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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Cross Gender Monitoring Project


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, with a return to the 10 day Women-Centred Training;
  • 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 England16, 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.

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 also 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.

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. Consequently:

  • 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

Recommendation #4: There has been a steady erosion during the last year of women-centred training for staff in federal facilities housing women. Pressures to reduce the costs associated with recruitment and training have been reported.

  • As the effectiveness of the male Primary Worker staffing approach is inextricably linked to the initial screening and training initiatives, measures must be taken to ensure full funding is protected for these initiatives. Additionally, funds must be set aside to cover the costs of proper screening and training of all personnel working in these facilities, as discussed in recommendation #2.

Recommendation #5:

When privacy curtains are down, staff should knock and then wait for a reply that the woman is ready for the curtain to be pulled aside. Unless, there is a reason to believe an emergency is occurring, this respect for a woman's privacy and dignity must be paramount.

16 Op cit.