Female, youth prisoners not treated equally here

B.C. Civil Liberties Association clouded the waters of the RCMP investigation into a change of cellblock voyeurism when its executive director raised this week the issue of conditions for women in cells.

It may have seemed to be a natural segue into concerns that female prisoners don't have the same rights as male prisoners housed in cells at the Kamloops RCMP detachment, but it is an entirely different topic.

The debate arose when B.C. Civil Liberties held hearings around B.C. on whether the B.C. government should sign a 20-year service contract with the RCMP. Elizabeth Fry officials in Kamloops raised concern about how women are housed when they are held at the city detachment.

This week, when the RCMP issued a news release about an incident involved two female prisoners and seven male police officers and guards in the cellblock, BCCLA executive director David Eby referred to E. Fry's concerns.

Kamloops RCMP and City Hall administrators quickly leapt to the defence of their facilities, taking media on a tour of the cells to show how male and female prisoners get equal treatment.

In fact, they are not treated the same when they are in custody, but that has nothing to do with either the City or the RCMP. The problem E. Fry was talking about is a longstanding one in Kamloops and, other smaller cities in B.C., and it relates to women and youth who are held in custody for longer than 24 hours.

Men remanded in custody for longer than 24 hours are moved to Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre where they have better food, accommodations and activities. There is no place for women and teenagers at KRCC so they stay in remand in the city cells if they can't be transported to a Lower Mainland facility.

For example, a woman in custody on trial in Kamloops for several weeks will spend that full time basically in solitary confinement and eating sub sandwiches because that is what short-term prisoners get at city cells.

Some people will invariably say tough luck, but they should remember these prisoners have not been convicted of any offence. They are innocent as they spend time in very rough conditions. Anyone can put up with a stark cell, bland food and no reading or television for 24 hours. Staring at four walls for days or weeks on end is nothing short of torture.

This is not the fault of the RCMP or City Hall. The problem rests solely with the provincial government, B.C. Corrections and taxpayers who don't want to pay for remand facilities for the small number of women who will be held for longer than 24 hours.

There can be no denying female prisoners are not treated equally to male prisoners when their incarceration is longer than a day. It's wrong and it has to be fixed. It has nothing to do, however, with the inappropriate behaviour that occurred last month toward two specific female prisoners.

These are two very separate and serious issues and no good will come from mixing them together.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News