Seven months in, policy on transgender people in jails well received

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It hasn’t been used often, but a policy that outlines how staff at Saskatchewan jails should interact with transgender people has proven useful, says a spokesman for the province’s justice ministry.

“Staff operate very well in an environment when they understand what to do when potentially something that’s uncertain for them presents itself,” Drew Wilby said.

“Part of our job in corrections is to ensure that we’re prepared when things do come into our facilities. We haven’t had significant experience with transgender individuals … And so we need to prepare for when we require these things, and having policy in place for that is very, very important.”

The provincial government put policies in place in late June 2016 outlining how transgender people should be admitted to correctional centres.

The policies say transgender people are to be placed in facilities that correspond to their self-identified genders unless there are overriding health and safety concerns that can’t be resolved.

Transgender people can also request that people of a certain gender who will conduct their frisks and strip searches. They can also request that parts of their bodies be searched by a person of one gender and other parts by a person of the opposite gender.

Wilby said the policies haven’t been used much, but two people in the process of transitioning chose to be housed at an all-male correctional centre in Saskatoon earlier this week.

Saskatoon police say their policy addressing transgender people held in their detention unit was created in 2015 after consultations with agencies and individuals, including OUT Saskatoon and a lawyer specializing in LGBTQ issues. The police service has a questionnaire template that was developed for use during arrest or booking and designed to ensure the rights of transgender people. The police policy states that the identity they associate with is to be respected.

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