Buffalo Sage Wellness House
Buffalo Sage Wellness House is a sixteen bed facility that houses both federally sentenced minimum security Section 81 inmates and conditionally released offenders on day parole, statutory release with residency or full parole with residency.
Buffalo Sage Wellness House (BSWH) has twelve beds designated for incarcerated women (inmates) and four beds for conditionally released offenders (day parole, statutory release with residency or full parole with residency). BSWH has eight two bedroom units with a common bathroom and common living room that they share with their roommate. BSWH is located within downtown Edmonton and is connected to NCSA’s Cunningham Place. BSWH has been in operation for over 3 years.
The effective operation of BSWH relies on the belief that Aboriginal offenders and Non-Aboriginal offenders following the Aboriginal culture require specific programs to address their social, educational, emotional, physical and spiritual needs in a culturally sensitive approach. BSWH develops the appropriate programs to assist the women offenders in recognizing their full potential for reintegration back into the community and to provide a high quality of support and supervision for our offenders by ensuring the protection of society, our offenders and their communities.
The main objective of BSWH is to assist the offenders in their reintegration back into the community and become law abiding citizens by developing solid structured release plans and the opportunity of building their credibility and stability in the community by participating in either Escorted Temporary Absences (ETAs), Unescorted Temporary Absences (UTAs) or a Work Release (WR).
Through proactive planning, we will provide culturally sensitive programs that appropriately reflect the changing needs of the Aboriginal women offender, the community and the releasing authorities. We will assist our clients to identify individual needs and develop and appropriate Correctional Plan to assist their holistic development. We will develop a structured environment that will encourage continuous healthy communication with our partners and which will assist our clients on their healing path.
We respect our traditions, diversity and have responsibilities to the future. We promote honesty, trust and fairness in all of our relationships.
The mandate of BSWH is to provide support to the residents of BSWH to the Edmonton area. BSWH accepts primarily Aboriginal female offenders. However, we are willing to accept those who respect the Aboriginal Culture and who seek to heal themselves through the programming available at the BSWH. On site programs are designed to assist women offenders to safely return to society equipped to take their roles as productive member of their communities.
The foundation of our programs is the teaching of the Elders.
Criteria for Section 81 Transfers
1. Must be minimum security.
2. Must have a low probability of escape.
3. Must have a low risk to public safety in the event of an escape.
4. Follow the Aboriginal culture by working with the Elders and participating in ceremonies.
5. Have an Elder Review on file.
6. Should be living on the pathways unit at the sending institution and if not on pathways working closely with the Elders and attending ceremonies.
7. Completed core Correctional Programming.
Independent Living Skills
Native Counselling Services of Alberta’s vision for Buffalo Sage Wellness House includes a daily routine for the residents that would consist of household chores, programs and employment training. Our goal will be to help these women secure employment and gain independent living skills they will require upon release. For this reason, NCSA does not plan to have cleaning staff at the facility; indeed we believe that learning how to become fully independent and looking after one’s own hygiene and personal space as well as the communal space of the facility will be a teaching aid and will help the women to prepare them for impending release.
Cultural and Spiritual Programs
The CSC has stated that successful reintegration for women offenders require a holistic approach that includes spirituality as a cornerstone requirement.
NCSA has a demonstrated capacity for providing consistent, high quality cultural and spiritual services for Aboriginal offenders. NCSA was a forerunner in the development and implementation of cultural services for Aboriginal offenders, as well as programs founded in an Aboriginal worldview. NCSA also has an extensive network of Elders, ceremonialists and healers throughout Edmonton, Alberta and Canada, who are the cornerstone of the effective, compassionate cultural services we provide to clients in all NCSA programs.
• Spirit of a Warrior: NCSA designed Spirit of a Warrior Program to assist Aboriginal women who are caught in the cycle of violence. The Warrior programs usually require 30 days to complete based upon a 6 hour program day. The programs are founded on the basic principles of Natural Law (caring, kindness, respect, love and self-determination), which are learned through ceremony and ritual. The Spirit of a Warrior Program is delivered by two trained facilitators, under the guidance and with the participation of an Elder.
• Grief and Loss: This program was developed to help participants learn to recover from losses in their lives. “Loss” can mean a wide variety of events in our lives, however, in this program the focus is on: loss through death, loss of freedom and loss of identity. The program will identify specific losses and provide participants with the tools and skills to begin their personal loss recovery. Participants will be given the opportunity to explore their individual needs and the experience walking through their process.
• Relationships: Relationship training is offered to BSWH residents to help them lay a solid foundation in building their relationships of any kind being parent child, husband, wife, brother, sister, employer, co-workers, or simple friendship they have built over time. It is hoped that once the residents have a clear understanding of all types of relationships, the skills will help them to focus on changing in the present for a more crime free future.
Spirituality is a key component for all women. It impacts on her outlook on life, her self-worth, her purpose, moral and ethical values and ultimately her choices. Community Chaplains and Elders provide innovative supportive initiatives on site that assist women to safely and successfully re-enter society. Circles of support ideally begin while the woman is incarcerated and continue long after the woman is released to the community. A full time Elder is here to work with these women, to provide emotional and spiritual support and to be a role model to the women as they take this major step into the community.
In addition to programming offered at BSWH, the women are required to regularly attend Sharing Circles, Sweat Ceremonies, Powwows, Round Dances, Night Lodge Ceremonies, and year-round Sun Dance Ceremonies. BSWH is in constant communication with Aboriginal communities and the events that take place so we can encourage our women to attend.
There are other programs that BSWH residents have access to through NCSA:
• Family Group Conferencing – “A Sacred Family Circle”
• Family Life Improvement Program
• Parenting Programs
• Residential School Health Support Workers