for women.

However, improvements in other areas are still needed. The tools used to assess women offenders initially when they enter the correctional institution have not been tested to ensure that they are applied in a consistent and predictable way. This testing is necessary to ensure that the right decisions are made about the offender’s level of security and rehabilitation plan—decisions that are critical, as they determine an offender’s access to programs and exposure to the community. Both of these factors contribute to successful rehabilitation.

“Ensuring that the assessment tools are used properly is essential to giving women offenders every possible chance for successful rehabilitation,” Ms. Fraser said. “Helping them rebuild their lives can help reduce crime and the social costs it entails.”

Women offenders do not always receive their rehabilitation programs on time while incarcerated. Even though substance abuse is one of the most common problems of women offenders, Correctional Service has not yet implemented a sufficiently comprehensive substance abuse program tailored to women’s needs. There are few meaningful work opportunities for women while they are incarcerated, an essential element in their preparation for reintegration into the community. In addition, CSC needs to increase the use of temporary absences and work releases for offenders, and special release provisions for Aboriginal women—all important in helping women maintain positive contacts in the community.

Finally, CSC should pay more attention to the needs of women released on parole in the community. In particular, timely access to mental health programs and substance abuse programs are key in helping women through their reintegration.

“The Task Force and its overall strategy ‘Creating Choices’ is more than a decade old. Now would be a good time for Correctional Service to update its objectives and priorities for the future effective reintegration of women offenders,” concluded the Auditor General.

The chapter “Correctional Service Canada—Reintegration of Women Offenders” is available by clicking here .

Michael Jackson