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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Cross Gender Monitoring Project

b) Cross Gender Staffing Policies and Guidelines

Guidelines developed by the Deputy Commissioner of Women Offenders entitled "CSC Women's Institutions and Maximum Security Units" have evolved since the inception of this Monitoring Project. Attached are the latest guidelines. (see Appendix B). Part way through our first site visits this past year, the Deputy

Commissioner for Women issued a National Operational Protocol for Front-line Staff intended to provide the clarification and direction requested by staff working with women offenders. The document at this point is considered a guideline, but will become Standard Operating Practice in the near future. 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 as to 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. The Monitoring Team carefully reviewed the opinions, suggestions, and concerns raised over the last year.

The views of FSW have been pivotal in advancing recommendations contained in this report. Another key finding that has guided us in our conclusions is that male staff who have been selected and trained to fill Primary Worker positions are as a group professional and capable, and most exhibited sensitivity and respect towards FSW. Any restrictions proposed below are recommended based on the long term protection and safety of women prisoners, as well as respect for their human rights and civil liberties. The proposed restrictions are in no way a reflection on the men working as Primary Workers in the federal women's facilities. Indeed, this group of men have been carefully recruited, screened and trained, unlike some other people who work or volunteer in these facilities. We will also have some recommendations addressing male PW's to ensure that the privacy and safety of Federally Sentenced Women are protected with respect to any non-inmate.

Interim Recommendations re Cross Gender Staffing:

Recommendation #1. In light of the views of the substantial majority of Federally Sentenced Women favouring the employment of screened and trained male Primary Workers in specific roles, we are recommending that males remain a part of the staff of federal women's facilities, if and only if, all of the following are implemented:

  • recruitment, screening and training policies and procedures remain fully in place, and the amount and content of training policies and procedures ensure appropriate knowledge and attitudes on the part of staff working in FSW's facilities;
  • effective policies specifying appropriate roles for male Primary Workers are in place and enforced (see Recommendations 3 and 4, and Suggested Policy Content re Cross Gender Staffing Guidelines);
  • the needs of the significant minority of Federally Sentenced Women who feel very strongly that they are not willing or able to deal with males in the living quarters at night are accommodated and respected in policy and practice (see Recommendation #3);
  • As in England13, that male Primary Workers do not exceed 20% of the Primary Worker staff complement in light of policy requirements, special needs of some Federally Sentenced Women, and ensuring that an unfair burden does not fall on female PW's.

Commentary: The clear majority of Federally Sentenced Women interviewed endorsed the policy of having male Primary Workers who are screened and trained to perform certain functions. Significantly, FSW clearly stated that they want to relate to male Primary Workers, to talk with them, and develop release plans with them. There were few reservations about male Primary Workers performing these program and counselling functions. Where concerns were expressed, they were related to males performing certain security functions, such as counts in the bedrooms and strip searching. They stated that these male staff are respectful and helpful, and that for many this is the first time a male has treated them in this manner. There is strong support for the view that these men are positive role models that will assist women in addressing long standing abuse at the hands of males in their lives. [Note: See the preceding chapter for an in-depth discussion of our findings on this issue.]

There is no question that one of the significant differences in approaches between Canada and other jurisdictions such as the United States is our recruitment, selection and training policies that have largely resulted in the hiring of males with appropriate, knowledgeable and respectful attitudes towards women prisoners. Any relaxation of these policies may result in the hiring of males with inappropriate attitudes and possibly in the hiring of males seeking to prey on these vulnerable women. Another critical difference between Canada and the United States is that there are policies setting out appropriate roles for male staff. It is very common in the United States, and even in some provincial settings, for males to view women bathing and changing, to participate in frisking and strip searches, and to be alone with women in their cells at night, no questions asked. The thoughtful and careful development of policies that set out what is allowable for the protection of both female inmates and male staff is an essential piece of comparative federal policy effectiveness in cross gender staffing.

A further significant difference in CSC's approach is the fact that male staff comprise a minority of Primary Workers. Many inmates, as well as some staff and managers signaled this fact as one of the main ingredients for the successful implementation of male staffing in female institutions. In part, many felt a significant number of male staff would affect the overall environment and increase the potential risk of an abuser being employed. Others felt appropriate restrictions on male staff could only be administratively possible where males make up around 1 in 5 Primary Workers. Again, American institutions for women are generally staffed primarily by men.

Recommendation #2. Given the overall concern that Federally Sentenced Women should be protected from sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sexual assault, it is important to screen and train other people who work in the institutions housing Federally Sentenced Women. Accordingly:

  • all staff person working in a FSW facility, including temporary arrangements such as the maximum security units in male facilities, as well as regional treatment centres and community correctional centres, should complete a screening and training process to ensure appropriate attitudes, knowledge and experiences;
  • in regions where respondents reported that the usual requirements for tendering contracts prevent the interviewing of those applying, it should be ensured that interviews are not only possible but mandatory. As some programming is being offered in federal institutions for women under this tendering process, it is important that interested persons should be screened for appropriate attitudes, knowledge and experiences, and this must include the opportunity for institutional authorities to interview applicants in person.


While Primary Workers for the five regional facilities have been carefully screened and trained, staff in the female units located in male facilities have not necessarily been screened or trained. In part this may be due to what was seen as the temporary nature of these facilities for women considered to be maximum security. However, from what we know generally about abused women, the greater the vulnerability, the greater the potential risk of abuse by persons in authority. Women who are already considered a security problem, or have serious psychological problems may well be at greater risk of sexual harassment, exploitation or assault. While the Monitoring Team are in no way inferring that the present staff have engaged in any such behaviour, this loophole in the federal government's commitment to ensure only screened and trained male staff work in facilities housing women is potentially a serious one. This same concern exists about staff members transferring into a FSW facility. Similarly, the lack of screening and training of male staff in community correctional facilities has been raised by some respondents as a potentially serious situation. This concern also exists with the fact that women are housed in some of these facilities with male sex offenders.

Another potential problem lies in the tendering process for contracting program staff such as teachers, recreational staff, spiritual staff and individuals to run courses for women on sexual abuse. Some institutions are of the view that the federal process designed to ensure fairness does not allow for the interviewing of potential candidates. This is unacceptable in light of the need to screen these people for appropriate attitudes, knowledge, expertise and experience. CSC needs to ensure that these restrictions do not apply in these competitions and take steps to implement screening and training of all these staff.

Recommendation #3. A significant minority of women, many of whom were positive about having screened and trained male Primary Workers on staff, are not comfortable with having men in their living units, especially at night.


  • Male Primary Workers should be restricted from night shifts with the exception of static security where they would be assigned to general duties at night with no inmate contact. However, if there were to be an emergency, male PW's could intervene with other female PW's subject to the restrictions noted in the suggested policy content of cross gender staffing guidelines (see below).


The Monitoring Team seriously considered another option to address this issue in the five regional facilities, where women are accommodated in houses. The Team considered recommending that as many houses as necessary be set aside for women where male staff would be restricted from entering the houses at all. Some respondents felt strongly that this option is unrealistic for a number of reasons. The small number of women in many of these facilities would make the exercise of this option difficult and at the expense of other housing needs such as non-smoking units. The staffing arrangements would be extremely difficult in some institutions where only two or three security staff are on the shift.

We recommend that this option be implemented by defining the requirements of women inmates who are unable to deal with men in their Units at night as a matter of a "special program need". This special program need can only be accommodated fairly with respect to the women inmates' circumstances by having no males at night in the living units. We recognize that this places an extra burden on female PW's to work more night shifts, and minimizes the amount of overtime male PW's may work. Some interesting staffing options are discussed in the Section on Employment Issues that might reduce these inequities..

13 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (1997) Prisons for Women in England and Wales - A Review. London: HMSO