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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Cross Gender Monitoring Project

f) The Complaint and Grievance System:

As noted in the previous section, FSW and community advocates expressed widespread concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the complaint and grievance system. The extent of these concerns and the complexity of the issues have led to a decision by the Monitoring Team to focus, in our final year, on the need for improvements in this system as well.

A number of options should be considered with respect to Complaints and Grievances concerning sexual misconduct, including assigning a special representative or special Unit within the Correctional Investigator's office or creating an independent administrative tribunal to consider serious grievances. Other options include identifying any such complaint as highly sensitive and automatically referred to RHQ or the Women Offender Sector in Ottawa; including specialized outside members in Investigation Team; and, amending the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

At this point, we would like to stress that Federally Sentenced Women do not seem to be utilizing this system to the extent that male inmates are, particularly beyond the point of an initial complaint. Interestingly, female inmates are proportionately using the Correctional Investigator's office more often than male inmates. We heard positive remarks across Canada with respect to the C. I.'s Office and its staff, but also heard disappointment expressed as to the capacity of the C.I.'s Office to enforce their findings.

We are also concerned that at least two major complaints, that we are aware of, involving reports of alleged sexual assault of two different inmates did not appear to be included in the Offender Management System (OMS) data bank. This is of concern in that this system is one significant way for authorities in headquarters of CSC who are monitoring the penitentiary system for this kind of complaint to be alerted. However, as many people have access to the OMS, including Parole Board Members, FSW may not want to have compaints/grievances regarding sexual exploitation to be included in this system. We will be examining this issue more closely in Phase 3.

Other issues that have been raised include the degree to which women perceive themselves to be or actually are pressured to deal informally through conflict resolution or mediation on issues involving sexual misconduct by a non-inmate. Some respondents felt that all such complaints should only be dealt with through formal investigation processes. Others expressed concerns about staff investigating such complaints and grievances in terms of lack of training and sensitivity of the dynamics and effects of sexual harassment, exploitation and sexual assault, particularly at the hands of persons in authority. This will be another strong focus of Phase 3.

We heard from a variety of individuals and organizations that we should consider a number of options with respect to improving inmate complaints and grievances concerning sexual misconduct, including:

  • identifying any such complaint as highly sensitive and automatically refer to the Warden or Regional Headquarters or the Deputy Commissioner for Women Offenders;
  • Mandate a special team in each region or nationally that investigates allegations of sexual misconduct who have relevant experience, expertise, attitudes and knowledge;
  • Empower the Correctional Investigator to not only investigate such allegations, but to enforce findings/ conclusions/recommendations or establish an independent office for this purpose;
  • Utilize people from outside CSC in any investigation involving sexual misconduct, similar to the Independent Chair of Warden's Court in some institutions;
  • Establish an independent administrative tribunal for such complaints/ grievances.

Again, the Monitoring Team is very interested in hearing the views and recommendations from all interested people as to these ideas, and any others, that are designed to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the grievance system in dealing with complaints of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sexual assault.