What's in a Name?: Women-Centered Corrections or Misappropriation of Feminist Goodwill

MaDonna Maidment, Carleton University

The 1990s were ushered in on the promise of a new direction for women's corrections in Canada. After decades of government tinkering with correctional reform, it seemed the time had come to take the plight of federally sentenced women seriously by striking a task force to research, collaborate and implement a woman-centered approach to corrections. The major distinguishing feature of the 1990 Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women (TFFSW) was its focus on creating meaningful choices for women based on the collaborative input by women prisoners, feminist activists and scholars, aboriginal organizations, and government officials. While the TFFSW was hailed both nationally and internationally as a progressive step toward improving the conditions of women's corrections it has come under increased scrutiny and criticism in its failure to advance the workings of the task force to the level of implementation. I argue that this major downfall has to do with the unwillingness of the state to incorporate feminist ideologies and practices into their 'women-centered' approach. This paper will examine how feminist core values have been misappropriated all the way from the language used to describe this 'new' vision to the abject exclusionary practices adopted at the implementation stages of the task force which dramatically altered its intended outcomes.

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Updated 05/20/2006