In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Human Rights Commission Criticizes Situation for Women in Prison

Rights commission blasts treatment of women prisoners
Wed, 28 Jan 2004

OTTAWA - Canada's Human Rights Commission has blasted the treatment of women prisoners, saying the correctional system should be "tailored" to the unique needs of women.

In its report Protecting Their Rights, the commission came up with 19 recommendations to address "systemic human rights problems" that remain in the correctional services.

The treatment of "Aboriginal women, racialized women and women with disabilities" is a particular problem, the commission reports.

"Correctional Service Canada must accommodate women's differences, rather than treating inmates identically based on stereotypes and perceptions, or treating women prisoners the same as men," the report says.

Citing statistics, the commission says the "reasons women offend, their life experiences and their needs are unique."

Eighty per cent of women report prior abuse, women have high rates of mental and physical disability, experience significant poverty and have higher unemployment rates than their male counterparts, the report says.

In one of its recommendations, the commission says correctional officials must stop assessing women prisoners and their programming needs the same way they assess male prisoners.

"The same tool is used for both women and men despite a recognition that women commit crimes for different reasons than men."

The commission also criticizes the policy that automatically places a maximum security classification for two years on all prisoners serving a life sentence for murder.

It should be "rescinded immediately" for women because "it fails to reflect the differences between some women and men in why they commit serious crimes."

"More women are sentenced to life for crimes involving violent domestic partners or former partners," the commission writes.

The commission also recommends: a pilot needle exchange program in three or more correctional facilities; alternatives to long-term segregation for women offenders because "the effect of segregation on women can be significant and the building of more facilities to house minimum- and medium-security women.

The commission came up with the recommendations following concerns by the Elizabeth Fry Society and other human rights organizations about the human rights situation of federally sentenced women.


Canadian Human Rights Commission Full Report "Protecting Their Rights"