Corrections and Punishment in Canada: Ideology, Practice and the Federal Female Prisoner

Colleen Ann Dell, Carleton University
Cathy Fillmore, University of Winnipeg

Minor research attention has been allotted to the punishment of incarcerated females int he Canadian federal correctional system, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). literture that does exist generally proposes that punishment is the cornerstone of the regulation of female prisoners and that it takes a specific, gendered form that relies on the deployment of traditional ideals of passive, feminine behaviour. This paper evaluates this understanding by exploring CSC's current interpretation of punishment and its application toward federally sentenced women. Drawing on interviews with correctional personnel and incarcerated women and recent events, this paper offers a theoretical undetstanding of CSC's harsh response to women's "unfeminine" institutional behavour, in particular self-harm. It is propsosed that the ideological foundationa nd consequent practices of CSC are dee0ply embedded in its historic oppressive structure which has not yet fully questioned its traditional conception o female. it is suggested that CSC justifies its harsh forms of women's punishment under the guise of new terminology, such as referruing to solitary confinement as an "enhanced security unit" or "social needs unit". Without challenge, the ideological base of CSC offers no alternative but continued application of punitive practices based on the acceptance of a traditional conception of female.

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Updated 05/20/2006