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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections



CSC Action Plan Update – March 2006

Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston,
The Honourable Louise Arbour, Commissioner

April 1996

Arbour Recommendations
With respect to cross-gender staffing, I recommend:  
5(a) that at least one federal institution be staffed with no men working in the living units, or that agreements be made with one or more provincial facilities where the living units are staffed exclusively by female Correctional Officers, for the placement of federally sentenced women. Inmates’ desire to be housed in such facilities should be taken into account in their placement; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

CSC applied for, and received, a three-year exclusion order effective January 1, 1997, to enable the Service to hire only front line staff (Primary Workers) at Edmonton Institution for Women (EIFW). During the three-year period, there was extensive consultation which indicated that the majority of stakeholders supported having male front line staff in the women’s institutions. The Canadian Human Rights Commission also supported this position. Based on their human rights analysis, using the three-part test, they concluded that “the Correctional Service of Canada must vigorously pursue other alternatives before impairing the employment rights of men in such a fashion (p. 43).

As of February 2006, 18.5% of the front line staff (Primary Workers) at all women’s institutions are men; 81.5% are women. Generally, the proportion has been relatively consistent since the women’s institutions opened. The exception is at Edmonton Institution for Women, where there is a higher proportion of women in front line positions (86.4% are women; 13.6% are men), given the exclusion order that was in place at that site for several years. As well, at Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge and the women’s unit at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (Prairies), all front line positions are currently staffed with women.

5(b) that explicit protocols be drafted in each institution in which male staff will have access to the living units, to ensure that
male front line workers are always paired with female line workers when patrolling living units;
that male staff be restricted from patrolling living units at night; and
that male staff be required to announce their presence on a living unit or at an individual’s cell or bedroom;

Institutional protocols were replaced with a comprehensive national document entitled the National Operational Protocol – Front Line Staffing in 1998. The Protocol set out the framework for cross-gender staffing operational practices. In accordance with the Action Plan in response to the Canadian Human Rights Commission Report, the Protocol has been converted into a corporate policy document, Commissioner’s Directive 577 – Operational Requirements for Cross Gender Staffing in Women Offender Institutions, promulgated in March 2006.

CSC is committed to establishing an environment and operational practices which respect the privacy of women offenders to the extent possible in an institutional context. However, continuous pairing of men and women front line staff and restrictions for men staff from patrolling at night are not operationally feasible. To address this, CD 577 retained, from the National Operational Protocol, the requirement that men front line staff be paired with women staff from the time of “lights out” to 0700. The new CD also requires all staff, men and women, to announce their presence upon entering a living unit.

5(c) that all federal institutions be designed in such a way as to ensure privacy for inmates while using washrooms, dressing and undressing; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

All women offender housing units are designed to protect the privacy of the women.

5(d) that the design of the existing or proposed enhanced unit in each of the new facilities be such as to provide modesty barriers for inmates kept under close monitoring; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Men staff are not assigned to 24‑hour monitored cells. All monitored cells have privacy screens in place.

5(e) that the sexual harassment policy of the Correctional Service be extended to apply to inmates. ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE. (COMPLETE)

The Service is committed to providing a workplace that is free of harassment and discriminatory behaviour.

Section 70 of the CCRA provides that CSC shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that penitentiaries are safe, healthy and free of practices that undermine a person’s sense of personal dignity.

CSC has an anti-harassment policy which covers all types of harassment, including sexual harassment. The anti-harassment policy applies to offenders. In March 2003, CSC released a policy bulletin on harassment, which clarifies the Service’s policies and redress procedures pertaining to harassment. An additional policy clarification (Policy Bulletin 186) was issued on January 27, 2005, that specifically outlines the process for addressing offenders’ allegations of harassment. These instructions ensure that offenders are protected by the same procedural safeguards outlined in the Treasury Board Policy and in CSC’s Guiding Principles on Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace.

5(f) that a woman be appointed to monitor and report annually, for the next three years following the opening of each new regional facility, to the Deputy Commissioner for Women, on the implementation of the cross-gender staffing policy in the living units of the new institutions, and on related issues, including the effectiveness of the extension of the sexual harassment policy to the protection of inmates; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Following an open tendering process, the Cross-Gender Staffing Monitor was appointed in January 1998. As per this recommendation, the Monitor’s review included the effectiveness of the extension of the sexual harassment policy to the protection of offenders. The three annual reports of the Cross-Gender Monitoring Project, together with CSC’s Response to the Third and Final Report, are posted on the CSC website under the Women Offender Sector publications.

5(g) that the Monitor be a person independent from the Correctional Service; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The Monitor was independent of CSC. Contractual provisions protected the independence of the Monitor’s work and annual reports.

5(h) that the Monitor have access to inmates and staff on a confidential basis, and that her mandate be to assess the system, rather than the individuals, and to make recommendations accordingly; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The Monitoring Project included on-site visits. Offenders, staff and volunteers were advised by both CSC and the Monitor that their participation was voluntary and confidential. The Reports did not identify individual names and provisions were made by the Monitor to protect personal information during the collection and collation of data. The stated objectives of the Monitoring Project specified that their mandate was to:

  • to assess the systematic impact of cross gender staffing, especially on inmates and staff, in federally sentenced women's facilities across the country;
  • to identify operational and policy issues; and
  • to forward appropriate recommendations to the Deputy Commissioner for Women, Correctional Service Canada.
5(i) that the annual report of the Monitor be made public, along with a description of any corrective measure taken by the Correctional Service to redress problems that she might have identified; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The First and Second Annual Reports and the Response of the Correctional Service of Canada to the Third and Final Report are posted on the CSC website under the Women Offender Sector publications.

5(j) that the Deputy Commissioner for Women be required, after three years, to provide recommendations to the Commissioner as to the desirability of continuing the cross-gender staffing policy of the Correctional Service in light of the reports of the Monitor, and to put forward alternative options, if need be. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

CSC’s decision to maintain cross-gender staffing is contained in the Response of the Correctional Service of Canada to the Third and Final Report which is posted on the CSC website under Women Offender Sector publications. The Response was released on February 17, 2005. The delay in releasing CSC’s response was explained in the accompanying News Release:

“CSC received the Cross-Gender Monitor’s report at the same time as the CHRC began its review into women’s corrections. Given that the CHRC had identified cross-gender staffing as one of the issues to be examined, CSC decided to await its findings prior to responding to the Cross-Gender Monitor. The responses are therefore being released simultaneously.”

With respect to use of force and use of IERT’s, I recommend:  
6(a) that male IERT’s not be deployed again in an institution for women; ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE. (COMPLETE)

Concurrent to the Arbour hearings (August to November  1995), CSC was in the process of making policy changes to preclude male Institutional Emergency Response Team (ERT) members from being deployed as a first response in a women’s institution.

In late 1995, the Prison for Women established a women-only ERT for emergency response. In 1996-97, both CSC's Use of Force policy and the National Operational Protocol – Front Line Staffing ("cross gender protocol") indicated that in a situation that potentially could require the use of force, the plan for first response must be by a women-only team.

There could be situations (albeit rare) where male ERT members, male staff from the institution, the police or military may be required to assist in a situation in designated capacities such as support and back-up, isolation and containment. These latter issues are addressed both in policy and in institutional Contingency Plans. Refer to Commissioner’s Directive 600, Management of Emergencies, paragraph 25 (

Since opening, the regional women’s institutions have had either an institutional or a regional (Nova) women-only ERT. In further policy reviews, the statement about the first response remained in the Protocol and was contained in the security-related policies. Refer to Commissioner’s Directive 577, Operational Requirements for Cross-Gender Staffing in Women Offender Institutions, paragraph 30, Commissioner’s Directive 600, Management of Emergencies, paragraphs 24-26, and Commissioner’s Directive 566, Prevention of Security Incidents., paragraph 10. These are available on the CSC website

6(b) that the Correctional Service proposed policy with respect to crisis intervention, which includes non-violent crisis intervention techniques, be implemented in all the new facilities; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

At the time the women's institutions were opening in 1995, a training course from the U.S. called Non-Violent Crisis Intervention was introduced. Since that time, the standalone course is no longer used as various non-violent crisis intervention techniques have been integrated into national policy and associated staff training.

Much of the current Situation Management Model, as well as the overall focus of Commissioner's Directive 567, Management of Emergencies is based on proposed policy presented by CSC during the policy phase of the Arbour Commission hearings. A draft Standard Operating Practice, "Intervention and Use of Force–Women’s Institutions" was shared with the Commission but was not promulgated in that form in CSC. CSC determined that there should be one policy that clarifies differences for men and women offenders, rather than having two distinct policies on use of force; other direction was incorporated into various security policies.

Commissioner's Directive 567‑1, Use of Force (refer to paragraphs 7‑9) has been modified to ensure use of force is consistent with the Situation Management Model (outlined in Commissioner's Directive 567, Management of Security Incidents). The principles outlined in Commissioner's Directive 567 and the Situation Management Model encourage peaceful resolution of incidents using verbal intervention and negotiation whenever possible as well as allowing the ERT to step back and re-assess situations should an offender’s behaviour become compliant or non-compliant as the case may be.

Commissioner's Directive 567, Management of Security Incidents (paragraphs 25‑26) provides extensive details of the Situation Management Model and on intervention methods including adjusting interventions based on inmate compliance.

As well, Policy Bulletin 140 was issued in 2002 to modify paragraph 35 of Commissioner's Directive 600, Management of Emergencies. It clarifies the authority for use of force versus negotiation strategies.

6(c) that should there be any IERT’s in the regional facilities, whether developed and trained along the Burnaby Correctional Centre model or otherwise, they be composed exclusively of female staff; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Refer to Recommendation 6 (a).

6(d) that, to the extent that local police forces, the RCMP, or any other security organization may be expected to play a role in maintaining security or restoring order in a women’s correctional facility, protocols or memoranda of understanding be entered into with such organizations to ensure that the persons required to apply force to women, particularly to search them, be apprised specifically of the limit of their authority; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Commissioner's Directive 600, Management of Emergencies, paragraph 25, is clear that the role of men participating in the response at a women’s institution shall be limited to support and back-up, isolation and containment. All institutions have a Memorandum of Understanding with their local police forces regarding their roles and responsibilities should they be asked to assist in emergency response at a women’s institution. These agreements are regularly reviewed.

6(e) that the Correctional Service of Canada acknowledge that the following is a correct interpretation of the existing law, or that it seek modification of the existing law to accord with the following:
men may not strip search women. The only exception is where the delay in locating women to conduct the search would be dangerous to human life or safety, or might result in the loss of evidence. No man may witness the strip search of a woman, except as above;

CSC policy does not permit men staff to conduct strip searches of women offenders. This goes further than what is under the CCRA and in the Arbour Report’s recommendation, which allow men to strip search women in some emergency situations. CSC has also included in policy that men staff are not permitted to frisk search women offenders. Refer to Commissioner’s Directive 566‑7, Searching of Inmates, paragraph 11 and Commissioner’s Directive 577, Operational Requirements for Cross-Gender Staffing in Women Offender Institutions, paragraphs 18‑21.

CSC, through the office of the Deputy Commissioner for Women, reviews all use of force videotapes and there have been no breaches of this policy requirement.

6(f) that inmates be given the right to counsel before expressing their consent to a body cavity search, and that inmates be advised of that right at the time their consent is sought; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

CSC’s policy was changed following this recommendation to address an offender’s right to legal counsel before consenting to a body cavity search and in terms of advising offenders of that right.

CSC’s Search Authorization–Inmate Search form indicates the requirement to provide an opportunity to communicate with legal counsel. The form includes a declaration section to ensure written documentation that the offender has been informed of the reasons for the search, has been provided with reasonable opportunity to obtain and instruct legal counsel without delay and has consented to the search. The offender’s signature must be witnessed. The same form also records the reason for the search and the Warden’s authorizing signature. The institution must also complete a Post-Search Report (CSC Form 2013) for each body cavity search conducted.

There has been one incident that occurred, in October 2003, in which a woman offender consented to a body cavity search, however, timely access to legal counsel was not provided prior to obtaining her consent. This case was the subject of legal action and a decision was rendered in January 2006 in favour of the plaintiff/woman offender. The decision of the court was that the consent was induced and that excessive measures were taken in this case with regard to dry cell procedures given that a body cavity search had already been conducted on the woman offender. Following the January 2006 court decision, CSC has further strengthened its policy regarding body cavity searches to address the issues raised in this case.

6(g) that body cavity searches only be performed in surroundings that are appropriate for consensual, non-emergency medical examination or intervention; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

The Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations, Section 46, stipulates that a body cavity search "shall be carried out in a private area…”. There have been no body cavity searches of women offenders in the past 2 1⁄2 years.

6(h) that a body cavity search be performed only by a female physician, if the inmate so requests, and that the physician ensure, to her satisfaction, that the consent was not obtained as a result of inducement or coercion; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Body cavity searches must be performed by a qualified medical professional and no body cavity search may be performed without the consent of the inmate as per the CCRA Section 52. This paragraph is also cited in paragraph 15 of Commissioner's Directive 566‑7 Searching of Inmates.

In the event that only a male physician is available, the inmate may refuse to consent to the body cavity search; the inmate's consent is always required in order to perform the search.

6(i) that body cavity searches and strip searches performed in contravention of these recommendations be treated as having rendered the conditions of imprisonment harsher than that contemplated by the sentence, for the purposes of the remedies contemplated in the recommendation dealing with sanctions (see recommendation 8(b) and (c)). REFERRED TO DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

Refer to Recommendation 8 (a) and (b).