Documenting the Path for a Transgender Inmate

Authority Surrey Pretrial Services Centre

Karen, a transgender woman, was understandably upset when she was placed in the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre – an all-male facility.

In B.C., inmates are no longer assigned to correctional centres on the basis of their birth gender alone. Rather, recent changes to the ministry’s Adult Custody Policy mean authorities place inmates in facilities consistent with their gender identity – unless there is a security-based rationale for not doing so.

Karen contacted us from the centre and we investigated, looking both at the decision to place Karen in a male facility, and at the steps being taken to accommodate her as a female.

We were encouraged to learn that Karen’s placement at a male centre had been the subject of discussion at senior levels of the ministry. Karen’s placement at Surrey Pretrial was partially in response to concerns raised during Karen’s prior incarceration as one of the first transgender inmates at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.

What was less encouraging, however, was the lack of written summaries documenting the senior-level discussions and decision making relating to Karen’s placement at Surrey Pretrial.

While Karen was frustrated with the challenges of her gender-inappropriate setting, we noted efforts made by the centre to both communicate openly with Karen about her needs and to arrive at some practical solutions. To that end, we communicated regularly with both Karen and the centre to confirm efforts to accommodate her as a female in a male facility. The centre provided Karen with gender-appropriate personal effects and canteen items not usually available.

Five months later, Karen was transferred to the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women. This decision did resolve Karen’s concern about gender-inappropriate placement. But, again, the ministry lacked sufficient documentation of the case conference process and of the factors considered and weighed in making the decision to transfer Karen to Alouette.

We raised our concerns with the ministry, which agreed to review and improve the documentation procedure for decisions, like Karen’s placement, which are made at senior levels.

Karen was relieved when the transfer decision was ultimately made, placing her at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.

Names in our case summaries have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This case study can also be found in the 2016-2017 Annual Report.

Category Corrections
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2016
Location The Lower Mainland