In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Women's Prisons, A Tool of Subordination

Joint Effort

A look at the treatment and punishment of women in prison in this country reflects attitudes of a paternalistic nature, never questioning or challenging whether prisons are really a reasonable response to women's crime. It becomes obvious that the objective of women's prisons is to recreate and reinforce the subordination and submission of women according to the sexist authority of the patriarchy.

Even though we have seen structural changes come and go, the disparity between the treatment of men and women with the prison system has remained consistent and is still an issue today. The 1980 Canadian Human Rights Complaint lodged by Women for Justice alleged sexual discrimination on the part of CSC in its treatment of women prisoners. An examination of the charges at that time shows:

  • a lack of education, vocational, social and educational programs
  • a lack of employment and pay opportunities
  • no range of security classification
  • poor facilities, especially segregation
  • inadequate medical and psychiatric services
  • the over-representation of male prison administrators and senior managers (1)

Although the Human Rights Commission ruled in favor of the women, they chose not to order remedies. As a result three years went by without any concrete change, Women for Justice were looking for long term changes and new tools to work with women, while CSC only seemed interested in cosmetic alterations. It comes as no surprise that many of these same issues are at the forefront of complaints to this day.


  1. Adelberg, Ellen and Claudia Currie eds. Too Few to Count: Canadian Women in Conflict with the Law. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1987.