2021, Innovations in Research

Maintaining Respect and Dignity?

A Critical Comparison of Policies Governing Incarcerated Transgender People

Since the 2017 enactment of Bill C-16, adding “gender identity or expression” as a protected ground in the Canadian Human Rights Act (1985), the Correctional Service of Canada has lacked clarity in policy for transgender prisoners. This study employs a comparative analysis, drawing upon policies from the UK and Australia to inform Canadian policy development. This project engaged with a Queer criminological and critical legal scope to critically analyze correctional policies, with the goal of promoting substantive equality. Thematic analysis produced three findings: (1) a “respect and dignity” principle highlighting the vulnerabilities of transgender prisoners; (2) emphasis on balancing the rights of the transgender individual and the rest of the general prison population; and (3) the multiple ways "transgender" identity is defined in correctional policy. Resulting policy recommendations targeted gender self-identification, single-cell placement, health care, psychological care, and specialized staff training.

This thesis produced recommendations that aim to mobilize correctional policy specific to transgender prisoners "toward equity." The analyzed policies and this thesis concur that transgender prisoners experience differential harms under correctional regimes, but this project challenges Canadian federal policy to address such harms more substantially. The project addresses the unique needs of transgender prisoners, advocating for equitable change through policy recommendations that promote specialized care and management while incarcerated. Transgender prisoners do not require the care and management the general carceral population receives. Rather, they require additional, Queer, gender-specific care to address the additional stigma criminalized transgender people experience in society, which is amplified in the carceral regime.

The project situates Canadian correctional policy goals within the Commonwealth, namely the UK and Australia, thus informing its development according to the strengths of similar states. The aim of this research is to inform Canadian correctional policy development so transgender prisoners receive the necessary care and management pertaining to their specific needs.

Jake Castro

Alumnus, School of Criminology

Corrections policy, Queer criminologies, critical legal studies


Jake Castro

Jake Castro (he/him/his) recently graduated from the Criminology Honours program in Spring 2020, in which he produced a thesis that produced five policy recommendations for Canadian corrections policy pertaining to transgender prisoners. Currently, he is pursuing a graduate degree in Criminology and Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa, at the beginning stages of a thesis covering the same subject area. Jake's non-academic experience pertains to corrections both in the governmental and non-profit settings, which has allowed him valuable experience applicable to his academic pursuits.

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