The Office of the Correctional Investigator’s 2017-18 Annual Report makes 21 recommendations – two directed to the Minister of Public Safety – and includes a review of the December 2016 deadly riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. As a special focus of this year’s report, the Saskatchewan Penitentiary investigation raises serious concerns about the appropriateness and adequacy of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) investigating itself in the aftermath of a serious incident.
“Back to Basics” Approach
The Correctional Investigator’s opening message urges the new Commissioner to enhance openness, transparency, and accountability in federal corrections. The report recommends a “back-to-basics” approach to corrections, which recognizes the following:
- Corrections is in the business of Human Rights.
- All rights, except those necessarily restricted as a consequence of incarceration, are retained.
- People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.
- Correctional policy and practice respect diversity and no discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, culture, etc.
- The goals of corrections include safe and humane custody, offender rehabilitation and community reintegration.
- Balance between institutional and community corrections investments.
- Commitment to evidence-based and best practices key to maintaining balance between security and rehabilitation.
Investigation into the Riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary
- CSC’s internal investigation concluded that the Saskatchewan Penitentiary riot was a spontaneous and random event that could not have been predicted or prevented.
- The Office’s review of the causes and catalysts of the riot concluded otherwise. For example, food quantity and quality issues were contributing factors to the riot, contradicting CSC’s claim that the riot was unrelated to food services.
- CSC’s investigation was superficial and self-serving:
- The Board interviewed only one inmate and relied mostly on Management’s interpretation of events for its frame of reference.
- The underlying Indigenous composition and gang dynamics of the riot were ignored by the National Board of Investigation (NBOI).
- Little attention, rigour, or insight is brought to bear on identity or understanding the riot’s underlying triggers, causes, or catalysts.
- The OCI’s review of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary riot point to transparency and credibility issues with respect to how the CSC investigates itself in the aftermath of a serious incident, and how the agency publicly reports on these incidents.
Openness, Transparency, and Accountability in Corrections
- In nearly every aspect, CSC’s internal monitoring mechanisms and review frameworks are not as transparent, rigorous, or effective as they should be.
- These mechanisms focus almost exclusively on policy compliance and fail to raise issues of managerial responsibility or corporate accountability.
- The internal inmate complaints and grievance system is broken, ineffective, and dysfunctional. It is not a system that can be relied upon to provide assurance or feedback on CSC operations in real-time.
- Additional assurance measures are required to enhance the integrity and credibility of investigations inclusive of major disturbances (riots) resulting in injury or death, suicides in segregation and use of force interventions leading to serious bodily injury or death.
Deaths in Custody
- The death of Ms. Terry Baker in administrative segregation at one of the regional women’s institutions is another tragic reminder that federal penitentiaries are ill-equipped to safely and appropriately manage chronic, self-injurious, or suicidal individuals. While in federal custody, this young woman:
- Engaged in more than 300 recorded incidents of self-injury;
- Amassed 64 institutional charges (27 serious and 37 minor);
- Was placed on segregation status 20 times;
- Was the subject of 56 documented use of force interventions; and,
- Was certified under the Ontario Mental Health Act twelve different times.
Health Care in Corrections
- CSC has not yet provided any documentation to corroborate its claim that its health care services are compliant with the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the ‘Mandela Rules’) inclusive of Rule 27 (2), which states that “clinical decisions may only be taken by the responsible health-care professionals and may not be overruled or ignored by non-medical prison staff.”
- Issues involving free, voluntary, and informed consent and clinical independence are magnified in a correctional setting and extend equally (if not more so) to offenders with complex and/or serious mental health issues inclusive of older offenders, and those who are terminally ill.
- A Patient Advocate model is required to protect inmate patients’ rights and to ensure they fully understand the implications of their decisions (i.e., informed consent and capacity).
- Transfer patients who present with serious mental health needs, suicidal or chronic self-injurious behaviours and cannot be safely managed in a penitentiary setting to the care of external psychiatric facilities.
- Indigenous people represent roughly 28% of the total federal inmate population: 40% of incarcerated women in federal prison are Indigenous. CSC and the Government of Canada must more fully devolve responsibility, but most of all resources and control, back to Indigenous communities.
- Although 20% of Indigenous inmates are gang affiliated, CSC still lacks a national gang and dis-affiliation strategy.
- To honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action,” CSC spending and community resource allocation must better reflect the proportion of Indigenous people under federal sentence.
- CSC’s current organizational structure is not adequate for prioritizing (e.g., section 81/84 agreements and community alternatives) or ensuring better outcomes for Indigenous people under federal sentence.
Other Issues of Concern
In 2017-18, the Office undertook a series of priority reviews and investigations in the following areas:
- Follow up on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in corrections .
- The use of compassionate release provisions for terminally ill offenders.
- Compliance and accountability issues pertaining to use of force interventions.
- Education behind bars.
- Movement levels in the Secure Units (maximum security) at the regional women’s facilities.
- The new Commissioner should initiate a prioritized review of the effectiveness of CSC’s internal monitoring and performance mechanisms.
- The CSC should not investigate itself in rare circumstances involving a riot, death, or suicide in solitary confinement, or death following a use of force intervention.
- CSC should create and appoint a Deputy Commissioner level position for Indigenous Corrections.
- CSC should outsource the care of complex needs patients who cannot be safely managed in a federal penitentiary.
- CSC should strengthen clinical independence and health care governance structures.