Correctional Service Canada
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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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The Cross Gender Monitoring Project
3rd and Final Annual Report

iv) Complaints, Grievances and Conflict Resolution

In our Interview Findings Section, we have indicated that, FSW do not use the complaint and grievance system in the same manner and frequency as male inmates. This finding is consistent with numerous CSC reviews and those reported from our previous two years. FSW tend to file complaints with the Correctional Investigator's Office rather than use CSC's Complaints and Grievance system.

The Complaints and Grievance system has never received a complaint about cross gender staffing or sexual harassment/assault from a FSW. After a recommendation from our First Annual Report that CSC add "sexual harassment" as a distinct category for inmate complaints, which was done, there have been no sexual harassment complaints noted from FSW since that time. A few male inmates have used that category for complaints/grievances about female staff. Although FSW are generally expected to use the Complaints and Grievance System should they experience sexual misconduct by a staff member, this may not be the appropriate forum for such a complaint. This will be discussed more fully in later Sections.

As indicated in our interviews with both FSW and staff, FSW fear retaliation for lodging a grievance and "do not trust the system". Many also have grave concerns about the informal conflict or complaint resolution system whereby inmates are encouraged to work out their complaints directly with the staff member involved.

Many FSW find these attempts at "mediation" to be coercive. The term "mediation" is generally used to denote the presence of a neutral third party which is almost never the case used in this model. The exception can be found at the Healing Lodge where inmates reported satisfaction with the circles used to resolve conflicts at the local level. These circles typically include Elders who help to facilitate the dialogue about the complaint in question. But in all other institutions very few respondents were happy with the system. The fact that those who "mediate" have little or no training in conflict resolution does make the practice questionable at best and damaging in the worst instance. One-on-one mediation, or rather, negotiation, cannot work when the onus is placed on the inmate to talk directly to the staff person she is complaining about due to the power imbalance between the disputing parties. As this system does not result in a paper trail it is invisible to outsiders and we cannot comment on the extent of its use or in what matters it tends to be used. However, research in this area does indicate that the practice of mediation in prison settings can work when it is done by skilled, fair and credible individuals who have no immediate stake in the matter at issue.