Female Offenders in Canada

A Review of Needs and Current Programs and Supports


  • Elpida Papathanasoglou University of Alberta


Background: Women’s pathways to crime commonly involve socioeconomic deprivation, physical and sexual abuse or domestic violence. In Canada, the correctional approach and practice has been developed predominantly for male offenders, who have different pathways and outcomes of crime.

Purpose: To summarize available evidence on the needs and outcomes of female offenders in Canada, including statistical evidence on the types of offenses, offenders’ unique circumstances and needs, including their physical and mental health, reproductive, sexual health and maternal needs, as well as reintegration requirements.

Methods: A narrative review based on academic literature and federal and provincial data on the criminal justice system and correctional services in Canada. My analysis is informed by the Strain Theory, Critical Criminology and Intersectionality.

Results: The most prevalent offenses of female offenders are property crimes, while violent and sexual crimes demonstrate very low rates. Age is an important factor in female property crime. Failure to attend to the specific needs of female offenders may severely impact female offenders’ human rights and chances of reintegration. Despite recent bills and efforts to improve the conditions of female inmates, a number of systemic flaws persist and critical needs of women remain unmet.

Conclusion: There is a critical lack of programs addressing the needs of criminalized women, especially for Indigenous and BIPOC women. A radical reconceptualization and reconfiguration of the criminal justice system is needed in order to prevent infringements of female offenders’ rights.

Top half is the painting The Examination of a Witch by T.H. Matteson. It depicts people, supposedly 1600s American colonists in Salem, in various states of uproar as they accuse the central figure, a young girl of witchcraft in a trial. The girl is holding her dress to her chest as her back is examined for signs of witchraft. In the upper left hand corner is SUSA, INVOKE VOLUME 8. Below the painting reads the title: Women in law Examining Women on different sides of justice, as well as additional topics of international fascism.