BACKGROUNDER
43rd Annual Report to Parliament

Overview

The 2015-16 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator makes 27 recommendations covering six areas of priority:

  1. Health Care in Federal Corrections
  2. Prevention of Deaths in Custody
  3. Conditions of Confinement
  4. Indigenous Corrections
  5. Safe and Timely Community Reintegration
  6. Federally Sentenced Women

The report contains a special focus on the use of inflammatory agents in federal corrections.

Special Focus on Use of Inflammatory Agents in Corrections

  • Use of force interventions in federal correctional facilities are increasing. In 2015-16, the Office reviewed 1,833 use of force incidents (up 22% from 2014-15).
  • 61% of all use of force incidents reviewed by the Office involved the use of an inflammatory agent (commonly known as OC or oleoresin capsicum, or pepper spray).  
  • Pepper spray was made standard issue for most correctional officers (carried on their belt) in September 2010; its use has nearly tripled since 2011/12.
  • Inflammatory agents were used in more than half of use of force incidents involving a self-injurious offender.  40.95% of all use of force incidents at CSC’s treatment centres (psychiatric hospitals) included the use of pepper spray.
  • Increased reliance on inflammatory sprays corresponds with an erosion in CSC use of force policy and review framework.  Inflammatory sprays appear to be replacing de-escalation techniques such as verbal interventions.    
  • In some instances, the frequency and amount of inflammatory spray used appears disproportionate to the incident in question.
  • The increase in use of force interventions is not consistent with long-standing correctional principles such as the concept of “least restrictive measures”.
  • There are recurring compliance deficiencies in use of force interventions:
    • Situation Management Model not followed in 10% of interventions reviewed.
    • Decontamination procedures not followed in 31% of all incidents reviewed.
    • Post-use of force health care assessments deficient in 54% of all reviews.
    • Video recording procedures deficient in 77% of all reviews.
    • Strip search procedures were not followed in 30% of all interventions.
    • Offenders alleged inappropriate levels of force used in 5% of all incidents.
  • On the basis of these findings, the Office concludes that the current use of force review and control framework for inflammatory agents is not sufficient or adequate to ensure their reasonable and proportionate use in CSC facilities.

The report includes these recommendations: 

  1. The removal, display or threatened use of a chemical and inflammatory agent should be properly and immediately reinstated as a “reportable” use of force in CSC’s use of force policy and review framework.
  2. CSC should conduct an immediate review of the factors behind the increasing use of inflammatory agents in CSC facilities and assess whether additional review and accountability controls are required to ensure their safe and proper use.
  3. CSC policy should require shower and wash as soon as possible following the use of or contamination by an organic inflammatory agent, with any delay of more than 20 minutes requiring notification of the Institutional Head.       
  4. After each and every use of an inflammatory or chemical agent, the canister should be weighed and the volume discharged duly recorded.  Officers should be held to account for the use(s) and volume of inflammatory agents discharged for each incident.  These records should be shared regionally and nationally on a quarterly basis

Other Issues of Concern

Health Care

  • The system is not well equipped to provide for increased health care needs associated with older (over age 50) offenders, chronic illness and end-of-life care.
  • Reductions in “non essential” dental care mean that only the most severe or urgent cases are being provided treatment.
  • Correctional health care professionals facing ethical and practice dilemmas (security versus health care, inmate versus patient).
  • Prison harm reduction measures are not as comprehensive or equivalent to those provided in the community.   
  • Psychotropic medications more commonly prescribed to federal offenders than in the general Canadian population (30.4% vs. 8.0%).

Prevention of Deaths in Custody

  • The Third Independent Review Committee of Deaths in Custody challenge CSC’s conclusion that most prison suicides could not have been prevented.
  • CSC’s overall strategy to prevent deaths in custody lacks responsiveness, transparency and accountability.
  • Inadequate information sharing with families who have lost a family member in federal custody.

Conditions of Confinement

  • Pay and allowance levels have not changed in over 30 years making it difficult for inmates to save for their release.  The lack of resources upon release is a significant barrier to safe and successful reintegration.

Aboriginal Corrections

  • Indigenous peoples now account for 25% of the total federal inmate population.
  • Since March 2005, the Aboriginal inmate population has increased by 52.4%. 
  • Gap in correctional outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders continues to widen.
  • Uneven application of Aboriginal social history (Gladue factors) in CSC decision-making.
  • Participation and involvement of Elders not adequately supported by CSC. 

Safe and Timely Reintegration

  • Over 70% of releases from federal institutions were at statutory release (at two-thirds of the sentence) in 2014-15.
  • Spending on educational and vocational programming is declining as needs increase.
  • Limited access to resources to help offenders prepare for community reintegration – e.g. temporary absences, work releases, library holdings and computers.

Federally Sentenced Women

  • Aboriginal women account for over 35% of all women in federal custody.
  • Regional women’s facilities ill-equipped to provide an appropriate therapeutic environment for women presenting with significant mental health issues.
  • Operational challenges associated with the new Minimum Security Units.

Key Recommendations

  1. The Minister of Public Safety should work with provincial and territorial counterparts to create an independent national advisory forum drawn from experts, practitioners and stakeholder groups to review trends, share lessons learned and suggest research that will reduce the number and rate of deaths in custody in Canada.
  2. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety initiate a review of the inmate payment/allowance system in federal corrections.
  3. CSC should appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.
  4. CSC should develop a three year action plan to meet demand for meaningful work, increase vocational training skills and participation in apprenticeship programs.
  5. CSC should significantly enhance access to the community for women residing in the Minimum Security Units through increased use of temporary absences, work releases, employment and vocational skills training programs.