In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Justice for Girls Report Confirms that B.C. Youth Prisons Contravene Human Rights Laws

Press Release from Justice For Girls.

Justice for Girls Report Confirms that B.C. Youth Prisons Contravene National and International Human Rights Laws
April 28, 2005
Vancouver, BC

Justice for Girls, a Vancouver-based advocacy group for girls in poverty, released preliminary results today from a multi-year study on girls’ experiences in prisons in Western Canada. The report, titled Locking Them Up To Keep Them ‘Safe:’ Criminalized Girls in British Columbia, was written by independent researcher Amber Dean, M.A.

“Twenty years after the creation of the equality section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, girls are still experiencing human and equality rights abuses in B.C. prisons,” Dean states. Her report documents the following contraventions of human rights agreements:

Despite a Supreme Court ruling which states that strip-searches are “inherently humiliating and degrading” and “cannot be carried out simply as a matter of routine policy,” girls are routinely subjected to strip-searches while incarcerated in B.C. youth prisons. Girls are also regularly patted-down by male guards.

The U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “women prisoners shall be attended only by women officers,” yet male guards regularly supervise girls in B.C. youth prisons. The report confirms that girls are sexually harassed by male guards.

The U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners also states that men and women should be incarcerated in separate institutions, yet girls are routinely incarcerated with young men in B.C. youth prisons. Girls are sometimes housed on the same living units as male prisoners, putting them at-risk for further sexual harassment, assault, and recruitment into child prostitution.

Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which recently challenged human rights abuses in Canadian women’s prisons, echoes Dean’s concerns: “Young women and girls continue to raise issues of the arbitrary decision-making and abusive experiences in Canadian prisons for youth. We demand that their human and Charter-protected rights be upheld.”

The report, funded by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and Status of Women Canada, is being launched this week as part of a National conference marking the 20th anniversary of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which formally entrenched women's equality within the Canadian Constitution. The conference, hosted by the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF) and the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), takes place in Vancouver from April 28 to May 1, 2005 at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Hotel.

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Justice for Girls (JFG) promotes support, justice, and equality for adolescent girls who have experienced violence and live in poverty. JFG is a social justice organization and thus promotes systemic change, with the feminist belief that young women in poverty are the experts of their own experience. JFG works to provide the support and resources that girls need to act on their own behalf in creating change in their lives. We recognize that lack of institutional power and credibility is a real impediment to young women achieving their goals regardless of their skills, intelligence, or ability to articulate their needs.

Download PDF: Locking Them Up To Keep Them ‘Safe:’ Criminalized Girls in British Columbia