Breaking down the walls

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Publication Date: 
Thu, 2010-09-30

What this study shows is a system that is already unable to support those under its care. It is unlikely that building more jails will be the answer. Instead, we need to invest in alternatives that better meet the needs of criminalized women. Few women entangled in the correctional system present a danger to the community. The vast majority commit minor property offences, such as theft – attesting to the fact that women are increasingly being criminalized for their social, political, economic, and cultural marginalization. Instead of building more correctional facilities, we need to focus on community-based programming, services, support, treatment options, and early interventions for prevention. This study found that the bulk of programming in the provincial system is already being provided by community-based non-profit organizations. By investing in these organizations instead of constructing more jails, women would be able to receive more support on the inside that addressed the underlying issues that led to their criminalization and worked to impede reintegration. But it is not just about addressing issues in the current system, we also need to work towards building an alternative infrastructure where criminalized populations receive all necessary programming, services, support, and treatment in the community – not in jails.

Jennifer Bernier recently graduated with a PhD in Community Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University.  This article is based on her doctoral research which examined the incarceration and reintegration experiences of provincially sentenced women in Atlantic Canada. Jennifer is currently the Gender-based Analysis Coordinator at the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health.

Physical Health Needs of Criminalized Women and Men in the Provincial Correctional System:

The Atlantic Centre of Excellence is currently conducting a project that builds on one of the findings from the study that this article is based, which showed that provincially sentenced women suffer from a host of physical ailments and have little access to health services while in custody. The current study will survey incarcerated women and men and interview them in a group setting to learn more about the physical health status and needs of women and men in provincial jails, as well as sex and gender differences in their access to and use of health services.


For more information, visit:
Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health

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