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The Transformation of Federal Corrections for Women

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Impending Challenges

While the Correctional Service of Canada has come a long way in its approach to dealing with the unique needs of women offenders, by no means is its work complete. In the coming years, CSC will continue to pursue the vision set out in Creating Choices and respond to impending new challenges, such as cross-gender staffing and the over representation of Aboriginal women offenders.

Cross-Gender Staffing

A Cross-Gender Monitoring Project was established in January 1998 to respond to another recommendation of the Arbour Commission. The project was directed to assess the systemic impact of cross-gender staffing in women's facilities; to identify operations and policy issues; and to make appropriate recommendations.

In the project's second annual report (released in February 2000), the monitoring team made a number of interim recommendations, including:

  • men should remain as front-line staff provided that recruitment, screening and training policies and procedures remain in place; appropriate roles for men staff are in place and enforced; and men do not exceed 20% of the primary worker complement;
  • to protect women offenders from sexual harassment and exploitation, screening and training processes should apply to all staff, including those on contract;
  • men should be restricted from duties requiring inmate contact during night shifts;
  • measures must be taken to ensure resources are available for screening and training, as these processes are inextricably linked to the effectiveness of cross-gender staffing; and
  • respect for privacy and dignity must be paramount - therefore, staff should always knock and wait for a reply before entering a woman offender's room (provided that there is no reason to believe that an emergency is taking place).

The monitoring team is currently consulting on the interim recommendations and will provide final recommendations by December 2000.

Aboriginal Women Offenders2

The number of Aboriginal people who come into contact with the correctional system is disproportionate to their representation in the general population. While Aboriginal people comprise only three per cent of the general population, in September 1999, 21.1% of women incarcerated in federal institutions were Aboriginal. These percentages have remained relatively constant since 1994.

While the construction of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge and the development of Aboriginal-specific policies, programs, and services have assisted in the rehabilitation of Aboriginal women offenders, CSC will continue to work towards increasing the number of Aboriginal offenders who can be safely and successfully reintegrated into society. However, it must be recognized that CSC's mandate is to manage sentences imposed by the courts through the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders. Reducing the number of Aboriginal women who are sentenced to periods of incarceration will require a concerted effort to assist in strengthening and enhancing the health of Aboriginal communities.