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The Arbour Commission of Inquiry in its Report, released in April 1996, called upon CSC to:

REC 5 (b) "draft explicit protocols in each institution in which male staff will have access to the living units, to ensure:

  • that male front line workers are always paired with female front line workers when patrolling living units;
  • that male staff be restricted from patrolling living units at night; and
  • that male staff be required to announce their presence on a living unit or at an individual's cell or bedroom;"

All institutions developed operational practices on cross-gender procedures for such areas as inmate counts and cell extractions as part of their preparation for opening. In response to the Arbour Report recommendation, the Correctional Service of Canada decided to proceed with the development of a national protocol based on the standing orders developed by the regional institutions. The purpose of the national protocol is to provide national consistency and direction through an operational framework and practices which respect the privacy of inmates to the fullest extent possible in a correctional facility. This national protocol will replace current local operational instruments.

1. Principles

The Public Service Employment Act, which governs all Correctional Service of Canada staffing actions, states that standards for staff selection may include such elements as education, experience and language but may not include such elements as race, sex, colour, religion, etc. Consequently, men have the legal right to compete for positions at women's facilities.

This national protocol must be interpreted in light of the CCRA which states that all staff are peace officers and, therefore, authorized to use reasonable force. At the same time, staff must act in accordance with the principles outlined in Section 4 of the CCRA; more specifically, with respect to this protocol, principle 4(h): "that correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and aboriginal peoples...". This protocol reflects both these legislative imperatives as well as Core Value 1 of the CSC Mission: We respect the dignity of individuals, the rights of all members of society, and the potential for human growth and development.

Consistent with general staffing practices, all employees are expected to perform all the duties in their work descriptions regardless of gender, with the exception of specific procedures as set out in this protocol and of intrusive searches as stated in policy and re-iterated in this protocol.

Protection of privacy is a mutual responsibility of the Service and of women inmates and is an aspect of the environment of respect and dignity which is the objective of all women's facilities:

  • The Service has taken a number of steps to establish an appropriate environment respectful of individual privacy, from physical design to the development of a women-centred training course and, through this protocol, the establishment of nationally consistent operational practices.
  • This protocol cannot cover all potential cross-gender issues. Therefore, all staff are encouraged to be sensitive to privacy issues and situations which could be perceived as conducive to perceptions of or potential for allegations of inappropriate conduct or placing either staff and/or inmates in a compromising situation. The protocol provides a framework for the exercise of personal judgement in such situations where there is no opportunity to consult with supervisors to obtain clarification/advice.
  • At the same time, women inmates are expected to conduct themselves appropriately with staff regardless of gender. They are encouraged to bring privacy issues to the attention of institutional management through the established channels such as the Inmate Committee and/or the grievance process.
  • If an issue relating to a job requirement which is not addressed in this protocol is identified at a particular institution, the institution will bring the issue, through the regional Deputy Commissioner, to the attention of the Deputy Commissioner for Women who will be responsible for ensuring there is an appropriate review, consultation and decision.

Where the national protocol references an area which is also the subject of a separate Commissioner's Directive, Standard Operating Practice or Institutional Standing Order [e.g. counts], it is not intended to replace and should not be read as a replacement, but rather as providing additional clarification. Institutional standing orders must be consistent with the national protocol.

2. Operational Practice

Each institution is responsible for ensuring that staff, inmates and volunteers are informed of the content of the national protocol and are provided with a copy.

Newly admitted inmates shall be informed of the gender neutral staffing practice and operational procedures during the Orientation/Intake Assessment process. At that time, they will be provided with a copy of the national protocol, its content will be reviewed with them and they will be requested to acknowledge this has been done in writing. The protocol can be appended to/inserted into the Inmate Handbook.

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 easily be verified. For informal counts, if an inmate is in the bathroom, she will be requested and given time to cover herself so that a visual check can be done without violating her privacy rights. If the inmate refuses to cover herself, the first level of response should be non-adversarial. However, persistent refusal by the inmate to do so shall be considered as a refusal to obey a direct order.

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. Pairing means that the two officers must be within sight and sound of each other at all times. This procedure is not mandatory in the event of an emergency [e.g. a distress call from an inmate in a house]; however, in such cases, if the first response is by a man staff, a woman staff will be deploy to assist him as quickly as possible.

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 there are no women inmates in the house/living unit during the period of work.

Men front-line staff will not be assigned to monitor women inmates in camera cells. Monitoring camera screens has be situated or shielded in a manner that prevents viewing by men staff in the area.

Frisk searches shall always be carried out by women staff.

Strip searches must be conducted, witnessed and videotaped only by women staff.

All staff, regardless of gender, who have received the requisite training may use the appropriate level physical intervention required to control and restrain inmates when faced with an immediate requirement to intervene. If voluntary nudity [i.e. the inmate spontaneously removes her clothing] happens as an element of an emergency situation where staff have reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate risk of harm to the inmate, to other inmates or to staff, then available staff may intervene regardless of gender. If, however, the first response is by a man or men, a woman or women will be deployed to assist as quickly as possible. Intervention procedures, including the use of restraints, shall be consistent with the Use of Force policy and the relevant sections of the Security Manual. A blanket and/or security gown shall be provided as soon as possible.

The inmate's past history in itself is not enough for reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate risk of harm. Her actions/behaviours and the situational context must be assessed to determine the immediacy of the risk. Some examples of such contextual factors include:
  • the inmate has a weapon with which she is threatening to self-injure;
  • the inmate is banging her head on the wall or otherwise harming herself;
  • the inmate is threatening to commit suicide and taking action such as knotting a sheet that indicates the threat is realistic or the attending psychologist assesses that there is a high risk of suicide;
  • the inmate is attempting to commit suicide;
  • the inmate is threatening to assault someone else and is in a position to do so, that is, she is in proximity to the person being threatened and she is not contained in her cell.

However, the first level of response to a situation requiring pre-planned use of force, that is the calling out and suiting up of a Cell Extraction and/or Institutional Emergency Response Team, shall always be a women only team. If additional support to the team is required, back-up may be provided through other trained institutional staff, regardless of gender, or through ERT(s) from men's facilities. Back-up support will normally be limited to containment. Any men participating in the response will be trained in the appropriate intervention techniques. In all cases, and without exception, where physical intervention is required the strip search restrictions noted above must be respected.

NOTE: this protocol speaks only to the gender issue; for direction on restraint and control methods and limitations, reference should be made to the Use of Force Commissioner's Directive and the Security Manual.

Notwithstanding the restrictions on men staff with respect to use of force and strip searches, the post-incident viewing of videotapes of incidents including strip searches, while conducted in such a manner as to protect the privacy and dignity of the inmate(s), shall recognize the principle that managers, regardless of gender, are accountable for ensuring staff actions were in accordance with policy and procedures. For further direction on videotaping of incidents, reference should be made to the Interim Procedure issued by the Senior Deputy Commissioner on February 4, 1997.

In cases of voluntary nudity where the inmate is non-compliant with staff verbal direction to clothe herself and there is no immediate risk of harm to the inmate herself, other inmates or staff, men staff should remove themselves from the scene as soon as feasible, consistent with ensuring the safety of the inmate, other inmates and staff. The primary objective shall be to defuse the situation with due sensitivity to the dignity of the inmate. An assessment of the inmate's mental state shall be conducted in order to develop and implement a situation specific intervention strategy.

Professional staff, for example, health services and mental health care staff, are selected on the basis of their professional qualifications. However, in gender sensitive treatment areas such as treatment for survivors of abuse, the selection of women professionals is desirable. Professional staff will be deployed consistent with community health care standards; that is, professional staff can respond to requirements for intervention consistent with their function regardless of gender even if the inmate is unclothed.

Subject to the criteria for effective program deliverers outlined in the Program Strategy for Women Offenders, programs may be delivered by either qualified men or women staff or contract personnel. In the event the program deliverer is a man, it is not necessary to provide continuous monitoring of the program either through camera(s) or posting a woman staff in the program room. However, the program room door should either have a window or the door should remain open to allow for periodic observation/monitoring.

Due consideration will be given to the nature of a temporary absence before a man is assigned as escort, for either staff or citizen escorts. In addition to this general consideration, for escorts requiring that the inmate be within sight and sound of the escorting officer at all times, men, whether staff or citizen, shall not be the sole escorting officers during escorted absences from the institution. For escorts within the institution, men staff should not be the sole escorting officers if the escort is through areas not generally observable.