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Time for Accountability: Effective Oversight of Women's Prisons

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 48 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2006 Pages: 251-285
Debra Parkes; Kim Pate
Date Published
April 2006
35 pages
This article examines the recent history of calls for effective accountability and oversight of women's imprisonment in Canada, presents criteria for an effective oversight body in this area, and uses these criteria to assess some of the key recommendations being offered.
The authors agree with the findings and recommendations of multiple reports by official bodies, most recently the 2003 report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which have made the case for effective, independent accountability and oversight of women's prisons. The issues that remain for discussion are the forms, structure, or mechanisms that will achieve effective oversight and accountability. The authors argue for inmate access to judicial review of rights violations, other illegal correctional practices, and long-term segregation of inmates. Judicial review, however, should only be part of a broader accountability and oversight framework. Other mechanisms in this framework should be an independent prison inspectorate and the Office of the Correctional Investigator. The latter should have the authority to take complaints to a tribunal and/or direct that issues be reviewed in court. The effectiveness of this framework of oversight and accountability should be measured by the speed and effectiveness of remedies for specific violations. Even though women offenders typically pose a low risk to the community compared with male offenders, federally sentenced women as a group have in the past and present been subject to more restrictive confinement conditions and adverse treatment than male offenders. Women offenders are in particular need of the oversight and accountability framework proposed in this article. 10 notes and 52 references