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Imprisoning Our Sisters

Imprisoning Our Sisters: The New Federal Women's Prisons in Canada

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Imprisoning Our Sisters
    Book Description:

    Using extensive interviews and previously unexplored archival material, Hayman examines the work of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women and assesses the opening of the first three prisons. She questions the notion that prisons can simultaneously "heal" and punish, suggesting that the power of "the prison" inevitably triumphs over the good intentions of reformers.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7633-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Glossary
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    Kingston, on the edge of Lake Ontario, has the air of a respectable, almost complacent city, with its brief period as the capital of what was once Upper Canada visibly manifest in its elegant colonial architecture. The city’s present reputation as a centre of academic and military excellence, also derived from that civic history, might encourage the assumption that its prime function has always been the nurturing of those destined to play a prominent part in the public affairs of Canada. Such an assumption would be partially correct, yet Kingston has simultaneously had another, less publicized role; it has contributed...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Prelude to a Task Force
    (pp. 13-34)

    Because of its resolute focus on women,Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Womenhas achieved a significance and importance beyond Canada. This raises questions about why Canada should have been able to produce such a woman-centred document long before other jurisdictions. Viewed from an entirely Canadian perspective,Creating Choicesneeds to be understood in terms of its genesis. Why was it so important that Kingston’s Prison for Women should be closed? How was it possible for such a combination of reformers to be brought together for the task? Why did questions of history, culture,...

  7. CHAPTER TWO A Journey Begins
    (pp. 35-54)

    Initially, the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women’s working group was to have equal government and CAEFS representation. During preliminary discussions within corrections, at the time when C-SPAC approved the launch of a task force, it was suggested by the chairman of the parole board, Fred Gibson, that a “Native[Aboriginal]person should be on the task force”, as well as “two provincial representatives”(emphasis added). That decision was made in September 1988 and the wording of the minutes suggests that both these constituencies, possibly through oversight, had been omitted from Ole Ingstrup’s original proposal. By the end of September...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Struggling for Consensus
    (pp. 55-80)

    The first meeting of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women Steering Committee was held on 3 April 1989, under the co-chairship of csc’s James Phelps and CAEFS’ Bonnie Diamond. The task force was expected to present its completed report to the commissioner by 15 December 1989, and the steering committee’s prime function was to provide direction for the whole of the task force rather than do the bulk of the work, with the four co-chairs liaising with each other. Commissioner Ingstrup made his only formal appearance before the task force at that first meeting, challenging the members to “think...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Facing the Central Conundrum
    (pp. 81-108)

    During the August meeting of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women’s working group a submission had been tabled from Sandy Sayer, who was a prisoner at the Prison for Women. It eloquently urged the task force to remember that, for prisoners, the real experts on imprisoned women were the women themselves. Ms Sayer was a reluctant contributor to the consultations, having seen many people attempt to provide solutions to the intractable problems of the prison, with few positive results. Yet, despite her doubts about the outcome, she wanted to add her voice to this initiative. Sandy Sayer, the mother...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Returning to the Cottages: Abandoning the Prison?
    (pp. 109-132)

    The November combined working group and steering committee meeting was held in Ottawa, some two hours drive from what remained a very troubled Prison for Women in Kingston, where the repressive lockdown policy continued.¹ There had been no official response to the committee’s motion following the death of Sandy Sayer, which left the question of provincial transfers unresolved and further underlined the impotence of the task force when it came to effecting immediate change. While the working group largely accepted the need for guidance from the steering committee, some members were unhappy about having continually to defend their decisions, and...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Edmonton Institution for Women
    (pp. 133-160)

    Having completed its work, the task force was disbanded and its painstakingly prepared plan for closure and replacement of the Prison for Women was returned – to the civil servants, as it transpired – for the next stage: implementation. What happened as all the new prisons emerged from conjecture into physical reality is first examined. Particular attention is then paid to the first three of the new prisons to open. It is important, for the historical record, to document how those three prisons individually fared, because the passage of time inevitably affects and clouds what is remembered of events. Commentators have addressed...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Nova Institution for Women
    (pp. 161-182)

    Federal departments do not necessarily separate one province from another administratively, and, for correctional purposes, the “Atlantic Region” covers the smaller provinces of Nova Scotia (NS), New Brunswick (NB), Prince Edward Island (PEI), and Newfoundland (NF).¹ During the task force consultations in these provinces a great deal was heard about the inadequate prisons available for provincially sentenced women and the enormous distances between some communities. Federally sentenced women were even more disadvantaged, generally having little option but confinement at the Prison for Women for the major part of their sentence (and then, because of the limited regimes, finding an eventual...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Shared Birth, Shared Problems
    (pp. 183-199)

    Two prisons, thousands of kilometres apart, shared a common history. As is clear, they also shared a common and very public birth. Edmonton and Nova bore the brunt of being the first of the “non-Aboriginal” prisons to open (although Edmonton did, of course, have a very large number of Aboriginal prisoners), and, at this point, it is useful to consider what differentiated them from each other. Nova was built in a town that actively solicited its arrival, whereas the city of Edmonton was suspicious of the new prison from the start. Nova was a small prison and physically complete when...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge: A Healing Prison?
    (pp. 200-229)

    The building of the Healing Lodge was an experiment unique to Canada and Aboriginal peoples, and the Correctional Service of Canada embarked upon a venture without precedent or guideline. The continuing presence of Aboriginal peoples as partners in the venture attested to what had been achieved by the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women itself: recognition of Aboriginal peoples as a distinct group and one possessing an increasing political clout. The crucial importance of Aboriginal people to the story told so far has been the way in which they so unexpectedly influenced the planning of the task force and the...

  15. CHAPTER TEN The Lessons Learned?
    (pp. 230-258)

    Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Womenwas accepted by the Government of Canada in 1990; the first of the new prisons opened in November 1995; and, on 6 July 2000 Kingston’s Prison for Women finally shut. These three events encapsulate the achievement of the task force. Individually, they are formidable, in the light of previous attempts to close the prison. Yet they disguise the underlying failures of the task force and the fact that the price of failure has been paid by federally sentenced women, who are now labelled as being infinitely more “difficult...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 259-284)
  17. References
    (pp. 285-294)
  18. Index
    (pp. 295-298)