02/18/2016 11:40 EST | Updated 02/18/2016 11:59 EST

Saskatchewan Police Cells Implement New Matron Program After Inmate's Complaint

The woman who filed the complaint says it's a step in the right direction.

Design Pics/Don Hammond via Getty Images
A prison cell

SASKATOON — A Saskatoon woman who filed a complaint after spending a weekend in a police cell says she's happy with a new matron program but hopes to see even more changes soon.

Sheila Crittin was put in a holding cell for three days last year after she missed a court appearance — due to being at work in Calgary — where she was to testify as a witness in a car crash.

Crittin filed a formal complaint about what she called deplorable conditions in the cell, and her discomfort with male guards checking in on her while she was in the cell.

"I felt I should be entitled to be protected.''

The complaint sparked a pilot program in which a matron now checks on female inmates over the weekend.

Crittin says it's "a real positive step forward for the female inmates.''

But she would also like people with mental health issues to be better accommodated while in custody, noting she did not have access to her medication for severe anxiety while she was being held.

Another of her complaints noted that while being transferred to court, guards handcuffed her to a woman covered in blood.

"They were all gloved,'' Crittin says. "I felt I should be entitled to be protected, too. I'm just asking for some protection — whether it's myself or any another inmate. If (guards are) at risk, then why aren't we?''

Police chief Clive Weighill did not comment Wednesday on Crittin's safety concern, but says new rules are being implemented that limit the amount of detainees who can be handcuffed together while being transported.

"I'm just asking for some protection — whether it's myself or any another inmate. If (guards are) at risk, then why aren't we?''

The new rules state only two people can be cuffed together.

He also says male constables were performing cell checks in the past because of staffing issues.

"What would happen in the past is that we would have the female special constable do the checks on females, but on busy nights the male constable would end up doing them,'' he says. "So now we've done away with that on the weekends, which are our busy times, and we'll have a female matron there.''

(CTV Saskatoon)

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