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The trouble with female prisoners in Kamloops city cells

March 03, 2015 - 2:55 PM

KAMLOOPS - Last July a judge decried the conditions for a 15-year-old girl held in Kamloops RCMP cells for five days as “unacceptable” and eight months later, little has changed.

For five days the girl, who cannot be named by court order, slept on a bench under 24-hour lighting, had no access to a shower and couldn’t keep in touch with family members in Victoria. Because of the harsh conditions she faced, the judge turned away Crown’s three-month sentence submission and granted her release.

Housing female prisoners is a problem in nearly every detachment across the province because of special needs they present, such as the need for female guards or officers to monitor them. In Kamloops, the Elizabeth Fry Society and the City of Kamloops continue attempts to turn holding cells into jail cells for females detained longer than a weekend. The society is increasing its presence to include counselling while in cells.

Louise Richards with Elizabeth Fry in Kamloops says the partnership has led to more progress in the last few months but adds the amount of female inmates varies over time. It’s one or two women a month, sometimes more.

“It’s not a remand centre. I think that’s the crux of the problem,” she says. “But just because it’s a small number over the course of the year, you’re still entitled to your rights and proper treatment."

David Duckworth, the city's Community Safety Director, agrees the detachment is not a holding facility and isn’t designed to hold prisoners beyond a weekend.

“However, due to the lack of a female provincial facility in the area, Kamloops detachment is sometimes required to house female prisoners beyond this time frame,” he says.

To make women or youth feel more comfortable in their surroundings – staffed by all males – the society provides female inmates with scented bath items, menstrual products and appropriate attire for court. 

Access to showers is limited; females can only do so if there’s a same-sex RCMP officer on shift who can supervise.

The only available remand centres for women in British Columbia is the Alouette Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge and a unit of the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre, Richards says. If a female youth is detained for a longer period than permitted in city cells, the only detention centre in the province is the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre on the Lower Mainland.

Oliver's Okanagan Correctional Centre, which is currently under construction, will offer cells for women on remand or serving less than two years. The centre is set to open in 2016.

To contact a reporter for this story, email gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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