The Correctional Service of Canada will use the data collected to create an up-to-date profile of the mental health diagnoses of female offenders. The information will be used to better meet the mental health needs of women prisoners.
“What really needs to happen for the federal government is to get a sense of how prevalent certain mental disorders are in their population of offenders,” said Lariviere.
“One group of offenders that seems to have been studied less are women who are incarcerated.”
Lariviere is a professor and vice dean in the human kinetics department at Laurentian University. He also practices clinical and correctional/forensic psychology.
The research team departs for the Nova Institution in Atlantic Canada on Sunday to kick off their research. The study should be concluded by Christmas.
The study, commissioned by the federal government, will determine the risks and needs of these offenders.
It will be beneficial to the government because they will know what to type of mental health care to provide to prisoners, said the psychologist.
Also, upon release, the prisoners will have had proper care and, as they re-enter the community, will know themselves better and be able to advocate for the services they need.
The group will travel to each federal prison in Canada that holds women to perform clinical interviews and administer psychological tests, with Lariviere as principal investigator.
Dr. Albert Gouge, Dr. Rosanna Langer, Professor Sylvie Richard, and psychometrics Julie McConnell, Marie-Lou Morin, and Marco Krempel will help Lariviere carry out the study.
Since Lariviere began his career in a management development program at Corrections Canada, this is a subject that interests him.
“I actually started all this with a correctional population, so I always keep my finger on that pulse,” he said. “I'm fairly familiar with that type of population and how difficult it can be to conduct research in those places. I think that really helped to secure the contract.”
The team put in a bid to the government to conduct the research, and was informed in July they had received the contract.
In the past, the Hanmer-born psychologist has been involved in the first Canadian inmate survey (studying male inmates) and participated in two large correctional staff surveys.
“It seems what was omitted from all these things was a look at woman offenders,” said Lariviere.
The team will be visiting seven prisons, one in Nova Scotia, two in Quebec, one in Ontario, two in the prairies and one in British Columbia.
Time spent at each prison will range from one to 10 days, depending on the number of inmates. Prisoners will volunteer to be a part of the study and undergo a written test and a lengthy diagnostic interview.
“I suspect we will find a lot of women who suffered abuse and trauma in their lives,” said Lariviere. “We know that a lot of those women have suffered with substance abuse or dependency problems.”
Lariviere said he would not be surprised to see a higher rate of depression and anxiety disorders than in the general population.
Lariviere and the team are expecting a 60 per cent volunteer turnout. With this percentage, the team leader said he is confident that the instruments and methodology chosen will result in accurate data.
A survey of male inmates revealed 53 per cent had substance abuse disorders, close to 70 per cent had alcohol abuse or dependence and almost 30 per cent suffered from depression, said Lariviere. This study was based on lifetime prevalence.
“Those are huge numbers and we do expect to find that, or more, in women,” he said.
Lariviere said he's happy his research team was chosen to conduct the research.
“It's good for Sudbury in terms of people recognizing it as a place where knowledge is created and found,” the psychologist said.