The Correctional Service of Canada completed its review of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women in 1991. It gave its support to eight recommendations aimed at improving conditions at the Prison for Women and began implementing them. The recommendations included:
Since the Task Force for Federally Sentenced Women presented their report, in addition to P4W in Kingston, federally sentenced women are housed at five small regional facilities, including a Healing Lodge where Aboriginal women could serve all or a part of their sentence. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a treatment facility located in the Cypress Hills on Nanakeet reserve land in the province of Saskatchewan, which focusses on traditional Aboriginal teachings and culture in its healing program. The innovative approaches taken at Okimaw Ohci mirror the above mentioned Task Force recommendations: Aboriginal elders are available to the women 24 hours a day, talking circles are employed to mediate conflicts, cultural awareness is emphasized, mothers and children may share living quarters, and community participation is encouraged (Green, 1997).
In addition to Okimaw Ohci, there are four other new federal institutions for women, the Edmonton Institution for Women (EIFW), the Nova Scotia Institute for Women, located in Truro, Nova Scotia, the Joliette Institution in Québec, and the Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVI) in Ontario. These facilities house minimum and medium security federal inmates in comfortable living units unlike most prison environments. The principles on which these institutions were founded are personal empowerment, shared responsibility, and the respect and dignity of inmates. In three of the five women's prisons (Okimaw Ohci, Nova Scotia Institute for Women and the Grand Valley Institution) mother-child programs are in place which allow mothers to reside with their children if certain criteria are met.
While the new institutions for women have, to a certain extent, addressed many of the hardships experienced by female federally sentenced inmates (particularly geographic isolation from families and loved ones and separation from their children), more needs to be done to reduce the potentially damaging effects of incarceration on women. Currently, if a female offender considered to be a maximum security risk, she is held in a women's unit located in either P4W, the Saskatchewan Penitentiary (Sask-Pen), the Regional Treatment Centre in Ontario, the Regional Reception Centre in Québec, or the Springhill Institution in the Maritimes (Stableforth, 1997). Sometimes these women are classified as maximum security not because they pose a significant threat of violent behaviour or escape, but because they have just begun their sentences for serious offences or they have been sent to maximum security from a lower security facility for infractions of institutional rules. After some time in a maximum security facility, these offenders "cascade" downward to medium and then minimum security facilities before they are released back into the community.
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