West Coast Prison Justice Society

Registration open! Supporting Prisoners’ Mental Health

Conference Date: June 2, 2017 | Conference Location: Vancouver Convention Centre.

Supporting Prisoners’ Mental Health: Best practices and alternatives to solitary confinement

Register now!
This day-long collaborative conference will provide a forum for medical professionals to discuss ways that they can comply with the UN Mandela Rules and advocate for their patients’ mental health in a correctional setting, navigating the waters between ethical and professional obligations and the security concerns of the prison environment.

Confirmed speakers

Dr. Gabor Maté, Best-selling author and retired medical doctor
Dr. Craig Haney, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Jennifer Wheatley, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services, Correctional Service Canada
Dr. Diane A. Rothon, Medical Director, BC Corrections
Dr. John Livesley, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia
Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin, Clinical Professor, University of British Columbia
Jean-Frédéric Boulais, Director of Investigations and General Counsel, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Conference topics will include: the harms of solitary confinement; trauma and addiction; current standards for accommodating and treating prisoners with mental health issues, including personality disorders; and implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).

We especially welcome doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and other correctional healthcare providers, as well as correctional staff whose work overlaps with mental healthcare and policy development.

Click here to register now – seats are limited. A full agenda will be available shortly. Please email info@pls-bc.ca if you have any questions.

Presented by the West Coast Prison Justice Society with funding from the Law Foundation of BC.

We’re hiring!


Prisoners’ Legal Services, Burnaby, BC 

Prisoners’ Legal Services is looking for a passionate, problem solving, empathetic and dedicated advocate for prisoners’ rights, with a focus on women prisoners, youth and health care issues.

We are a small non-profit society providing legal services to federal and provincial prisoners in the province of British Columbia.

The legal advocate position involves providing advocacy to prisoners regarding prison legal issues.  This work is primarily done by telephone, fax and email.  Advocacy on behalf of prisoners may involve summary advice, informal advocacy, providing written submissions and personal representation at tribunals.

Legal advocates have conduct of client files and are responsible for ensuring day-to-day tasks are scheduled and performed within relevant timeframes.  The job involves reviewing and determining the legal merit of cases and determining the level of service to be provided. Legal advocates work under the supervision of a lawyer.

Legal advocates have a great deal of contact with prisoners, prison administrators and parole authorities.

This position requires frequent travel to prisons in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Access to a vehicle is essential. A CPIC clearance is required to visit prisons.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Post-secondary education in Law, Criminology, Social Work, Paralegal training or equivalent;
  • Strong verbal, written and interviewing skills; and
  • Experience in a legal environment or advocacy an asset.

Skills and Abilities

  • ability to be a strong advocate for disadvantaged clients, including those with low income, those with mental disabilities, or those whose first language is not English;
  • ability to work well with others in a team setting;
  • ability to negotiate and find creative solutions to prisoners’ legal problems;
  • ability to exercise excellent judgment in matters of ethics and confidentiality;
  • must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, in particular in dealing with prisoners, lawyers, and prison and parole officials;
  • must be familiar with general software applications (e.g. MS Word, Outlook);
  • must be willing and prepared to assist those convicted of various crimes in a non-judgmental way; and
  • second language or demonstrated awareness of the cultural diversity of prisoners an asset.

Salary:  $52,584 (benefits after six months)

Closing date:  February 28, 2018

Start date:  April 3, 2018

Interested applicants should submit a covering letter together with a résumé outlining how their qualifications meet the position requirements to:

Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director
Prisoners’ Legal Services/
West Coast Prison Justice Society

Tel: (604) 636-0470
Fax:  (604) 636-0480
Email: jmetcalfe@pls-bc.ca

Solitary Confinement Public Panel Talk

Join us next Tuesday, February 6th for a free panel talk on the BC Supreme Court’s decision to end indefinite solitary confinement.

On January 17, 2018, the BCCLA won a constitutional challenge to indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons across Canada, but our work is far from over. Within 12 months, the government will have to decide how the BC Supreme Court’s ruling will be reflected in the law.

Join us next week as we discuss what’s next in the fight against indefinite solitary confinement. Panelists will be unpacking the decision, its impact on prison justice, and mapping what’s to come.

What: Challenging Solitary Confinement Public Panel

When: Tuesday, February 6, 2018. 6-8 pm.

Where: Room 2270, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Read More

Joint News Release: Changes to the way transgender offenders are accommodated in Canada’s federal prison system

January 31, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS)

An important collaboration spanning several years between the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) has resulted in changes to the way transgender offenders are accommodated in Canada’s federal prison system.

These changes come in the wake of Parliament’s recent change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which added “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

In the context of its daily operations, CSC will continue to provide education and awareness to staff and offenders and work to ensure that the health, safety and dignity of everyone is respected at all times. New operational practices for CSC include:

  • Placing an offender in a men’s or women’s institution according to their gender identity, if it is their preference, regardless of their anatomy or gender on their identification documents, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved.
  • Using an offender’s preferred name and pronoun in all oral interaction and written documentation.
  • Allowing offenders to purchase authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health or security concerns according to the security level of their institution.
  • Taking steps to maximize the privacy and confidentiality of information related to an offender’s gender identity. Information about an offender’s gender identity will only be shared with those directly involved with the offender’s care, and only when relevant.
  • Offering individualized protocols for offenders who seek to be accommodated on the basis of gender identity or expression to ensure, among other things:
    • the safety, privacy and dignity of an offender when they access shower and/or toilet facilities; and
    • the choice of male or female staff to conduct frisk and strip searches, urinalysis testing, and camera surveillance.

All three organizations look forward to further collaboration and successful implementation of these changes. As CSC updates its individual policies, it will continue to count on the valuable contribution of correctional experts and stakeholders, such as the CHRC and PLS, labour partners, academia and experts in gender and identity issues.

For more information, please read CSC’s Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression.


“We are overjoyed that CSC is making so many positive changes that recognize the human rights of trans people in the correctional system. These changes will improve the safety and dignity of transgender federal offenders in Canada, affecting every aspect of their daily lives.”
-Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director, Prisoners’ Legal Services

“We have heard the concerns raised by trans individuals and advocates, and we are pleased to see these significant improvements become a reality, for the rights of transgender offenders, and their families. This is about respect and human dignity—something that every person, including those in our prison system, is entitled to.”
—Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

“These changes ensure that offenders who identify as transgender are afforded the same protections, dignity and treatment as others. CSC is committed to building a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone, including transgender staff, offenders, volunteers and visitors.”
—Don Head, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada

Associated Links

CSC Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression

CHRC Website – Prisoner Rights

Prisoner’s Legal Services

Stay Connected

Follow us on Twitter @CdnHumanRights and Facebook.

Watch us on YouTube

Follow CSC on Facebook and Twitter @CSC_SCC_en


Media Contacts

Prisoners’ Legal Services Media Relations
Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director:

Canadian Human Rights Commission Media Relations

Correctional Service Canada Media Relations



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Status of Women – Study on Indigenous Women Prisoners

Prisoners’ Legal Services executive director, Jennifer Metcalfe, appeared today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women as part of their current study on Indigenous women prisoners. Click here to read her speaking notes.

Ms. Metcalfe called on government to engage with First Nations and Indigenous organizations for self-determination in the administration of correctional services, and to ensure that they are well resourced to provide full wrap-around support for women who have experienced multi-generational trauma.

Inside/Out: A Prison Memoir at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Join us at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival for Inside/Out, a memoir about life in the Canadian prison system.

Inside/Out follows Patrick Keating’s journey as a child growing up in Montreal, getting into drugs and crime, entering the juvenile detention system at the age of 16, and serving a total of three sentences, one for bank robbery. Patrick’s honest and engaging delivery of his funny, sad, and stirring true story helps dismantle our ideas of what a ‘criminal’ looks like – and helps us better understand how language, race, and class play a very real part in our lives as Canadians. It’s about a man’s search for community: the community of the street, the community of prison, and of the theatre.

There will be post-show talkbacks after each performance hosted by Pivot Legal Society with Prisoners’ Legal Services.

January 17–21, 2018
80 minutes, no intermission

7:00PM (January 17–20)
2:00PM (January 21)

There will be a captioned performance on Sunday, January 21st at 2:00 pm for Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing.

Regular tickets are $39 (incl. taxes) | Group tickets (10 or more) are only $28.20! BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE For questions or accessibility concerns, please contact Accessible PuSh Coordinator Anika Vervecken: access@pushfestival.ca | 604.605.8284 ext. 204

CSC Policy: Consideration of Aboriginal Social History

Correctional Service Canada is currently updating policy regarding the consideration of Aboriginal Social History in the administration of Indigenous prisoners’ sentences. PLS supports these initiatives and provided feedback on making this policy even stronger. You can read our comments here.

Prisoners’ Legal Services recommends reforms to British Columbia correctional laws.

Today, Prisoners’ Legal Services wrote to Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth with a list of recommendations for legislative reforms that would improve the lives of BC provincial prisoners. You can read our list of recommendations here.

We hope the new BC government will take this opportunity to reform prison law to be in compliance with the United Nations’ Mandela Rules and abolish the use of solitary confinement in BC which is considered to be torture or cruel treatment if it is used for more than 15 days or on prisoners with mental disabilities. We also call for more resources to support prisoners with mental health needs.

Correctional Service Canada is failing to treat prisoners with drug addictions. Read our letter.


On July 17, 2017, Prisoners’ Legal Services wrote to Correctional Service Canada on behalf of 33 prisoners struggling with addiction who are unable to get appropriate medical treatment. The letter raises urgent concerns about woefully inadequate resources and the abrupt and inhumane discontinuation of medication for patients who do receive Opioid Substitution Therapy.

As the letter explains, many clients say they are looking for help to stop using drugs and are afraid of overdosing, but that they are unable to get the help they need. Some have been waiting months—and some even years—for treatment. Others have been cut off their life-saving medication after allegations of diversion with no meaningful opportunity to defend themselves or exploration of alternatives to termination.

The letter urges Correctional Service Canada to make immediate changes to its Opioid Substitution Therapy program to ensure everyone who needs this life-saving treatment has access to it.  Read the letter here

British Columbia is saving lives by giving drugs to opioid-addicted prisoners

British Columbia is dramatically expanding a key drug treatment program in prisons, winning praise from experts who say jails are important venues for reducing drug-related crime, overdoses, and transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C. Read the whole story at the National Observer.

Canada’s prison agency closes in on new solitary confinement rules

Canada’s prison agency is close to establishing new rules that would prohibit the placement of vulnerable people in solitary confinement and increase the time segregated inmates can spend out of cells. Read the whole story at the Globe and Mail

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