In this chapter of Jane Barker’s “Women and the Criminal Justice System: A Canadian Perspective”, we examine the theory and research that form the basis of effective correctional practice. Canada is a world leader in this area, having developed a model that emphasizes the importance of accurately assessing an offender’s risk, identifying appropriate treatment needs, and providing effective treatment specifically suited to each offender.
Assessment is central to this model, and therefore it is important to understand how assessments are carried out: the type of information used, how it is collected, and how it is combined to help decision-makers. After an initial assessment has been completed, an offender is placed into a correctional unit according to their security level and personal needs and offered treatment services. To be effective, treatment must be responsive to an offender’s needs and personal characteristics.
To promote successful community reintegration, preparatory programs are offered to women before they leave prison. These programs are followed by support and supervision when the woman is living in the community.
Throughout this chapter, we consider how assessment and treatment practices suit women in particular. Being “too few to count” (Adelburg & Currie, 1987) has meant that female offenders have less often been the focus of correctional research than male offenders. As a result, some of the assessment measures and treatment programs currently in use were developed for male offenders and then adapted to female offenders. In the last decade, we have seen the implementation of gender-specific assessments and treatment services. These are the result of an increase in new studies focused on female offenders.