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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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The Cross Gender Monitoring Project
3rd and Final Annual Report

(i) Cross Gender Staffing Policies and Guidelines

Guidelines developed by the Deputy Commissioner of Women Offenders entitled "CSC Women's Institutions and Maximum Security Units: National Operating Protocol - Front Line Staffing" have evolved since the inception of this Monitoring Project. Attached are the latest guidelines. (see Appendix B). The August 1998 document relates the need for the development of such a protocol to the Arbour Commission recommendations in the context of men having the legal right to compete for positions at women's facilities. The protocol establishes a mutual responsibility on the part of staff and inmates for creating an environment of respect and dignity. It states that staff and inmates must be informed about the National Protocol.

A number of specific operational practices are outlined, including:

  • all front-line staff, men and women, will announce their entry into a living unit/house except during the institution's quiet/curfew hours;
  • For formal counts, it is the responsibility of the inmate to be in a place where her presence can be easily verified, and for informal counts, if an inmate is in the bathroom, she will be given time to cover herself so that a visual check can be done;
  • Men staff must be paired with women staff for all patrols/entries into the houses or any room in a house or living unit after curfew until at least 6 a.m. each day. This procedure is not mandatory in the event of an emergency;
  • Men contract and maintenance staff will be escorted by a woman staff or woman Commissionaire whenever they are to work in a house or living unit, unless no women inmates are in the house/living unit;
  • Men front-line staff will not be assigned to monitor women inmates in camera cells; and
  • Frisk searches (pat downs) shall always be carried out by women staff; and
  • Strip searches must be conducted, witnessed and videotaped only by women staff.

The policy addresses voluntary nudity, health care staff, and program staff. In the latter case, the Protocol states that where a program deliverer is a man, the program room door should either have a window or the door should remain open to allow for periodic observation/monitoring. The protocol also stipulates that where an escort requires that the inmate be within sight and sound of the escorting officer at all times, men shall not be the sole escorting officers. For escorts within the institution, men staff should not be the sole escorting officers if the escort is through areas not generally observable.

As noted in the previous section there were considerable comments on these guidelines, some forming a consensus, some including a wide spectrum of views.

With the recent decision to build maximum security Units within the regional institutions, in order to remove maximum security inmates from their present location in men's institutions, there have been concerns expressed about the likelihood that more male Primary Workers will be hired. It was recently reported that there are more men successfully competing for PW positions. The general consensus among those responsible for the rostering of Primary Workers is that, with the likely increase in the number of male Primary Workers, difficulties created by the restrictions on males will also increase.

Male Primary Workers, for their part, almost unanimously object to the Protocol and view it as an attack on their professionalism. They express feelings of extreme dissatisfaction and feel "undervalued". Many have post-secondary education and degrees in Criminology and other social sciences and do not support the distinction made between themselves and male health professionals, for instance, who for the most part are perceived to operate with no restrictions. Although most PWs are sensitive to the potential for abuse inherent in their positions, they agree to being paired after curfew as a safety measure for themselves against false allegations. Many have expressed feelings that they are being discriminated against because of their gender.

It is now the working practice in at least one institution that two men conduct rounds together during the daytime hours. The Protocol only addresses restrictions in the evening and night shifts. In at least one institution, male Primary Workers do conduct rounds by themselves during the day. It should be noted that the Arbour Commssion recommended that male front-line staff be paired at all times when patrolling living units. One Duty Officer recently interviewed expressed dissatisfaction with the "wishy-washy" Protocol and explained that, with an expected increase in male PWs, she is in the position of not knowing how to assign male PWs under the present restrictions of the Protocol. This situation is leading to low morale among all PWs and anger at the restrictions. One solution according to this respondent is to remove men altogether from FSW facilities or remove some of the restrictions to make them operationally easier to manage.

Throughout FSW facilities where male PWs are employed, our interview findings indicate widespread violations including: not announcing, not ensuring that maintenance staff are accompanied by female staff, pressure on male PWs to do single non-security escorts, male PWs not pairing with female PWs at night or splitting up when they enter a housing unit and males being part of Cell Extraction Teams during planned emergency responses. The number of privacy violations has also increased since last year. These violations include staff not providing enough time for an inmate to cover herself before entering a room or bathroom and inmates not being aware of a male in the Unit due to not announcing and thus being confronted when not properly clothed.

Statistics were obtained from CSC on the numbers of male and female Primary Workers in the regional institutions. As the Edmonton Institution for Women has an exclusion order and the Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge has never employed a male Primary Worker or "Older Brother", they are not included in the following Table. Also, 1998 is not included, as statistics for that year were not gathered. Figures for maximum security Units in men's prisons are similarly not available.

Table 16 - Cross Gender Staffing in Regional FSW Institutions

Place

1996

1997

1999

2000

 

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Joliette

4

20

4

25

6

25

4

24

Grand Valley

3

21

5

24

5

26

6

30

Nova

3

18

5

17

4

18

4

16

Prison for Women    

1

16

3

42

*

*

* not available and now closed.

In 1996 when the regional institutions were just opening, the percentage of male Primary Workers was 16%. In 1997, it was 21%, 21.7% in 1999, and 20% in 2000 without statistics for the Prison for Women which only recently began employing male front line staff. It is anticipated that the percentage will rise once maximum security Units are added. This is based on anecdotal evidence and the fact that, through the competition process and the application of the merit principle, more men will qualify to be Primary Workers. One manager indicated her deep concern that wthout some kind of quota system, male PWs will make up the majority of PWs within a short period of time given the increasing number of PW vacancies.

It should be noted that the recommendation we advanced in our Second Annual Report concerning the need for a 20% quota on male front-line staff has not been implemented due to difficulties inherent in its application. CSC officials have informed us that the notion of quotas is very complicated and requires internal discussion and interdepartmental negotiation.

A final consideration brought to our attention is the suggestion that certain contract positions should be staffed on a female exclusive basis, such as recreation/leisure activity staff, due to their close and unsupervised proximity to female inmates.