Reflections on Conditions of Confinement of Federally Sentenced Women (FSW)
The Collaborating Centre for
Prison Health and Education (CCPHE)
March 14-15, 2014
Ivan Zinger J.D., Ph.D.
Executive Director and General Counsel
Office of the Correctional Investigator
Outline of Presentation
- Quick Overview of Corrections in Canada
- Notable quotes
- Conditions of Confinement for FSW
- Profile of FSW
Federal Corrections by the Numbers
- Offenders serving a sentence of two years or more.
- 14,270 men and 615 women.
- 8,123 men and 502 women under community supervision.
- Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has 18,250 employees and manages a $2.6 billion annual budget (2013-2014).
- 5 regional facilities and one Aboriginal healing lodge for FSW.
- Average annual cost of maintaining a federal inmate in custody:
- $111,000 for men.
- $214,600 for women.
- CSC recently expanded an existing section 81 agreement to accommodate 16 FSW beds. Minimum-security units (outside the perimeter fence) are being built in 4 of the 5 regional facilities for FSW.
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1862)
“The test of a civilization is in the way it cares for its helpless members.”
Pearl S. Buck (1954)
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
Nelson Mandela (1995)
Drawing on these famous quotes:
- What are the prevalent conditions of confinement in federal penitentiaries for FSW, and what do they tell us about Canadian society at large?
- Have conditions of confinement for FSW deteriorated or improved in recent years?
- Does who we incarcerate say something important about Canadian society?
- What does the profile of the FSW population tell us about social justice, equality and human rights in Canadian society?
Conditions of Confinement of FSW
Creating Choices – Over the years, many decisions made were inconsistent with Creating Choices (1990), including adding perimeter fences, building secure maximum-security units with segregation cells, introducing law enforcement-like uniforms, and increasing the proportion of male CX staff.
Incarcerated Population – Number of FSW has increased by 25.3% in the last six years (compared to 9.3% for males).
Double Bunking – Rate of double-bunking (placing two inmates in a cell designed for one person) is 10%. The rate was 0.4% five years ago.
Segregation – Last year, there were 134 segregation admissions of FSW (+44.6% increase in the last 5 years).
Mother-Child Program – Significant restrictions (residency component) to the mother-child program in 2008 have resulted in a 60% reduction in the number of participants. Only14 women participated in the full program since 2008.
Use of Force – Last year, there were 224 incidents involving use of force and FSW (+94% increase in the last 5 years).
Assaults – Last year, there were 32 incidents of FSW assaults and fights (+31% increase in the last 5 years).
Complaints and Grievances – Last year, there were 1,047 complaints and grievances submitted by FSW. The top three were: (1) staff interactions, (2) conditions of confinement, and (3) visits.
Self-Injury – During FY2012/13, there were 323 incidents of women self-injuring involving 37 different FSW (+313% increase in the last 5 years).
Security Classification – Most FSW are classified as medium-security (44%), followed by minimum-security (35%) and maximum-security (11%).
Inmate Pay – Currently, the maximum inmate pay rate is $6.90 per day, which has remained unchanged since 1981. As a cost-saving measure, beginning April 2014, most FSW will be required to contribute more (up to 30% of their inmate pay stipend) to offset room and board costs. Only 20 women (3%) are working in prison industries (CORCAN).
Releases – In the last five years, women are serving a longer proportion of their sentences before being released on parole. This is a significant shift as historically the % of FSW serving their sentence in the community has always exceeded the % of FSW in custody.
Access to Community MH Care – In a 2012 study, the overwhelming majority of the sample of FSW had experienced symptoms consistent with a lifetime diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder (94%). Moreover, 85% of the sample had experienced diagnostic symptoms of more than one disorder. Currently, 63% of FSW are on psychotropic medication.
Aboriginal Self-Governance – Almost 34% of all FSW are of Aboriginal ancestry, while Aboriginal People comprises less than 4% of the Canadian adult population (men and women). The number of FSW has increased by 63% in the last 10 years (compared to 15% for men). The Aboriginal FSW population has increased by 84% (Aboriginal men by 45%).
Diversity in Canadian Society– 8.3% of FSW are black, while black Canadians only represent 2.5% of the general population (men and women).
National Drug Strategy – In a 2012 study, the majority of a sample of FSW (80%) had experienced a lifetime dependence on at least one substance. As of May 2012, 59 FSW were on Opiate Substitution Therapy Program (i.e., methadone).
Education – Approximately 60% of FSW have not completed high school.
Harm Reduction – The rate of Hepatitis C is very high among non-Aboriginal FSW (30%) and even higher for Aboriginal FSW (49%). The rate for HIV/AIDS is very high among non-Aboriginal FSW (5.5%) and even higher for Aboriginal FSW (11.7%).
Sexual and Physical Abuse – 68% of FSW report being sexually abused and 86% have been physically abused.
Aging in Canadian Society – Over 16% of FSW are aged 50 or over (+78% increase in the last 6 years). Three common physical health problems that primarily affect older women include issues related to menopause, cancer (breast, uterus, and cervix), and osteoporosis. As for MH, 43% of older women reported depression, 23% PTSD and 17% anxiety disorders.
Women as Mothers – (Barrett, Allenby & Taylor. 2010. Twenty Years Later: Revisiting the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. Research Report R-222.):
- 75% of FSW have children under the age of 18.
- 64% of FSW reported being single mothers at the time of arrest.
- 51% of FSW report having experiences with Children’s Aid. Contact with Children’s Aid was often due to substance abuse issues, mental health concerns or issues surrounding abuse/neglect.
- 42% of FSW report having weekly contact with their children, with the most common forms of contact including telephone calls (90%), letters (76%) and visits (36%).
- Almost 1/3 of mothers (29%) have no contact with their children.
- Date modified