Council’s decision on jail guards puts women at risk

Nanaimo city council has made the decision to cut funding for gender-specific guard services – women guards for women prisoners.

To the Editor,

Nanaimo city council has made the decision to cut funding for gender-specific guard services – women guards for women prisoners.

Nanaimo took a progressive step in gender-specific guarding many years ago. It was something to be proud of and the most recent decision is a giant step backward.

We have all heard horror stories of sexual and physical assault of women in custody. It is the most vulnerable who end up in city cells, aboriginal and non-aboriginal suffering from addictions. It is obvious that the majority of council did not or choose not to understand that they have a responsibility to make an educated decision on this matter. Women incarcerated in city cells have a right to be protected with dignity. Their human rights are being violated by the city representatives who are supposed to understand and protect these rights. It is very disturbing that council has decided to save money on the backs of the vulnerable.

Money can be saved elsewhere, just hire fewer consultants.

Judy ForbisterNanaimo


To the Editor,

Nanaimo was so forward thinking in 2004 when they heard our call to protect the dignity of women who may find themselves incarcerated for a period of time in our jail. The 2004 decision made it so that female guards would monitor female detainees. That was fair and just and certainly went a long way to protect a female’s rights to dignity as well as safety all of which is our constitutional right as well as a right declared by the United Nations.

Last week, five males voted to eliminate gender specific monitoring to save $360,000. The discussion that occurred around this issue was ludicrous. It had nothing to do with prevention as implied, or money, but rather it had to do with the all-powerful males exercising their will over the female population of this city yet again. We have gone backward 12 years. I am disgusted to say the least.

June RossNanaimo


To the Editor,

I couldn’t believe my ears when Nanaimo council approved a motion to allow male guards to monitor female detainees at the local jail.

Some of these women may be innocent and find themselves in extenuating circumstances. What a nightmare. However, even if they are guilty of a crime, at this point, they are still innocent until they’ve had their day in court. Should these women be subjected to the humiliation of having to ask a male for sanitary protection let’s say? Or having male guards witnessing them using the toilet?

In other jails, it is well-known that male guards have taken advantage of having vulnerable women under their charge. How are they going to monitor this to make sure no abuse happens here? Security cameras don’t seem to be a deterrent because it still happens in other jails. Why not here? Sure the guards were fired or disciplined, but the damage had already been done.

Often too, women involved in such a violation feel too intimidated to come forward. Should women be exposed to that possibility just because they’re in jail? Aren’t councillors taking that chance when they approve such a motion? Go back to the drawing board, councillors; save money someplace else. I can think of many ways, starting with the convention centre.

Edie CartwrightNanaimo