On an international level, how should you address the specific needs of women offenders when they only comprise between 2-to-9 per cent of your prison population?
There may not be a one-size-fits-all solution to this question, but CSC can share our expertise with others.
While women’s rights are important everywhere, it is crucial to consider their needs in correctional environments where they are particularly vulnerable, especially in areas of conflict. And that’s why CSC piloted a gender-responsive training course, which two CSC experts on women offenders recently led the development of, to address the unique needs of women offenders internationally.
It’s even more appropriate because Canada is currently the Chair of the ‘Group of Friends of Corrections in Peace Operations’ within the United Nations. In our role as Chair, we committed to creating gender responsive training that would: 1) follow UN rules for Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules); 2) be applicable internationally; and 3) focus on post-conflict/peacekeeping areas where women are particularly vulnerable.
One of the first priorities is to fully explain - so that everyone is on the same page - how we can improve imprisonment conditions for women by understanding and believing that a woman’s experience in conflict situations and prison are markedly different than men. The unique needs of women and the challenges they face are often neglected in prisons around the world, and this can make women susceptible to further vulnerabilities.
The training pilot was delivered in Monrovia, Liberia in December of 2016 and was considered a great success! One of the reasons for success was the manner in which the training was developed. In order to ensure the training was applicable to the international corrections community, it was developed with a high degree of collaboration. Important partners in the development of the training include: the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, the Nigerian Prisons Service, the Senegal Correctional Service, Penal Reform International, the African Women Correctional Association, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, including members of select peace operations.
Participants and observers in the pilot included the Liberia Bureau of Corrections, the Rwandan Correctional Office, Swedish Prison and Probation Service, the Correctional Service of Canada, United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Nations - Women, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping - Justice and Corrections, and the United Nations Development Program.
CSC plans to deliver train the trainer sessions in the upcoming fiscal year. Great work to everyone involved!