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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Cross Gender Monitoring Project

c) Qualitative Information

A number of other questions included in Interview Schedules that were open ended are the subject of a qualitative analysis. Areas for qualitative analysis include selection and training; physical design of the institution and privacy issues, the complaint and grievance system, staffing issues and reported allegations of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sexual assault.

Selection and Training

Selection is seen as being generally effective although there is a need to reflect more diversity among staff generally. As for diversity, we did hear expressions of concern by women inmates in various institutions about the lack of Aboriginal and racial minority staff, as well as lack of sensitivity at times to cultural differences. A few women commented on racist language or assumptions on the part of some staff. Certainly diversity in staff is one way to begin to address racism and cultural insensitivity. Training is another.

Concerns were also expressed that physical disabilities are not considered in the development of policies such as the National Protocol. One woman inmate, who has a serious hearing impairment, stated that the unofficial no touch policy on the part of staff is a considerable problem for her. If her back is turned she needs a staff member to touch her in order to communicate at all. Equality and discrimination issues will be included in our consideration of systemic issues to be addressed in our last year.

There is also a need to screen all individuals, including volunteers, who work with FSW. Individuals working in institutions could include Chaplains, Elders, workers with agencies such as Elizabeth Fry Societies as well as program volunteers with outside agencies. As for staff members originally hired for the regional facilities, they were formally screened and trained but there are large regional variations in how staff members are trained. There appears to be considerable staff turnover, and training and screening have been relaxed since the original staff complement was hired.

For instance, in some regions, Women-Centred training has been reduced from 10 days to 5 or 4 days; in one case a male trainer delivers the Women-Centred training, which was identified by some respondents as a concern. It is not so much the number of days of training that is at issue but rather that the content of the training be adequate for the needs of staff about to work with FSW. CSC is presently reviewing the Core Training Program and Women-Centred Training. The most worrisome finding regarding training issues is that staff members transferring to FSW facilities may have no training to work with women. This is particularly the case in maximum security institutions where women are lodged. There is a very strong consensus that if men are to work as PW's they should be extremely well selected and very well trained. Competency and suitability should be measured during and after training, before final placement in a FSW's institution. Also training needs should be examined in terms of what initial training is or should be provided, versus what ongoing training needs exist. CSC officials report that budgetary concerns may affect their ability to expand training.

The majority of comments made were about suggested training needs. Although some of these topics may be covered in existing training modules, comments indicated that more in-depth training is required. We do not have the mandate or resources to perform an extensive review of what training is currently offered. The following list of suggested topics is not organized in any particular order.

  • Problem solving;
  • Counselling skills;
  • More information about Federally Sentenced Women;
  • Team building;
  • Women-Centred training;
  • Rationale for the National Protocol;
  • Sexual Harassment;
  • More information about conflict resolution regarding when it is appropriate and when it is not;
  • Crisis intervention and physical contact;
  • As homophobia is reported to be prevalent in at least a few institutions, there is a need for training about same sex relationships;
  • self injurious behaviours;
  • working with violence and aggression;
  • sexual harassment;
  • Aboriginal issues and spirituality;
  • Childhood sexual abuse;
  • Anger management;
  • How to deal with the needs of the mentally disordered;
  • Toxicology; and
  • Acting out behaviours;

It should be noted that some of these topics, e.g. problem solving and Team building, are covered in courses offered by the Public Service Commission for all federal civil servants, in addition to what CSC may also offer.

Design and Privacy

Questions were answered about the physical design of institutions and whether privacy is adequately protected. It was found that:

  • there are no privacy screens in the Enhanced Unit at EIFW;
  • neighbours from surrounding apartment buildings in Joliette verbally harass FSW during summertime, especially when sun bathing;
  • there are "blind spots', i.e. areas where observation by others is impossible, reported in Nova Institution, EIFW, and the Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge;
  • Sufficient notice is often not given when count is taken, particularly in maximum security institutions, where there may be a knock or announcement and the curtain is immediately pulled without time for an undressed woman to prepare herself; and
  • Privacy should only be compromised, by staff of either gender, when there is a strong security concern.

In regional institutions, there is a considerable variance on whether FSW are allowed to pull down the curtain in front of their rooms while changing. It is the practice in some but not allowed in others. In one institution, FSW hide behind their open closet doors while changing. In others there is no way to ensure privacy while changing. Privacy is an issue that will be addressed in the following Analysis Section.

Complaint and Grievance System

The findings in Phase 2 of the Cross Gender Monitoring Project are consistent with findings in Phase 1 about the complaint and grievance system. As reported in last year's report, generally FSW do not trust the grievance system and, consequently, do not grieve. Reports of negative cross gender incidents are often not likely to be found in CSC's Offender Complaints and Grievances data base. Part of this may be attributed to the more informal complaint system that encourages the use of direct conflict resolution between the parties. One of our concerns about the informal conflict resolution system is that it is invisible to others outside the institution and we have no sense of its frequency or the types of conflict captured by this mechanism. A discussion of these concerns was also included in our First Annual Report. Many FSW reported feeling attempts at mediation to be coercive with the result that they remain silent. In terms of the official complaint and grievance system, inmates fear reprisals and are concerned about lack of objectivity of investigating CSC staff. In addition, FSW do not use the complaint and grievance system anywhere near to the extent that men do. They do however, complain more frequently than male inmates to the Office of the Correctional Investigator particularly through their 1 - 800 telephone line.

These findings mirror those of a 1994 CSC internal report entitled: "Offender Redress Review" which stated as follows:

"Stemming from the above-noted issues and others identified in the aforementioned consultation summary, was an overall concern that the credibility of CSC's redress process is poor. Many inmates expressed cynicism or pessimism about the ability of the grievance system to address their complaints in a fair manner. As a result, many say that they either do not use the system, or drop their concern at the complaint level.

Staff, although supportive of redress in principle, were of the view that many offenders' complaints were trivial, frivolous or not founded. As well, many felt that their ability to respond effectively to inmate concerns is compromised by heavy workloads, lack of decision-making authority and lack of relevant skills training. Many, too, were frustrated by the tendency of many inmates to access a variety of redress avenues (e.g. Correctional Investigator's Office, 1-800 lines, etc.) rather than assuming some responsibility for addressing their problems informally with staff. Inmates, for their part, described a need to utilize the other available mechanisms because they "were not being listened to" and because their problems were not "understood".9

The Training Manual for Staff concerning the Offender Complaint and Grievance System10, June 22, 1998, CSC, notes a number of options, including priorizing a complaint or grievance as "High Priority". In the list of what normally would be considered as such sexual harassment/exploitation/assault is not listed. Inmates can request that an Inmate Grievance Committee be created for review of grievances where requested. It is also possible for an inmate to request a review by an Outside Review Board by submitting Form CSC 0359. Neither of these options was raised by any inmate during our site visits, as part of what was available to her should she experience sexual misconduct of some sort. It is interesting to note that this document refers always to inmates as "he".

This topic will be an area of significant investigation in Phase 3.

Staffing Concerns

A number of serious staff issues with regard to cross gender staffing were brought to our attention during the Team's visits to institutions. These include the overtime burden and additional duties required of female Primary Workers, the perception created by restrictions on males that the system does not trust these men, and ensuring fair grievance policies should a staff member be accused by a female inmate of inappropriate sexual conduct. Our First Annual Report also includes a discussion of these factors. Other issues that have emerged during the interviews held in the last year include:

ˇ The classification of Primary Workers. Many male and female Primary Workers consider the duties to be different from the CX classification they fall under. They view their functions to be a hybrid between a Correctional Officer II and a Parole Officer. In fact, PW's do standard security functions, but they also counsel, prepare parole plans and submissions, and generally do case management. Many have university degrees, indeed one facility requires that Primary Workers have degrees. Many come with years of experience in programming and counselling. The job description and classification of PW's are currently under review as a result of a commitment made by CSC to the Union of Solicitor General Employees (USGE). We will monitor this area in Phase 3 for possible cross gender implications.

  • An issue was also raised by some male staff that where they are restricted from performing certain functions such as being members of Institutional Emergency Response Teams as they do not typically receive training in these functions. IERT training is not mandatory for correctional staff. PW's in female institutions do not receive firearms training, as there have never been firearms in institutions for FSW. They believe this lack of training can disadvantage them when they are applying for positions in male facilities and some male staff felt that this training should be provided to remedy this inequity and for future positions within CSC. Whether this belief is founded or not will be verified during Phase 3.
  • Many staff members, including officials with the Union of Solicitor General Employees, strongly believe that they should always be paired for security reasons when doing rounds and are very concerned with the growing tendency to have single officers do rounds. Pairing also would allow for full implementation of the National Protocol with respect to cross gender staffing along with maximum opportunities for male staff to work within these guidelines. The National Protocol requires pairing only after curfew.
  • In the area of contract staff, some officials indicated to us that there is a problem in the tendering system for contracts such as those of trainers or other program providers in the institution. In some regions, it appears that the usual requirements for the tendering of federal contracts prevent the interviewing of the proposed personnel in a given bid for tender. However, in other regions it did not seem to present a problem. This finding is a concern as many believe that all individuals working in a FSW facility, including contract staff, should be selected for suitability for working with female inmates.

These findings will be discussed in the next section of this report.


Since the beginning of the Cross Gender Monitoring Project, there have been reports made to us of alleged sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sexual assault. Under "sexual exploitation" we include reports of so-called "consensual sex" between a staff member and an inmate. The issue of whether consent to sex can be provided in a prison environment between inmates and non-inmates will be examined in Phase 3. Many of these alleged incidents also involve contract staff. As the Team has just begun the review of CSC internal and external Investigation Reports, we cannot comment further at this time. We do, however, intend to make reported incidents and subsequent investigations a major focus of Phase 3, for the assessment of systemic problems. Thus the team will be reporting extensively on this topic at that time.

9 Offender Redress Review. (1994) Correctional Service Canada. p. 12.

10 Training Manual for Staff concerning the Offender Complaint and Grievance System, June 22, 1998, Correctional Service Canada.