Finding Out if an Offender is in a Men’s or Women’s Prison in Canada is no Easy Task

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) informed me that they will not confirm or deny whether an offender is in a men’s or women’s correctional facility. CSC maintains that the Privacy Act justifies withholding this information. This is a concern because there are violent male offenders who have gone back and forth between men’s and women’s facilities and it is in the public interest to know whether an offender is in the male or female estate.

This is a part of a wider governmental commitment to lies of omission in respect to the number of men in women’s prisons in Canada. Currently it is not possible to obtain accurate data on the number of men in women’s federal prisons. Male offenders in women’s prisons can be classified as male or female in CSC’s Offender Management System. A male who has had his penis surgically removed is classified as a female by CSC. While a male who has retained his penis is recorded as male, even if he is housed in a female facility and claims to be a woman.

Male sex offenders such as Matthew Harks and Adam Laboucan are classified as female by CSC.

This confusion is echoed in, at least some, provincial correctional systems. Each province holds jurisdiction over it’s provincial penal policies and this has lead to a variety of approaches when it comes to the recording of the sex of men who, on the basis of their claim that they are actually women, have been granted accommodation in women’s prisons.

In provincial corrections in British Columbia (BC) they record legal sex. Legal sex refers to the sex that appears on your government documents , such as your driver’s license. In many jurisdictions your sex designation on these official documents can be altered by filling out a form. A declaration that an offender feels he is a woman is all that is required for a man to seek accommodation in a women’s facility, while altering the sex marker on your documents is not. Therefore, as with CSC, BC corrections labels some male offenders in women’s prisons as female, and others as male.

Provincial corrections in Newfoundland and Labrador record the actual sex of offenders but they will not release data on the number of males in women’s prisons citing privacy. BC corrections also refuses to release such data, again citing privacy.

At least there is data to fight for in these cases. In the provincial correctional system in Nova Scotia only the sex that offenders claim they are is recorded.