Commissioner's Directive 577
Staff Protocol in Women Offender Institutions

Commissioner's Directive

Number: 577

In Effect: 2019-07-22

Related links

Policy Bulletin 637



To ensure that the dignity and privacy of incarcerated women, hereinafter referred to as “inmates”, are respected to the fullest extent possible consistent with safety and security

To ensure the presence of men in the workplace does not expose staff or inmates to vulnerable situations


Applies to staff working with female inmates

Operational requirements for staff working in women offender institutions are established according to the applicable Commissioner’s Directives. Clarifications or additional requirements pertaining to staff working with female inmates are provided in this Commissioner’s Directive



  1. A reasonable degree of privacy is essential for human dignity. Protection of privacy interests is a mutual responsibility of all staff members, contractors, volunteers, and inmates.
  2. The Institutional Head will ensure that:
    1. any allegation of harassment or sexual misconduct  is immediately reviewed to determine how to proceed. As soon as possible, the Institutional Head must inform the Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Institutional Operations, who is responsible for informing the Regional Deputy Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Women of the allegations
    2. any allegation of sexual misconduct is referred to the local police force of jurisdiction, without delay, for review and investigation.
    3. all staff members, contractors and volunteers are aware of their responsibilities with respect to men working with female inmates
    4. a reference to this policy is included in the Inmate Handbook and that the Handbook emphasizes inmates’ responsibility for conducting themselves appropriately with all staff
    5. during the orientation and intake assessment process, newly admitted inmates receive a copy of this Commissioner’s Directive and have an opportunity to have questions addressed
    6. the Inmate Handbook emphasizes that inmates are encouraged to bring privacy issues to the attention of institutional management (for example, by speaking to a staff member, or through the offender complaints and grievance process, the Inmate Committee, the Office of the Correctional Investigator or the Canadian Human Rights Commission)
    7. the institution’s Emergency Response Team is comprised of women only
    8. any relevant issue not covered in this policy is brought to the attention of the Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Institutional Operations, who is responsible for informing the Regional Deputy Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Women
  3. All staff must be sensitive to dignity and privacy issues and to situations that could:
    1. be perceived as or have the potential to lead to allegations of inappropriate conduct and/or
    2. lead to either staff and/or inmates being vulnerable to false allegations of harassment or other impropriety
    3. Staff and managers who are aware of, or made aware of, a situation involving an allegation of inappropriate conduct towards an inmate must take immediate action as identified in CD 060 – Code of Discipline and Policy Bulletin 186 – Harassment.


    Security Patrols

    1. After curfew (or 2300 hours, whichever is earlier), until at least 0700 hours:
      1. all male staff will be paired with female staff for all security patrols in the living units and remain in sight of the female staff member
      2. all male staff will be within sight of a female staff (camera or direct observation) at all times when conducting security patrols in the secure unit or the Structured Intervention Unit
      3. female staff, when paired with male staff, will proceed first to avoid situations where the inmates’ privacy and dignity could be compromised
    2. Except during curfew hours, all staff will announce their entry into the living units, secure unit ranges and Structured Intervention Unit ranges to avoid potential exposure to nudity or other situations where the inmates’ privacy and dignity could be compromised.
    3. In the event of an emergency (e.g. a distress call from an inmate in a living unit), if the first response is by male staff, female staff will be deployed to assist as quickly as possible.

    Cells Equipped With Cameras

    1. Only female staff will monitor inmates under camera surveillance.  Monitor screens will be situated in posts in such a way as to ensure the inmates’ privacy.

    Searches and Decontamination Showers

    1. Non-intrusive searches and searches of institutional areas may be conducted by both male and female staff.
    2. Frisk searches will be conducted by female staff only.  A frisk search may be conducted in the presence of a male staff member.
    3. Strip searches will be conducted, witnessed and video-recorded by female staff only. Whether routine or non-routine, strip searches will be conducted in a private area, out of sight of others, by one female staff member and in the presence of one female staff witness. (CD 566‑7 – Searching of Inmates)
    4. Decontamination showers will be witnessed and video-recorded by female staff only.
    5. The privacy of inmates must be respected during the recording of strip searches and decontamination showers. Male staff must remain out of the vicinity and sight lines when a strip search or decontamination shower is taking place.

    Health Services

    1. Physical and mental health professionals will be deployed consistent with community health care standards and may intervene according to their professional function, regardless of their sex.  


    1. Subject to the criteria for effective program facilitators outlined in the Program Strategy for Women Offenders, programs may be delivered by qualified men or women.
    2. In programs where there are gender sensitive components (e.g. survivors, abuse or trauma issues), female facilitators are preferred.
    3. For vocational programs, other programs or employment where the supervisor is a man, the area shall be included in security patrols.

    Security and Non-Security Escorts

    1. An escort may be conducted by a man or a woman in accordance with CD 566-5 – Non-Security Escorts and CD 566-6 – Security Escorts. Due consideration will be given to the following factors prior to assigning a male escort:
      1. the nature of the escort
      2. whether the inmate is comfortable being escorted by a male
      3. whether the man is comfortable conducting the escort

    Work Within a Living Unit

    1. Any person who has not received Women-Centred Training and who is required to work in a living unit will be escorted by a staff member who has received Women-Centred Training. No escort is required if there are no inmates in the unit while the person is working.

    Management of Emergencies and Security Incidents

    1. When immediate intervention is required during an emergency or a security incident, all staff, regardless of their sex, may use the appropriate level of intervention, consistent with the Engagement and Intervention Model, to control and restrain an inmate.
    2. If the first response is by male staff, female staff will be deployed to assist as quickly as possible.
    3. Male staff may intervene as well as video-record any spontaneous response to an incident. If, however, a strip search and/or decontamination shower is required, the male staff members must be relieved by female staff members prior to the commencement of these activities, as per paragraphs 16, 17 and 18.
    4. Any planned use of force response to an incident will involve female staff only.
    5. In responding to a medical emergency, the primary goal is the preservation of life and all staff, regardless of their sex, must act to preserve life.

    Voluntary Nudity

    1. In cases of voluntary nudity, male staff may intervene only where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate risk of harm to the inmate, other inmates or staff.  As soon as possible, staff will issue direction to the inmate to cover themself and/or give the inmate a blanket and/or security gown.
    2. In cases of voluntary nudity where the inmate is non-compliant with verbal direction to clothe themself and there is no immediate risk of harm to themself, to staff or to other inmates, male staff must remove themselves from the area as soon as the safety of staff, the inmate and other inmates is assured.

    Immediate Risk of Harm

    1. In addition to the inmate’s past history, their actions/behaviours and the situational context must be assessed to determine the immediate risk of harm. Some examples of such contextual factors include:
      1. the inmate has a weapon with which they are threatening to self-injure
      2. the inmate is banging their head or otherwise harming themself
      3. the inmate is threatening to commit suicide and taking action (such as knotting a sheet) that indicates the threat is real, or the attending Psychologist assesses that there is a high risk of suicide
      4. the inmate is threatening to assault someone else and is able to do so

    Review of Video Recordings

    1. Managers, male or female, are accountable for ensuring staff’s actions are in accordance with policy and procedures and may review video recordings of incidents involving women (whether the recordings contain nudity or not). The reviews will be conducted in a way that respects the privacy and dignity of the inmate(s) as much as reasonably possible in the circumstances.



    Original signed by:

    Anne Kelly

    Annex A - Cross-References and Definitions

    CD 060 – Code of Discipline
    CD 081 – Offender Complaints and Grievances
    CD 566-4 – Inmate Counts and Security Patrols
    CD 566-5 – Non-Security Escorts
    CD 566-6 – Security Escorts
    CD 566-7 – Searching of Inmates
    CD 566-9 – Searching of Cells, Vehicles and Other Areas
    CD 567-1 – Use of Force
    CD 600 – Management of Emergencies in Operational Units
    CD 702 – Indigenous Offenders
    CD 800 – Health Services

    Policy Bulletin 186 – Harassment

    Recommendation 5 (b), Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston (1996):

    “With respect to cross-gender staffing, I recommend:


    Assist: for the purpose of this policy, to assist means to help and not to take over.

    Living unit: a house that accommodates minimum and medium security women (including the Structured Living Environment). Living units do not include cells or pods in the Secure Unit or the Structured Intervention.

    Secure unit: a unit that houses women classified as maximum security.

    Voluntary nudity: when a woman spontaneously removes their clothing or covering to expose a private body part.

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