Posts Tagged ‘women’s prisons’

Thanks to Eli Mitchell for the tip on this!

The Current on CBC had a segment on women’s prisons this morning. This is a fantastic follow-up to our November roundtable with Bev Froese (“Women’s Prisons: A Look at Substantive Equality”)

Check it out!


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On Thursday Nov. 25, Bev Froese from the Public Interest Law Center ran our final roundtable event for the 2010 calendar year.


Bev’s presentation focused on the 2004 Human Rights Complaint on behalf of women inmates regarding the alleged discrimination based on sex, race and disability at the hands of the Portage Correctional Facility. The case had two main issues. First, women’s unique needs were not being met by the prison facility. Secondly, women were not being treated equal to male prisoners in other Manitoba facilities.


Almost immediately the question arises: What is Equality?   Is it treating everyone the same?? Or treating people differently to reach the same outcome?? Can it be both??


One of the most obvious violations taking place surrounded the need for women to have pre-natal vitamins available to them within the prison. This is a unique need that only women require, so although these vitamins are not offered to any prisoner in Manitoba regardless of their sex it becomes quite clear that the outcome of this decision is one of sexual discrimination.


Portage Correctional also has no ramp or elevator access for disabled individuals to access the facility which is clearly discrimination. There were also issues surrounding the lack of mental disability programming and the ways in which the staff dealt with inmates who suffered from various addictions or mental disabilities. One of the racial discrimination arguments against the facility rested quite heavily on the lack of cultural workers and cultural support being offered to the inmates.


Ultimately a settlement was reached through mediation which allows for the Women’s Program Advisory Committee to improve the short term and keep an eye on the long term goals and needs of the inmates. There will be a new prison facility built in the near future that should address the physical needs of inmates. The agreement also promised to develop specialized programs for women, increase support for aboriginal women and increase the availability of sacred spaces.


The roundtable finished with a short discussion about confronting myths around equality in an effort to normalize the ideas and take substantive equality out of a “special” category and into everyday life.

So how do we draw attention to the special needs of groups of individuals without having the rest of society feel that the group is getting special attention or benefiting unfairly at everyone else’s expense??

Just some food for thought…

*Jocelyn Turnbull is a second-year student at Robson Hall. She spent her summer working for the Manitoba Bar Association.


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