Manual Warriors of Change:Sent(enced) to School

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However, incarcerated mothers commonly face a myriad of problems when trying to see or stay in contact with their children. Given that correctional facilities can sometimes be situated far from children and family, visiting opportunities can be limited and place an economic strain on the family and caregivers of their children. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers to at least one child under the age 18, totaling to more than , children under the age 18 with mothers in jail Bloom et al.

The women experienced a variety of problems when trying to contact their children, revolving around their distance from their children, the few opportunities for visits and the difficulty of paying for phone calls. Longer visiting hours, occasional free phone calls to their children and assistance for women whose children lived far away were suggested by the women as potential solutions to their difficulties Shaw, In the current survey, the proportion of women who were mothers was even higher as Despite most mothers reporting weekly contact with family and children, approximately half had experienced problems related to trying to keep in touch.

Some women reported that they were unable to call cell phones or certain phone service providers, while others wanted to be able to pay for long distance phone calls and suggested the using of calling cards. Additionally, even with the opening of regional facilities more proximal to the women's support systems, the cost of traveling to these facilities, when they were incarcerated at locations still far from their children and families, has made visitation a near impossibility for some of the women's families.

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The women's comments about the phone system are noteworthy, as they conflict with operational realities. Currently, women are given a SMART card upon admission to their institution, onto which they can deposit money in order to pay for phone calls. While the option to call long distance using collect is available, the women can choose to use the money they have deposited onto the SMART cards to fund the calls. Cell phones are not blocked, nor are any phone service providers CSC, b. With this in mind, there may be several reasons for the discrepancy between the women's concerns and CSC policy.

This may be due to not having read the Inmate Handbook, or they may not fully understand the explanation and instructions for the SMART card system. For those who report difficulty calling cell phones or certain service providers, this is likely a problem associated with the recipient of the call and not the CSC phone system. Certain cell phones and home phones are not set up to accept long distance phones calls. Judging from the comments of some of the women, there seems to be confusion surrounding the phone system. Accordingly, one recommendation is to ensure all women are explicitly briefed on the phone system at intake, and that any questions they may have are answered.

Encouraging the women to discuss the phone system with the family and friends they hope to remain in contact with may also contribute to a smoother process. Ultimately, the value of maintaining and encouraging the bond between mother and child cannot be underestimated. Women place great value on the relationships in their lives, and evidence in the correctional literature has accumulated that the mother-child bond may be critical for successful reintegration into the community.

When strong familial ties are maintained by women offenders, research has found there to be less likelihood of recidivism Bloom et al. Indeed, one woman in the Mother-Child Program commented on how having her young child live with her at the correctional facility had given her the strength to stay away from drugs while another woman related how important it was to her to have a relationship with her child.


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Less than one quarter of the women indicated this as a method for keeping in contact with their children or family. The reasons offered were mainly that the PFVs ran irregularly and were often delayed or cancelled, mainly due to staff shortages. However, staff must also complete a number of other duties which may impact the timeliness and regularity of the PFVs.

Accordingly, as the women suggested, it may be useful to examine the possibility of assigning the role of PFV co-ordinator, or a similar position, to an interested staff member Footnote This chapter has highlighted the critical nature and impact of the interpersonal relationships of women offenders. These women present with severe histories of victimization, along with significant challenges in building and maintaining healthy and active relationships with children, family, and social support systems.


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In considering traditional criminogenic needs e. Given that many women demonstrate high levels of need in the areas of education and employment upon intake to correctional facilities Bloom et al. Education and employment can influence both pathways to crime and successful community reintegration, therefore it is important to consider how these areas impact women's lives both before and after incarceration. In this chapter, results and discussion pertaining to the women's education and employment will be presented.

They were also asked about the perceived, or actual presence of learning disabilities. Additionally examined were the women's experiences and goals relating to employment, both before and during their incarceration and their employment goals after release. Since leaving school, Most common were basic education courses in an effort to obtain their General Equivalency Diplomas GEDs and on the job training, while just over one quarter of the women went on to higher education in college or university see Table A large proportion of the women Of these women, After questioning the women about education, they were next queried about employment and were asked to indicate the various ways in which they supported themselves in the community see Table A large proportion of the women indicated they either supported themselves through a job Other means of financial support included partners, dealing drugs, and to a lesser extent, parents, prostitution or stealing.

Numbers sum to greater than as many women indicated they supported themselves financially through more than one means. However, For women with a history of unemployment, Additionally, other women reported not having paid employment as they were single mothers who stayed at home raising and caring for their children Other occupations included working in industrial jobs, in managerial or executive positions, as professionals, or on the land as hunters or trappers see Table Numbers sum to greater than as many women indicated multiple types of employment.

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The women were next questioned on the type of work they would like to do once they were released from their facility see Table Interesting results emerged when comparing the types of jobs women worked prior to incarceration and the types of employment they hoped for upon release. While nearly half the women It should be considered that this decrease could be attributed to such child care issues as not obtaining custody of children upon release, or children growing up during the women's period of incarceration, thereby not requiring to be cared for once she is released.

With regard to working in professional jobs, the proportion of women endorsing this category increased from Given the level of education mentioned by the women, it may not be feasible for some of the women who desire working in professional occupations to obtain jobs in this area upon release. Additionally, a large proportion of women indicated they wanted to work in an 'other' type of employment, including general labour jobs e.

With regard to institutional employment, For many, this work was with the maintenance department e. Others worked for institutional services in some form e. However, a large proportion of the women Others mentioned working in the library, standing on the Inmate Committee or working as receptionists.

Almost all of the women However, two women described problems relating to their pay, mainly that pay was often late or that they did not receive the full amount that they had earned. One woman was also concerned that their pay and total allowable spending money for the year had stayed the same, despite the rising costs of canteen.

A recent examination of educational and employment needs of federally incarcerated women in Canada by Delveaux, Blanchette and Wickett supports these findings. CSC considers education to be a critical component to an offender's rehabilitation; offenders who have not achieved their high school diploma have education added as a priority to their correctional plan.

Additionally, in response to the increase in jobs that require a high school diploma, CSC has raised the minimum standards of its Adult Basic Education ABE from grade 10 to grade CSC policy states that if an offender is assessed at intake as having less than grade 12, education will be added to their correctional plan.

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Footnote 22 It would appear, indeed, that many offenders are effectively using their time while incarcerated to upgrade their education, although fewer women in the current survey were attending school this may be due to the finding that fewer women in the current survey had only some high school or less, compared to the original survey. The current survey found that Similarities were also noted in the women's comments from both the original and current survey; women wanted a greater variety of courses and more one-on-one help from teachers.

CSC's commitment to providing education to its population is supported by a body of research that finds a positive relationship between education and lower recidivism rates. The connection between education, employment and recidivism becomes increasingly evident when the following is considered.

When one considers these findings, the importance of offering education to women offenders becomes evident. This could be suggestive of sporadic work histories for many women. Women in both surveys tended to report working in shop sales and as servers, as child-care providers or in manual labour jobs e. Delveaux, Blanchette and Wickett had similar findings in their Canadian study of women offenders incarcerated in federal institutions.

What is evident from the various studies mentioned are the many commonalities that still exist with regard to women offenders; mainly, lower levels of education, unstable work histories and fewer job skills. The survey highlighted the fact that women were largely dissatisfied with the types of vocational training and employment training and opportunities. Jobs available to the women were mainly described as unskilled, including cleaning, laundry and yard work. In terms of vocational training, the women voiced a desire for courses that developed skills leading to certificates and expressed interest in computing courses, electrician skills, carpentry and printing, among others.

In general, the women were concerned with developing workable training skills and wanted to see training courses related to office and business skills, computers and word processing, lab technicians, hairdressing, library work and art and design. Advanced skills were also in demand by some, in the areas of photography, drafting, printing and carpentry while others wanted to gain experience and certification in skilled trades such as catering, carpentry, mechanics and construction.

In the current survey, most women Others worked in the library, as receptionists or as tutors. A number of women Certificates and diplomas listed by the women commonly included CPR and First Aid, Smartserve, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, keyboarding and secretarial training, computer training, bilingual diplomas, hairdressing and hospitality. Interestingly, it was mentioned in both versions of the survey that the pay scales did not reflect the rising costs of canteen. These positive findings regarding women's institutional employment may be, in part, a result of the creation of the National Employment Strategy for Women Offenders NES in , in order to better respond to the employment and employability needs of women.

The overall goal of the National Employment Strategy for Women Offenders is to increase the number of practical and relevant job opportunities for women in the institutions and once in the community. The strategy incorporates the premise of a 'continuity of care' that begins by assessing their employment needs at intake and addressing them throughout their sentence, conditional release and eventual warrant expiry date.

The NES also identifies several unique populations that require additional employment measures and support; namely, women serving long sentences 10 years to life , women serving short sentences less than four years , Aboriginal women and women with mental health concerns CSC, b. Under the employment and employability program, women's employment needs and interests are identified at intake Klassen, ; CSC, b. Following assessment, they are assigned to various educational and vocational programs that will address their identified needs.

The National Employment Skills Program is one such program, consisting of 13 group sessions and individual sessions. The program targets the development or improvement of offenders' fundamental skills, personal management skills and teamwork skills. Another such program is the Social Integration Program for Women which helps women prepare for their upcoming release. The 12 sessions encourage the development of positive attitudes towards work and develops the women's skills at resume preparation, job interviews, and job searching CSC, b.

Through certified third party training opportunities, the women are encouraged to participate in training in order to develop skills and gain experience that will help them obtain employment upon release. In the year, vocational certificates were earned by women inmates, mainly in the fields of food preparation, WHMIS, construction safety, first aid, computer training, basic food safety and traffic control CSC, b.

Examples of potential work assignments include food services, facilities and ground maintenance and CORCAN enterprises i. Prior to release, the women are required to attend community transition sessions. These sessions centre on ensuring the women have access to any necessary educational and vocational programming as well as employment, by facilitating contact with CSC's Community Employment Centres e. These centres provide a variety of services, including employment assessments, counseling, job searching skills, vocational training and job placements. Ultimately, CSC believes that society and offenders are best served when they are able to reintegrate into the community in a manner that will reduce their risk of re-offending CSC, b.

For many women who lack education and job skills, the National Employment Strategy fills a much needed employment gap within women's corrections. Overall, the information outlined in this chapter suggests that CSC has made, and has the potential to continue to make, significant advancements in the area of education and employment and related interventions with women offenders.

Education and employment initiatives are critical to successful reintegration efforts for women offenders and will inevitably remain a priority for CSC. Given these changes, it was important to include areas in the current survey that would allow women to reflect on the new facilities, as well as what they felt may, or may not be working. Therefore, this chapter presents the results and discussion that pertain to the women's feedback about the institutions, including sections on their relationships with staff and other women inmates, safety and security, and accommodations e.

Nearly half the women Similarly, half the women The women also indicated that staff were usually able to understand and respond to their questions and concerns Reportedly, some staff members were there to listen to the women and help them come up with a solution to their problem while others would go out of their way to find additional solutions or answers to the women's problems if they were unable to provide them Reflecting these ideas, some positive examples stemming from the women's comments included that staff were kind, caring and respectful in nature, and that staff often reached out to provide assistance and support.

One woman suggested that a list of staff responsibilities would be helpful, allowing inmates to approach the appropriate staff person with an issue right away, avoiding the frustrating process of redirection. The women were questioned on whether they thought staff working in a women's facility should be required to complete any type of specific training. Just over half One woman wanted 'some type of program for staff that would teach them how to be consistent in their job performance and not just treat their job like a paycheque'.

Of the women who identified as Aboriginal, As part of the Creating Choices 'Vision for Change', staff working in women's facilities were to have an understanding of the issues faced by federal women offenders and undergo mandatory training that emphasized counseling, communication and negotiation skills, Aboriginal traditions, spirituality, racism and sexism Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women, Moreover, the Program Strategy for Women asserts that programs should be delivered by qualified, well-trained staff that possess the right attitude, experience and knowledge of women offenders to deliver effective correctional programs Fortin, However, some of the women in the current survey were concerned that correctional staff occasionally ran programs, without what the women viewed as proper training or attitude, and that staff turnover disrupted the flow of the program.

When asked in general whether the women saw a need for staff to undergo specific training before working in women's corrections, the current survey reported that just over half of the non-Aboriginal women and just over one quarter of the Aboriginal women indicated a need for specific staff training and skill sets. These women relayed the need for staff to possess communication and interpersonal skills, accountability, patience, respect, understanding and less judgmental attitudes. Some further specified that staff should receive more training in DBT, addiction issues and possess an understanding of women's victimization and the effects of physical and sexual abuse on the women's emotional wellbeing.

Aboriginal women who saw a need for more staff training stressed a need for staff to possess an understanding of Aboriginal culture and spiritual practices and a greater sensitivity to Aboriginal women's experiences with abuse and violence. The survey had offered similar comments from the women in terms of staff training. The women specified that staff should receive specific training in psychology, human relations and communication skills. Many women had also discussed the need for staff to be cognizant of the effects and treatment of physical and sexual abuse as well as substance abuse.

Aboriginal women indicated a need for non-Aboriginal staff to be knowledgeable about Aboriginal culture and spirituality. Evidently, the qualities women view as important in correctional staff have remained largely the same over the last twenty years. Given the high rates of trauma and victimization found in populations of incarcerated women, Covington and Bloom view trauma-informed training and services as critical in women's corrections. Trauma-informed services do not address the specific trauma; rather, they use an understanding of the impact of violence and trauma against women to address other problems in the women's lives.

Trauma-informed staff can better respond to the needs of women with histories of victimization and can more fully understand their coping strategies. Sensitivity to the long lasting effects of abuse is essential in the criminal justice system, as correctional policies e. Current national training standards for Correctional Service of Canada include the requirement that staff complete a number of general training programs within a specified timeframe following the start of their employment. For staff working within the women's institutions, in addition to the general training programs, staff must also complete the Women-Centered Training Program and several others that relate to the management of women offenders.

The Women-Centered Training Program is mandatory for all frontline staff and consists of a 10 day training course followed by a 1 day refresher course every 2 years. The objective of the program is to equip staff with knowledge of issues relevant to women offenders, practical skills in relation to setting boundaries, and the ability to strike a balance between empowering the women to make meaningful choices and their safe and secure reintegration.

Anti-harassment training and suicide prevention training are additional required courses that are relevant to the women offender population CSC, a. Nonetheless, the women indicated a need for staff to continue to receive training if they are to work in women's corrections. An understanding of the effects of victimization, improved communication and interpersonal skills, accountability, training in DBT, more patience, respect and understanding and less judgmental attitudes were areas where some women saw a need for improvement in staff training.

Given that some of these areas are indeed covered in the staff training, there may be disconnect between knowledge and actual practice of the lessons learned; what is learned must be consistently put into practice. It may be beneficial to examine CSC's National Training Standards in order to ensure that the frequency with which refresher courses are offered is in accordance with these standards.


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  • Additionally, it may be of benefit to consider the use of informal measures, such as informational brown-bag lunches, guest-speakers or workshops on topics relating to women offenders, in order to encourage ongoing training. This chapter will now shift focus from the women's relationships with institutional staff, to their relationships with each other. When all women's facilities were considered, the number of housemates ranged from one to ten, although most women indicated they lived with ten other women Footnote 24 While Nonetheless, almost three quarters of the women One woman suggested that some conflicts could perhaps be avoided if more effort was made to place compatible women together, rather than rooming women with substance abuse issues with those without, or women convicted of killing their child ren with other mothers, as another woman added.

    Although just over one quarter of the woman dealt with conflict by yelling and arguing, very few women indicated they resorted to violence. Suggestions were offered by the women as to how their relationships with the other women could be improved. Also suggested by some women were programs or workshops addressing basic living skills e.

    Roughly half of the women also attributed conflict between inmates to disagreements over personal property. An issue that was raised in the current survey by some women concerned the behaviour of some of the inmates. These inmates were described as causing conflict through aggressive, bullying behaviour and gossip. Intimidation, physical and verbal abuse were tactics used by these women in attempt to control other inmates, also using staff shortages to their advantages.

    Additionally, some women who were serving longer sentences were reported to play games with the other women, behaved abusively and attempted to run the facility. Although the survey did not inquire specifically as to the presence or experience of bullies, this issue was raised at multiple points in the women's responses. These findings are not surprising as bullying behaviour was raised as an area of concern by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons Footnote 26 , following a thorough review of Nova Institution and Grand Valley Institution in The available research examining bullying at correctional facilities, or among women offenders, has found that bullying behaviour is often verbal or relational e.

    Bullying is marked by a power differential and involves the bully asserting their power through physical or relational acts of aggression, whether direct or indirect. A single incident can be considered bullying, especially if the individual becomes fearful of future victimization. The effects of bullying on both the individual and the institution are widespread. The individual often suffers anxiety, fear and distress as bullying can have a profoundly negative impact on one's psychological wellbeing. Depending on the individual, this may exacerbate pre-existing pathology or self-harming behaviours.

    Moreover, bullying can foster an institutional culture of intimidation, aggression and fear, threaten the safety of both staff and offenders and damage the process of rehabilitation e.

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    The Creating Safer Institutional Environments Anti-Bullying Initiative aims to promote offender accountability while supporting institutions' efforts to create a safe, respectful environment CSC, n. Each institution develops their own strategy for addressing bullying behaviour while the National Initiative provides the key beliefs and essential elements that must be included in the strategy.

    The Initiative is grounded in the five principles of Creating Choices i. The SIEs meet every month and work to encourage safe, respectful environments while dealing with specific bullying concerns. Education and awareness of anti-bullying initiatives is critical, and the SIE is responsible for organizing activities that address the issues of bullying; suggested activities include informational brown-bag lunches, movie nights with follow-up discussion and workshops on healthy relationships, to name a few.

    Staff now receives training on the issue of bullying and inmates are provided with information as to what constitutes bullying behaviours, a copy of the National Initiative as well as the details on their site's specific strategy CSC, n. This initiative supports CSC's commitment to offering a safe and secure environment for both staff and offenders. As the initiative is quite new, it will be interesting to hear from staff and inmates in the future on the efficacy and impacts of their institution's initiatives.

    Rules and discipline make up a large component of the static security measures within correctional facilities. Just over three quarters Several women voiced complaints with regard to what they described as the inconsistent enforcement of the rules and discipline Footnote 27 One woman commented that while the rules were appropriate, enforcement and discipline were lax. One woman was frustrated that sharing extra food with other women led to charges of bartering and trading, which was described as overly punitive.

    Overall, fair, consistent and equal treatment with regard to rules and discipline was of great importance to the women who, for the most part, recognized in their comments that rules were necessary to the facility. When conflicts and disagreements occurred in the institution, most women attributed the problems to relationships inside the facility and frustration over lost privileges and punishments see Table One woman described how certain groups of women 'not quite gangs, not quite cliques' caused problems for other women through aggressive, bullying behaviour and gossip.

    Combative or provocative attitudes, on the part of staff, antagonized the women and incited further conflict.

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    However, not all conflict was believed by the women to be caused by factors inside the facility, as many women indicated that it was factors outside of the facility i. The women were next questioned on their experiences with the inmate grievance process and almost three quarters For the most part, those who were familiar with it viewed the grievance process as 'satisfactory' to 'below satisfactory' see Table Footnote 28 Overall, the grievance process was viewed by some of the women as a 'lengthy waste of time' that usually resulted in the denial of their grievance and 'at the very least, stigmatization by [some] staff.

    Rules and discipline are an inevitable and necessary part of the correctional system; however, the manner in which they are applied and enforced can act as stressors for the women. The staff on duty and their current mood, the particular inmate involved, the relationship between staff and inmate and the ease with which the rule can be enforced are all factors that interact to create an environment that is often anything but consistent.

    As part of the Correctional Service of Canada's strategy for women offenders, consistency is deemed to be a critical component of the overall environment of the institution. Accordingly, institutional staff must attempt to offer an environment that is 'generally predictable' Laishes, , p. The women can enjoy the benefits of consistency when rules and expectations are clear and uniformly enforced, reducing feelings of apprehension and uncertainty and promoting feelings of safety and security.

    Furthermore, a consistent environment provides a more supportive atmosphere for the women to successfully complete their treatment and programming, while providing a safe environment to practice their newly acquired skills Laishes, The inconsistent and sometimes seemingly arbitrary enforcement of rules and discipline were issues that were previously highlighted in the report. The women suggested at the time that a clear list of rules and regulations should be available to every woman on arrival. A clear understanding of the rules and regulations, as well as the accompanying reasons, would provide the women with a uniform code of behaviour while reducing arbitrary enforcement by staff Shaw, Concerns about rules and discipline in the current survey were strikingly similar to those reported in the survey.

    Many women viewed the enforcement of rules and disciplinary measures as inconsistent and sporadic, depending on the inmate s and staff member s involved. Also similar to the survey were the opinions of some women that certain behaviour should not necessarily result in punishment e. As a final suggestion from the women, a list of staff functions would allow them to approach the appropriate staff member for a specific issue or concern, avoiding being redirected from one staff member to another. Following questions regarding the women's experiences of the discipline at their facility, the survey inquired as to their experiences with the grievance process.

    For inmates who feel they have been treated unfairly or in a manner that deviates from existing legislation or policy, the Offender Complaint and Grievance Process Commissioner's Directive acts as a means of redress for the given individual. Ideally, this process allows for the identification and resolution of institutional problems, thereby creating a safer environment while encouraging offenders to address problems through official means.

    Moreover, the process supports the principle that any decision affecting an offender must adhere to the law, be of ethical nature and respectful of human rights CSC, b. The process itself is comprised of four levels: written complaints, first level grievances, second level grievances and third level grievances, with submissions being made to the first level initially before working their way up the levels.

    Normally, third level grievances, once received by the decision-maker, are addressed within 80 working days. A complaint or grievance may be rejected if it is found to be 'frivolous, vexatious, offensive or not made in good faith see Commissioner's Directive , s. In the current survey, although most women indicated they viewed the grievance process as 'satisfactory', this number was smaller than the combined number of women who viewed the process as either 'below satisfactory' or 'unsatisfactory', indicating an overall dissatisfaction from the women with regard to the process.

    Moreover, some women indicated that complaints have taken more than six months to be addressed which appears to run counter to the timeframes outlined in the policy. Another contributing factor to the long timeframes may be that, as the incarcerated population of women continues to increase, CSC must handle an ever increasing number of grievances CSC, c. There is also a small number of offenders who consistently file grievances that are considered frivolous and vexatious; these 'multiple grievers' contribute to the volume of grievances received Report of the Correctional Service of Canada Review Panel, As the results of this survey are self-reported experiences with the grievance process, it is impossible to determine if some of the women's frustrations are a result of being denied or declared a 'multiple griever'.

    Comments offered from the women were also strikingly similar; women in both surveys described the grievance process as 'a waste of time' resulting in punishment and ostracizing from staff and that, in their opinion, inmates never seemed to win. Women in both surveys expressed frustration at the length of time they wait before receiving a response, although in the survey, some women described waiting over a year while in the current survey, they described waiting more than six months.

    However, the very nature of grievances i. A more timely process and greater recognition of an offender's right to file a grievance where the grievance is legitimate without resulting stigma may help alleviate some of the concerns described by the women. Additionally, the use of more informal measures to solve conflict and disputes could be beneficial. In an effort to determine the ways in which life has changed for women serving federal sentences in Canada since the opening of the regional facilities, a series of questions were posed concerning past and present accommodation experiences.

    Even fewer women had ever spent time in the Prison for Women. In fact, only 3. Three of these women indicated that, if given the choice, they would prefer to serve their sentences at Prison for Women than at their current locations. One woman indicated she preferred her current location and another woman declined to answer. Some of the reasons offered were that there was more work, in terms of programming and jobs, at Prison for Women and that despite known difficulties and challenges, [the women] 'knew where [they] stood. The women were next questioned about various aspects of the environment at their facility, including their feelings of safety and security, their physical surroundings and the extent to which their environment was therapeutic, consistent, supportive and constructive.

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