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despite accounting for nearly 5% of the general Canadian
population (Office of Correctional Investigator,
2021; Statistics Canada, 2016). Although the total number
of people in correctional facilities has been decreasing,
Indigenous women still experience higher rates of
incarceration (Zinger, 2020).
In addition, 64% of incarcerated Indigenous women
are single mothers and primary caregivers, which is
directly related to Indigenous children accounting for
48% of those in the foster care system despite making
up only 7% of all children in Canada (National Inquiry,
2019a).
These disparities between Indigenous and nonIndigenous
populations are consistent with other settler
states such as Australia, New Zealand, and the United
States. In Australia, the number of Indigenous women in
prison rose by 102% compared to an increase of 26.7%
among non-Indigenous women from 2001 to 2012 ( Jeffries
& Newbold, 2016). In New Zealand, Maori women
are overrepresented in the prison population (58%) compared
to women of European/non-Indigenous descent
(36%), yet Maori women represent only 15% of New Zealand's
general population (Burt, 2011). Maori women are
also more than 10 times more likely to receive a custodial
sentence relative to non-Indigenous women (Burt, 2011;
Norris, 2019).
In the United States the statistics are similar, particularly
in states with high numbers of Native American
people (Sawyer, 2018). For example, in South Dakota,
Native women constitute 35% of the state's female prison
population and 57% of the state's total prison population,
despite Native people making up only 9% of the
total state population (Miller, 2019). Native women in
the United States are incarcerated at six times the rate
of White women (Flanagin, 2015).
These findings indicate that Indigenous Peoples are
overrepresented in settler criminal justice systems,
which is a marker of systemic and systematic racism.
In addition to being overrepresented in the criminal justice
systems, the mental health and well-being and childcare
capacity of Indigenous women are overlooked.
More research needs to be conducted to better understand
the effects of incarceration on those women who
return to their parenting roles, housing, and employment
after incarceration.
The above findings can also be understood as being
related to differing worldviews and epistemologies,
which are the ways of being, knowing, and doing,
between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous
worldviews recognize the interconnected relationships
with humans, ourselves, and the natural world
(Cull et al., 2018). Knowledge is generated through
various means: from the land, language, dreams, stories,
relationships, and experiences (Greenwood &
Lindsay, 2019; Mashford-Pringle & Stewart, 2019;
Shawanda, 2020). As stated by Wilson (2008), an
Opaskwayak Cree scholar, Indigenous ontologies and
epistemologies share relationality as central to indigeneity,
and Indigenous axiologies are grounded in accountability
to relationships.
The criminal justice system is often punitive and a
place of discipline; it does not account for Indigenous
worldviews, allowing for connection to family, the land,
and healing.
Frequently, the Circle is used to depict interdependence,
wholism, and reciprocity in relationships
(Stevenson, 1999; Walker, 1917; Wilson, 2008). Before
colonization and still in some communities today,
Indigenous Peoples addressed harm through their wellestablished
Indigenous legal orders of healing, restitution
(restorative), and accountability (Hewitt, 2016; Ogden,
2010). For example, Healing Circles bring together people
who are experiencing hardships as a way to build
trust and respect for themselves and each other, share
and learn from common experiences, and begin the healing
journey (Stevenson, 1999).
In contrast, a Western perspective focuses on concepts
of individualism, positivism, hierarchy, and linearity
(Hogue, 2012; Smith, 1999), which manifests through
punitive structures, such as prisons, that actively inhibit
expressions of Indigenous self-determination and culture
while prioritizing colonial practices (Borrows,
2019). Although some criminal justice systems are
adding restorative justice models, the assertion of Indigenous
legal orders, decolonizing practices, and selfdetermination
is critical for true community healing and
must be widely implemented (Borrows, 2019; Hewitt,
2016). The criminal justice system must be inclusive to
all those involved to make these changes and to understand
the impact of Indigenous history that exists in colonized
countries.
Another example of contrasting worldviews is that of
health. In contrast to settler understandings of health,
Indigenous conceptualizations of health and wellness
involve the intersections of the spiritual, emotional, mental,
and physical dimensions (Cull et al., 2018). Thus,
what happens to the physical body will also impact the
spiritual and mental dimensions of the self.
Health and wellness are, unfortunately, inextricably
linked to systemic racism as a result of discriminatory,
racist, and colonial practices that set up barriers to
optimal health outcomes among racialized people. Colonialism,
upon which settler countries are founded, is
exclusionary, oppressive, and racist. Colonial countries,
like Canada, have created policies, laws, and practices
that continue to exacerbate social and economic disparities
between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people
(Aguiar & Halseth, 2015).
For example, the Indian Residential School system, the
Sixties Scoop, and the current Millennial Scoop forcibly

Journal of Correctional Health Care - April 2023

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