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Reforming the Prison: A Canadian Tale (From Gender and Justice: New Concepts and Approaches, P 188-208, 2006, Frances Heidensohn, ed. -- See NCJ-219137)

NCJ Number
Stephanie Hayman
Date Published
21 pages
This review of the history of prison reform for women in Canada draws lessons from the failure of the most recent reform.
The task force that developed the document, "Creating Choices: the Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women" called for the closing of the old Prison for Women and the building of five regional prisons, including an Aboriginal Healing Lodge. The new prisons were to be significantly different from the old Prison for Women and would incorporate all environmental factors known to promote physical and mental health. They would be cottage-style and without fences and would depend upon dynamic security, which presupposed a different style of staffing. The new prisons would be multilevel, in that women of all security categories would live on the same site, but without the attendant high levels of visible security. The core of the reform plan was based in the principles of empowerment, meaningful and responsible choices, respect and dignity, supportive environment, and shared responsibility. This chapter documents the failure of the project to reach final completion due to security problems that occurred in one of the first three prisons opened. In explaining what happened, this chapter focuses on the consequences of the task force's failure to plan for women termed "difficult to manage" and the unintended consequences of a benevolent attempt at penal reform. The task force was reluctant to label women as either violent or requiring extra levels of support because of mental health needs. The task force planned the facilities and their regimes for an envisioned group of women with high need and low risk of violence, suggesting that women offenders present risks only to themselves. 8 notes and 47 references