inequality

inequality

Office of the Correctional Investigator Annual Report 2021-2022

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June 30, 2022

The Honourable Marco Mendicino 
Minister of Public Safety 
House of Commons 
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Minister,

In accordance with section 192 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, it is my privilege and duty to submit to you the 49th Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator.

Yours respectfully,

 

Ivan Zinger, J.D., Ph.D. 
Correctional Investigator


Table of Contents

Correctional Investigators Message 

Executive Director’s Message 

National Updates and Significant Cases 

1. Dry Cells 

2. Correctional Service of Canada’s Drug Strategy 

3. Edmonton Institution 

4. Structured Intervention Units 

5. Over-representation of Indigenous Women in Secure Units (Maximum Security) 

6. Mother-Child Program 

7. Security Escort Vehicles 

National Level Investigations 

1. Update on the Experiences of Black Persons in Canadian Federal Penitentiaries 

2. Restrictive forms of Confinement in Federal Corrections (Male Maximum-Security Penitentiaries). 

3. Ten Years since Spirit Matters : Indigenous Issues in Federal Corrections (Part I) 

Correctional Investigator’s Outlook for 2022-23 

Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award 

Annex A: Summary of Recommendations 

Annex B: Annual Statistics 

Annex C: Other Statistics 

Response to the 49th Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator 

Commissioner’s Message 

Responses to Recommendations 


Correctional Investigator's Message

Photo of Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger, 
Correctional Investigator of Canada 
 

It was no accident of history that my Office was created nearly 50 years ago, in 1973, amidst a series of seemingly uninterrupted prison riots, hostage takings, murders, mayhem and maladministration that nearly brought Canada’s Penitentiary Service, as it was then known, to its knees. The Commission of Inquiry set up to get to the bottom of this unprecedented period of revolt and unrest in Canada’s prison system recognized the value of providing federally sentenced people with an independent and external redress system for the airing and resolution of legitimate grievances. The first Correctional Investigator, Ms. Ingrid Hansen, took up her role in June 1973. Half a century later, my Office still provides a necessary outlet for the airing of individual and systemic prisoner complaints. My Office continues to carry out independent monitoring and oversight of Canada’s federal correctional system, conducting investigations, reporting findings and issuing recommendations with the hope of effecting lasting change and positive reform.

As an oversight body, my ability to influence, effect change or persuade an alternative course of action is tied to the quality, thoroughness, relevance, and integrity of the investigations that my Office conducts. In such matters, the Office’s influence relies on a mixture of discretionary and obligatory powers, simultaneously bounded and contingent on the issues identified and brought forward in public reporting. It is certainly within my responsibility to inform the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) when I think that their boat is listing or possibly in danger of sinking, but it is not within my remit to build them a better or more leak-proof vessel. To the point of the matter, my ability to influence policy or practice within CSC incorporates those areas of systemic or individual concern that I raise in my Annual Reports, bring before Parliament, or choose to occasionally raise with the media.

It is true that, on occasion, I may vent my frustration in the media or express public dissatisfaction or disappointment with CSC and its proclivity to deflect, obstruct or defend itself against criticism. While my findings, particularly those of a systemic nature, are sometimes ignored or not acted upon by CSC, I am proud of the fact that the larger body of the Office’s work does not go unnoticed by many others, including academics, lawyers, media, Parliament, other interested Canadians and vested stakeholders. From national Commissions of Inquiry, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to reports from Parliamentary Standing Committees, and in universities and courtrooms across the land, OCI recommendations and reports are frequently cited to inform, to teach, to instruct, and yes – from time to time – to litigate.

For very good reason, the statutory powers and authorities that protect and ensure my functional independence from CSC and the Minister of Public Safety also provide that I am not a compellable or competent witness in any legal proceedings. I cannot be subpoenaed to appear before a judge or be drawn into the courtroom to provide expert evidence or first-hand testimony. That said, the content and context of Office reporting are frequently used by the courts or counsel, often entered as background information or even evidence for consideration in both individual and class-action suits. Office reporting on the over-representation and disparate outcomes of Indigenous (Gladue factors and actuarial risk assessments) or Black persons (cultural assessments) in federal corrections, for example, is often taken under consideration during sentencing. The long and contorted legal battles and constitutional challenges to end solitary confinement in Canada relied on evidence, in part, documented in OCI findings over many, many years of reporting on this issue.

The vitality, relevance, and strength of the Office lies in its ability to provide witness, to document accurately, impartially and without fear of reprisal or dismissal. We can enter and inspect federal prisons unfettered and we can demand production of any document without delay or redaction. We endeavour to accurately report out on what really goes on behind those imposing walls. We speak truth to power. I am justifiably proud of the fact that our reporting is used to inform legislation and legislators alike. Office recommendations, reports and findings often make their way into Government criminal justice priorities, speeches from the throne, Ministerial or Commissioner Mandate letters. A recent reference in the Public Safety Minister’s mandate letter from the Prime Minister – that he “work to address systemic racism and the over-representation of Black and racialized Canadians and Indigenous Peoples in the justice system” – reflects on a Government priority that can be traced back to more than a decade of Office reporting. Moreover, our 2019-20 national investigation on sexual coercion and violence behind bars ( A Culture of Silence ) was also referenced in the Minister’s mandate letter in direction from the Prime Minister that he “consider how to ensure that federal correctional institutions are safe and humane environments, free from violence and sexual harassment, and promote rehabilitation and public safety.” Our reporting is often referenced by UN Special Rapporteurs – internationally recognized human rights experts who periodically report on prison conditions or the treatment of vulnerable groups behind bars. OCI citations can also be found in government reports to UN oversight bodies established to monitor Canada’s compliance with international human rights treaty obligations.

While I would, of course, like to see more acceptance of my recommendations and recognition of my oversight role within CSC, it is not from lack of trying. As an ombudsman, my powers are limited to making recommendations. I cannot compel the Service to accept my findings or implement my recommendations. CSC’s only legal obligation is to respond within a reasonable time frame to my recommendations. I have little control over the manner, method, content, veracity or commitment of CSC’s responses.

Truth be told, it can be frustrating to receive a CSC response that answers one of my reports or recommendations with “policy says this…” or “policy directs that…” In response to any given report, up to half of my recommendations may be answered with citations from CSC’s extensive catalogue of Commissioner’s Directives (CD). Within CSC, the ever-expanding collection of CDs has somehow attained the same status as the law, which it is supposed to provide meaning. My investigators are quite well versed in what policy does or does not instruct. The reason why we bring forward these matters in the first place is usually because we have found some non-compliance with the policy measure in practice, be it misinterpretation, misapplication, or sometimes, even a gap in policy. It is what my Office does: we monitor and ensure compliance with law and policy. An act of omission or finding of non-compliance cannot be saved by the fact that a Commissioner’s Directive already exists, can be cited word-for-word, or is actually intended to mean something else. To answer a finding of non-compliance with a policy citation is circular and dismissive of the matter in question. It is not a response.

It is said that advice is often ignored at one’s own peril. To extend this metaphor, it could be said that findings and recommendations reissued by my Office are dismissed, not acted upon or set aside at CSC’s peril. This year’s report incorporates a number of issues of national significance or concern that have been raised throughout the reporting period, often in correspondence, institutional visits, or bilateral meetings and exchanges with CSC at all levels within the organization. They are usually not new issues, but rather areas of unresolved, unaddressed or updated concern that remain under active investigation. In many cases, the same recommendations from previous reports are repeated verbatim or reissued with some new language. Some of these updates and their respective reporting histories included in this year’s report are:

  1. Prohibition on the use of dry cell placements beyond 72 hours (recommendation first made in the Office’s 2011-12 Annual Report, repeated in 2018-19, and reissued in 2021-22). 

     
  2. A prison needle exchange program (PNEP) that, based on low participation rates, exists more in name than practice (initially reported in the Office’s 2018-19 Annual Report). 
     
  3. Dysfunction at Edmonton Institution (successive Annual Reports). 
     
  4. Over-representation of Indigenous women in maximum-security units (many Annual Reports, and a section 180 Report and Notice to the Minister in June 2018). 

     
  5. Overly restrictive criteria that systematically restrict or discriminate against Indigenous women’s participation in the residential Mother-Child Program (first raised in the 2009-10 Annual Report). 

     
  6. Lack of prisoner seatbelts in CSC’s escort vehicles (first raised in the Office’s 2016-17 Annual Report). 

     

I could easily list more issues and their reporting histories above, but I think the point has been sufficiently made. Notwithstanding the fact that corrections fall within an area of public policy that is stubbornly resistant to reform and change, there are many reasons why, in the course of my work, it is often the case that I feel compelled to renew or update findings or reissue recommendations over and over again. For those still counting, it is why my predecessor and I have considered it necessary to repeat the recommendation for CSC to appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections more than ten separate times in more than twenty years of dogged reporting on this issue. It is also why so many of the themes and topics included in this year’s report are not new issues per se, but rather involve a different take on a matter of concern that reaches back years or even decades of Office reporting.

In any given year, there are, in fact, very few issues that could be considered new or that have never been reported by my Office. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was perhaps the last truly new issue in corrections that my Office has addressed, but even then MAiD was simply an extension of legislation to a largely forgotten class of incarcerated people who still remain deprived of deciding how, when and where they can choose to end their lives with respect and dignity. Other more “modern” issues and concerns in contemporary corrections – gender identity and expression, sexual coercion and violence behind bars, impact of COVID-19 measures and restrictions on prison populations, growing old(er) behind bars, over-representation of Black persons in use of force incidents – are “new” or interesting only insofar as reporting on these topics manage to reach the light of day.

I understand as well as anyone might that systemic change in corrections does not come easily or quickly. CSC and the Department of Public Safety are only now beginning to take measure and substantively address the prevalence of sexual coercion and violence behind bars. Five years after gender-based discrimination was added to the prohibited grounds of the Canadian Human Rights Act, a new standalone Commissioner’s Directive has just recently been promulgated. While these policy initiatives are responsive to Office reporting in these areas, there are any number of other issues where correctional policy and practice (for example, CSC’s zero-tolerance approach to drug use and possession behind bars) is considerably out of step with the times.

On this last point my reporting on promising harm reduction measures like a safe consumption site (Overdose Prevention Service) and needle exchange service behind bars being actively subverted by zero-tolerance security practises merely scratches the surface of the substantive reforms required. I point out that the last time CSC updated its National Drug Strategy was in 2007. Canadian policy on simple drug possession and consumption has moved dramatically since then, yet CSC culture remains mired in a prohibitive and repressive mindset. Maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to drugs that relies on ever more intrusive detection, disciplinary and repressive measures – strip-searches, body cavity scanning, cell searches, charges, urinalysis testing – is a costly game of diminishing returns. If a person is so desperate, indebted or addicted enough to the point of concealing drugs in body cavities with potentially life-threatening consequences, then surely this level of desperation should point us to consider other less intrusive, evidence-based and compassionate approaches of addressing the harms of illicit drug use behind bars. Additional progress and clinical treatment are also urgently needed to reduce demand.

As I document later in this report, placing a prisoner in an austere cell with no plumbing, in a security gown, with no certainty of release for days on end to carry out a search for suspected contraband is inhumane, degrading and quite likely unlawful. The “war” on drugs behind bars can never be won using extreme measures like indefinite solitary confinement. It seems harmful and unhelpful to punish people for what are ultimately substance abuse and addictions issues. Absolute drug prohibition does not work in the community and it will not work in prison. An overhaul and renewal of CSC’s drug policy is desperately required if more promising and innovative harm reduction measures, like the Overdose Prevention Service at Drumheller Institution, have any hope of seeing the light of day beyond initial pilot implementation.

Even when transformative change comes to corrections, as it did most recently in the decades long legal battle to end the practice of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons, it is often elusive and difficult to sustain progress or momentum over time. The replacement of solitary confinement with a set of legal standards that mandates meaningful human contact behind bars and imposes statutory limits on how long a person can be held in depriving environments or circumstances, is a case in point. Outside of the Structured Intervention Units, all kinds of restrictive forms of confinement (defined as less than four hours out-of-cell time per day) remain a stubborn and substantive reality as my investigation of male standalone maximum-security facilities illustrates. The threshold for out-of-cell time, inclusive of meaningful contact with others, is now established in federal law, yet there remain many forms of confinement and circumstances where even these minimal requirements are not being met or respected.

This year’s report also includes an updated and substantively more involved documentation of the Black prisoner experience in Canada, an area that my Office first reported on in 2013. A decade later, major issues documented in that seminal report – discrimination, racism, labelling, stereotyping – remain relevant concerns that severely impact equality of outcomes for Black persons in federal prisons.

The first of a two-part investigation that updates the Office’s 2013 Special Report to Parliament, Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , tabled March 2013, is also featured. Few of the findings contained in this introductory, context-setting piece will come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the plight of over-representation or disparate outcomes for Indigenous people in federal custody.

The ability of my Office to effect change must also be understood and evaluated in the context of our, rather, successful ability to address complaints and issues at the site or individual levels in a timely manner. My team of investigators work diligently to establish positive rapport with staff and prisoners alike at the institutions to which they are assigned. Relations between my investigative staff, CSC staff, and management at penitentiaries across Canada are uniformly productive, professional, cordial and responsive. OCI staff work tirelessly, often without much recognition, to resolve issues informally and at the lowest levels possible. Our rate of positive redress and resolution of issues at the site or individual level of complaints is significantly better than the progress we make on systemic issues. Despite travel, prison closures, and visit restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this past year my team of investigators was still able to conduct more than 60 in-person or virtual visits to federal institutions.

I am immensely proud of the body of work reported here, all the more impressive given that it was completed during another year of COVID-related restrictions which required adapted working conditions.

 

Ivan Zinger, JD., Ph.D. 
Correctional Investigator 
June 2022 

 


Executive Director’s Message

Although we were hopeful that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic would be lifted in the last year, our hopes were quickly dashed by COVID-19 variants causing more lockdowns, both inside and outside of federal correctional facilities. The evolving and uncertain situation has continued to cause much hardship not only for the people we serve behind bars, but for our employees as well.

Despite these challenges, the fact that we were still able to spend 83 days in institutions, comprising 46 visits, speaks volumes about the dedication and commitment of our employees. These visits were carried out in all the regions. Some institutions that required our attention were visited more than once: including the maximum-security institutions, notably Atlantic (2x), Edmonton (2x), Donnacona (2x), Port Cartier (2x), Millhaven (2x), and Kent (3x). Some women’s institutions were also visited more than once. The Correctional Investigator alone visited nine institutions, providing his expert assessment and advice on what he observed. I too had the opportunity to conduct introductory visits at eight institutions to see first hand the reality of life behind bars for both incarcerated individuals as well as for the CSC employees who work there. I value the cooperation and collaboration we receive from CSC staff and management. Many important issues are resolved at the institutional level between OCI and CSC employees.

Conducting in-person visits in and through the pandemic demonstrates our continued attention to the needs of the people we serve and our commitment to prison oversight. Our visits ranged from one-day inspections to open visits with full case loads of meeting incarcerated persons, hearing about and acting upon the issues and concerns they raise.

Our policy and research staff, as well as investigators, showed resilience in their efforts by performing multiple visits in a short period of time as restrictions were being lifted. Our early resolution officers have been there to answer thousands of calls and to triage the complaints we received. I want to also highlight the work of our Corporate Services colleagues, who staff and run the back office, and without whom we could not function. Not only do they deal with the increasing government reporting obligations and the disproportionate burden that micro agencies face, but they also helped guide us through COVID-19 restrictions and requirements to ensure the safety of our employees.

This past year has seen the organization move forward with the development of a Three Year Strategic Plan consisting of four key priorities:

  1. Creating an environment where the OCI is an employer of choice, ensuring a safe and respectful workplace where employees feel empowered and supported; 

     
  2. Ensuring an organizational structure that is aligned with office priorities, is nimble and agile to respond to emerging issues; 

     
  3. Improving systemic investigation and inspection capacity and effectiveness through enhanced planning and cooperation; and, 

     
  4. Implementation of a Data Management strategy that meets the needs of the various functions within the office so as to allow the OCI to more effectively measure and report on the Office’s functions and positive impact. 

     

I am fortunate to work with such a dedicated management team, a passionate and bold Correctional Investigator, and employees who genuinely care about the important mandate of our Office of ensuring safe and humane custody in Canada. Their hard work, passion for social justice, and professionalism continue to impress me. I look forward to begin implementation of our Strategic Plan in the coming year, with a hope that our work and our lives are less impacted by the restrictions of a pandemic, and that things return to normal a bit more.

 

Monette Maillet 
Executive Director & General Counsel 
Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada 

 


National Updates and Significant Cases

This section summarizes policy issues or significant individual cases raised at the institutional and national levels over the course of the reporting period. The issues and cases presented here were either the subject of discussions with institutional wardens, an exchange of correspondence, or an agenda item in bilateral meetings involving the Commissioner, myself, and our respective senior management teams. These areas of unresolved, unaddressed, or updated concern remain under active investigation. Therefore, this section serves to document progress in resolving issues of national significance or concern.


1. Dry Cells

As such, at this time, we do not have an absolute prohibition on placements exceeding 72 hours, as there have been incidents of offenders reinserting or swallowing foreign objects to avoid detection, which necessitates the continued placement beyond a 72-hour period. (CSC, response to 2011-12 Annual Report )

Dry cell placements exceeding 72 hours cannot be explicitly prohibited as it is more than feasible to delay bowel movement beyond 72 hours and, as documented in several medical literature, some individuals do not experience bowel movements more than once (168 hours) or twice (80 to 90 hours) a week. This is why the latest legislative changes do not impose a limit of time but rather imposes medical oversight. (CSC, response to 2019-20 Annual Report )

In a recent judicial ruling (November 2021, Adams v. Nova Institution ), the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia deemed the practice of using a dry cell for women suspected of concealing contraband in their vagina unlawful because they could be subjected to longer, or possibly even indefinite periods of dry cell detention. For context, “dry-celling” a prisoner is an extraordinary procedure requiring strip-searching, around the clock monitoring and observation, and 24/7 illumination of the cell. It is carried out under the expectation that the prisoner will eventually “expel” the suspected contraband. In this case, the court found that a former prisoner at Nova Institution for Women had been dry-celled for more than two consecutive weeks after she was suspected of concealing drugs in her vagina. On the 15th day of her dry cell confinement, a pelvic exam finally confirmed that she was not concealing any contraband in her body.

The court initially gave the government six months to review its policy in this area, a deadline that was subsequently extended and expires in July 2022. In response, in April 2022, the federal government gave notice of its intention to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to prohibit the use of dry cells for women suspected of concealing contraband in their vagina.

CSC has also taken notice of the ruling, issuing an interim policy bulletin on April 25, 2022. The bulletin states: “Effective immediately, inmates believed to be carrying contraband in their vaginal cavity, or elsewhere other than their digestive tract, will not be placed in a dry cell.” It also directs that CSC’s National Headquarters (NHQ) are notified when a dry cell placement exceeds 72 hours. According to the interim instruction, this new requirement is intended to “enhance oversight” and allow NHQ, “to provide additional guidance where necessary.”

Photo from the interior of a dry cell at Warkworth Institution.

Warkworth Institution – Interior of a dry cell. 

Photo of a dry cell at Warkworth Institution.

Warkworth Institution – Dry cell. 

Based on the Government and CSC’s responses thus far, there does not seem to be any intention to go any further and place a wider ban or introduce additional restrictions on the controversial practice of dry-celling, a procedure which I have previously described as being “by far the most degrading, austere and restrictive imaginable in federal corrections.” The point of departure for this case and the ruling itself are based on a rather narrow set of arguments and facts. The Crown attempted to convince the court that the prisoner’s dry cell detention was, in fact, illegal , some kind of “isolated and localized (not systemic) incident of maladministration” on the institution’s part, and that, in any case, the definition of a “body cavity” search in federal corrections does not include concealment of contraband in a vagina. The judgment prohibits the use of dry cell placements for women prisoners suspected of carrying contraband in their vagina. It does not pronounce more widely than that. The more compelling public interest in the case of Adams v. Nova Institution involves whether keeping a prisoner in depriving and degrading conditions, for an indefinite duration, should be considered lawful, particularly in context of the recent abolishment of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons.

The Office first raised a set of concerns around dry cell practice in its 2011-12 Annual Report, a time when there were few safeguards and virtually no internal oversight of this practice. Since then, CSC has implemented various reporting and procedural safeguards – the requirement to give written notice for reasons of placement; an opportunity for incarcerated persons to retain and instruct legal counsel without delay; provision to give notice to and daily visits by Health Services; and, a daily review by the Warden of placements.

Notwithstanding, CSC has resisted placing any upper limit on how long a person can be held in a barren cell with no plumbing under continuous observation. While the circumstances depicted in the court’s judgment are “isolated and localized” (i.e., not systemic in nature), the practice of detaining a prisoner in a dry cell for an undefined period of time is far from unusual. In the reporting period, the Office intervened in the case of a young Indigenous woman who was dry-celled for nine consecutive days. In my opinion, there can be no further reason or justification to hold a person in such depriving conditions. As I have stated previously, I think this practice should be capped at 72 hours. After three days, it is my belief that this procedure is excessive and unreasonable, if not strictly punitive.

Photo of a toilet inside a dry cell at Drummond Institution.

Drummond Institution – Inside a dry cell. 

Photo of equipment outside of the dry cell at Drummond Institution.

Drummond Institution – Outside the dry cell. 

It is not known how often dry cells are used in federal prisons, as there is no obligation for the Service to report publicly on this practice. More than a decade after the Office first reported on this issue, there is still considerable variation in practice between and across regions and even within institutions with respect to the interpretation and procedures for dry-celling. The current record-keeping and reporting mechanisms that are in place (i.e., rationale for placement, record of seizures, observation reports, logbooks detailing periods of stay) are not consistent from one site to another. Incident and observation reports of dry cell placements are buried in individual preventive security files.

More significantly, there are little checks and balances in place to review or challenge the quality or validity of the information used to place or maintain an individual in a dry cell. Placements of this nature require “reasonable and probable grounds,” a legal threshold that cannot be satisfied on the basis of a hunch or individualized suspicion. Aside from voluntarily surrendering the contraband, the only certainty of release from a dry cell is a bowel movement, and only then, if there is some kind of contraband expelled and retrieved. Otherwise, as the Nova Scotia judgment illuminates, placements can extend indefinitely with little practical means to challenge, quash, or end what could potentially constitute cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. It was precisely the indefinite nature of administrative segregation (or solitary confinement), defined as two hours or less out of the cell, that led the present government to abolish that particular correctional practice. Arguably, dry-celling is an even more egregious form of detention, one that is virtually devoid of any kind of external review or oversight.

It is expected that dry cell placements are limited to what is reasonably required and for the shortest possible time. However, given data and record-keeping limitations, it is currently impossible to corroborate the actual number or duration of these placements. Furthermore, the requirement for Health Services to monitor dry cell placements is yet a further violation of its patient advocacy role – another “dual loyalty” problem that inappropriately obliges health services personnel to be involved in discipline and security matters.

Arguably, dry-celling is an even more egregious form of detention, one that is virtually devoid of any kind of external review or oversight.

For all of these reasons, I conclude that the additional internal review and notification measure that the Service has put in place to respond to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia’s decision (requirement to report to NHQ on dry cell placements exceeding three days) is inadequate and insufficient. This measure does not rise nearly high enough to meet the life, liberty, and dignity concerns and interests at stake.

  1. I repeat my recommendation to prohibit any indefinite dry cell placement beyond 72 hours. 

     

2. Correctional Service of Canada’s Drug Strategy

This update reviews select aspects of CSC’s drug policy. It assesses progress in addressing concerns and barriers to participation in the Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP), first raised in my 2018-19 Annual Report. It also documents the Office’s preliminary observations of a related harm reduction measure – the Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) – at Drumheller Institution, Alberta. It concludes with some comments on CSC’s zero-tolerance drug policy and calls for a more balanced, evidence-based and updated policy statement (Commissioner’s Directive 585 – National Drug Strategy ) to more comprehensively and compassionately address the harms of addictions and drug use among federal prisoners.

Prison Needle Exchange Program

In the Office’s 2018-19 Annual Report, I reported on the challenges and barriers in the initial implementation of CSC’s prison-based needle exchange program. At that time (as of April 2019), the program was just beginning to be implemented in a select number of institutions and there were only a handful of individuals enrolled. I made a number of preliminary findings and recommendations to address the surprisingly low number of participants in the program:

  • A zero-tolerance approach to prisoner drug use and possession conflicts with PNEP’s harm reduction principles and practice. Footnote

     

  • Use of a Threat Risk Assessment (TRA) as a precondition for PNEP participation turns potential participants away.

     

  • Access to needles/syringes are not determined by need (one-to-one needle/syringe exchange).

     

  • Lack of multiple access and distribution points (must return used needles to Health Services).

     

  • Lack of participants/patient confidentiality.

     

  • Active opposition among front-line staff.

     

  • Perceived involvement of the Parole Board of Canada.

     

Image of CSC’s Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP) Information and Contract.

CSC’s Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP) 
Information and Contract. 

Except for the last barrier, all others remain active concerns. Today, the number of prisoners who have expressed an interest or are actually participating in the needle exchange program has not substantially increased, even factoring in the additional sites where PNEP has subsequently been implemented. Currently, a needle exchange service is operating at nine federal penitentiaries, including all five women’s sites. Based on a March 2022 snapshot, there were 46 individuals participating in the program, including seven federally sentenced women. A few sites have yet to attract even their first participant, while a few other institutions where the program had been implemented were shuttered at the onset of COVID. The planned phased national roll-out of the needle exchange program was also temporarily suspended, ostensibly by the pandemic.

An interim evaluation of PNEP conducted by an independent expert made similar findings as the Office. The Interim Evaluation Report, dated October 2020, included these observations and barriers to participation: Footnote

  • 56% of institutions with a PNEP had no active participants at the time of the evaluation.

     

  • The majority of prisoners and some staff at some sites where PNEP existed did not know about the program.

     

  • Inconsistency and ambiguity in PNEP eligibility criteria, kit storage and removal procedures and other restrictions on access across sites.

     

  • Lack of adequate planning and preparation for implementation.

     

The PNEP Information and Program Contract (See image), that participants must agree to and sign, contains numerous behavioural expectations and restrictive criteria that could help further explain the lack of prisoner interest and uptake in the program. To date, the program has failed to generate much interest, trust, or confidence from either prisoners or front-line staff. It remains a program largely in name only.

In terms of potential “evidence-based actionable recommendations for program and policy redevelopment,” the interim evaluation offers several practical suggestions:

  • Reimagining and refreshing of PNEP promotional materials and a proactive approach to promoting and explaining the program to inmates on admission and to Correctional and Operational staff.

     

  • Development of a standardized policy document to ensure consistency in PNEP implementation and procedure across all federal prisons.

     

  • Widespread removal and communication of the requirement to share PNEP participation with the Parole Board of Canada.

     

Photo of a standard PNEP kit.

Standard PNEP Kit. 

Other related harm-reduction measures endorsed in the midterm PNEP evaluation include:

  • Increased access to Opioid Agonist Treatment behind bars.

     

  • Re-establishment of a Safer Tattooing Program in federal corrections.

     

  • Greater availability of Naloxone.

     

  • Increased access and distribution of safer snorting equipment.

     

It is obvious, from the external evaluator’s interim finding and recommendations, that CSC is being asked to embrace a more comprehensive set of harm reduction measures to drug use and addictions in federal corrections, a position which this Office has long endorsed. The problem, of course, is that CSC’s drug suppression practises do not adhere to or respect principles of harm reduction. The question remains: how do we get there amidst resistance and opposition within an organizational culture of zero tolerance? A possible way forward, with learning points that can be implemented, might be found in a related harm reduction program – the Overdose Prevention Service.

Overdose Prevention Service (OPS)

Photo of an information poster on safe injection sites at Drumheller Institution.

Drumheller Institution – Safe injection site information poster. 

Photo of the overdose prevention site at Drumheller Institution looking through the closed entrance.

Drumheller Institution – Overdose prevention site. 

The OPS, operated by Health Services, which is essentially a safe consumption site in a prison, has been running at Drumheller Institution in Alberta since June 2019. It appears to be the first prison in the world to offer such a service, in which prisoners can access needles, syringes, tourniquets and other sterile equipment and materials to self-administer and consume one dose of their substance per visit. Health care staff monitor prisoners using the OPS for the duration of their consumption and recovery periods. The site is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All equipment is to be returned to attending health care staff after use.

The established policy and practice goals of the OPS are to:

  • Prevent non-fatal overdoses and overdose deaths

     

  • Facilitate entry into drug treatment services

     

  • Reduce multi-use sharing of non-sterile needles

     

  • Increase opportunities to provide health promotion

     

  • Reduce transmission of blood-borne viral infections

     

Photo of the equipment used for safe injections at Drumheller Institution.

Drumheller Institution – Equipment for safe injections. 

CSC health care personnel staffing the OPS received specialized training from the Sheldon Schumer Centre in Calgary (a community-based safe consumption site). They had to learn how to cook and use several different kinds of substances to understand the context of injection drug use and thus assist their “patients.” Participation in the OPS is voluntary (with informed consent), and, unlike the PNEP, a Threat Risk Assessment is not required for participation. The OPS Patient Information and Contract, which spells out expectations and conditions for participation, are not nearly as onerous or security-driven as that for the PNEP. A self-reported history of overdose, illicit drug use, active drug use and an expression of interest to participate in the OPS, are all evidence-based indicators of eligibility to participate in the OPS. Health care staff provide participants with information and guidance relevant to safe consumption practices in the context of OPS.

The service itself creates a safe zone for participants to go from their unit to the injection site. En route to the site, they cannot be charged with contraband by staff if the amount of the drug in question does not exceed personal consumption limits. A prisoner participating in the service is also not subject to additional searching or urinalysis any more than what is allowed for in policy (they cannot be singled out or targeted). Participation in the service does not, however, give carte blanche permission to use drugs or possess drug paraphernalia outside of the OPS.

Photo of the equipment used for safe injections at Drumheller Institution.

Drumheller Institution – Equipment for safe injections. 

Photo of the overdose prevention site at Drumheller Institution (interior).

Drumheller Institution – Overdose prevention site. 

As explained to one of my investigators who conducted an on-site visit of the OPS in November 2021, Drumheller was chosen to be the site of the first OPS in federal corrections because of its previously high incidence of recorded drug overdoses and prevalence of drug use, estimated to be as high as 70% of all prisoners using. While there was initial pushback from non-health care staff, perceptions and attitudes have since shifted toward a broader acceptance of the program, in part because of a concerted and proactive health care services campaign to raise awareness and acceptance among staff. Front-line staff acknowledged that drug use and drug overdoses were prevalent occurrences before the introduction of the OPS. They routinely had to administer NARCAN and/or CPR on individuals who had overdosed, so the opportunity to reduce the occurrence of these events and interventions with the OPS was welcomed. The OPS also provides a means by which to direct individuals to a safe and supervised place to use, without jeopardizing staff safety. According to information provided to the investigator assigned to Drumheller, frontline staff are now actively promoting the program to prisoners when they find them with or using drugs/paraphernalia.

With regard to uptake and usage, since first opening in July 2019 to March 2022, there had been 1,566 visits to the OPS, involving 52 participants. Since program launch to March 2022, there had been 20 drug overdoses at Drumheller. None of these occurred in the OPS. There were no overdose deaths recorded over that period.

As it stands, the OPS model is not perfect and not without its flaws (e.g., limited resources, limited accessibility and hours of operation, lacks support for peer assistance, availability and distribution of safer snorting equipment). However, it offers a potential best practice in which evidence-based learning and experience can be shared and applied to other federal prisons. It should also be made clear that the OPS is not a substitute or alternative to a redesigned and better implemented needle exchange program or for greater access to evidence-based clinical treatment and addictions programs. Together these two harm reduction measures could work in a complementary manner to more effectively and safely address the harms of drug use and addiction behind bars.

CSC’s Drug Strategy

That there is a need for more access to a wider range of harm reduction measures behind bars now seems beyond doubt or dispute. Between December 2016 – at the outset of the opioid crisis in Canada – and May 2021, CSC increased the number of individuals on Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) by 185%. As of March 2022, there were 3,010 persons either on OAT (2,774) or on a waitlist (236), a number which represents close to 25% of the total incarcerated population. The dramatic upsurge in OAT prescribing does not come without its own set of concerns, admittedly requiring much more in-depth analysis and assessment. Minimally, based on OAT uptake numbers alone, it is far from clear that CSC has adequate health care and counselling resources to provide effective and lasting treatment support and intervention.

These questions aside, there are other factors, trends and indicators suggesting that CSC’s current approach to drugs and drug use among prisoners is heavily tilted in favour of drug suppression and ever more sophisticated and costly surveillance and interdiction methods, such as detecting and neutralizing drone drops. The increasing number of contraband seizures in CSC facilities, jumping significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests more active search and seizure but these activities accomplish little to curb demand.

A line graph depicting total contraband seized by type and year. Intoxicants/Drugs, 2012-2013 = 2,165, 2013-2014 = 2,597, 2014-2015 = 2,323, 2015-2016 = 2,508, 2016-2017 = 2,566, 2017-2018 = 2,362, 2018-2019 = 3,309, 2019-2020 = 3,948, 2020-2021 = 4,425, 2021-2022 = 4,897. Weapons, 2012-2013 = 1,183, 2013-2014 = 1,124, 2014-2015 = 1,216,2015-2016 = 1,194, 2016-2017 = 1,114, 2017-2018 = 1,263, 2018-2019 = 1,538, 2019-2020 = 1,942, 2020-2021 = 1,947, 2021-2022 = 2,475. Tobacco, 2012-2013 = 1,342, 2013-2014 = 1,272, 2014-2015 = 767, 2015-2016 = 643, 2016-2017 = 566, 2017-2018 = 585, 2018-2019 = 848, 2019-2020 = 1,004, 2020-2021 = 889, 2021-2022 = 880

Graph 1. Total Contraband Seized by Type 

Similarly, the recent and dramatic upsurge in random urinalysis tests returning positive (indicative perhaps of a COVID-related “bump” in drug use) is another indicator of the insatiable demand for drugs behind bars.

On the policy side, Commissioner’s Directive 585: National Drug Strategy has not been updated since May 2007. It is entirely redundant and irrelevant. There has been little attempt to integrate more recent harm reduction measures, such as PNEP and OPS or expand access to substance abuse programs, within a more balanced and comprehensive drug strategy for federal corrections. The current zero-tolerance approach toward drugs and drug use in CSC facilities leaves little space for other non-interdiction measures based on evidence, treatment, harm reduction, and prevention principles. As a federal entity, CSC is so out of date and non-compliant with the Government of Canada’s stated “comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based approach to drug policy” Footnote 3 that it is difficult to know even where to start in trying to restore a semblance of balance and relevance. What seems certain is that it is both unhelpful and harmful to continue to rely on a series of humiliating and degrading search and seizure measures that target, punish and discipline people for their substance use and addictions, issues that were often contributing factors to their incarceration in the first place.

  1. With respect to CSC’s drug strategy, I recommend the following set of measures: 

     
  2. The Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP) criteria be significantly revamped to encourage participation consistent with actionable recommendations of this Office and the external interim evaluation, with a view to full national implementation within the next 12 months. 

     

  3. The Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) be rolled out nationally, in tandem with PNEP implementation. 

     

  4. Commissioner’s Directive 585 – National Drug Strategy be immediately updated to incorporate evidence-based harm reduction, treatment and prevention principles and practices. 

     

  5. CSC’s zero tolerance policy to drug use and possession is recalibrated to focus on corrective measures for drug diversion and trafficking, rather than stigmatizing, targeting or disciplining persons struggling with addictions or substance abuse disorders. 

     


 


3. Edmonton Institution

In my 2018-19 Annual Report, I began my case study on the ongoing dysfunction at Edmonton Institution with the following diagnosis: “Edmonton Institution … has been plagued by a toxic and troubled workplace culture where dysfunction, abuse of power, and harassment have festered for years.” By this point, my Office had been reporting on the problems at Edmonton Institution for many years. Both the previous Minister and Commissioners of Corrections had made personal interventions and a series of internal reviews and investigations had been launched. Numerous disciplinary actions had also been taken against institutional staff, and multiple staff surveys had been conducted to assess workplace culture and needs.

In the same report, I also publicized findings from an investigation my Office conducted on a series of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults that occurred at Edmonton Institution between August and October 2018. These findings suggested that frontline staff continued to act with impunity, allowing prisoners to assault other prisoners on repeated occasions with zero consequence. The Commissioner’s response was swift and decisive. Corrective actions were taken, including staff suspensions, the launch of an internal disciplinary investigation, and “renewal” measures to address workplace culture such as appointing a new warden and empowering management to restore a healthy and respectful workplace environment.

In my 2019-20 Annual Report, I provided an update on the disciplinary measures that had been taken in relation to the prisoner assaults. Though six of the ten CSC staff members investigated were subject to minor disciplinary measures, not one of senior rank received a reprimand of any kind.

Virtual and in-person visits conducted through the pandemic indicated a worsening of problems and tensions at this troubled institution, including staff shortages, inadequate out-of-cell time, a general decline in mood and mental health among prisoners, warehousing of medium-security prisoners, and restricted access to private family visits. These issues were raised with the warden in August 2021. Despite a number of measures taken by the institution to address these issues, my Office continued to receive numerous calls, complaints, and inquires related to ongoing and very serious allegations at Edmonton Institution.

In November 2021, my Office conducted an exceptional closed visit to Edmonton Institution, which took place over three days (November 1 to 3, 2021). Two of my senior investigators met with and interviewed prisoners from all sub-units, as well as staff and managers from all departments. They also conducted a series of in-depth interviews with several members of the senior management team, and collected unit logbooks and other documentation.

Preliminary findings were reported to the Commissioner on November 12, 2021, and included the following:

  • Growing number of subpopulations renders nearly all group movement impossible.

     

  • Overpopulation and double-bunking, both unusual for maximum-security prisons.

     

  • Warehousing of medium-security prisoners.

     

  • For months, regular units have had a maximum of three hours out-of-cell time, daily.

     

  • Out-of-cell access is limited to the gym, mini-yards, or common rooms; some units were restricted to 50 minutes of tier time, behind barriers, twice per week.

     

  • Access to showers, telephones and laundry facilities limited to 15-minute slots, one person at a time, once or possibly twice a day depending on staffing.

     

  • One-year waitlist to access mental health services.

     

  • One computer video visitation station to service 258 prisoners.

     

  • No programs, no meaningful work opportunities, access to education is restricted to cell studies, and meals are taken alone and in a cell.

     

My investigators observed conditions of confinement that were oppressive and intolerable by any standard. To be clear, restrictions on services and out-of-cell time at Edmonton Institution go well beyond the effects or impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As concerning, it appeared that long-standing tensions and conflict among and between different staff groupings and management had resurfaced. There was little respect for management among the front-line ranks. Some staff described the chain of command as “broken.” The number of correctional officers on long-term leave was extremely concerning, indicative of a workplace in crisis. Staffing shortages restrict access to all forms of services and programs, including mental and physical health care. Staff from programs, education and mental health have extremely limited access to the population, and communication with Parole Officers was limited to request forms or mediated through a Duty Officer.

Photo of a UCCO sticker that reads “Moral Indicator” with a meter pointing to a steaming pile of feces.

Sticker from Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) 

In light of these preliminary findings, I suggested national level intervention, including immediate assistance and support from the Commissioner. On December 8, 2021, I received a welcome response from the Commissioner, who shared my concerns and assured me that corrective measures were already underway. These measures included:

  • The re-implementation of in-person Citizen Advisory Committee meetings. Regular meetings involving various divisions at the institution would review institutional routines and the timely transfer of persons.

     

  • Population management meetings would resume, and would receive input from unit reps and other prisoners to promote and plan reintegration strategies.

     

  • Establishment of an Inmate Welfare Committee, which would meet regularly with senior management.

     

  • A comprehensive on-site review of interventions, including timely access to Parole Officers, access to correctional programs/education outside of the cell and access to cultural interventions.

     

  • As of December 8, 2021, the number of double-bunked prisoners was reduced to six from 18, and 13 of the 23 medium-security prisoners had been transferred to medium-security institutions.

     

  • Additional video visitation consoles were installed, bringing the total to four.

     

  • National headquarters are working with both the institution and the region to address recruitment and staff retention issues.

     

The back and forth exchanges between my Office, the management of Edmonton Institution and the involvement of National Headquarters are examples of what I would call “oversight in action.” Though the situation at Edmonton Institution is still far from ideal and the systemic problems brought forward are far from resolved, the collaboration and responsiveness of the Commissioner in trying to address Office findings and concerns is encouraging. My Office will continue to closely monitor the situation at Edmonton and intervene as necessary.


4. Structured Intervention Units

In November 2019, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was amended to abolish solitary confinement by replacing the previous administrative segregation regime with Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). In my 2020-21 Annual Report, I reported my preliminary observations on SIUs, which were implemented in November 2019. At that time, I made four major observations:

  1. The lack of data and transparency from CSC with respect to its SIU operations has made it difficult to assess its compliance with legislation. 

     
  2. The expeditious removal of prisoners from SIUs and compliance with Independent External Decision Makers (IEDMs) removal orders has been challenging. 

     
  3. Some individuals find SIU conditions more favourable than the mainstream maximum-security prison population because of their greater access to services and interventions, daily visits by nurses and wardens, more opportunities to engage with non-security staff, and the possibility of greater out-of-cell time. Given this situation, some individuals refuse to leave the SIUs, as even the IEDMs have attested. 

     
  4. The pandemic has generally spared individuals confined in SIUs from the restrictive impact COVID-19 has had on prisons in general, with the exception of lockdowns during institutional outbreaks. 

     
Photo of the SIU exercise equipment in the yard at Stony Mountain Institution.

Stony Mountain Institution – SIU exercise equipment in yard. 

Stony Mountain Institution – SIU cultural room

Stony Mountain Institution – SIU cultural room. 

Edmonton Institution for Women - SIU

Edmonton Institution for Women – SIU. 

Port Cartier Institution – SIU yard

Port Cartier Institution – SIU yard. 

Based on these findings, I recommended that CSC publicly release a quarterly record of SIU transfer authorizations and that a timeline be issued indicating how it planned to meet its legislated reporting requirements.

Over the reporting period, I became aware that the Service was maintaining an internal record of SIU indicators. My Office’s analysis of this data highlighted some very concerning findings, particularly with respect to the differential SIU outcomes for Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Colour (BIPOC). My Office found the following with respect to SIUs in 2020-21 Footnote 4 :

  • Approximately half of SIU stays lasted for 15 days or more, and one third lasted for 30 days or more.

     

  • Overall, BIPOC individuals experienced more and longer SIU stays than White persons.

     

  • Black people appear to fare worse than other groups on SIU outcomes. For example, they were almost twice as likely as White persons to be placed in an SIU, and were more likely than other groups to experience SIU stays of 60 days or more.

     

  • Indigenous individuals were transferred to SIUs at a much higher rate and were more likely to experience SIU stays of 15 days or more, compared to non-Indigenous persons.

     

  • The data also suggests that CSC is not fully compliant with its legislated obligations to offer four hours of time out-of-cell and two hours of meaningful human interaction.

     

In February 2022, I shared my findings and concerns in correspondence to the Commissioner, including the fact that this data was supposed to have been made public. I also highlighted my concerns regarding the general conditions of confinement in maximum-security institutions arising, in part, as a result of the implementation of SIUs. As noted, some prisoners refuse to leave SIUs because they perceive conditions in the SIUs are less restrictive or safer than the mainstream prison population environment. Moreover, I have noticed substantial and dramatic growth in sub-populations in a number of maximum-security institutions, which contributes to more restrictive conditions of confinement, incompatibles, and lower security individuals waiting to cascade. I report on my findings in maximum-security institutions in more detail later in this Annual Report.

In response to my correspondence, the Commissioner commended the work of the Service in maintaining low numbers within the SIUs and indicated that it has been investigating issues highlighted in my Office’s analysis of SIU indicators as well as those in maximum-security environments. Beyond acknowledging my concerns, no concrete steps or initiatives were identified that would indicate how these issues will be addressed.

I have also shared my findings on SIUs with Mr. Howard Sapers, who was appointed in April 2021 by the Minister of Public Safety as the Chair of a renewed SIU Implementation Advisory Panel (SIU IAP). The SIU IAP was established to monitor, assess and report on issues related to the ongoing implementation of SIUs. I have full confidence that Mr. Sapers and the SIU IAP will hold CSC to account with respect to the continued implementation of SIUs and the disproportionate outcomes for BIPOC individuals.

Photo of the SIU common area at Port Cartier Institution.

Port Cartier Institution – SIU common area. 

Photo of the SIU range at Bowden Institution.

Bowden Institution – The SIU range. 

5. Over-representation of Indigenous Women in Secure Units (Maximum Security)


Indigenous women continue to be one of the fastest growing federally incarcerated populations in Canada. In December 2021, my Office issued a press release with data showing that the proportion of incarcerated Indigenous women continued to increase unabated, and was nearing 50% of all federally sentenced women. On April 28, 2022, the number of incarcerated Indigenous women reached 50% for the first time (298 Indigenous and 298 non-Indigenous women in federal custody). Even more concerning is the fact that,of the women who are classified as maximum security, almost 65% of them are Indigenous. Unfortunately, these are not new developments in federal corrections. My Office and others have been reporting on the Indigenization of Canadian corrections for years. A deeper dive into the situation uncovers that this over-representation is largely the result of systemic bias and racism, including discriminatory risk assessment tools, ineffective case management, and bureaucratic delay and inertia.

What do we know about Indigenous women in the Secure Units today?

  • A review of CSC data extracted on April 9, 2022, reveals the following: 29 out of 45 (64.4%) women classified as maximum security are Indigenous.

     

  • 25 out of the 29 (86.2%) Indigenous women are assessed as high risk and high need.

     

  • 20 out of 29 (69%) Indigenous women were born after 1990, reflecting a younger population.

     

  • The highest rate of over-representation of Indigenous women is in the Prairie region.

     

  • Of the Indigenous women classified as maximum security:

     

    • 8 women are serving indeterminate sentences, with sentence start dates ranging from 1990 to 2021;

       

    • 14 women are serving sentences less than four years;

       

    • Three women are serving sentences between four and six years;

       

    • Three women are serving sentences between 6 and 10 years; and,

       

    • 1 woman is serving a determinate sentence more than 10 years.

       

A line graph depicting the proportion of women in maximum security from 2012 to 2022, disaggregated by Indigeneity. Indigenous, 2012-2013 = 53%, 2013-2014 = 58%, 2014-2015 = 48%, 2015-2016 = 43%, 2016-2017 = 46%, 2017-2018 = 63%, 2018-2019 = 56%, 2019-2020 = 56%, 2020-2021 = 59%, 2021-2022 = 64%, 2022-2023 = 68%. Non-Indigenous, 2012-2013 = 47%, 2013-2014 = 42%, 2014-2015 = 52%, 2015-2016 = 57%, 2016-2017 = 54%, 2017-2018 = 37%, 2018-2019 = 44%, 2019-2020 = 44%, 2020-2021 = 41%, 2021-2022 = 36%, 2022-2023 = 32%

Graph 2. Proportion of Women in Maximum Security 
from 2012 to 2022 Indigenous vs. Non-Indigenous 

 

Custody Rating Scale and Security Classification Process

From the very beginning of the custodial intake process, Indigenous women are disadvantaged. The security classification tool used by CSC for all federally sentenced persons is the Custody Rating Scale (CRS). This is a static actuarial instrument designed for, and tested on a predominantly white male population. For years, serious flaws with this primary assessment tool have been raised to the Service – particularly for its inappropriate application to women and visible minorities. The following are a handful of the critiques:

  • 2001: A study funded by Status of Women Canada recommended that CSC, “Examine and design a gender and ethno-culturally sensitive method of assessment and classification.” Footnote

     

  • 2006: The Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice published a study providing evidence that the Custody Rating Scale introduces a systematic bias against Indigenous (relative to non-Indigenous) prisoners, whereby a substantial proportion of Indigenous women are unjustly over-classified to higher levels of security. Footnote

     

  • 2012: Public Safety Canada released a report indicating that the scale fails to take into account any cultural or gender-specific issues, resulting in a double disadvantage based on race and gender for Indigenous women. Footnote

     

  • 2017: The Office of the Auditor General of Canada recommended that Correctional Service Canada examine ways to improve the initial security classification process to appropriately consider the risk factors for incarcerated women. Footnote

     

My Office has repeatedly raised concerns about the use of the CRS for women, and especially for Indigenous women. In 2009, the over-representation of Indigenous prisoners in higher security levels was examined in a report released by my Office, titled, Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections. At that point, concerns with the CRS had already been flagged for over a decade. Twenty-five years later the CRS remains in use. I can’t help but ask: Why?

CSC has historically defended the CRS, indicating that it is not the only tool used in the security classification process. Accordingly, as per Commissioner’s Directive 705-7: Security Classification and Penitentiary Placement , the areas of Institutional Adjustment, Escape Risk, and Public Safety are also assessed. Part of this assessment includes an evaluation of employment, education, marital/family adjustment, interpersonal relationships, alcohol and drug use, and living arrangements – areas where Indigenous women are more likely to score higher. Additionally, as in all decision-making for Indigenous prisoners, Indigenous Social History is to be considered. The issue is whether CSC adequately and appropriately considers these areas when making classification decisions. Instead of using this information for the sole purpose of informing programming, treatment and intervention requirements, it seems to be used against these women as indicators of risk.

Indigenous Social History

The decision-making process for all Indigenous prisoners requires consideration of Indigenous Social History (ISH). The ISH examines the direct and indirect social and historical factors that have impacted the individual and contributed to their involvement in the criminal justice system. The assessment is intended to ensure that the unique circumstances of Indigenous prisoners are deliberated, and that culturally appropriate/restorative options are considered and provided. In theory, this should be a very comprehensive exercise to examine and analyze collective and individual circumstances. In practice, however, the ISH typically only consists of a list of factors that have impacted the individual. It is rare to see an analysis of what this means in terms of case management or mitigation strategies, and it is rare to see alternative or restorative options presented as part of the ISH evaluation.

Quotes from ISH Assessments

 

Although CSC does offer some training and an Indigenous Social History Tool to provide guidance to case management officers, throughout this review and through informal conversations over the years, staff have reported to my Investigators that the training is not enough to properly understand and connect an individual’s ISH to their risk and case management plan.

“I do the best that I can, but more training is needed.” 
– Quote from an Institutional Parole Officer. 
 

Without adequately taking into account all of the contributing factors which lead to an Indigenous woman’s involvement in the criminal justice system, the CRS and assessment process fail to appreciate the correlation between an Indigenous woman’s life circumstances, from both a collective and individual perspective. The result is a discriminatory practice. Footnote

CSC has advised my Office that they have funded and entered a contract with the University of Regina to review the security classification process as a whole. This is a “ground-up” process that is being led by an Indigenous team.

  1. I recommend that CSC prioritize the current review of the security classification process, particularly as it applies to Indigenous women. In the interim, I recommend that Indigenous Social History (ISH) be assessed in a meaningful way for each decision rendered and that case management staff are provided with adequate training and support to apply the ISH. 

     

Indigenous Women in the Secure Unit

The Secure Units, as their name suggests, are distinct areas at each regional site with high static and dynamic security and limited movement. The units were introduced to women’s corrections in 1999, with the introduction of the Intensive Intervention Strategy in Women’s Institutions , and are intended to house maximum-security women with high risk or high needs, who require an enhanced level of staffing, support, counselling or other aspects of dynamic security. As reported in the past by my Office, Secure Units are environments where women are subjected to modified routines, restrictive movement, population management challenges, the absence of physical space, heightened population tensions, incidents, mental health crises, and isolation. The environment, infrastructure and lack of resources often make it challenging for women to cascade to lower security levels in a timely manner. Moreover, these units are the most costly to operate.

Photo of the SIU and secure unit yard at Nova Institution.

Nova Institution – SIU and secure unit yard. 

Today, the Secure Units are a far stretch from the progressive model originally proposed in the Creating Choices philosophy.

[The Creating Choices Task Force] “was told by federally sentenced women that they needed support, not security. Many others consulted also believe that the traditional security system has little relevance for women whose value systems are rooted more in relationships than in systems. (…) The punitive model is, therefore, particularly irrelevant and harsh in its effect on [Indigenous] women.” Footnote 10 

The five principles integral to the woman-centred approach to corrections – empowerment, meaningful and responsible choices, respect and dignity, supportive environment, and shared responsibility – are effectively non-existent in the Secure Units. Moreover, they house a predominantly Indigenous population.

While many Indigenous women with higher risk and needs may benefit from a more structured environment, the restrictive, security-driven approach within the Secure Unit often exacerbates mental health issues, impedes meaningful participation in interventions, and further alienates Indigenous women from their culture.

“I don’t want to die down here.” 
– Quote from an Indigenous woman in the Secure Unit. 
 

In the Secure Units, maximum-security women are also subject to a unique classification, or level, system. Consequently, this system results in movement restrictions that disproportionately affect Indigenous women, given their over-representation in maximum security. My Office has reported significant concerns about this level system in the past. In my 2016-2017 Annual Report, I recommended that the level system in women’s corrections be rescinded, as it is arbitrary and exists outside of the law. The movement levels were replaced by the Reintegration Movement Plan in 2019, with the promulgation of the revised Commissioner’s Directive 578, Intensive Intervention Strategy in Women’s Institutions . Although revisions included changes to review and recording timeframes, as well as to the criteria for the plan, staff supervision requirements, and decision-making authorities, the reality is that the level system remains in operation.

Women have reported to my Office that “losing their level” (i.e., being further restricted from movement off the Secure Unit) has devastating impacts. For Indigenous women, this can mean that they losing access to ceremonies (e.g., sweats) or cultural events (e.g., drumming) in the main compound that are not available in the Secure Unit. These women report that when they need these supports the most, they are not permitted to participate in them. As a result, they feel that access to their culture is something that has to be earned.

  1. Once again, I recommend that the level system for maximum-security women be immediately rescinded. 

     
Photo of the common area at Grand Valley Institution’s maximum security unit.

Grand Valley Institution – Maximum security unit common area. 

Grand Valley Institution – Maximum security unit common area.

Photo of the common area at Grand Valley Institution’s maximum security unit. 

Access to culture is a right, not a privilege. The Secure Units are not equipped or resourced to provide the cultural support and resources that Indigenous women need. For example, not all Secure Units have dedicated sacred grounds, a dedicated Elder, a complement of Indigenous staff, or a pre-Pathways program. Interventions and services are significantly more limited for a population of women who are assessed as high need. One Indigenous woman explained to my staff that she could not do beadwork without the accompaniment of a staff member, as the small needle that is used is deemed to be a security risk. Beading is a traditional and therapeutic hobby for many Indigenous people and the reliance on over-secure practices that hinder this activity is a clear departure from the Creating Choices philosophy.

Photo of the grounds at the maximum security unit at Grand Valley Institution.

Grand Valley Institution – Maximum security unit grounds. 

Investigations and inspections conducted by my Office have revealed that many Secure Units do not have a dedicated roster of Primary Workers who are a consistent presence on the unit. Moreover, the proportion of Indigenous staff does not come close to matching the proportion of Indigenous prisoners. Although some Indigenous women reported to my Office that non-Indigenous staff can be understanding and respectful, others reported that working with staff who have a shared history and culture is much more beneficial and allows them to connect better.

Many women describe the feeling of being in the Secure Unit as comparable to being removed from their home communities. A placement in the Secure Unit is, in and of itself, another form of dislocation and displacement. Those women who experienced the Residential School System, or who have a family member who attended, report being especially triggered in the Secure Units. Some women talked about how the criminal justice system and how prisons perpetuate colonization, resulting in many of the same consequences. Modern forms of colonization and its effects remain pervasive and insidious. For incarcerated Indigenous women, this can mean being uprooted from one’s community and sent to a federal institution far from home, or it can mean being isolated in a unit that does not meet their needs.

  1. I reiterate my recommendation for alternative accommodations for women housed in Secure Units and their eventual closure. Funding and resources currently dedicated to Secure Unit operation should be redirected to better support and address the unique needs of women, particularly Indigenous women. 

     

Best Practices

Throughout the course of this study, Fraser Valley Institution was able to significantly reduce the number of Indigenous women – and women overall – in their Secure Unit. Some best practices to achieve this include:

  • A rigorous review of all cases on a biweekly basis;

     

  • A consideration of what mitigation strategies could be implemented in medium security (e.g., placement in the Structured Living Environment or the Enhanced Support House, additional supports);

     

  • Involvement of the offender in the transition plan;

     

  • Continuity of care;

     

  • Exhausting all options before placement in the Secure Unit;

     

  • Combined involvement of the Security Intelligence Office and the Elder to manage gang tensions; and,

     

  • A dedicated Elder for the Secure Unit.

     


6. Mother-Child Program

Mother-child separation by maternal imprisonment can have devastating effects on individuals and families that reach well beyond the length of a prison sentence. Many of the developmental, emotional, and practical disruptions to children, as well as the traumatic consequences of mothers being separated from their children by the experience of incarceration, have been well documented. Footnote 11 In an effort to address this issue, in 2001, federal corrections implemented its first formal policy on the Institutional Mother-Child Program in all women’s facilities, largely in response to recommendations issued by the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women in their 1990 report, titled, Creating Choices . Footnote 12 

The Mother-Child Program, as described in Commissioner’s Directive 768: Institutional Mother-Child Program , is “a continuum of services and supports which aims to foster positive relationships between mothers incarcerated in women offender institutions and units and their child and to provide a supportive environment that promotes stability and continuity for the mother-child relationship.” In essence, the program allows some incarcerated mothers to apply to have their children reside with them, either full-time or part-time through the residential component (children living with their mothers in custody); otherwise, any mother can seek to participate in the non-residential components (includes services such as video visits, private family visits, and/or the recording of stories). Incarcerated mothers are not automatically offered to apply to participate in the program and the availability of space for participation is dependent on “institutional capacity”; therefore, not all mothers are eligible and not all eligible mothers have the opportunity to participate.

Library of Parliament Report on Mother-Child Program

In January 2022, the Library of Parliament produced a report on CSC’s institutional Mother-Child Program. Footnote 13 The report describes the evolution of the program since its inception, provides an overview of the available data on participation rates, and summarizes the existing research (mostly from the US) on the impacts of maternal incarceration on children. The main findings from the report, with respect to the federal Mother-Child Program, are as follows:

  1. Insufficient data/tracking: The program has been “understudied and under-documented.” No formal evaluation has been conducted, there is little concrete data available on program participation and participants, and basic descriptive information of children who participated in the program each year is unknown (e.g., total number, age, length of stay).

     

  2. Low participation rates: Participation rates have been low since the inception of the program and fluctuations in participation rates have corresponded with changes to the program eligibility criteria in 2008 and 2016.

     

  3. Restrictive criteria: Restrictive program eligibility criteria contribute to low participation rates overall, and for Indigenous women in particular.

     

  4. Inconsistent practices: Approvals and participation rates vary considerably by institution.

     

  5. Unknown impacts on children: There is currently no research examining the experiences of or impacts on, children of whom participated in the Mother-Child Program in Canada.

     

I would like to further highlight a few of the areas of concern identified in the Library of Parliament report that this Office has also previously raised.

Restrictive Eligibility Criteria and Low Participation

A total of 154 mothers have participated in the Mother-Child Program over the twenty years the program has existed (see Table 1), with a median annual participation rate of five mothers per year. Unfortunately, CSC does not track the overall number of incarcerated women who are mothers, making it difficult to determine who may be in need or qualify for such a program; however, based on some estimates, approximately 66% of federally incarcerated women are mothers. Footnote 14 In the context of the number of women in federal custody today, this would represent nearly 400 incarcerated mothers. Footnote 15 With five mothers participating in the program each year, it does not appear that this program is serving the needs of a significant portion of incarcerated mothers.

Understandably, in an effort to protect and promote the best interest of the child, the eligibility criteria for the program has been stringent; however, changes brought about in June 2008 served to significantly restrict who would be eligible. Footnote 16 These changes included:

  • Excluding individuals from the program who have been convicted of serious crimes involving violence toward children or those of a sexual nature;

     

  • Restricting the part-time program to children aged six and under;

     

  • Requiring the support of local Child and Family Services before the participation of an offender is approved; and,

     

  • Re-evaluating the participation in the program of any offender who refuses to allow her child to be searched for drugs or other contraband before entering an institution.

     

Table 1. Final Decisions on Mother-Child Program Applications by Fiscal Year Footnote 17 

FINAL DECISION 02-03 03-04 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 09-10 10-11 11-12 12-13 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17 17-18 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 TOTAL 
APPROVED24115933431361424131820137154
NOT APPROVED121321113227329
TOTAL2421710654413715271520202010183

 

Following these changes to the eligibility criteria, the already low participation rates dropped further. Concerned that the program had simply become a program in name alone, my Office issued a recommendation in its 2009-10 Annual Report that the Service should, “review eligibility restrictions on the Mother-Child Program with a view to maximizing safe participation.” Though participation increased rather significantly in 2015-16, likely due to changes to the eligibility criteria and the implementation of a part-time residential program for children up to the age of majority, rates have remained stubbornly low. Footnote 18 Participation numbers this Office obtained directly from the five sites were lower than those obtained from CSC’s internal data. As of March 31, 2022, the sites reported that there were only four women participating in the Mother-Child Program (two full-time and two part-time). While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on the ability of this program to run as intended (as it has with most other institutional programs), long-standing low participation rates suggest that the program is not meeting the needs of the vast majority of incarcerated mothers. Furthermore, the program is falling short of the original intent and spirit of what the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women envisioned when they called for new women’s facilities to “provide a home-like environment and sufficient flexibility to enable a child or children to live with their mother.” Footnote 19 

Mother-Child Program Eligibility Criteria for Residential Component

According to CD 768 – Institutional Mother-Child Program , the eligibility criteria for participation of mothers and children in the program are as follows:

Eligibility Criteria for Mothers 

  1. Classified minimum or medium security, or maximum and being considered for medium.

     

  2. Screened against the provincial child welfare registries to verify whether information exists that should be considered in the decision-making process.

     

  3. Have support from the child welfare agency for their participation.

     

  4. Have no current assessment from a mental health professional indicating that the mother is incapable of caring for their child due to a documented mental health condition of the child or the mother.

     

  5. Have not been convicted of an offence against a child or one which could reasonably be seen as endangering a child. An inmate who does not meet this criterion may be considered if a psychiatric/psychological assessment determines that they do not present a danger to their child.

     

  6. Are not subject to a court order or other legal requirement prohibiting contact with their child or children.

     

Eligibility Criteria for Children 

 

  • Not older than four years of age for full-time residency in a living unit, or not older than six years of age for part-time residency in a living unit, or under the age of majority for part-time residency using the private family visit unit location.

     

 

Participation of Indigenous Mothers

According to CSC data, of the total 183 mothers who have applied to participate in the Mother-Child Program since 2002, 29% (53 mothers) have been First Nations or Métis women. It should be noted that there have been no Inuit women who have sought participation in the program. Footnote 20 Based on this data, Indigenous women appear to be under-represented in the program compared to their significant representation in the incarcerated population, which currently stands at 50%. Footnote 21 The low rates of participation among Indigenous mothers can be in part attributable to the criteria that disproportionately exclude Indigenous women and program requirements that may make them less likely to apply. More specifically, the high rates of Indigenous women with a maximum-security classification make them ineligible for participation. Indigenous women are vastly overrepresented in maximum security (i.e., account for 64% of women in maximums), and the majority have a current violent offence on their record. Footnote 22 In addition to the exclusionary criteria, the required involvement of child welfare agencies may serve to discourage Indigenous women from applying to participate altogether, given the uniquely painful history and continued involvement of child welfare agencies in the dissolution of Indigenous families, particularly through the Sixties Scoop and placement of Indigenous children in the foster care system. Footnote 23 

In keeping with the calls-to-action of recent parliamentary reports, government commissions and national inquiries, and given the issues as noted by this Office and the Library of Parliament, the Service must make more intentional efforts to keep Indigenous mothers connected with their children.

With the Commissioner’s Directive on the Mother-Child Program due for review in January 2023:

  1. I recommend that CSC: 

     
  2. Conduct a review of the program requirements and eligibility criteria for the Mother-Child Program, with a view to increasing access and participation in the program and removing barriers, particularly for Indigenous mothers; and, 

     

  3. Collect, track, and publicly report on participation in the Mother-Child Program to better understand who it is serving and how the program is functioning. 

     



7. Security Escort Vehicles

Side view photo of CSC’s prisoner transport vehicle (2017 model).

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – 2017 model. 

In response to safety, design, and legal concerns raised in the Office’s 2016-17 Annual Report regarding CSC’s prisoner security escort vehicles, the Service committed to replacing its current fleet to “reflect recent industry advancement in design and configuration.” Footnote 24 At the time, CSC also agreed to review purpose-built security escort vehicles currently in use by the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency as part of its lifecycle replacement project. Footnote 25 

In September 2019, the Office was invited to view and inspect the prototype vehicle that CSC was considering to replace its aging and inadequate security escort fleet. At a meeting between senior CSC and OCI management teams in November 2019, I shared concerns about the prototype vehicle, primarily focused on the design and safety features of the prisoner insert (no seatbelt assembly, lack of grab bars or handrails, austere, hard and claustrophobic interiors). I also challenged the need for these vehicles to be designed in a way to accommodate up to five escorting officers, noting by contrast the inadequate space of the compartments where prisoners would be seated.

Following this exchange, the Commissioner committed to personally inspecting the prototype vehicle along with senior members of her management team. Based on this inspection, and following our meeting, the Commissioner wrote to me at the end of January 2020 indicating that she had “asked for consideration of potential options to increase the space available for inmates and address concerns related to seatbelts, including the possibility of adding an extra bench.” I took this as an expression of CSC’s commitment to address my concerns in a serious and substantive manner.

Photo of a CSC prisoner transport vehicle adapted for person's with disabilities.

CSC prisoner transport vehicle adapted for person’s with disabilities. 

Procurement and production problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to unforeseen, though understandable, delays in CSC’s replacement plans. In March 2021, at a meeting of senior OCI and CSC team members, the Service presented what progress had been made in its effort to design and procure a suitable prisoner transport vehicle. According to the Service, the new design modifications included “several improvements,” such as an L-shaped bench on each side of the two prisoner compartments and an extension in the overall length of the insert (by eight inches) – two design features that would ostensibly allow for a taller individual to sit facing backwards while stretching out their legs. Notably, the prototype still did not include a seatbelt assembly in the prisoner insert. Moreover, the vehicle maintained features that would allow up to five correctional officers to occupy the front and back seat of the reconfigured Ford Transit 350 van in safety and comfort. These design features struck me as self-serving and largely devoid of commitment or concern for prisoner safety.

In December 2021, with no prior notice and only after requesting a status update on this issue, the Office was informed that the modified prototype presented at the March 2021 meeting had been approved by CSC Senior Management in May 2021. The Office was also informed that a number of new vehicles had already been delivered to institutions across the country and that other deliveries were planned to meet CSC’s replacement plans and budget. In a follow-up exchange involving seatbelts, the Office was informed in January 2022 that “options for their future inclusion are being discussed in collaboration with key stakeholders and we will be in touch when potential solutions are ready to be presented.” None of these developments seemed in keeping with the Commissioner’s commitment a year earlier to review and consult with my Office on CSC’s progress to renew its fleet of escort vehicles.

As it turns out, CSC deviated significantly from the RCMP-type escort vehicle on standing offer with government suppliers. CSC refers to these modifications as “correctional adaptations.” With respect to specific deviations from the RCMP-type vehicle, the CSC customization process requires removing the front insert that can accommodate three passengers, shortening the rear insert and reducing its capacity from eight passengers to four. As a result, whereas the RCMP-type vehicle can accommodate up to 11 detainees, CSC’s prisoner inserts can accommodate a maximum of four persons (though most likely ever only one, or very rarely two, seated in separate compartments).

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – View from the rear

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – View from the rear. 

Rear photo of a CSC prisoner transport vehicle with a male guard seated inside the prisoner compartment.

CSC prisoner transport vehicle with a correctional officer 
seated inside the prisoner compartment. 

These “adaptations” provide space to add a second row of seating in the front cab to meet staffing requirements for ground escorts for maximum and medium-security prisoners. According to policy, two officers are required for the first prisoner (inclusive of the driver), and one additional officer for each additional passenger. It is not clear that these vehicles would ever be used to transport more than two medium or maximum-security prisoners at a time. It is most likely that the maximum number of persons transported at any one time would be two, seated on opposite sides of the compartment, for purported public and personal safety reasons.

As the photos of the new escort vehicle now in service show, the insert where prisoners are held is spartan, outfitted in stainless aluminum and the space is still as tight and claustrophobic as the previous design. Bench width, seat-to-ceiling height and overall cubic feet of space are not significant improvements over the older inserts it will replace. Indeed, there is little in the reconfigured design that would indicate that the health, safety, dignity or comfort concerns of prisoners were adequately considered. In fact, CSC confirmed that it did not consult incarcerated individuals in the design or procurement stages, contravening CCRA Section 74:

Rear view of a CSC prisoner transport vehicle with a correctional officer climbing into the prisoner compartment.

CSC prisoner transport vehicle with a correctional officer 
climbing into the prisoner compartment. 

“The Service shall provide inmates with the opportunity to contribute to decisions of the Service affecting the inmate population as a whole, or affecting a group with the inmate population, except decisions relating to security matters.” To provide but one important area of oversight with respect to prisoner health and safety: there is no two-way audio or emergency call button for prisoners that could be used in the event of an emergency. Video monitoring does not replace audio for a person trying to communicate distress.

As mentioned, the prisoner seating area does not contain seatbelt assemblies, even though the insert is originally supplied and shipped from the American manufacturer to CSC with seatbelt assemblies intact. Seatbelts are intentionally removed when the prisoner insert assembly crosses the border and fixed to the modified Ford vehicle as per CSC’s chosen design specifications. The Service cites three generalized concerns with equipping their escort vehicles with prisoner seatbelts:

  • Concern over seatbelts becoming weapons and being used against staff or other prisoners in a violent way (mitigated by the obvious fact that the compartments on each side of the insert barely have enough room to accommodate a single passenger).

     

  • Concern for staff safety in reaching inside the vehicle to buckle or unbuckle a prisoner (who is cuffed at the front, and restrained by body or leg shackles, or both, depending on the circumstances and prisoner).

     

  • Concern in the event that a prisoner intentionally harms or self-injures with the buckle or the belt strap.

     

These safety and security risks continue to be raised, even though CSC prisoner escort vehicles have never been equipped with seatbelts and therefore no actual point of reference exists to substantiate or refute these claims. In point of fact, in the six years that have passed since the Office first raised this issue, CSC has never furnished specific or substantiated cases or information to demonstrate that prisoner seatbelts could be used in such harmful manners.



 

Front profile view of a CSC prisoner transport vehicle.

CSC prisoner transport vehicle. 

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – Front seats

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – Front seats. 

More specifically, it is not clear how a shackled and restrained prisoner is supposed to climb the steps into the back of the van, manoeuver into position and take their seat in the confined insert area without some assistance from an escorting officer. Policy and/or technical solutions and adaptations could be made to preclude officers having to reach in or over a shackled prisoner to fasten a seatbelt (for example, loosening body or cuff restraints, providing handholds, issuing oral instructions, video monitoring). The fact that prisoners are subject to continuous video monitoring while under vehicular escort – a technical specification that would presumably alert escorting officers to potential security risks or situations of self-injury, and therefore allow them to assess and act accordingly to these behaviours – would be part of any mitigating strategy to address or reduce risk. There does not seem to have been a serious attempt to engage in a mitigation strategy to address the concern of seatbelts possibly being used in harmful manners.

The Service has only recently advised that they are working on a Threat Risk Assessment (TRA) examining the issue of seatbelts for prisoners. No time frame or points of practice have been provided for the completion of this internal exercise. On this point, I would equally counter that a TRA would only be required to remove, alter or otherwise adapt a fixed and mandatory seatbelt harness and assembly on evidence that a prisoner presented as an actual or perceived threat to self or others while under security escort.

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – Rear passenger seats

CSC prisoner transport vehicle – Rear passenger seats. 

Finally, on the issue of seatbelts, CSC claims that the patchwork of provincial (and federal) vehicle standards, laws and regulations in effect across the country, including the federal Interpretation Act , exempts it from equipping their escort vehicles with seatbelts. CSC also claims that it is compliant with Transport Canada legislation and regulations. However, there are no specific federal standards, rules, or regulations that govern the design, safety or vehicular specifications for prisoner inserts in Canada. Federal regulations in this area are distinct in that they normally apply to vehicles that conduct interprovincial transport (which is the case for CSC escort vans). Though some provinces specifically exempt prison escort vehicles from seatbelts (some even citing CSC practice in this matter), it should be noted that they do not expressly forbid their use either.

Importantly, before the latest amendments to federal regulations, which were mostly aimed at seatbelt assemblies for passenger buses, there was no specific reference to vehicles dedicated to the transport of prisoners. In the latest amendments, Transport Canada adopted American standards for safety features in buses and, in so doing, adopted similar seatbelt exclusions for what are called “prison buses” (by definition including ten or more prisoners). However, since CSC’s escort vehicles have fewer than ten designated prisoner passengers, they may not be excluded from the federal requirement to provide seatbelt assemblies.

In any case, I conclude that the legality of equipping CSC escort vehicles with seatbelts is largely a moot point. If my premise that the prisoner insert itself is not a safe means of conveyance, then CSC can be found to be in violation of its primary mandate. As importantly, CSC seems to be taking on unnecessary and potentially costly liability (we are aware of ongoing litigation where a federal prisoner allegedly suffered injury in the back of one of these vehicles) by deliberately removing or not providing restraining devices for prisoner use in its escort vehicles. My Office continues to receive and investigate complaints from individuals who have alleged that they have been injured in the back of these vehicles precisely because they have no way to restrain or protect themselves from erratic or dangerous driving, unsafe road conditions or unseen hazards, such as potholes, steep inclines or sharp curves. One prisoner aptly describes the experience of riding in the back of one of these vehicles as akin to “bouncing around in a tin teacup.” We are also aware of instances where prisoners simply refuse to be escorted in the back of one of these vehicles even to seek required external medical treatment.

CSC has an important opportunity and obligation to lead the way in this matter. CSC could and should continue to collaborate with Transport Canada and other stakeholders to ensure safe and humane prisoner transport. Staff and prisoner safety are not mutually exclusive or self-serving categories.

  1. I recommend that, without any further delay, CSC outfit all of its prisoner escort vehicles, including those currently in service, with seatbelt assemblies, handholds and other safety and restraint features that would meet its obligation to provide safe and humane custody of prisoners under security escort. I further recommend that CSC return to the drawing table to reconsider its planned “modernization” of its security escort fleet that is more responsive to Office concerns and recommendations. 

     

Update on the Experiences of Black Persons in Canadian Federal Penitentiaries

Image of A Case Study of Doversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries report.

A Case Study of Doversity in Corrections report cover page 

In November 2013, the Office publicly released its groundbreaking investigation examining the experiences of Black persons in federal custody. Footnote 26 At that time, the incarcerated Black population was one of the fastest growing sub-populations in federal corrections, representing 9.5% of the total incarcerated population, while representing less than 3% of the Canadian population. The major findings from the investigation included the following:

  • Incarcerated Black people were overrepresented in maximum security and segregation (solitary confinement), incurred a disproportionate number of institutional charges, and were more likely to be involved in use of force incidents.

     

  • Though only one in five Black persons had an identified gang affiliation, discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes by some CSC staff often meant that those without a gang affiliation were labelled and treated as such.

     

  • Correctional programs needed to be reviewed and updated from a diversity perspective and emphasis needed to be given to hiring and retaining more diverse frontline and program delivery staff.

     

  • Cultural programming and relevant community support was limited.

     

  • Diversity and sensitivity training for CSC staff was required.

     

The Office made two recommendations, which included the development of a National Diversity Awareness Training Plan for staff and the establishment of an Ethnicity Liaison Officer position at each institution. In response to the Office’s recommendations, the Service was generally supportive and committed to monitoring offender grievances to identify organizational learning needs in this area and to integrating specific scenarios addressing diversity, sensitivity awareness and cultural competency into its training programs. CSC did not agree to establish an Ethnicity Liaison Officer (ELO) at each institution because there were “…staff members at each site performing the duties of the Ethnocultural Site Coordinator (ESC) as an extension of their duties… [so] the roles and responsibilities of ESC are similar to what is expected from the ELO.” However, there was a commitment that clear and specific direction would be provided to regions and sites to ensure national consistency to respond to ethnocultural offenders. For example, CSC would ensure defined roles and responsibilities of ESC, develop a National Strategy that identifies the specific needs of ethnocultural offenders, strategies to ensure equal access to services and interventions, and build on community partnerships to expand the range of interventions for this segment of the prison population.

Context

When the Office conducted its investigation in 2013, the only major study in Canada identifying systemic bias and racism within the criminal justice system went back to a 1994 report published by the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System . Footnote 27 The Commission found evidence of systemic racism within each of the components of the Ontario criminal justice system and made a number of recommendations to improve its accountability. Since that time, public discourse surrounding use of force on Black individuals and systemic racism within the criminal justice system have gained increasing momentum both internationally and domestically and successive academic studies and government reports have since followed repeating the findings from the Commission.

Image of the banner for the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024)

Banner for the UN's International Decade 
for People of African Descent 

At the international level, in order to “Promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African Descent,” the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2015 to 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. This proclamation commits UN member states, including Canada, to ensuring that people of African descent have full access to effective protection and remedies against racial discrimination.

With respect to Canadian federal corrections, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent reported on its mission to Canada in 2016, stated the following:

According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, in 2015-16, Black inmates represented 9 per cent of the federal prison population and 7.5 per cent of the federal supervised population although Black Canadians comprise just 3 per cent of the Canadian population. In terms of correctional outcomes, Black persons in federal custody are overrepresented in maximum security, segregation (or solitary confinement) and use of force incidents. They incur a disproportionate number of institutional charges, particularly those that could be considered discretionary on the part of correctional staff, and are released later in their sentence and less likely to be granted day or full parole.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator reported that Black prisoners were 1.5 times more likely to be placed in maximum-security institutions where programming, employment, training, education upgrading, rehabilitative programming and social activities are limited. Furthermore, Black persons experience discrimination by correctional officials through the use of racist language, as well as being ignored and disregarded in ways that increase feelings of marginalization, exclusion and isolation. Those inmates are also often labelled with discriminatory stereotyping such as being called a gang member or troublemaker or drug dealer or womanizer. A review of data from 2008 to 2013 showed that Black persons were consistently overrepresented in administrative segregation, particularly involuntary and disciplinary placements, and in 2012-2013, they were disproportionately involved in use of force incidents.

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent further recommended that Canada:

  • Develop and implement a national corrections strategy to address and correct the disproportionately high rates of African Canadians in the correctional system and ensure anti-discriminatory and culturally specific services for African Canadian offenders; and,

     

  • Develop a national diversity-awareness training plan for the federal and provincial correctional services and appoint an ethnicity liaison officer in each institution. Urgently increase the staffing of the correctional service and explore alternatives to lockdowns that will not result in the impairment of the human rights of detainees.

     

To date, these two key recommendations have not been substantially implemented by CSC.

The logo for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Logo for the Black Lives Matter movement 

In Canada, current events have also contributed to a greater collective awareness of the importance of addressing discrimination and other forms of race-based violence against Black people. Footnote 28 One of the most publicized of these events was the murder of American George Floyd in May of 2020 at the hands of members of the Minneapolis police force, which resulted in an international mobilization against anti-Black racism. In Canada, the Black Lives Matter social movement shook the country, a disturbing reminder of the Black lives lost in interactions with Canadian police forces. It was also a reminder of numerous cases of racial profiling that resulted in Black individuals experiencing abusive arrests and detentions. Among the serious incidents that have unnerved Canada’s public opinion of the criminal justice system is the case of Abdirahman Abdi, an Ottawa resident of Somali origin who died in July 2016 during a police intervention while suffering from mental health problems. More recently, Guinean student Mamadi Camara, falsely accused by the Montreal police of the attempted murder of a police officer, was brutally arrested and detained in January 2021. Footnote 29 

In 2019 and 2021, the Canadian Government released reports on the human rights of federally sentenced persons. These reports have concluded that there is an urgent need to develop targeted strategies, “…to address the root causes of the over-representation of Black persons in the federal correctional system, including systemic racism and historical discrimination.” Footnote 30 For example, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights made the following preliminary observations Footnote 31 after visiting federal penitentiaries:

The committee wishes to draw attention to the fact that it has heard personal stories of racism and discrimination from almost every Black individual with whom it has had contact during its fact-finding visits. This includes persons serving sentences and those administrating them. Discrimination was often based on multiple, intersecting identity factors like gender, race, language and ethnic origin. These experiences transcend the correctional environment and condition the way Black people in Canada experience the world. As one witness stated, “one aspect of anti-Black racism in the prison system is that it is not only applied to prisoners but also to Black communities, families and advocates.” Another told the committee that they would need to live a year in her skin to fully understand her testimony.

The Correctional Investigator indicated to the committee that the CSC has not addressed the systemic issues related to racism and discrimination against federally sentenced Black persons that the OCI documented in a 2013 report.

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights in its final report made the following observations:

The committee met with a number of federally sentenced Black persons during site visits who were discouraged by the quality and availability of culturally appropriate programming. The committee heard that the lack of culturally appropriate programming perpetuates the cycle of criminalization and the systemic discrimination against Black Canadians.

The committee heard many stories from federally sentenced Black persons about instances of blatant anti-Black racism against federally sentenced Black persons and Black correctional officers. Some of these instances include being called derogatory names, not having work opportunities available to them, being assumed to be gang affiliated for wearing a do-rag or being seen in a group of other federally sentenced Black persons.

These condemnatory findings prompted the Prime Minister of Canada to issue a mandate letter to the Minister of Public Safety to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system, including federal corrections. The PM directed the Minister to:

Continue to combat systemic racism and discrimination in the criminal justice system, including across all federal departments and agencies responsible for national security and the safety of Canadians. This also includes supporting the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in their work to address systemic racism and the over-representation of Black and racialized Canadians and Indigenous Peoples in the justice system.

My Office is very encouraged by these recent new commitments and offers this update on the experiences of Black persons in Canadian federal penitentiaries as an opportunity for the Government of Canada to address key concerns about systemic racism in federal corrections. A positive response to my recommendations will go a long way to addressing the systemic human rights concerns in federal corrections.

Methodology

Similar to the 2013 investigation, this investigation used a qualitative and quantitative approach that included the following:

  • A review of relevant research and policies;

     

  • Analysis of data from CSC; and,

     

  • Interviews with CSC staff, incarcerated persons, academics and Black community group representatives.

     

Interviews were conducted in the Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic regions. The largest proportion of Black individuals are incarcerated in the Ontario region (54.8%), followed by the Quebec region (19.2%), the Prairie region (13.6%), the Pacific region (7.1%) and the Atlantic region (5.3%). Due to ongoing concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews were mostly conducted virtually with the exception of those conducted at Grand Valley Institution for women, which were completed in-person.

Table 1. Federal Institutions where Interviews were conducted.

INSTITUTION REGION SECURITY LEVEL BLACK PERSONS AS A 
PROPORTION OF THE 
OVERAL INSTITUTIONAL 
POPULATION 
 
ATLANTICATLANTICMAXIMUM12.8%
SPRINGHILLATLANTICMEDIUM6.5%
COLLINS BAYONTARIOMAXIMUM 
AND MEDIUM
29.6%
WARKWORTHONTARIOMEDIUM21.9%
GRAND VALLEY 
INSTITUTION 
FOR WOMEN
ONTARIOMAXIMUM, 
MEDIUM 
AND MINIMUM
8.2%
COWANSVILLEQUEBECMEDIUM13%

 

In total, 56 interviews were conducted with incarcerated Black persons, seven CSC staff members, and Preventive Security and Intelligence at National Headquarters. Consultations were also conducted with five Black community groups/advocates working with incarcerated Black persons.

Profile of Incarcerated Black Persons

Similar to the Office’s findings in 2013, Black individuals continue to be overrepresented in federal custody. In 2021-22, Black persons represented 9.2% of the overall incarcerated population, despite representing about 3.5% Footnote 32 of the Canadian population. The total number of Black people in federal penitentiaries has decreased by 12.4% since 2012. This decrease should be understood in the broader context where the total federal prisoner population declined by 16.5% over the same period and the number of White individuals decreased by 23.5%. For this investigation, Black refers to those self-identifying as Black, Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean, self-reported racial and geographical categories used by CSC.

Complaints to the OCI

Over the period December 31, 2017 to November 6, 2021, 110 individual complaints (105 men and 5 women) from Black individuals were made to the Office. The majority of these complaints came from individuals in maximum (36%) and medium security (35%) institutions. Most reported that they had experienced discrimination, victimization, racism, harassment or physical and/or verbal aggression. The number of complaints to the Office where discrimination and/or racism was the basis of the complaint appears to be increasing over time. In 2018, 16 complaints were filed with the Office compared to 24 in 2019, 39 in 2020 and 30 as of November 6, 2021.

A line graph depicting incarcerated Black individuals as a proportion of the total in-custody population by year. 2011-2012 = 9.0%; 2012-2013 = 9.9%; 2013-2014 = 9.9%; 2014-2015 = 9.7%; 2015-2016 = 9.0%; 2016-2017 = 8.6%; 2017-2018 = 8.4%; 2018-2019 = 8.2%; 2019-2020 = 9.4%; 2020-2021 = 9.4%; 2021-2022 = 9.2%

Graph 1. Incarcerated Black Individuals as a Proportion of 
the Total In-Custody Population 

 

Snapshot of the Incarcerated Black Population

The following is a general profile of demographic and sentencing characteristics of individuals who self-identified, at admission to a federal penitentiary, as Black, Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean. Statistics have also been provided for those identifying as White Footnote 33 , Indigenous Footnote 34 and persons of colour Footnote 35 for comparison purposes (See Appendix A: Population Profile, at the end of this investigation).

The majority of incarcerated Black persons are young men with the largest proportion of Black individuals falling between the ages of 18 and 30 years. As is the case with all federal prisoners, Black individuals are mostly housed in medium security; however, larger proportions of Black individuals are housed in maximum security compared to other groups. One of the most apparent differences between Black persons and other ethnic groups is the proportion serving their third or more federal sentence. White (15.3%) and Indigenous (15.1%) individuals are three times more likely to be serving their third or more federal sentence compared to Black persons (5.4%). This difference corroborates previous findings that Black individuals tend to do better once returned to the community (i.e.; less likely to reoffend or return to federal custody on a new offence). Black persons are similar to those with an Indigenous ancestry in terms of gang affiliation, where 23.8% of Black and 21.9% of Indigenous individuals have a gang affiliation. By comparison, only 5.7% of White individuals and 12.7% of People of Colour have a gang affiliation. Finally, Black individuals appear to be similar to White prisoners with respect to risk, need, motivation, accountability and reintegration potential though the proportion of Black individuals with low accountability and low reintegration potential is slightly higher than it is for White prisoners.

What Has CSC done since the Office’s 2013 Investigation?

As part of the current investigation, CSC was asked to provide documentation showing where progress had been made with respect to the findings and recommendations in the Office’s 2013 report. Overall, many of the initiatives identified by CSC since the Office’s 2013 report were already in place during the Office’s first investigation; however, this time around, there were a number of corporate initiatives identified by the Service. CSC conducted a review of Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 767: Ethnocultural Offenders: Services and Interventions to reflect CSC’s new organizational structure and a new CD was promulgated in January 2021. In addition, an ethnocultural aspect was added to a number of policy directives. For example, among others, the following CDs have been revised to include ethnocultural elements:

  • CD 705-6 Correctional Planning and Criminal Profile (ANNEX E) – “Dynamic Factor Identification and Analysis – instructs staff completing the assessment to factor in cultural differences when completing the assessment.” Footnote 36 

     

  • CD 715-2 Post-Release Decision Process – “The Parole Officer and the person with designated authority will consider the factors outlined in the Risk Assessment Framework (Annex D) in determining the most appropriate intervention among the following: (f) suitable cultural alternatives or interventions.” Footnote 37 

     

CSC also developed an Ethnocultural Action Framework (EAF, April 2021), which “…provides guidance to ensure cohesive and consistent approaches across sites, and encourages collaboration at all levels of the organization” Footnote 38 for ethnocultural offenders. The EAF is comprised of four phases: 1) Identify Needs, 2) Develop the Team, 3) Make Strides, and 4) Maintain Momentum. All four phases can be actioned at any time, and are specific to ethnocultural individuals. In addition, as part of the EAF, CSC has identified over sixty Ethnocultural Site Coordinators to provide support in meeting the needs of ethnocultural persons at the institutional level.

The vast majority of Black persons interviewed for this investigation expressed scepticism about the real-world impact of the Ethnocultural Site Coordinators, which appear to be primarily staffed by part-time volunteers. Many incarcerated Black people, including those leading the Black Inmate and Friends Associations (BIFAs), stated that they doubted the value of these volunteers in meeting their needs within the institution. Some indicated they had not even met the Ethnocultural Site Coordinator within the past year. Positions staffed by volunteers are unlikely to meet the needs of all ethnocultural offenders. Moreover, categorizing such a broad range of racialized individuals under an umbrella such as “Ethnocultural” ignores the heterogeneity and complexities of each of these groups. The Black community in Canada is extremely diverse and heterogeneous, comprising many regional and ethnic backgrounds, varied historical circumstances, speaking numerous languages, and representing various religious affiliations.

The EAF is situated within CSC’s Anti-Racism Framework (updated October 2021), which contains a number of corporate-wide actions aimed at engaging staff, incarcerated persons and stakeholders to “create an anti-racist organization that is more inclusive, diverse and equitable.” Footnote 39 The Anti-Racism Framework takes a three-pronged approach involving working with key partners:

  1. Focus on staff: building a diverse, representative, inclusive and respectful workforce. 

     
  2. Focus on offenders: evaluating tools and practices for offender assessments, engaging with inmates and supporting safe and respectful environments. 

     
  3. Focus on stakeholders, Indigenous Peoples, and external experts: listening to external voices, input and lived experience, and evidence to inform the way forward. 

     

While these frameworks are important steps toward addressing issues of discrimination and racism, they are high-level, corporate-driven frameworks that must be implemented and understood at the operational level and in day-to-day interactions. In December 2021, CSC announced a Champion for Anti-racism, Diversity and Inclusion and soon after, a unit dedicated to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion at its national headquarters. Again, this is an important step forward; however, it is just as important that individuals who occupy these positions (i.e., Champions and members of the Anti-racism, Diversity and Inclusion unit) can relate to those who have experienced racism and discrimination. Finally, CSC has committed to developing additional staff training on topics such as identifying and combatting unconscious bias and a manager’s toolkit to help support employee conversations on systemic racism and racial discrimination.

Little Progress on Issues the Office Identified in 2013

Despite CSC’s concerted efforts to make changes with respect to inclusion, diversity and anti-racism, incarcerated Black persons reported to OCI investigators that very little had materially changed for the better over the years. They continue to experience pervasive racism and systemic discrimination, have difficulties accessing culturally relevant services and interventions and must engage in correctional programming that does not reflect their lived experiences.

It has been nearly ten years since the Office completed its investigation examining the experiences of Black persons in federal penitentiaries. Our review suggests that very little has changed for Black persons and in many respects, their situation has deteriorated even further. All of the issues identified in 2013 remain today. What follows is a review and assessment of CSC’s progress in addressing the issues previously identified by the office. Incarcerated Black persons also identified a number of new issues during interviews, which are included below.

Black Women

The number of federally sentenced Black women is at its lowest point in ten years with a total of 21 Black women in-custody on April 24, 2022. Footnote 40 Currently, Black women comprise 3.5% of the federally sentenced woman population. In 2011-12, there were 55 Black women, which was the highest it had been in the past ten years. On average, there have been approximately 36 federally incarcerated Black women over the past 20 years (ranging from a low of 24 in 2005-06 to a high of 58 in 2012-13). Many of the issues raised by Black women in the Office’s 2013 investigation continue to be relevant today.

Discrimination and differential treatment

Black women continue to experience differential treatment in a variety of circumstances, particularly when they are gathered together and how their behaviour is interpreted by staff and other incarcerated women. Groups of Black women are often approached by CSC staff and asked what they are “planning” or “plotting.” Black women reported not being permitted to live together in the same house, even if they requested to do so. When one small group of Black women did reside in the same house, staff labelled them the “Jamaican gang” and chastised them for speaking their own language together. Black women also reported that staff would attempt to mediate disagreements between other women, but when a Black woman was involved, she was immediately identified by staff as the “instigator,” “bully,” or “aggressor.” Several Black women reported that CSC staff entering a house would often speak to all the women while ignoring the one Black woman in the house. One woman stated, “They [CSC] strip everything from me, but I still don’t belong and I am treated differently.” Most Black women stated that they did not report incidents of discrimination or stereotyping to staff because they were “…afraid of the backlash” and “…knew that nothing would be done anyway.”

There are still very few opportunities for Black community groups to provide support to incarcerated Black women. Women reported having to fight to get the food they wanted or speakers to celebrate Black History Month every year. For example, one woman reported that the Black Women of Diversity group was forced by CSC staff to accept coffee and cake to celebrate Black History Month when they would have preferred food that better represented their culture. At the time of this investigation, the Black Women of Diversity group at GVI had stopped its work as a way of protesting the way the women on the committee had been treated by staff at GVI.

Availability of personal care products

We repeatedly heard concerns again regarding the difficulty in accessing the necessary personal care products for hair and skin. While Grand Valley Institution Footnote 41 has a process in place to purchase specialized products for Black women every three months, in practice, it is often delayed. At the time of interviewing for this investigation, the institution had just completed an order for the Black women, which was six months overdue. Several women showed OCI investigators how their hair had fallen out due to the lack of appropriate products and one woman reported using olive oil in her hair as a substitute. Black women are forced to ration their personal care products with the hope that they can make another order every three months whereas other women can order products from the canteen at any time. Products for Black women also tend to be more expensive leaving them with fewer resources to purchase other items. The women reported that the Ontario provincial system had better hair care products available on the canteen for Black women and that hair caps, which can help protect their hair, were permitted in the provincial system, but not in the federal system (see text box on do-rags below).

The unique hair and skin-care needs of both Black women and men have been ignored for decades in academic and professional circles. Footnote 42 However, there is now growing recognition of the unique conditions experienced by individuals with dark skin, e.g., melasma, keloids, razor bumps ( pseudofolliculitis barbae ), and acanthosis nigricans . This recognition has prompted corporate cosmetic giant, L’Oréal, to award three leading African scientists its African Hair and Skin Research grant. Footnote 43 To prevent and treat these skin conditions, Black individuals need access to specific skincare products beyond what is commonly available for non-melanated skin types. Similarly, Black hair has unique needs due to its elasticity, tight coils, and texture. Footnote 44 However, natural hairstyles that have emerged both as an expression of identity and as a means of maintaining healthy hair have long been the target of discrimination. This includes barriers to accessing products such as oils and shampoos aimed at maintaining Black hair. Consequently, there has been a push to protect individuals from race-based hair discrimination by passing the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) in every American state.

Access to Do-rags

During interviews, a number of Black persons complained that they were not able to have a do-rag as part of their personal property. This policy seemed to vary by institution, where some institutions allowed them and others did not, usually because do-rags are viewed as a gang symbol. In addition to being an expression of cultural identity, do-rags are often used to protect the hair. When my Office brought the complaint forward to CSC, National Headquarters (NHQ) agreed that while Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 566-12: Personal Property of Offenders does not provide specific direction about do-rags, the direction on cultural items would apply to do-rags as they can be considered cultural items for Black inmates.

CD 566-12, paragraph 6 specifies:

The Deputy Warden, or delegate, not below the Assistant Warden level, will approve non-essential health care items (including medical bracelets), religious, spiritual or cultural articles, educational textbooks or supplies, and arts and crafts raw materials following consultation with the appropriate department.

CD 566-12, paragraph 25 specifies:

Prior to approving non-essential health care, religious, spiritual or cultural articles, educational textbooks or supplies (including dictionary and/or thesaurus), and arts and crafts raw materials, the Deputy Warden or delegate, not below the Assistant Warden level, will consult with the head of the appropriate department and consider security and fire safety requirements.

CD 566-12, paragraph 27 specifies:

The Deputy Warden or delegate, not below the level of Assistant Warden, may disallow religious and cultural items if it is determined, in consultation with Chaplains, Elders/Spiritual Advisors, that the religious or cultural items are being used in a way other than what was intended.

An institution’s standing order may limit that do-rags be black in order to avoid colours that could be associated with particular gangs. Given this, communication should be sent out from NHQ to ensure all institutions allow the use of do-rags.

 

Several women also raised issues with CSC’s unsubstantiated security concerns with respect to hair extensions. Women reported being forced to cut off their hair extensions upon admission because they were deemed not part of their person and a possible security concern. These prohibitions do not appear to be consistently applied across CSC women’s sites. Almost every Black woman interviewed at GVI raised this issue. One woman who was forced to remove her hair extensions and subsequently reported hair loss stated, “I can’t wait to get out and do my hair and feel good and have worth.” Another woman, speaking about her appearance before the Parole Board stated, “I hope they don’t look at me differently for parole because of my hair.” Not providing regular access to appropriate hair care products to the point that a woman’s hair is falling out, or forcing Black women to cut off their hair extensions because of a security concern that not one CSC staff member could explain or legitimize with a recorded incident, is unacceptable.

Diverse staffing

There was a very strong sentiment from Black women that they wanted more staff that resembled them and had similar life experiences, including primary workers, parole officers, and mental health staff. The women reported that currently, many Black staff are afraid to help them or be seen to be favouring them by their colleagues so some would resort to only speaking with Black women, “…in the corners of the institution.” A more diverse staff complement would help reduce the gap in trust that currently exists between incarcerated persons and CSC staff.

Overall, the situation for Black women has changed very little since the Office conducted its 2013 investigation. All of the issues raised previously, continue to be problems with a few additional areas identified in the current investigation. When asked what would improve their situation, Black women most often stated the following concrete changes:

  • Consistent access to appropriate personal care products;

     

  • More diverse food items on the canteen list;

     

  • A liaison to assist with making community connections;

     

  • A house designated for Black women and a place where Black women can heal;

     

  • A more diverse staff complement (including Primary Workers, Parole Officers, and mental health staff); and, Correctional programming with examples and scenarios that resonate with Black women.

     

These suggestions are far from complicated, costly or difficult to implement. Most of the suggestions could be implemented easily and quickly and would go a long way to addressing many of the long-standing issues identified by Black women over the years.

  1. I recommend that CSC: 
  2. Develop policy to ensure all Black prisoners have consistent access to appropriate personal care products and that a wider selection of food items that reflect the cultural diversity of the prison population is included on the national canteen list. 

     

  3. Develop and immediately distribute a bulletin ensuring all institutions are aware that do-rags are considered a cultural item and can be part of an individual’s personal property. This should be incorporated into the next review of CD 767: Ethnocultural Offenders – Services and Interventions. 

     

  4. Review its positions with respect to hair extensions from a dignity and diversity perspective rather than solely through a security lens. 

     

Security Classification

Similar to the Office’s previous findings, Black persons are overrepresented in maximum security and underrepresented in minimum security. In 2021-22, Black persons comprised 14% of those in maximum security and 6.5% of those in minimum security while representing 9.2% of the federal prison population. Moreover, Black individuals have the largest proportion incarcerated in maximum security and the smallest proportion incarcerated in minimum security, particularly when compared to those identifying as White. For example, on December 12, 2021, 18.4% of Black individuals were in maximum security and 12.3% were in minimum security compared to 10.3% of White prisoners in maximum security and 19.8% in minimum security. These trends hold over several years (see Appendix B for more data). Footnote 45 

Interviews with Black persons identified possible reasons why larger proportions of Black individuals are incarcerated in maximum security or why they tend to spend longer periods in maximum security when compared to other groups. There are a number of factors (e.g.; severity of index offence, risk level, escape risk, completion of correctional programming, security incidents) that are considered in security classification. Many Black persons reported that their Parole Officers (POs) could not give them a specific reason why they could not be reclassified or exactly what they needed to do to cascade to a lower level of security. Interviewees reported that POs “blamed others or processes,” claimed to be “looking into it” for months or “did not have any time to look into the issue.” Most Black men reported the following with respect to their PO:

  • very little support with respect to advancing their correctional plan;

     

  • high turnover rates of POs;

     

  • long periods without a PO;

     

  • an unwillingness to explore their social history, and;

     

  • POs with very little knowledge of their lived experience.

     

Many Black men reported waiting sometimes years for correctional programming, often because they had long sentences. Correctional programming is prioritized for those with short sentences and those with upcoming parole eligibility dates. While this approach to correctional programming has some merit, it discriminates against those with long(er) sentences, potentially leaving them to linger in maximum-security environments longer than if they were able to participate in programming earlier. For example, Black persons are more likely than other groups to be serving an indeterminate (life) sentence (Black: 34.6%, White: 32%, Indigenous: 27.2%). Black persons serving a determinate sentence are, on average, serving a slightly longer sentence when compared to other groups (Black: 5.93 years, White: 5.67 years, Indigenous: 5.32 years). Footnote 46 Even so, consideration should be given to providing correctional programming earlier for those serving long sentences in maximum security to allow them to cascade to lower levels of security more quickly where there are more opportunities for meaningful work, and to engage in a wider variety of rehabilitative activities.

Black prisoners are overrepresented and over-securitized in federal custody. CSC must systematically examine security classification at admission to minimize unconscious bias, discriminatory practices, and systemic barriers (e.g., access to correctional programming, frequent changes in POs, and long periods without POs) for Black individuals seeking to cascade.

  1. I recommend that CSC conduct a comparative review, in partnership with Black community groups or external experts, to examine cumulative time spent by Black individuals before reclassification and cascading to lower levels of security. 

Involuntary Transfers

Both Black community advocates and incarcerated Black persons identified involuntary transfers as an issue of concern. Involuntary transfers from the Ontario region to the Quebec region in particular are forcing some Black individuals to serve their sentence far from their family and social supports. It is very difficult for these individuals to be paroled in Quebec or find a place in a halfway house. Moreover, it can be difficult to access programming or interventions in the language of their choice. A review of the data indicates that Black individuals are consistently overrepresented in involuntary transfers. For example, in 2020-21, while representing 9.4% of the incarcerated population, Black people represented 14.6% of those involuntarily transferred (see Appendix C for more data). While involuntary transfers are no doubt the result of CSC attempting to manage incompatibles and gang affiliations, these dislocations further disadvantage a group that already faces an inordinate number of barriers and obstacles.

Gang Labelling and Stereotyping

Nearly one quarter (23.8%) of the incarcerated Black population has an identified security threat group (STG) or gang affiliation. By comparison, 21.9% of Indigenous, 5.7% of White and 12.7% of Peoples of colour have a gang affiliation on file. While Black persons appear to be more statistically likely to be gang affiliated, similar to previous findings, many Black persons reported being labelled or treated like gang members by CSC staff despite not having an official STG affiliation on their file. Footnote 47 They indicated that staff referred to them as gang members based on a variety of factors including the neighbourhood where they grew up, the people they associate with on their range, groups of Black individuals congregating together, the clothes they wear or the way they interacted with other Black individuals. One staff member confirmed to the Office that labelling and stereotyping happens:

“Normal things like walking, talking, dialect, handshakes are stereotyped as gang behaviours. Black prisoners are often guilty by association as well, or by the colour of their clothing. Staff have little education on the significance of various colours. This might affect how staff view offenders or mislabel them as gang members, but operationally it affects work opportunities.”

The tendency to view behaviours, language and background information through a “gang lens” is detrimental to these individuals as a gang affiliation label makes it difficult to cascade to lower levels of security, obtain employment or garner support from a case management team to participate in other rehabilitative activities.

Several Black men also reported being assigned an active gang affiliation by CSC with little or no evidence. They told the Office that there were no court documents or rulings on their file indicating a gang affiliation, but that they were given this designation by CSC. One Black individual stated:

“It doesn’t matter if your criminal conviction has nothing to do with real or perceived STG membership, for about 95% of the cases that we know of, it’s after you get to prison that CSC, through information fabricated by security intelligence, sticks you with that status which you will then have a hard time getting rid of, with all the consequences imaginable for your stay in prison.”

On the surface, gang affiliation as identified, assessed and defined by CSC appears to be based on objective criteria:

  • reliable source identification (informants, community or institutional sources);

     

  • law enforcement information;

     

  • tangible written or electronic evidence (e.g. pictures);

     

  • self-disclosure or admission;

     

  • arrested while participating in a criminal activity with known associates;

     

  • criminal involvement in a criminal organization activity;

     

  • a judicial finding that the offender is an associate;

     

  • common and/or symbolic identification (e.g. scars, marks and tattoos or criminal organization paraphernalia); and,

     

  • observed behaviour that by its nature or association gives reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offender has a gang affiliation. Footnote 48 

     

In practice, some of these criteria are discretionary and prone to confirmation bias (the tendency to interpret information or behaviour in a way that confirms preconceptions and subjective judgments). Once applied, the validity and reliability of the gang label appear to be rarely questioned, particularly among those in operational positions. This kind of labelling is particularly questionable when it relies on internal security intelligence information or prison informants, which are not always corroborated by external law enforcement, court or judicial authorities. In order to investigate this issue further, the Office requested and reviewed thirty random forms used to designate an STG affiliation (Form 184-02: Assessment of Affiliation with a Security Threat Group ). We found that the majority indicated that the gang affiliation was based on police information. Caution should be exercised as even law-enforcement officers are prone to racial profiling and the over-policing of racialized communities. Footnote 49 Based on the findings of this investigation, I agree with The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights (2021) that called on CSC to conduct a systematic review of its use of the Security Threat Group classification and “…its disproportionate application to Indigenous Peoples and racialized groups.” Footnote 50 

The Experience of One Individual Trying to Have a Gang Affiliation Removed

After arriving at a federal institution from a provincial jail without gang affiliation, he reported that CSC applied the affiliation, “simply because I was from Montreal North. I challenged this and refused to sign. Transferred to Donnacona, faced with the obstacles of getting a so-called trust job, I was informed that the information on my affiliation came from Montreal… my lawyer contacted the SPVM [Montreal Police Services] who replied in writing that I was unknown to their services. The SIO then changed the version of events and stated that the province had provided the information. This is false, since I was in the general population at the provincial level where no one ever mentioned such a status. I had to fight for five years to remove this mention, to no avail… my requests to transfer to facilities where I could have had better support, my job searches in facilities, suffered. I moved from Drummondville to Cowansville where I immediately alerted preventive security to the error. They gave me six months to prove my non-affiliation. Since my conduct was beyond reproach, they gave me a non-active status, which is absurd, but I was at my wits’ end. They wore me down.”

Once a gang affiliation is applied to an individual, it is nearly impossible to have it removed. The Office heard from several Black persons who have been trying for years to have an affiliation removed, have isolated themselves from others and not participated in Black organizations (i.e., Black Inmate Committee) or events to prove they are not associated. Some have retained legal counsel.

 

Moreover, for those wishing to disaffiliate, there are few options or resources offered by CSC. The only assistance identified in Commissioner’s Directive 568-3: Identification and Management of Security Threat Groups is that should an individual wish to disaffiliate from a gang, they must submit written notification of their intent to terminate their affiliation with a security threat group. A Security Intelligence Officer then interviews the offender, compiles relevant information relating to the termination notification and completes the applicable parts of the Assessment and Affiliation with a Security Threat Group form. The final decision to accept or reject the disaffiliation request rests with the Institutional Head, in consultation with the Chair of the Regional Strategic Intelligence Committee.

When asked about programming specifically for those who wish to disaffiliate, CSC only highlighted the correctional programming offered through the Integrated Correctional Program Model which “…include multi-target streams that holistically target individual risk factors and criminogenic needs, including those behaviours that are common to STG members such as antisocial personality, attitudes/cognition, and associates.” Footnote 51 In short, there are no programs specifically targeting gang affiliation for those wishing to disaffiliate.

  1. I recommend that CSC conduct a systemic review of its use of the Security Threat Groups classification criteria to ensure that only relevant information corroborated by external law enforcement, court or judicial authorities, and supported by evidence, are used to designate an individual with a Security Threat Group. 
  2. I recommend that, within the next year, the Service develop a gang disaffiliation strategy. This strategy should: 
  3. Be responsive to the unique needs of young Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Colour as well as women. 

     

  4. Include opportunities (e.g. workshops, seminars, public speakers) where individuals can engage with their culture and/or spirituality. 

     

  5. Incorporate best practices and lessons learned from community-based initiatives, correctional jurisdictions, and other public safety domains. 

     

Use of Force

In my most recent Annual Report (2020-21), released in February 2022, I reported on an investigation conducted by my Office examining the intersection of race and involvement in use of force incidents where race was found to be uniquely associated with the over-representation of Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Colour (BIPOC) in use of force incidents in federal prisons. Specifically, BIPOC persons accounted for 60% of all uses of force, while representing 44% of the federally incarcerated population. Regardless of risk level, security level, age, sentence length or gender, identifying as Indigenous or Black was associated with a greater likelihood of involvement in a use-of-force incident. Specifically, Black and Indigenous prisoners accounted for 51% of all individuals involved in use-of-force incidents over the last five years, while representing 37% of the federal prison population. As well, Black and Indigenous individuals experience more uses of force on average per person. Based on these findings, I concluded that force is disproportionately used against incarcerated Black and Indigenous persons in federal corrections and that race is significantly and uniquely associated with the application of force in federal prisons.

My primary recommendation called on CSC to address systemic bias and to publicly report on actionable changes to use of force policy and practice that would reduce the causes of over-representation of Indigenous and Black individuals. As I stated at my press conference (February 10, 2022), I am not convinced that CSC has adequately acknowledged or answered my concerns regarding the unique role that race seems to play in how force is applied, how frequently it is used and against whom . In their response to my recommendation, CSC committed to conduct “…a comprehensive data analysis with respect to use-of-force incidents to ensure that only strategies that were necessary and proportionate to manage the incidents were used.” The disproportionate representation of Black and Indigenous persons in use of force incidents would seem to warrant a response that goes beyond reviewing the necessity or proportionality of the level or type of force used in these incidents. In this time and place, those in positions of public trust and power must answer to evidence of bias or discrimination that results in differential or unfair treatment. CSC can and should do better.

  1. I again recommend that CSC promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black individuals and publicly report on actionable changes to policy and practice that will effectively reduce the over-representation of these groups among those exposed to uses of force. 

     

Institutional Charges

Although prison rules are rigorously framed, institutional or disciplinary charges can be highly discretionary or subjective. Between 2016-17 and 2020-21, the number of disciplinary charges incurred by incarcerated Black persons increased by 16.7% despite the fact that the total number of disciplinary charges laid over the same period decreased by 3.8%. Similar to my Office’s previous finding Footnote 52 , Appendix D shows that between 2016-17 and 2020-21, incarcerated Black persons were consistently overrepresented for discretionary charges such as disobeying an order or a rule, disrespect toward a person or staff member and jeopardizing the safety of the institution. Conversely, Black prisoners were underrepresented in categories of charges requiring less discretion and more concrete evidence, such as damaging or destroying property, possession of an unauthorized item and failing a urine test. During interviews, Black individuals described being targeted with institutional charges. Black women discussed how they were often labelled as the “aggressor” by CSC staff and incurred institutional charges as a result. One woman stated, “I am labelled a bully and charged because I speak my mind and stand up for myself.” Another woman talked about how she rarely spoke around CSC Primary Workers because “…if you don’t say anything, they don’t have anything to write you up for.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), in its report, A Disparate Impact: Second interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service found a very similar pattern with respect to charges filed by the Toronto Police Service. Overall, the OHRC found that Black people living in Toronto had a charge rate 3.9 times greater than White people in Toronto and that “Black people are grossly overrepresented in discretionary, lower-level charges and are more likely than White people to face low-quality charges with a low probability of conviction.” Footnote 53 For example, while representing 8.8% of Toronto’s population, Black people represented 42.5% of those involved in obstruction of justice charges, 35.2% of people involved in “out-of-sight” driving charges (i.e., driving without valid insurance) and 37.6% of those involved in cannabis charges. Moreover, the report concludes, “Despite being charged at a disproportionately higher rate, Black people were overrepresented in cases that resulted in a withdrawal of charges; and their cases were also less likely to result in a conviction compared to cases involving White people.” Footnote 54 

CSC must ensure discrimination and unconscious bias are not resulting in institutional charges inappropriately or disproportionately targeting Black individuals. While CSC does conduct sensitivity training, CSC staff told us that not all staff take the training seriously. One CSC staff member stated that diversity training is “…purely theoretical, PowerPoint training that colleagues skim over and then answer the tests by checking boxes, without providing any practical experience that is useful to their work in the prison.” Another CSC staff member stated, “It’s hard to give diversity training to a White man with 25 years of service through a boring PowerPoint presentation. Twenty-five to 50% of the course was on race and ethnicity. Most of the rest was on LGBTQ+ and the proper words to use. It’s pretty corporate.” This staff member continued stating the following:

“Diversity training should be done during [core training]. We’re taught about it during core, but not ‘how’ to actually do it, like listening with empathy. They should also bring in the community to be involved with the training. Right now, they’re not involved much at all. Once a month there’s a BIFA activity and then there’s Black history month, but these are poorly done. An Ethnocultural Officer is needed and should be similar to the ALO [Aboriginal Liaison Officer].”

  1. I recommend that CSC expand its staff diversity training to include representation from Black community groups and external experts who can provide a more complete and relevant perspective. This training should be mandatory, in-person and oriented to practical and lived experiences of Black people. 

Structured Intervention Units

In 2013, the Office found that Black persons were consistently overrepresented in segregation (solitary confinement) placements. In November 2019, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was amended to abolish solitary confinement as defined by the Mandela Rules (confining prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without “meaningful human contact”) by replacing the previous administrative segregation regime with Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). Implemented at the end of November 2019, there are now SIUs at ten men’s institutions as well as all five regional women’s facilities. A snapshot of SIU statistics indicates the following:

  • Black persons are overrepresented in SIUs, comprising 15% of the SIU population (Indigenous: 49%, White: 28%, other people of colour: 5%).

     

  • Black persons are housed in SIUs at a rate of 173 per 1,000 Black prisoners, followed by Indigenous prisoners (137 per 1,000) and White prisoners (95 per 1,000).

     

  • Black individuals were almost two times more likely than White individuals to experience at least one SIU stay, and were more likely to experience stays of 60 days or more.

     

The Use of Black Social History

In 2021, Nova Scotia’s top court ruled that trial judges must consider the history of racism and marginalization experienced by the Black community during sentencing. Footnote 55 In a seminal ruling, Justice Anne Derrick wrote that, “It may amount to an error of law for a sentencing judge to ignore or fail to inquire into the systemic and background factors detailed in an IRCA [Impact of Race and Culture Assessment] or otherwise raised in the sentencing of an African Nova Scotian offender.” Justice Derrick also highlighted the importance of understanding Black social history in sentencing as a way of reducing the levels of incarceration within the community. Much like Gladue reports Footnote 56 , IRCAs are pre-sentencing reports that help sentencing judges understand the effects of racism, discrimination, poverty, marginalization, as well as other factors, on the life experiences of a Black individual. Justice Derrick wrote, “The moral culpability of an African Nova Scotian offender has to be assessed in the context of historic factors and systemic racism.”

An IRCA report was first used in sentencing a person of African Canadian descent in the 2014 decision, R. v. “X”. Footnote 57 The IRCA closely examined the intersection of race, mental health, child welfare, and the justice system in this case. A number of IRCAs have been completed since 2014; however, until recently, they have remained a tool primarily used in Nova Scotia. On August 13, 2021, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced the Government of Canada’s investment of $6.64 million over five years beginning April 1, 2021, followed by $1.6 million annually on an ongoing basis, for the implementation of IRCAs across Canada. Footnote 58 The funding is intended to assist in the development of a training program for IRCA writers, education for lawyers and judges and drafting of the reports. One community advocate the Office spoke to for this investigation stated that IRCA reports have been successful in Nova Scotia:

“…because of the expertise behind those reports. You need a community of support and expertise, working from an anti-Black racism lens. Not anti-Black racism in the abstract. You need to see the whole person in context of African descent and in relation to community and culture. With IRCAs we can confidently speak to the needs of Black individuals.”

The use of social history in correctional case management decision-making is not new for CSC. Following the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that required judges to consider the years of systemic disadvantage of Indigenous Peoples in reaching sentencing decisions, CSC incorporated this principle into its policy for Indigenous offenders. Given recent court decisions and the Government of Canada’s commitment to IRCA reports, CSC should, as they are required to do with Indigenous case management, immediately move forward with a similar approach for incarcerated Black persons, ensuring that the factors contained in a social history report are used to inform sentence management.

Discrimination and Differential Treatment

Similar to my Office’s previous findings, many Black persons reported multiple incidents of explicit discrimination, stereotyping, bias, and/or differential treatment by CSC staff, despite CSC’s efforts to engage staff, offenders and stakeholders to create an organization that is more diverse, inclusive and equitable through the development of its Ethnocultural and Anti-Racism Frameworks. One individual who was previously at Edmonton Institution had a very negative experience, claiming that the discrimination and racism toward Black prisoners (as well as staff) was both intentional and pervasive. Footnote 59 

“At Edmonton, some Black guards straight up told us that they’re experiencing racism. Racism at Edmonton is bad. There’s no BIFA [Black Inmates and Friends Association] committee at Edmonton. As soon as three to four Black inmates are seen together, they’re broken up or seg’d [put in segregation]! Every time a Black inmate became unit rep, they got nothing. Even White inmates were like, ‘this is racist!’” 

Another individual, referring to discrimination stated, “You get used to it and you get immune to it.”

Black individuals told us that they do not typically report incidents of discrimination or racism because either nothing happens or it is systematically dismissed or refused. They are also afraid to file a grievance because they fear drawing attention from officers, being searched every day or having their urine constantly tested. One prisoner stated; “It is a losing battle for inmates to go back and forth with the guards; it could put your correctional plan in jeopardy.” Another individual told OCI investigators that after submitting a grievance against a correctional officer for what he perceived to be a racial slur, his PO sat him down in his office. He then put the list of observation reports written against him next to his complaint and “…asked me what my choice was: withdraw the complaint or let the charges against me destroy my correctional plan. I didn’t really have a choice, I knew they had done it to others before me.” My Office has made several recommendations over the years regarding the accessibility and effectiveness of CSC’s grievance system. It was clear from interviews that the grievance system has not been improved and remains a broken system. Though my Office is not making a specific recommendation regarding the system at this time, I remain concerned that this is an issue that warrants a separate investigation, particularly in light of complaints about racism and discrimination.

Voices of Black Persons and CSC Staff on Discrimination and Racism

As reported by a CSC staff member: A Black man laid on the ground asking for medical assistance, one of the correctional officers who approached him began to laugh at him, “Look at him, he’s choking like George Floyd.” His White colleagues laughed.

Black individuals reported that it is common for correctional officers to use racist language against them or call them “monkeys” verbally or by gesturing. One Black person, who was following up with a CSC staff member for an escorted temporary absence (ETA), was asked in the presence of other incarcerated individuals, “So you want an ETA to go to the zoo. Is it to go visit friends?”

A group of Black individuals sitting together enjoying coffee is asked, “What was the gang discussion about?” or “What was said today at the gang meeting?”

As reported by a CSC Staff member: “Having witnessed so many racist comments and behaviours from White colleagues myself, the advice I regularly give to Black inmates is that they must behave in a way that does not serve as an alibi for racists who have power over them. Yet they should not be required to be more careful than other inmates.”

From a volunteer who has been working with CSC in the penitentiaries for over 10 years: “Black inmates report to me a lot of racism that they experience. Nevertheless, what I have noticed since I have been in Quebec is that English-speaking Black offenders experience even more racism. It is as if they have two aggravating circumstances in the eyes of some staff: skin colour and English language.”

 

Unlike in the Office’s previous investigation, most of those interviewed felt strongly that more Black representation among CSC staff would help to reduce the gap of trust between staff and prisoners. As one member of the Black Inmates and Friends Association (BIFA) put it, “These [White] officers don’t know how to associate with us. They’re afraid, or hesitate to get to know us.” Another stated, “I was able to have a Black PO [Parole Officer] for the first time here in [institution] and I saw the difference in the way she worked, in taking into account all my background which was not so foreign to her.” The impact of a lack of diversity among staff can be significant as explained by one interviewee:

“Because they are not familiar with our cultures and how we interact in the community, even the smallest sign that seems unusual or odd to them is interpreted negatively: just a piece of clothing worn in a certain way, tone of voice, no eye contact, too much cheerfulness, will all be evidence for a report that will then be used against you by your PO [Parole Officer] or CMT [Case Management Team], with no recourse.”

CSC staff also confirmed Black prisoners appear to feel more comfortable approaching staff that look like them. One CSC staff explained how important representation is to provide role models to young Black men behind bars, “These guys had few positive role models in the community, and that spills into the institution. They’re also generally mistrusting of White men in uniform.” Black officers create an environment which facilitates discussion and engagement, rooted in shared experiences.

At the national level, new hires at CSC who self-identify as a visible minority, exceed their workforce availability. Footnote 60 While this is encouraging, visible minority representation among correctional officers is particularly low at some of the most diverse institutions (see Table 2 below). For example, while 43.3% of incarcerated persons identify as a visible minority at Collins Bay Institution, only 9.3% of correctional officers identify as a visible minority. More emphasis must be put on hiring diverse correctional staff, particularly at institutions with diverse populations, as they are the staff that have daily face-to-face interactions with incarcerated persons and can have the biggest impact in terms of providing guidance, support and leadership.

Table 2. Percentage of Incarcerated Population and CX Staff Self-Identifying as Visible Minority by Select Institution

INSTITUTION % OF INCARCERATED 
POPULATION SELF-IDENTIFYING 
AS A VISIBLE MINORITY 
% OF CORRECTIONAL 
OFFICERS SELF-IDENTIFYING 
AS A VISIBLE MINORITY 
COLLINS BAY43.39.3
MILLHAVEN317.1
WARKWORTH30.88.4
GRAND VALLEY 
INSTITUTION 
FOR WOMEN
1527.3
ATLANTIC19.53.6
SPRINGHILL7.99.8
COWANSVILLE20.96.9

 

Source: CSC CRS-M for the incarcerated population numbers and CSC information and document request for staff numbers (received from CSC on December 20, 2021).

Racial Bias and Health Care

“A Black inmate in pain will often be treated with contempt. They will accuse him of exaggerating the pain, of trying to elicit pity, even though his suffering is actually unbearable. But if a White guy shows up with much less pain, he will be taken at his word. He will be prescribed painkillers right away or transferred to a hospital for a thorough examination.” 

“They don’t understand or seek to understand our psychological distress. On the contrary, any information that can be used against us by the Service ends up backfiring after we confide in them. I have seen the difference since the institution recently started a one-on-one mental health consultation program with a Black specialist who sees us via video. You can tell right away that he wants to build trust to help you.” 

– Interview excerpts with two different Black incarcerated persons 

 

During the course of the investigation, several Black prisoners complained of racial bias on the part of CSC health care staff because at times, they minimized physical or mental health pain experienced by Black incarcerated persons. Complaints about discrimination in diagnosis and treatment of Black incarcerated persons are indicative of a problem that has been increasingly documented in medicine and psychology in recent years. For example, recent studies in the United States have shown that Black persons are systematically undertreated for pain compared to White persons. This racial bias is thought to be related to false beliefs about biological differences between Blacks and Whites. Health care professionals may use erroneous beliefs about biological differences between Black and White persons to support medical judgments, which may contribute to racial disparities in pain assessment and treatment. Footnote 61 

In a prison environment, health care professionals are challenged when prescribing pain medication as many prisoners have addiction issues and may seek pain medication for managing addictions. Nevertheless, physical and psychological pain comes in many forms, and racial bias in the assessment, management and treatment of pain can have severe consequences for Black patients. Health care professionals must be sensitive to potential unconscious bias when assessing and treating Black prisoners.

  1. I recommend that CSC develop a training program for front-line health professionals. This program should draw on the most recent research on racial bias and its impact on medical decisions and procedures. 

Correctional Interventions

Despite attempts by CSC to make correctional programs more accessible to diverse cultures and backgrounds, we heard that the course content continues to be too generic and not informed by the sociocultural or lived experiences of Black people. While it is difficult to decipher exactly what specific changes have been implemented by CSC to correctional programs to better reflect the experiences and needs of the Black community, they appear to only scratch the surface of what is in fact required. One interviewee commented that:

“We’re dealing with programs that deal with violence, for example, but at no point do they take into account the family patterns that many of us come from, the poverty that we grew up in, the stigma that we experienced both in school and in our neighbourhoods, especially in our relationships with anything that represented authority. How can such a program be useful to us when we can see that it was designed for a White inmate?”

A community advocate put it this way, “They [referring to CSC] lack powerfully informed interventions that can connect with a Black prisoner’s history.” This is the case despite the fact that Commissioner’s Directive 726-1: National Correctional Program Standards states that all CSC correctional programming must “include methods that are responsive to each offender’s specific responsivity factors, such as the needs of women, Indigenous offenders, offenders with health needs, and other groups ” (emphasis added). Many of those interviewed for this investigation, including community groups/advocates, told my Office that they would like to see CSC develop correctional programs adapted specifically for Black persons in order to maximize the effectiveness of correctional programming for the Black community.

Some Black persons found themselves with a difficult choice. On the one hand, they see correctional programming as completely irrelevant to their cultural and social reality, focused on crime cycles, and unrelated to their future success in the community. On the other hand, by not participating in correctional programs they risk low motivation scores, which directly affects their correctional trajectory, including parole eligibility, employment prospects and pay levels, to name just a few. Correctional programs need to be rooted in the experiences of those it is targeting and delivered by Correctional Program Officers who have been exposed to, sensitized or trained in these particular realities. Having diverse experts and community groups come in to discuss and share their experiences, or allowing Black individuals to use escorted temporary absences (ETAs) to participate in relevant programming with appropriate community organizations as part of their correctional program, would go a long way to addressing many of the issues brought forward by Black individuals with respect to what most perceive as irrelevant correctional programming.

While Black individuals are benefiting from ETAs in the community for programming purposes, they are consistently underrepresented in those approved for programming ETAs. For example, between 2015-16 and 2019-20, Black persons represented between 5.4 and 7 percent of those on temporary absences for the purposes of programming (during this time Black people comprised between 8.2 and 9.4 percent of the incarcerated population). The only exception was in 2020-21, where they represented 14.8% of those who accessed an ETA for programming purposes, while representing 9.4% of the population (see Appendix E for data). Community access is an effective way to broaden the supports and services available to Black persons. Community programming is often more effective and relevant.

Employment

Employment while in prison is important as it can aid in an individual’s reintegration into society by offering an opportunity to learn skills and acquire work experience. CORCAN Footnote 62 employment is often seen as the preferred type of employment as many CORCAN jobs offer marketable skills such as welding, construction and small engine repair. In 2020-2021, Black individuals comprised 7% of all CORCAN assignments and 7.3% of incarcerated persons assigned to work in CORCAN, while representing over 9% of the prison population. Participation rates in CORCAN may be influenced by the fact that Black individuals are overrepresented in maximum security where CSC does not offer CORCAN on-the-job training opportunities at all maximum facilities. CSC also offers several different types of job opportunities within the institution. Institutional jobs are often described as “busy work” and offer little in the way of skills or training. In terms of CSC employment, incarcerated Black persons comprised 8.8% of institutional job assignments and 9.2% of individuals employed in a CSC institutional job in 2020-21.

During the interviews, many reported that they were discriminated against during the employment process. They stated that it is very rare for a Black offender to get a “job of trust,” for example in the canteen. “These types of jobs are almost exclusively for White people, even though it’s not written down anywhere,” said one prisoner who has been employed as a cleaner for several months. The top five jobs for Black individuals included the following: cleaner, food prep worker, inmate committee, dishwasher, and recreation worker. While the majority of incarcerated persons earn Level C pay ($5.80/day), Black persons are less likely to be earning the highest levels of pay (level A pay: $6.90/day and level B pay: $6.35/day). As of April 2022, 3.7% of Black persons were earning level A pay compared to 6.2% of Whites prisoners, and 18.1% of Black prisoners were earning level B pay compared to 21.7% of White prisoners. Footnote 63 

Promising Practices

Inclusion Officer: Cowansville created an Inclusion Officer position aimed at addressing issues of racism and discrimination. This position was staffed by two Correctional Officers. According to Black individuals and CSC staff, this position has resulted in situations of discrimination or racist behaviours being denounced more often, including among colleagues. Various approaches are taken to deal with these situations, such as mediation or reporting to management, depending on the seriousness of the situation and the circumstances surrounding it. Unfortunately, because of staffing shortages during COVID-19, these two staff members returned to their former positions.

African Canadian Reintegration Assignment: Atlantic Institution established an African Canadian Reintegration assignment where CSC staff member worked directly with community groups to identify community-based resources and employment counsellors who could come into the institutions to identify the needs of incarcerated Black persons prior to release. The objective of the program was to set black individuals up for successful employment or vocational support once released back to the community. Unfortunately, it appears that funding and support for this initiative has ended.

Resilience and Mental Toughness for African Canadian Inmates Program 

In 2018, the Resilience and Mental Toughness for African Canadian Inmates program was offered at four locations: Keele Parole Office, Warkworth Institution, Beaver Creek Institution, and Grand Valley Institution. The program content focused on enabling participants to:

  • Find their personal Adinkra symbol and powerful affirmation*

     

  • Assess their challenges associated to reoffending

     

  • Identify their personal priorities related to Black Manhood

     

Many incarcerated individuals found this program to be beneficial; however, it has not been continued.

Black Social History 

The Central Ontario District has launched a pilot initiative called the Black Social History (BSH). This initiative considers BSH in correctional planning. Parole Officers are provided with guidance on how to consider the needs and cultural interests of Black individuals in correctional planning. CSC is in the process of expanding the BSH to all Ontario community sites and the Joyceville Assessment Unit. It has been integrated into the 2021 Anti-Racism Framework. 

Jamieson Community Correctional Centre 

Jamieson CCC has established an African-Scotian reintegration Officer position responsible for developing programs for ethnocultural individuals in the community and providing ongoing support. This individual also reaches out and liaises with community support representatives.

 

*For more information: MacDonald, J. (March 26, 2007). West African Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols & Meanings. Adinkra.Org.

Involvement of Black Community Groups

Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 767 – Ethnocultural Offenders: Services and Interventions requires that CSC:

8(c) facilitate the implementation of ethnocultural initiatives in the regions to address the cultural needs of ethnocultural offenders;

8(d) engage community organizations, and build partnerships with ethnocultural communities, to support ethnocultural offenders throughout their sentence and upon release into the community; and,

8(e) develop and manage a list of ethnocultural resources, in consultation with ethnocultural communities, advisory committees and/or ethnocultural associations, which will be available to CSC staff and updated, as necessary.

Despite this guidance, and similar to the Office’s previous findings, the review found that linkages to Black community groups are mostly non-existent. While COVID-19 has certainly made access to community groups more difficult, we consistently heard that Black Inmate Committees could not even connect with Black community groups or leaders using virtual technology over the past two years. Moreover, CSC has made it even more difficult for Black community groups and leaders to access the prison, often citing security concerns. As one incarcerated Black individual put it:

“Perhaps some of these individuals have had a criminal past, but that is not a reason to exclude them, on the contrary, it is the way they have come out of it to become role models that offers us who are locked up prospects for a future other than going back to jail.”

Image of an informational “rack card” from The Peoples’ Counselling Clinic.

Rack card from The Peoples’ Counselling Clinic. 

One Black community leader told us: “They are mistrustful of community. They say we’re ‘gang members.’ I’m a university professor for goodness’ sake! Volunteers and advocates are powerless and at the mercy of institutions. It’s a completely impermeable system, and if you try to permeate it, they sideline you. If the only options are close family and friends, then how else can I visit them? Under what framework?”

Black Inmate Committee members told us that organizing events and speakers for Black History Month was challenging, often with little assistance from CSC staff. During a Black History Month event at one of the men’s institutions, CSC staff were invited to join the event, however, not one CSC staff member showed up. One organizer stated, “We had representatives from the Black community in Toronto, people who are doing great things for young people in our neighbourhoods and with whom the Service could have started a dialogue to work together. They’re just not interested and they don’t even bother to hide it.” Clearly, significant work is still required.

There are a number of Black community organizations doing impactful work for the Black community. Only a few have been listed below:

  • Community Enhancement Association: This initiative involves discharging Black individuals from federal institutions and placing them in halfway houses for day programs. One individual involved in providing this programming stated, “It was transformative for participants … It was their first intro to Black psychology.”

     

  • The Peoples’ Counselling Clinic in Nova Scotia is a community-based mental health clinic that provides direct services and public education focused on issues of trauma, race, sex and gender. The Peoples’ Clinic also manages the intake and assignment of Impact of Race and Culture Assessments for Nova Scotia courts.

     

  • 902 Man-Up is a community-based reintegration program serving Nova Scotia. This group provides reintegration support for young Black men and women in Nova Scotia. One of the individuals who runs this group stated, “We connect with them while they’re incarcerated and then help them connect with the community. Sometimes they come with a bad reputation, so we put them in a more positive light with the community.” This group reported that CSC has been more willing to work with 902 Man-Up than the provincial system.

     

  • DESTA is a Montreal-based organization that provides re-entry and advocacy services to currently and formerly incarcerated Black individuals who are preparing for release, in transitional housing, or who have a history of criminal justice involvement.

     

There is not a lack of services and interventions available within the community; however, there does appear to be a lack of a concerted effort or willingness on the part of CSC to connect with, consult and develop strong partnerships with these groups. As stated by one advocate interviewed for the investigation:

“Religious institutions have the greatest access and capacity to do reintegration work from the community, so we’re working with them… [However] We don’t have the ability to do programs behind bars… Access to prisoners is generally difficult for Black people and our relationships with justice-involved folks makes this harder. If they do an enhanced security assessment on me, they’ll definitely find folks connected to me who are involved . When we start bringing people into institutions to help us with our work or when we get enhanced security checks, anyone with a spotty history is frowned upon. Their access is limited and this scrutiny is flavoured by racism. In sum, being Black can negatively affect my access.”

Conclusion

It is clear that very few substantive initiatives or programs, directed at the incarcerated Black community, have been implemented that have significantly improved the lives of Black individuals in federal penitentiaries. All of the problems and concerns identified in the Office’s 2013 investigation, including racism, discrimination, stereotyping and labelling of Black prisoners remain pervasive and continue to raise significant concerns. The failure of CSC to fully recognize and acknowledge the unique experiences and needs of Black persons and implement appropriate interventions, has prevented it from providing this segment of the prison population with relevant programming, interventions and support. CSC lacks an overall strategy that responds to the needs of the Black community. The needs of Black persons are unique and grounded in the historical consequences of slavery and systemic racism throughout Canada’s history. Footnote 64 Given this, and the poor correctional outcomes identified in this report, I am recommending that CSC develop and implement a strategy that is responsive to the voices of Black prisoners, stakeholders and communities.

  1. I recommend that CSC develop a national strategy that specifically addresses the unique lived experiences and barriers faced by federally sentenced Black individuals. This strategy should include the following elements: 
  2. Targeted and adapted correctional programming; 

     

  3. Liaison Officer program dedicated to the needs of Black people; 

     

  4. Use of Social History in case management decision-making drawing on what has been learned through the use of IRCA’s in Nova Scotia; 

     

  5. A targeted research program examining correctional outcomes; 

     

  6. Regular involvement of Black Community Groups in prison in-reach that removes the barriers to their participation; and, 

     

  7. Dedicated and long-term funding. 

     

Appendix A. Population Profile

 BLACK 
(n = 1,207) 
WHITE 
(n = 5,737) 
INDIGENOUS 
(n = 3,757) 
PEOPLE 
OF COLOUR* 
(n = 686) 
GENDER** 
% MALE97.495.793.295.9
% FEMALE2.64.36.74.1
AGE 
% 18-3037.716.332.530.5
% 31-4033.326.933.832.8
% 41–5016.722.417.518.9
% 51+12.334.316.217.8
SECURITY LEVEL*** 
% MAXIMUM17.110.215.411.4
% MEDIUM59.16062.959.2
% MINIMUM12.21912.917.1
FEDERAL SENTENCE NUMBER 
% FIRST75.164.662.286.3
% SECOND19.52022.710.5
% THIRD OR MORE5.415.315.13.2
RISK*** 
% HIGH65.565.769.853.2
% MEDIUM24.724.823.933.4
% LOW4.03.52.16.3
NEED*** 
% HIGH65.565.578.158
% MEDIUM26.1261729.9
% LOW2.62.40.74.8
ACCOUNTABILITY*** 
% HIGH9.412.910.312.2
% MEDIUM5456.56553.5
% LOW28.721.718.325.4
MOTIVATION*** 
% HIGH13.817.913.917.2
% MEDIUM60.758.366.657.9
% LOW19.617.615.317.2
REINTEGRATION POTENTIAL*** 
% HIGH8.710417.1
% MEDIUM37.339.733.140.1
% LOW48.14458.734.4
% WITH A GANG AFFILIATION23.85.721.912.7

 

Source: CSC Data Warehouse (July 18, 2021).

*Self-identified race is based on categories defined and collected by CSC for each individual upon admission to custody. The category of Peoples of Colour includes 14 self-identified visible minority groups (excluding Indigenous and Black) based on race categories in CSC’s Offender Management System (OMS).

**There is an “other” gender category with very small numbers so are not reported in this table. Given this, percentages may not add up to 100.

***There was missing information on security level, risk, need, accountability, motivation and reintegration potential for each racial group; therefore, percentages do not add up to 100.

Appendix B. Proportion of Black and White Individuals by Security Level

2016-04-10 BLACK (n=1,319) WHITE (n=8,143) 
MAXIMUM20.812.8
MEDIUM59.758.1
MINIMUM14.322.1
2017-04-09 BLACK (n=1,215) WHITE (n=7,646) 
MAXIMUM19.212.1
MEDIUM58.256.6
MINIMUM14.222.2
2018-04-08 BLACK (n=1,179) WHITE (n=7,325) 
MAXIMUM16.111.6
MEDIUM59.555.8
MINIMUM15.023.8
2019-04-07 BLACK (n=1,166) WHITE (n=6,994) 
MAXIMUM17.410.8
MEDIUM58.759
MINIMUM15.621.9
2020-04-12 BLACK (n=1,308) WHITE (n=6,779) 
MAXIMUM17.610.8
MEDIUM60.960
MINIMUM12.821.5
2021-04-11 BLACK (n=1,168) WHITE (n=5,901) 
MAXIMUM17.810.9
MEDIUM60.762.2
MINIMUM11.419.2
2021-12-12 
(year to date) 
BLACK (n=1,172) WHITE (n=5,900) 
MAXIMUM18.410.3
MEDIUM61.860.1
MINIMUM12.319.8

 

Source: CSC Data Warehouse (January 28, 2022)

Note: There was missing information on security level for both racial groups; therefore, percentages do not add up to 100. It should be noted that on average, over the seven-year period shown in the table, 8.2% of Black individuals and 8.3% of White individuals were missing security-level information.

Appendix C. Proportion of Involuntary Transfers Involving Black Persons, 2015-16 to 2021-2022

2015-16 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9% 
of the prison 
population) 
2016-17 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.6% 
of the prison 
population) 
2017-18 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2018-19 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.2% 
of the prison 
population) 
2019-20 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2020-21 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2021-22 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.2% 
of the prison 
population) 
12.510.49.912.212.314.612.7

 

Source: CSC Data warehouse, access April 1, 2022

Appendix D. Proportion of Black Individuals Receiving Institutional Charges

 2016/2017 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.6% 
of the prison 
population) 
2017/2018 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2018/2019 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.2% 
of the prison 
population) 
2019/2020 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2020/2021 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
All charges11.310.812.312.713.7
Top 10 Institutional Charges 
Possession of contraband9.912.112.111.813.6
Damage or destroy property9.510.410.49.45.8
Disobey an order21.116.717.618.120.7
Disobey a rule12.912.415.115.315.8
Disrespect toward 
a person or staff 
member
12.19.512.29.412.3
Fight/assault10.79.110.310.813.9
Intoxicant in the body10.711.112.810.410.6
Jeopardize the safety 
of the institution
9.19.412.822.315.7
Unauthorized item6.96.26.78.67.6
Urine sample 
(fail or refuse 
to provide 
when demanded)
7.88.67.88.19.0

 

Source: CSC Data Warehouse (July 2021)

Appendix E. Proportion Escorted Temporary Absences for the Purposes of Programming Accessed by Black Individuals

2015-16 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9% 
of the prison 
population) 
2016-17 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.6% 
of the prison 
population) 
2017-18 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2018-19 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 8.2% 
of the prison 
population) 
2019-20 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
2020-21 
% Black 
(Black persons 
comprise 9.4% 
of the prison 
population) 
5.55.95.46.47.014.8

 

Source: CSC Data Warehouse (April 1, 2022)

Note: One individual may have more than one ETA. Also, there were significantly fewer ETAs for 2020-21 (2,580) due to COVID-19 compared to an average of 50,387 ETAs between 2015-16 and 2019-20.

Appendix F. Proportion of Black and White Individuals Released by Year and Release Type

 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 
Day Parole
Black29.333.238.636.636.439.3
White37.340.441.540.639.734.3
Full Parole
Black2.93.85.13.32.70.67
White2.02.82.72.41.60.8
Statutory Release
Black64.960.153.556.257.156.7
White59.855.654.95657.863.9
Long-term 
Supervision Order
Black0.50.360.190.180.390
White0.230.440.180.320.410.38
Warrant Expiry
Black1.00.730.941.472.31.3
White0.620.790.760.660.550.59

 

Source: CSC, CRS-M (March 8, 2022)

Note: Percentages do not add to 100, as there are a number of other type releases accounting for a very small percentage of the total releases.

Appendix G. Proportion of Black and White Persons Reaching WED and Returning to CSC within Two Years

 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 
Black6.34.62.05.54.44.6
White7.27.45.86.45.83.8

 


Restrictive forms of Confinement in Federal Corrections (Male Maximum-Security Penitentiaries)

Atlantic Institution – A camera cell with anti-suicide bedding

Atlantic Institution – A camera cell with anti-suicide bedding. 

I can only say that I do not think it is absurd to suggest that a person should not be kept locked up in a small cell 24 hours a day, and that if there were security concerns, they should be dealt with otherwise than by simply denying an inmate an opportunity to step out of her cell. … However, once again it seems that even if the law is known, there is a general perception that it can always be departed from for a valid reason, and that, in any event compliance with prisoners’ rights is not a priority. … it was part of a general punitive attitude which required inmates to earn entitlements to everything perceived as a privilege, rather than a right. Footnote 65 

– The Honourable Louise Arbour (1996) 

Despite court rulings from British Columbia and Ontario that found the practice of administrative segregation (solitary confinement) to violate fundamental rights protected by the Charter, and the subsequent elimination of that practice through the passage of Bill C-83 in 2019, a significant number of federal prisoners continue to be confined to their cells for lengthy periods.

Through Bill C-83 and the introduction of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), the government sought to enshrine minimum standards into law for the care and custody of prisoners, such as:

  • Minimum four hours of out-of-cell time, including access to fresh air exercise;

     

  • Regular health checks and daily visits from institutional management;

     

  • “Meaningful” contact with others;

     

  • External oversight and independent review;

     

  • Access to programs and services; and,

     

  • The clinical independence of health care providers.

     

However, these standards appear vulnerable to interpretation and have not yet been recognized or applied to areas of the prison outside of SIUs. As mentioned in my previous Annual Report, the legislative framework for SIUs has failed to prevent the creation, use, or extension of segregation-like conditions. A wide range of restrictive confinement conditions and practices exist outside of SIUs that are subject to little or no external oversight or independent monitoring. These include:

  • Voluntary Limited Association Ranges;

     

  • Therapeutic Ranges Footnote 66 (at men’s maximum-security institutions); and,

     

  • Secure Units for women.

     

Some of these areas might have strict operational functions and routines under policy, but what goes on in practice often avoids external scrutiny and has the potential to violate standards of safe and humane custody.

The purpose of this investigation is to identify and describe the various forms of restrictive confinement within federal corrections Footnote 67 , specifically, at the standalone maximum-security institutions for men. Footnote 68 This investigation did not look at temporary forms of isolation such as restricted movement routines, lockdowns, and pandemic response measures such as medical isolation.

Methodology

Defining “Restrictive Confinement”

Donnacona Institution – SIU barrier

Donnacona Institution – SIU barrier. 

The UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) defines solitary confinement as 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact. Footnote 69 Currently, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR) provide general parameters for living conditions within federal penitentiaries, which might inform the quality and quantity of out-of-cell time outside of the SIUs. Two provisions, the “least restrictive measures” principle found under section 4(c) in the CCRA and the protection of human dignity referred to in sections 69 and 70 of the same Act, might be used as guidance. However, the only explicit mention of out-of-cell time enshrined in federal legislation (outside of provisions related to conditions in the SIU [s. 36]) is the 1-hour of daily exercise provided under section 83 (2) (d) of the CCRR. 

The CCRA provisions for SIUs create a minimum legal standard of four hours of out-of-cell time. As already stated, though this standard is required by law for SIUs, the Service is not required to apply it to other areas within federal penitentiaries. In fact, during the pandemic, mainstream prisoner populations were routinely kept in their cells for 22 hours or more Footnote 70 , sometimes weeks at a time and for the most part with no access to outdoor exercise.

For the purposes of this investigation, my Office determined that it was reasonable to define restrictive confinement as anything less than four hours a day of out-of-cell time.

Data Collection

My staff reached out to all of the men’s maximum-security facilities and requested their operational routines (for the mainstream prison population and specific living units). Some routines were defined in notes or memos to staff, but most could be found in Standing Orders established under Commissioner’s Directive 566-3: Inmate Movement . Senior Investigators were asked to consult with both prisoners and staff to identify areas within institutions where prisoners might not be receiving four hours a day, out-of-cell. Based on this information, all six standalone maximum-security sites were identified for follow-up investigations and in-person visits: Edmonton Institution, Millhaven Institution, Atlantic Institution, Port Cartier Institution, Kent Institution, and Donnacona Institution.

Photo of a memo displayed in one of the units at Atlantic Institution describing the change in routine.

Atlantic Institution – A memo displayed in one of the units 
describing the change in routine. 

It was not altogether clear from reviewing the operational routines how many hours of out-of-cell time prisoners were receiving. In their application, routines are adapted to accommodate work schedules, programs, visits, the movement of incompatible sub-populations, etc. As will be demonstrated in this report, site visits revealed that institutional routines are used more as general guidelines.

In order to corroborate the operational routines and to better understand the availability of out-of-cell time, logbooks were requested for select units, questionnaires were provided to prisoners and staff, and in-person interviews were conducted. In total, 43 prisoners and more than 30 staff were interviewed between November 2021 and March 2022. Footnote 71 

Findings

Limited Time Out-of-Cell

Our investigation revealed a number of areas – outside of SIUs and temporary medical isolation measures in place for COVID-19 – where prisoners were experiencing fewer than four hours of out-of-cell time.

Port Cartier Institution – SIU range

Port Cartier Institution – SIU range. 

At one institution, out-of-cell time and conditions of confinement in the regular units and the Therapeutic Range was consistently poorer and below the standards prevailing in the SIU. Indeed, outside the SIU, the rest of the institution operated as if it were a former administrative segregation range, with fewer than three hours of out-of-cell time.

At another institution, the pressure to keep SIU numbers low and an increase in incompatible sub-populations (more on this to follow) resulted in the use of “hidden cells” (a term often used by staff at this facility), where prisoners are kept in solitary confinement- like conditions for weeks on end.

In contrast, during our visit to a third institution we found that staff were using their discretion to allow for more out-of-cell time than was allotted under Standing Order 566-3. Consequently, none of the prisoners that we interviewed at that site complained about out-of-cell time, and they all reported receiving more than four hours a day. One staff member explained the situation as follows:

“If we followed 566-3 to the letter, then we would be far more restrictive. But we leave it to the unit staff’s discretion, so range doors are usually more open to allow all access to the range, fridge, amenities, etc. Normally, there’s no problem.”

Even where prisoners are receiving more than four hours of out-of-cell time, those who are not employed or choose not to participate in programs and scheduled activities tend to spend more time in their cells. Many of these individuals spend their days “locked up,” only to be let out for three hours or less to shower, make telephone calls, or to access laundry facilities, yard, or gym. Even this time is meted out in short intervals, often interrupted by operational requirements such as counts, searches, and other procedures. Some prisoners reported how routines were inconsistently applied, making it difficult to maximize their out-of-cell time. “I never know when it will happen, so it’s difficult to plan!” said one prisoner.

Some of these individuals are willing to participate in programs or are waitlisted for employment, but are locked up because opportunities are scarce or irrelevant to their needs. One prisoner rightly complained, “If guys are genuinely looking for employment or something to do, at least let them out.” Implying that individuals should not be punished for the institution’s own shortcomings.

Quality of Out-of-Cell Time

“There’s nothing to do, the days blend into each other, there’s just nothing. I want to do a program or just do something, but there’s nothing… You just sit in your cell and wait, there’s no way to better yourself, you just sit here and wait. And they wonder why you’re crazy, it’s ‘cause of the way they treat us.” 

– From a prisoner interviewee 

Edmonton Institution – Mini Yard

Edmonton Institution – Mini Yard. 

Many of the prisoners we interviewed reported that they and others choose to remain in their cells even when offered out-of-cell time. They provided a number of reasons why they choose not to avail themselves of out-of-cell time, including:

  • Meaningful off-range activities are limited or unappealing. No programs, no gainful work opportunities, and access to education is restricted to cell studies.

     

  • Out-of-cell time is restricted to the range behind locked barriers, so prisoners are just pacing back-and-forth with their cell doors open.

     

  • Common areas, recreation spaces, and yards are often uninviting and austere. Access to the main yard or gymnasium is often limited, short in duration, and prisoners often complain that there is nothing to do.

     

  • Meals are commonly taken in cells or in the common rooms. Some individuals prefer to stay in their cells rather than interact with others in the common room.

     

A number of justifiable factors were found to affect the availability and quality of out-of-cell time such as staffing shortages, bad weather, derelict infrastructure, unanticipated lockdowns, the presence of incompatibles, and the normalization of restrictive pandemic measures. However, some reasons were less excusable, such as staff delaying out-of-cell time and then cutting it short to allow themselves longer breaks.

As per section 4 (c.2) of the CCRA , the Service assists in rehabilitating individuals and reintegrating them into society as law-abiding citizens by ensuring “the effective delivery of programs to offenders, including correctional, educational, vocational training and volunteer programs, with a view to improving access to alternatives to custody in a penitentiary and to promoting rehabilitation.” The application of this principle is not contingent upon institutional security level. Yet, as the Table 1 shows, only 61.1% of prisoners at the standalone maximums were employed as of May 2022. Donnacona Institution had the lowest employment (41.6%), while Edmonton Institution had the highest (87.1%). However, 80.2% of work assignments at Edmonton Institution were cleaning jobs. In fact, almost half of all work assignments at the standalone maximum-security institutions were cleaning positions. Other common jobs included dishwashers, food preparation work, general labourers Footnote 72 , and inmate committees. In the context of maximum-security prisons, these positions can hardly be considered gainful or to increase vocational skills and capacities that would help a person succeed in the community.

Table 1. Work Assignments Footnote 73 at Standalone Maximum-Security Institutions.

VOCATION ATLANTIC 

DONNACONA 

 

PORT CARTIER 

 

MILLHAVEN 

 

EDMONTON 

 

KENT 

 

TOTAL 

 

Cook11415
Dishwasher134953
Care Giver44
Cleaner564552411747375
Corcan Metal Worker44
Corcan Textile426
Corcan Upholsterer4--4
Ethnocultural1-1
Food Services1111114
Admin Clerk2212025
Admin Library22228
Admin Other55
Barber131151636
Inmate Canteen262616
Inmate Committee121911639
Recreation156
Laundry11112226
Food Prep Work221310348
General Labourer3113540
Peer Coordinator10121225
Photographer22
Prisoners’ 
Advocate
11
Range/Unit Rep88
Recreation Work124310
Recycling134
Spirit/Cultural 
Services
111214
Stores55
Tutor44
Total Work 
Assignments 
106105119149192127798
Total Prisoners 
Employed 
99891161161891116725
Total Prisoners 
In-Custody*
1412141901952172301,187
% of Prisoners Employed70.241.661.159.587.150.461.1
Institution’s 
Bed Capacity
3014512373403003782,007

Source: CSC Data Warehouse (May 2022).

*Year-to-date. May differ from custody populations for the date when employment numbers were extracted.

Atlantic Institution – A camera cell

Atlantic Institution – A camera cell. 

On numerous occasions, prisoners reported that they had absolutely nothing to do. Employment was scarce or unappealing and core-programs were simply unavailable due to staffing shortages or COVID-19-related restrictions. One unit representative described the situation on his unit occupied by only him and another prisoner: “We’re both medium. Been charge free for a year… literally stuck on the range. No movement, don’t get to work off range, applied for programs, applied to do this and that, no access.” Another prisoner expressed his frustration with how programs were assigned: “They force programs on people when they’re not ready or close to a transfer, but when the time comes when a program is needed, they don’t have it. Force guys who don’t want a program into a program, and guys who want programs don’t get access.”

Today, male maximum-security prisons are operating at around 60% capacity with a staff to prisoner ration of 1:1 or higher. There seems to be no excuse for further depriving individuals of quality activities such as organized sports, well-equipped weight rooms, traditional cooking, kitchen management jobs, communal meals, cultural activities led by community-based organizations, meaningful work experiences, education, and other meaningful opportunities.

Photo from the exterior of Kent Institution.

Kent Institution (exterior) 

In my experience, when the conditions of confinement and the quality of life improves behind bars, we also tend to see better use of dynamic security, greater trust and confidence among prisoners, fewer complaints, and better rapport with staff. Of course, every now and then an incident occurs. These events can be used to justify stripping prison environments down to the bare necessities of life, but they should not. These deprivations can only serve to further dehumanize those in custody, which has cascading effects on mental health, socialization, incidents, and feelings of hopelessness and despair. “Tightening the screws” often leads to dysfunction, staff morale problems, a rise in incidents, and is counterproductive to rehabilitation or safe and timely reintegration.

Growth in Sub-Populations

Edmonton Institution – Entrance to the therapeutic ranges (taken in 2019)

Edmonton Institution – Entrance to the therapeutic ranges (taken in 2019). 

Under section 17 of Commissioner’s Directive 568-7: Incompatible Offenders (revised version promulgated on August 23, 2021), staff are required to consider “various risk management options” for “unresolved incompatibles.”

These “risk management options” sometimes result in additional restrictions for prisoners, as institutional routines have to be adapted in order to manage the movement and interaction of those deemed “incompatible.” As a result, sub-populations are created that may consist of one or more individuals.

At two institutions, the growth of sub-populations increased significantly during the pandemic to over a dozen (from four or five in 2019). The growth of sub-populations at these facilities not only limits out-of-cell time, but also restricts the movement of individuals “off range.” At one institution in particular, the inordinate number of sub-populations rendered nearly all group movement impossible. At another institution, staff reported an increase in incidents related to assaults, disruptive behaviours, and self-injury including suicide attempts following the elimination of administrative segregation, leading to a further increase in sub-populations. When I asked my staff to verify this claim, we found that the total number of such incidents increased by 117% in the one-year period between November 2019 and November 2020.

Although the exact cause of the increase in sub-populations is difficult to pinpoint, there is some evidence to suggest that it involves a combination of the following:

  1. Elimination of administrative segregation;

     

  2. Pressure to keep SIU numbers low; and,

     

  3. Introduction of pandemic lockdown measures, including restrictions on transfers and limited options for cascading to lower security levels.

     

Photo from behind range barriers at Millhaven Institution.

Millhaven Institution – Behind range barriers. 

Kent Institution – Occupied SIU cell

Kent Institution – Occupied SIU cell. 

As described in the 2020-21 Annual Report, many prisoners continue to demand SIU placements to secure better conditions of confinement, relative safety, and personal space at maximum-security facilities. Some go so far as to threaten or commit violent acts, self-harm, or behave disruptively in order to secure an SIU placement (or to be maintained there).

To avoid placing prisoners in the SIUs the Service has directed its regions to keep their SIU numbers low. As one staff member put it, “You have to sacrifice a goat to place guys in the SIU!” As a result, most SIUs are at or below half capacity. CSC claims that this is due to a “shift in mindset on the part of both staff and inmates,” perhaps implying a change in culture that is less reliant on segregation. Footnote 74 However, our findings suggest that the low SIU numbers only tell part of the story as institutions are increasingly using stopgap measures (such as sub-populations and segregation-like alternatives) to isolate, contain, and control prisoner movement.

This is the context within which out-of-cell time must be understood. The unmanageable and growing number of sub-populations, reluctance to place individuals in SIUs, and (at some locations) the increasing number of incidents, means that prisoners are often confined to their cells or ranges for extended periods. The situation is especially problematic for individuals who need to cascade to lower levels of security, or can no longer be safely placed in one of the existing populations.

Cascading for Medium-Security Prisoners

A bar graph depicting the percentage of medium-security prisoners in federal maximum-security institutions by year. 2010-2011 = 11%, 2011-2012 = 7%, 2012-2013 = 8%, 2013-2014 = 11%, 2015-2016 = 8%, 2016-2017 = 10%, 2017-2018 = 7%, 2018-2019 = 7%, 2019-2020 = 8%, 2020-2021 = 9%, Mar-2022 = 10%

Graph 1. Percentage of Medium-Security Prisoners 
in Federal Maximum-Security Institutions. 

Data collected by the OCI in February 2022 shows that at almost all the standalone maximum-security institutions, roughly 10% to 15% of prisoners had a medium-security classification. Of course, restrictions on transfers during the pandemic contributed to the retention of medium-security prisoners at maximum-security facilities over the past two years; however, these proportions reflect norms from the past decade (see Graph 1). Regardless, confining a medium-security prisoner in a maximum-security institution is overly restrictive, and warranted further investigation.

Note: This data only includes standalone maximum-security facilities: Atlantic, Donnacona, Port Cartier, Millhaven, Edmonton, Kent, and Kingston Penitentiary (prior to 2013). These are facilities where cascading to lower levels of security is not possible within the institution, such as occurs in the multi-level facilities.

When asked why medium-security prisoners were not being cascaded to lower security institutions, staff cited a number of reasons such as comfort with routines, institutionalization, fear of change, and/or preference for segregated housing. One senior staff member said that medium-security prisoners “prefer the separate populations. You don’t have to integrate with the whole site,” which is the case at medium-security facilities. Another staff member talked about lifers and prisoners under the two-year rule Footnote 75 , “they come in here and don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, ‘why bother?’ they say. So they don’t want to transfer.”

At some institutions, staff reported that engagement with medium-security prisoners and case management reviews are ongoing to encourage cascading.

Idling in maximum security
Photo of a prisoner telephone enclosure at Donnacona Institution.

Donnacona Institution – Prisoner telephone. 

“[It’s] like a warehouse.”

“It’s a time-out prison.”

“You’re just sitting on ice until you leave.”

Some prisoners interviewed during site visits expressed these sentiments. They reported that their time spent in maximum security is mostly idle; jobs and programs are not preparing them for release, and they are not acquiring any useful skills. However, they were not surprised, and often declared that, after all, “This is a max!”

It is important to raise a general point about the attitude of many CSC staff toward maximum-security prisons. We frequently heard staff express “Inmates shouldn’t want to be here,” implying that maximum-security prisons should be inhospitable. In addition, placements at these facilities are often temporary, e.g., those being held under the mandatory two-year rule Footnote 76 or increased Offender Security Levels resulting from incidents at lower security institutions.

Despite the fact that CSC’s own criminological underpinnings require those with higher risk and need to receive a higher “dosage” of services and interventions, at some sites the correctional culture is resistant to making maximum-security placements more productive.

Creation of Segregation-Like Environments

The elimination of segregation through Bill C-83 limited the availability of cells that staff could use for the temporary separation of prisoners. The newly introduced SIUs guaranteed basic entitlements through legislation, which appealed to many maximum-security prisoners who found their conditions of confinement intolerable. The demand for voluntary SIU placements increased, but so did the pressure to keep SIU numbers low. At one institution, staff reported that the number of incidents increased due to prisoners “acting out” in order to be placed or retained in the SIU. Data obtained by my office confirmed these claims.

Kent Institution – Non-contact enclosure.

Kent Institution – Non-contact enclosure. 

Kent Institution – Non-contact enclosure

Kent Institution – Non-contact enclosure. 

Concurrent with the implementation of SIUs, federal institutions have had to find stopgap measures to, on the one hand, segregate, contain, and control “difficult inmates”; and on the other hand, to provide safe custody for individuals at risk in the mainstream prison population. Below we discuss one such measure: Voluntary Limited Association Ranges.

Voluntary Limited Association Ranges

Our office identified a Voluntary Limited Association Range (VLAR) at each of the six standalone maximum-security penitentiaries. A single day snapshot from March 4, 2022, showed a total VLAR population of 83. These were more-or-less equally divided between the six institutions with Donnacona Institution housing the lowest (8) and Kent the highest (20). Of the total, 45 VLAR prisoners were White (54.2%), 23 were Indigenous (27.7%), 12 were Black (14.5%), and three were from other visible minorities. Thirty individuals (36.1%) held in VLARs at this time had indeterminate sentences. Footnote 77 

According to a memo dated June 4, 2019, Footnote 78 from CSC’s Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Operations and Programs, the VLARs “are for inmates who do not want to integrate in mainstream inmate populations and who do not meet the criteria for placement in administrative segregation.” The memo goes on to say that VLAR prisoners “will be provided a similar routine and similar conditions of confinement to other inmates in the mainstream population at the institution.”

Five months later, SIUs replaced segregation units and the VLARs began to receive voluntary placements who did not meet the admission criteria for SIUs and refused to integrate with the mainstream population. In theory, VLAR prisoners must work toward integration. Therefore, association with one of the existing prisoner populations must be a possibility so that they can be integrated when ready.

Staff characterized the individuals residing in the VLARs, as:

  • Those who show signs of institutionalization or are afraid of integration, even if they could do so safely.

     

  • Those who have already integrated, but are approaching their release. These individuals sometimes ask to be transferred to the SIU and to remain there until their release. This is either due to the fact that they owe debts or because they are afraid of committing acts that could hinder their release.

     

  • Those who require protective custody.

     

Prisoners classified as medium security sometimes prefer to stay at maximum-security institutions because they wish to enjoy the (perceived) privacy and protection afforded by the VLAR. As one prisoner explained, “If I knew about the VLAR, I would have gone there long ago.” The VLAR allows prisoners to mostly keep to themselves, separated from the mainstream population. This is often not an option at medium-security institutions where prisoners share large open living spaces.

As per policy, the provision of out-of-cell time on the VLARs should reflect that of the mainstream prisoner population. Therefore, the more restrictive the general conditions of confinement at the institution, the more restrictive would be the conditions in the VLAR. We also observed that VLAR prisoners are virtually always restricted to their range. Off-range activities are rare for this population, especially at sites with many sub-populations where prisoner movement is difficult.

During one of my personal visits to a VLAR, I noted that the conditions of confinement were far worse than in the SIU. It was explained to me that each day the VLAR prisoners are offered a shower, one phone call, one hour of yard time, and a chance to do activities with an assigned compatible mainstream range. I reviewed the paper logs for the previous two days – all the prisoners refused to join the assigned range for out-of-cell activities. This would suggest that they had received fewer than two hours of out-of-cell time for each of those days. This is unacceptable and contrary to law. The lack of a policy for the use of VLAR creates inconsistency and does not ensure the rights of prisoners are respected.

  1. I recommend that CSC immediately develop national policy for the use of Voluntary Limited Association Ranges (VLARs) and any other sub-population living unit or range that clearly identifies: 
    1. The grounds for placement outside of general population. 

       

    2. The legal processes that define the extent to which rights, freedoms and privileges can be restricted, including association, programs and services provided, and out-of-cell time. 

       

    3. The rights, privileges and conditions of confinement which they should be afforded. 

       

    4. The degree of review (monitoring) required to facilitate the return of the incarcerated persons to a less restrictive correctional environment, including the measures which should be taken to permit release to general population as soon as possible. 

       


Ten Years since Spirit Matters: Indigenous Issues in Federal Corrections (Part I)*

Stony Mountain Institution – Pathways unit cell

Stony Mountain Institution – Pathways unit cell. 

*Part II of this national investigation will be completed during FY 2022-23 and include interviews of incarcerated and paroled Indigenous people and CSC staff, and on-site visits.

The mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples has been a long-standing blight on Canadian history, and by extension, Canadian corrections. A system that has been referred to by some as the new residential school system, corrections has become emblematic of modern neocolonialism and a microcosm for broader social ills. Footnote 79 It is true that the prison system is often blamed for, and inherits, the failures of other social institutions. While not solely responsible for who enters its doors, correctional agencies hold considerable power over how (and to whom) justice is administered behind bars, which to a large extent, dictates the composition of the correctional landscape. Moreover, correctional authorities have always had significant control over the prevailing cultural ethos of how prisons are run, who runs them, and where resources and priorities are allocated and determined. All of these realities have served to preserve the prison system as the inherently colonial institution that it has always been, despite some attempts to improve it. At an instrumental level, the federal prison system, which predates Confederation, has long served to keep Indigenous Peoples marginalized, over-criminalized, and over-incarcerated.

The inequities and disparate outcomes experienced by Indigenous Peoples under federal sentence in Canada has been a key priority and concern for this Office since its inception. Nearly 50 years ago, in the very first annual report issued by the Office in July of 1974, the discriminatory treatment of Indigenous persons in federal custody was among the inaugural set of issues raised. In the decades to follow, this Office has issued more than 70 recommendations specific to Indigenous corrections, by way of our annual reports. In 2013, the Office’s Special Report on Indigenous corrections entitled, “ Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act ,” was tabled in Parliament. Twenty years out from the introduction of the CCRA in 1992, Spirit Matters sought to investigate the extent to which federal corrections had fulfilled parliament’s intent with respect to legislative provisions, with a specific focus on sections 81 (Healing Lodges managed by Indigenous communities) and 84 (Indigenous community release and reintegration planning) of the CCRA. Footnote 80 The findings from this investigation revealed numerous and significant gaps. Together, recommendations stemming from Spirit Matters and OCI annual reports on Indigenous corrections have covered numerous topics, focusing largely on the need for change in the following key areas:

  • Expansion of section 81 Healing Lodges (managed by Indigenous communities);

     

    Photo of the Pathways unit at Saskatchewan Penitentiary.

    Saskatchewan Penitentiary – Pathways Unit. 

  • Increasing the use, and facilitating the process, of section 84 releases;

     

  • Increasing Indigenous leadership (i.e., the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner of Indigenous Corrections);

     

  • Improving the timely release and reintegration of Indigenous Peoples;

     

  • More intentional and transparent analysis and public reporting on the impacts of correctional decision-making on Indigenous populations;

     

  • Increasing the allocation of resources and involvement of Indigenous communities and organizations in correctional decision-making and administration;

     

  • Improving custodial and community-based programming to address the needs of Indigenous Peoples;

     

  • Increasing the use of Gladue /Indigenous Social History factors to inform decision-making, assessment, and classification;

     

  • Resolving the recurring issues faced by Indigenous Elders;

     

  • Increasing the number of Indigenous employees and providing greater training for existing staff on Indigenous culture, history, and spirituality; and,

     

  • Developing a gang disaffiliation strategy, with a focus on Indigenous gangs.

     

    In the years since Spirit Matters , there have been a number of commissions, inquiries, unprecedented pieces of investigative journalism, and parliamentary committee studies conducted on the needs and experiences of incarcerated Indigenous individuals. The reports stemming from most of these initiatives have issued specific recommendations and calls-to-action, many of which have been directed at federal corrections. Concerns raised in each of these reports by-and-large echo many of those made by this Office, and some (e.g., MMIWG Final Report: Reclaiming Power and Place ) have fully endorsed and reissued Office recommendations on Indigenous corrections, often verbatim. Specifically, considerable overlap in recommendations exist in the calls-for-change in the following four areas:

    1. Increasing the use of Healing Lodges, section 84 releases, and engagement with Indigenous communities; 

       
    2. More and higher-quality culturally-informed programming; 

       
    3. Improvements to screening, assessment, and classification tools; and, 

       
    4. More Indigenous leadership, employee representation, and cultural competence among all staff. 

       

    Key Reports on Indigenous issues in the Correctional System since Spirit Matters (2013)

    • Office of the Correctional Investigator – Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (2013) 
    • Truth and Reconciliation Commission – Final Report: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (2015)

       

    • Office of the Auditor General – Fall Report: Preparing Indigenous Offenders for Release (2016)

       

    • House of Commons Standing Committees on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) – Study: Indigenous inmates in the federal correctional system (2017)

       

    • House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) – Study: Indigenous Women in the Federal Justice and Correctional Systems (2017)

       

    • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) – Final Report: Reclaiming Power and Place (2020)

       

     

    Ten Years since Spirit Matters 

    Indigenous Over-representation in Federal Corrections

    Over the last thirty years in particular, some efforts have been made to bring greater equity to Indigenous Peoples who enter the correctional system, such as the introduction of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (sections 79 to 84) and changes to the Criminal Code (e.g., s.718.2 [e]). In federal corrections, systemic efforts to “decolonize” prisons largely started in 2003 with the introduction of the Aboriginal Continuum of Care model. Despite the various changes, inquiries, plans, and investments, by many metrics, the various efforts have fallen disappointingly short of their goals of addressing systemic discrimination and the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the correctional system. While we have seen overall declines in the incarcerated population in recent years, Indigenous over-representation has not only persisted but increased at an unabated pace. Since 2012, the federally incarcerated population decreased by 16.5% and the in-custody population of White individuals decreased by 23.5%; however, during the same time, the Indigenous custodial population increased by 22.5%. Footnote 81 Over the last decade alone, the total Indigenous offender population (incarcerated and community) has increased by 40.8%. Footnote 82 

    In January 2016, my Office reported that the proportion of Indigenous Peoples in federal custody had reached an all-time high of 25%, and cautioned that this trend would continue, without significant intervention. Over the last two years, federal corrections reached two new historic milestones when the proportion passed the 30% mark overall, and approached 50% for incarcerated Indigenous women. Footnote 83 Today, despite accounting for approximately 5% of the adult population, Indigenous Peoples continue to be vastly overrepresented in the federal correctional system, accounting for 28% of all federally sentenced individuals and nearly one third (32%) of all individuals in custody.

    Prison Health and Outcomes

    A line graph depicting the proportion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals in federal custody since 2012. Indigenous 2012/13 = 23%, 2013/14 = 23%, 2014/15 = 25%, 2015/16 = 26%, 2016/17 = 27%, 2017/18 = 28%, 2018/19 = 29%, 2019/20 = 30%, 2020/21 = 32%; Non-Indigenous 2012/13 = 77%, 2013/14 = 77%, 2014/15 = 75%, 2015/16 = 74%, 2016/17 = 73%, 2017/18 = 72%, 2018/19 = 71%, 2019/20 = 70%, 2020/21 = 68%

    Graph 1. Proportion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous 
    in-custody Population since 2012 Footnote 84 

    While the worsening over-representation and deepening Indigenization of the correctional system alone serves as a grim litmus test for progress, a wide range of prison health indicators and outcomes similarly provide further evidence of the troubling trajectory of Indigenous corrections. For example, as of the writing of this report, Indigenous Peoples in federal prison continued to be overrepresented in the following areas:

    • Custodial settings, compared to community supervision (68.3% of Indigenous Peoples are in custody versus 54.8% of non-Indigenous individuals);

       

    • Uses of force (Indigenous individuals accounted for 39% of those involved in a use-of-force incidents over the last five years);

       

    • Maximum security (38% of individuals in maximum security are Indigenous);

       

    • Structured Interventions Units (formerly segregation, nearly 50% of individuals in SIUs are Indigenous);

       

    • Security Threat Group affiliations (the proportion of Indigenous individuals with an STG affiliation is twice that of non-Indigenous individuals in custody i.e., 22% vs. 9%) Footnote 85 ;

       

    • Self-injury incidents (55% of all incidents of self-injury involved an Indigenous person);

       

    • Attempted suicide incidents (40% of attempted suicides over last decade); and,

       

    • Suicides (83% [5 out of 6] of all incarcerated individuals whose death occurred by suicide in 2020/21 were Indigenous). Footnote 86 

       

    Furthermore, Indigenous individuals are increasingly entering the system at a younger age, Footnote 87 spending considerably longer behind bars, and returning to federal corrections at unprecedented rates compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Specifically, Indigenous Peoples continue to serve higher proportions of their sentences compared to non-Indigenous individuals before being released on day or full parole and receive a very low proportion of conditional releases, with statutory release being by far the most likely release type. Footnote 88 In 2020/21, 75% of releases for Indigenous offenders were statutory releases. Footnote 89 As for post-release outcomes, Indigenous men have the highest rates of recidivism than any other group (65% for any re-offence, with rates of 70%+ in the Prairie region) and nearly half of all Indigenous admissions to federal corrections last year were for revocations. Footnote 90 Footnote 91 Individually, and taken together, these indicators clearly show that Canadian corrections is, and has been for some time, at a point of perpetual crisis. Year over year, prisons are increasingly being filled by Indigenous Peoples who are caught up in the proverbial revolving door, experiencing worse circumstances while inside, with few viable options for getting out and staying out.

    CSC Progress on Recommendations

    Photo from the exterior of Willow Cree Healing Lodge.

    Willow Cree Healing Lodge – Exterior. 

    While largely unresponsive to recommendations put forward by this Office and others, in the years since Spirit Matters , CSC has developed no shortage of plans and initiatives for Indigenous corrections. Mainly by way of the Aboriginal Continuity of Care Model (2003), Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections in 2006 (followed by its “renewal” in 2013), and later the National Indigenous Plan – A National Framework to Transform Indigenous Corrections (2017), CSC has repeatedly made commitments to “transform” Indigenous corrections by enhancing initiatives along what it refers to as the Indigenous Continuum of Care, such as:

    • Expanding Healing Lodges, section 84, and Pathways capacity; Footnote 92 

       

    • Increasing the numbers of Indigenous staff and cultural competence of staff;

       

    • Creating greater collaboration with Indigenous communities;

       

    • Enhancing culturally-appropriate interventions and programs;

       

    • Addressing the mental health needs of Indigenous offenders; and,

       

    • Improving reintegration results in an effort to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous offenders. Footnote 93 

       

    Despite continuously evolving and ever-expanding corporate plans and intentions for Indigenous Corrections, today’s iteration of the Indigenous continuum of care model continues to be replete with unfulfilled commitments, for example:

    • disparities in the validity of risk assessment remain unresolved, despite the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Ewert v. Canada Footnote 94 ;

       

    • coordinated efforts to address the mental health needs of Indigenous individuals (in particular, Indigenous women) are non-existent;

       

    • the use of Indigenous Social History in decision-making continues to be as inconsistent and perfunctory as it was at the writing of Spirit Matters ; and,

       

    • Indigenous correctional programming is arguably less effective now than it was a decade ago.

       

    Over the last few years, greater awareness brought about by large-scale commissions and inquiries, mounting social pressure, and a considerable (and more transparent) shift in government mandates and priorities toward reconciliation, the government has made substantial financial investments in the federal Indigenous corrections portfolio. Through Budget 2017, for example, CSC received $55.2 million dollars (and $10.9 million ongoing thereafter) to enhance its capacity to provide effective interventions for Indigenous offenders. Footnote 95 Even a cursory review of what those plans and investments have yielded are disconcerting, and the little progress CSC has made on meeting their own commitments further illustrates why this Office, among many others, are frustrated with the Service’s ineffectiveness on Indigenous corrections. Signature investments appear to be put toward CSC-developed custodial initiatives, such as Indigenous Intervention Centers (IIC) that, by all accounts, appear to be little more than early or targeted correctional case management by another name. Similarly, long-standing institutional correctional initiatives, such as Pathways, continue to receive substantial resources, with little in the way of external evaluation or validation of their effectiveness or whether they are serving the needs of Indigenous persons in custody, particularly those who need the most support. Proportionally little new funding has been allocated to Indigenous controlled or run community correctional initiatives. The focus of CSC’s Indigenous correctional efforts continues to be mainly prison-based. I would like to take a moment to highlight a few specific areas of concern where there have been focused recommendations issued and commitments made.

    Healing Lodges and Section 84 Releases

    Photo of the exterior sign at the Stan Daniels Healing Centre.

    Stan Daniels Healing Centre – Exterior sign. 

    Of all of the recommendations that have been issued to the Service on Indigenous corrections, the expansion of Healing Lodges (Section 81) and section 84 (Community Release) are the two made most frequently. Despite identifying these sections of the law as priorities themselves, CSC has made very little progress. Since Spirit Matters , there has been the addition of one new Healing Lodge (i.e., Eagle Women’s Healing Lodge in Manitoba) and the number of spaces in community-run Healing Lodges has increased by only 53 beds – a number vastly insufficient to keep pace with the growing proportions of Indigenous people entering federal custody. Furthermore, there continues to be no Healing Lodge capacity in the Ontario and Atlantic regions, which have both seen substantial increases in Indigenous admissions, particularly the Atlantic region where the incarcerated Indigenous population has increased by nearly 90% in the last ten years.

    With an already limited number of Healing Lodge spaces, it should be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a marked impact on Healing Lodge occupancy rates. For example, in the two years prior to the pandemic, the average occupancy rate of Healing Lodges was around 78%. At the writing of this report, the average occupancy rate was approximately 51%, which begs the question – with so few Healing Lodges spaces available, why are occupancy rates so low? I intend to examine this question, among others, in the coming year.



     

    Table 1. Ten-Year Comparison of Healing Lodge Capacity and Occupancy Rates

  2012/13   2021/22   
FACILITY RATED 
CAPACITY 
ACTUAL 
CAPACITY 

OCCUPIED 
RATED 
CAPACITY 
ACTUAL 
CAPACITY 

OCCUPIED 
PRE-COVID 
2-YEAR 
AVERAGE % 
OCCUPIED* 
Community-run s.81 Healing Lodge       
Stan Daniels 
Healing Centre
301963.33301343.3353.33
O-chi-chak-ko-sipi 
First Nation 
Healing Lodge
242291.6724125081.25
Waseskun 
Healing Centre
151510015853.3380
Buffalo Sage1216133.3328217591.1
Prince Albert 
Grand Council 
Healing Lodge
5nr12758.3383.3
Eagle Women’s Healing Lodge**30413.330
CSC-operated Healing Lodge       
Kwìkwèxwelhp 
Healing Village
50448850204081
Pê Sâkâstêw 
Centre
604778.33604473.3379.17
Willow Cree 
Healing Centre
4040100803341.2566.88
Okimaw Ohci 
Healing Lodge
403382.560366085.58
Total27623685.538919850.977.97
  •  

    Note: Occupancy data was obtained from CSC’s CRS-M Institutional Counts report; nr = not reported;

    *2-year average % occupancy is based on the rated vs. actual capacity counts from 2018/19 and 2019/20, to get a sense of pre-pandemic occupancy.

    **Eagle Women’s Healing Lodge opened as a s.81 facility in 2019.

    Photo of a room at the Stan Daniels Healing Centre.

    Stan Daniels Healing Centre – Interior room. 

    Photo from the interior of Pê Sâkâstêw Centre.

    Pê Sâkâstêw Centre – Interior. 

    In addition to the limited changes in capacity, there does not appear to have been any appreciable changes to the mechanisms for establishing section 81 or section 84 agreements with Indigenous communities or organizations. These concerns, coupled with the narrow eligibility criteria for admission to most Healing Lodges, seriously call into question whether Healing Lodges are being set up to serve the needs of a significant proportion of incarcerated Indigenous individuals.

    Similarly, with section 84, we have seen little in the way of movement on commitments and recommendations since Spirit Matters . Footnote 96 The number of individuals expressing an interest in, or receiving a section 84 release, has remained essentially unchanged today compared to 2012. While the increases in the number of Indigenous admissions over time alone should have resulted in a corresponding rise in the number of section 84s, modifications to the cumbersome and bureaucratic process of section 84, as recommended, should also have theoretically resulted in improvements – and thus, increases – in the use of this release process.

    Indigenous Representation and Cultural Competence

    A line graph depicting the total expressions of interest in section 84 releases versus actual section 84 releases from 2012 to 2021. Actual Releases on a s.84 2012/13 = 231, 2013/14 = 244, 2014/15 = 226, 2015/16 = 287, 2016/17 = 314, 2017/18 = 307, 2018/19 = 281, 2019/20 = 243, 2020/21 = 227. Expressions of Interest in s.84 Release (Indigenous individuals only) 2012/13 = 577, 2013/14 = 569, 2014/15 = 618, 2015/16 = 704, 2016/17 = 668,2017/18 = 798, 2018/19 = 745, 2019/20 = 701, 2020/21 = 507

    Graph 2. Expressions of Interest and Actual Releases 
    on Section 84 from 2012 to 2021 Footnote 97 

    Despite various commitments in this area, the lack of Indigenous representation among CSC staff, particularly in leadership positions, as well as the reportedly low levels of cultural awareness is a long-standing problem on which CSC has made seemingly few significant inroads. Nationally, Indigenous individuals continue to be underrepresented among staff relative to the composition of the incarcerated population (i.e., 10% of CSC staff identify as Indigenous versus 32% of incarcerated individuals), and are even more vastly underrepresented in leadership positions. For example, according to data provided by CSC, of the 111 executive level positions at national headquarters, only three (2.7%) are occupied by Indigenous individuals. Similarly, for Elders, who already face numerous vulnerabilities – in large part due to their employment status as contractors – are too few in number to serve the growing population, are spread thin, and are expected to play many different roles. There are currently only 133 Elders across the country for the 3,953 Indigenous individuals in custody. While not all Indigenous individuals will seek to work with an Elder, these numbers translate to an overall ratio of 30 Indigenous persons for every one Elder. Though the ratio of Elders varies considerably by institution and region, the Prairie region has the largest number of incarcerated Indigenous individuals and the worst Elder to prisoner ratio, with an average of 35 to one. One institution has a ratio of 105 Indigenous prisoners to one Elder.

    While there are complexities to recruiting and retaining Elders to work in the prison setting, many of the surmountable barriers that have existed for attracting and keeping Elders (among other Indigenous staff) have gone unresolved. Some have attributed this to a lack of understanding or appreciation for the work that Elders and other Indigenous staff do. We have heard time and time again that the work of Elders, among others, is not given the credibility it deserves, nor the credibility that is bestowed upon other sectors or positions in case management and intervention work. Clearly, more needs to be done not only to recruit more Elders and to protect those who are currently undertaking this work, but also to educate staff more broadly on the important role that Elders and Indigenous departments play in advancing rehabilitative and healing work.

    Based on information and feedback we have received, the various plans and strategies that CSC has created to address the issue of representativeness and recruitment have seemingly been largely ineffective (e.g., National Aboriginal Employee Consultation : Working Together in Partnership Toward Inclusion, 2012; Connecting Spirits, Creating Opportunities , 2019). Furthermore, staff members and incarcerated persons alike have told us that cultural competency training is inherently limited in its value and impacts, often providing largely surface-level, pan-Indigenous perspectives on Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing. Greater cultural awareness and credibility would be brought about by improved recruitment, retention, and promotion of Indigenous staff, which in turn would have a direct impact on the lives of federally sentenced individuals. Plain and simple, CSC needs to do more to attract and hire Indigenous Peoples, to recognize and promote the value of their work, and collaborate in earnest with Indigenous communities to meaningfully move the yardstick on these issues. The lack of progress on Healing Lodges, section 84, Indigenous representation, and cultural competency serve as undeniable examples of the consequences attributable to the absence of a national community engagement and co-development strategy for Indigenous corrections – a gap that, in my view, has had an unprecedented impact on the Service’s ability to produce transformative change for Indigenous corrections.

    A Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections

    The need to appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous corrections is a recommendation that this office has issued nearly a dozen times over the last twenty years, and has been repeated by other committees and commissions who similarly recognize the need for dedicated Indigenous leadership and decision-making power in federal corrections (e.g., NIMMIWG, 2020; House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, 2017; House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, 2017).

    In June 2021, in what this Office viewed as a promising step forward on this recommendation, the government identified the following short-term priority and goal in the National Action Plan in response to the final report of the NIMMIWG:

    Goal #6 (d): “Create a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections and address issues for Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ offenders…”

    In October 2021, this Office requested an update from CSC on its plans to fulfill this commitment. In January 2022, CSC provided the following response: “CSC’s position remains the same – there are no plans to create a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.” 

    On May 27, 2022, the Minister of Public Safety’s mandate letter to the Commissioner of Corrections called for the creation of a new position of Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections . Days later, in a statement released in response to the findings from the Auditor General’s report on federal corrections, the Commissioner of Corrections noted, “I am in the process of staffing a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections position.”

    I am pleased to see this item raised in the mandate letter and am encouraged by the Commissioner’s response. Given the lack of progress over the last two decades on this particular recommendation, however, I will wait to consider this issue closed once a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections is officially in place. In the meantime, I offer the following (and hopefully last) recommendation on this issue:

    1. I recommend that CSC consult with Indigenous community groups on the job description, role, mandate, and hiring process for the Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections position, and that they report publicly on their plans and short-term timelines to create and staff this position. 

 

Next Steps

In recent years, this country has faced a reckoning for the intergenerational abuses perpetrated by governments, institutions, and individuals, against Indigenous Peoples. From grassroots organizations to various levels of government, there has been a groundswell of recognition and renewed sense of urgency around the need to repair relationships and systems, including corrections, which have long been broken. In June 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act came into force, providing a much-needed roadmap for broader reconciliation in Canada. In the mandate letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the government committed to the development of an Indigenous Justice Strategy “to address systemic discrimination and the over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system”. While large-scale justice strategies in this area have tended to focus on the contributions of policing and the courts, in order to develop an effective strategy to address discrimination in the justice system, federal corrections must be part of the conversation. In an effort to leverage the momentum of existing government initiatives in this area, specifically, the development of a national justice strategy, I am issuing the following recommendation:

  1. I recommend the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada include the Correctional Service of Canada and the Office of the Correctional Investigator in the development and implementation of the Indigenous Justice Strategy (IJS). Furthermore, the IJS should seek to redistribute a significant portion of the current resources within the federal correctional system to Indigenous communities and groups for the care, custody, and supervision of Indigenous Peoples. 

Furthermore, federal corrections needs to be held accountable to concrete and measurable targets and results, particularly those under their direct control, and more effectively use its levers of influence to address long-standing barriers, such as the over-retention of Indigenous Peoples behind bars and the high rates of recidivism. Of course, federal corrections cannot meet the task on their own. Being included in a coordinated, Indigenous-led, national engagement strategy is a necessary step toward resolution. At the most basic level, the correctional system should not serve to further perpetuate disadvantage, which is precisely what we have seen reflected in the outcomes and prison health indicators for incarcerated Indigenous Peoples, particularly when compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. The promise of administering an Indigenous person’s sentence through a Gladue -informed lens has not materialized, and, in practice, family and community histories of fragmentation, dislocation and dispossession are too commonly used to validate higher security classifications and lower reintegration potential scores. Corrections has an admittedly complex set of issues to contend with, but we have reached a point where complexity is no longer a sufficient excuse for stagnation.


Correctional Investigator’s Outlook for 2022-23

As we navigate the third year of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have seemingly transitioned to a new endemic phase – from stopgap measures, to now thinking longer term about how we will learn to live and adapt to this so-called “new normal”. Even as we adapt and innovate and explore new ways to deliver on our mandate (such as a new intake “triage” process for responding to complaints), we must maintain and always keep the integrity and vitality of our core function in plain and permanent view. In the coming year, we look forward to getting back to conducting a full slate of in-person institutional visits and getting ourselves organized to take on and continue to roll out our new framework for prison inspections. I also look forward to the development and implementation of a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy.

Nearly thirty years following the introduction of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , 2023 will also mark ten years since the Office’s Spirit Matters report was tabled in parliament. In keeping with our continued commitment to advancing progress for federally sentenced Indigenous individuals, in the coming year my Office will be conducting an in-depth investigation into Indigenous corrections. For this investigation, we will be taking a close look at what progress has been achieved on key recommendations made by this office and others, what results have been yielded from investments made, and initiatives undertaken by the Service (e.g., Indigenous Intervention Centres and Pathways), where promising practices exist, and what new challenges have emerged since Spirit Matters . Further to this investigation, we will be issuing targeted recommendations in areas where transformative changes can and should be made for Indigenous corrections going forward.

In addition to this work, we will continue to monitor, investigate, and report on systemic and/or thematic issues concerning women’s corrections, the needs of gender-diverse individuals, progress on commitments made by the Service on sexual coercion and violence in federal prisons, among other issues raised in this report.

It goes without saying that the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, including my staff. In the year ahead, I will be making organizational health and wellbeing a key priority. Among other initiatives, we will also be undertaking work to enhance our office’s effectiveness and continue to make strides toward being an employer of choice and a centre of excellence.

In closing, I want to circle back to one of the themes of my opening message by way of endorsing the Principles for the Protection and Promotion of the Institution of the Ombudsman . Created in March of 2019 by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, these principles, referred to as “The Venice Principles,” are the first set of independent and internationally accepted standards that define, promote, and protect the role of ombuds in strengthening democracy and promoting fundamental rights. As the 25 Venice Principles lay out, the ombuds is an important – I would even argue, essential – element of states that are based on democracy, rule of law, good administration, and respect for human rights and freedoms. It is in keeping with the spirit of these principles that, in the year ahead, my Office will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the fair and humane treatment of individuals serving federal sentences, by drawing attention to human rights obligations and holding the Service accountable for administering federal corrections in a way that is compliant with law, policy, and fair decision-making. In our daily work, we will continue to strive to embody and demonstrate leadership in our execution of these principles of good and effective ombudsmanship.

Photo of Fergus “Chip” O’Connor.

Photo of Fergus “Chip” O’Connor 


Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award

The Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award was established in December 2008, in honour of Mr. Ed McIsaac, long-time Executive Director of the Office of the Correctional Investigator and strong promoter and defender of human rights in federal corrections. It commemorates outstanding achievement and commitments to improving corrections in Canada and protecting the human rights of incarcerated persons.

The 2021 recipient of the Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections award was Fergus “Chip” O’Connor. Chip has practiced law in Kingston since 1975. He was a founding member of the Canadian Prison Law Association and served as Director of the Correctional Law Project (now Queen’s Prison Law Clinic) at Queen’s University. For more than four decades, Chip has been an active advocate for incarcerated persons. He has demonstrated exceptional leadership, commitment, and conviction, and is acknowledged among his peers as an elder statesman in the field of correctional law.


Annex A: Summary of Recommendations

  1. I repeat my recommendation to prohibit any indefinite dry cell placement beyond 72 hours. 

     
  2. With respect to CSC’s drug strategy, I recommend the following set of measures: 

     
    1. CSC’s zero tolerance policy to drug use and possession is recalibrated to focus on corrective measures for drug diversion and trafficking, rather than stigmatizing, targeting or disciplining persons struggling with addictions or substance abuse disorders. 

       
  3. I recommend that CSC prioritize the current review of the security classification process, particularly as it applies to Indigenous women. In the interim, I recommend that Indigenous Social History (ISH) be assessed in a meaningful way for each decision rendered and that case management staff are provided with adequate training and support to apply the ISH. 

     
  4. Once again, I recommend that the level system for maximum-security women be immediately rescinded. 

     
  5. I reiterate my recommendation for alternative accommodations for women housed in Secure Units and their eventual closure. Funding and resources currently dedicated to Secure Unit operation should be redirected to better support and address the unique needs of women, particularly Indigenous women. 

     
  6. I recommend that CSC: 

     
    1. Collect, track, and publicly report on participation in the Mother-Child Program to better understand who it is serving and how the program is functioning. 

       
  7. I recommend that, without any further delay, CSC outfit all of its prisoner escort vehicles, including those currently in service, with seatbelt assemblies, handholds and other safety and restraint features that would meet its obligation to provide safe and humane custody of prisoners under security escort. I further recommend that CSC return to the drawing table to reconsider its planned “modernization” of its security escort fleet that is more responsive to Office concerns and recommendations. 

     
  8. I recommend that CSC: 

     
    1. Review its positions with respect to hair extensions from a dignity and diversity perspective rather than solely through a security lens. 

       
  9. I recommend that CSC conduct a comparative review, in partnership with Black community groups or external experts, to examine cumulative time spent by Black individuals before reclassification and cascading to lower levels of security. 

     
  10. I recommend that CSC conduct a systemic review of its use of the Security Threat Groups classification criteria to ensure that only relevant information corroborated by external law enforcement, court or judicial authorities, and supported by evidence, are used to designate an individual with a Security Threat Group. 

     
  11. I recommend that, within the next year, the Service develop a gang disaffiliation strategy. This strategy should: 

     
    1. Incorporate best practices and lessons learned from community-based initiatives, correctional jurisdictions, and other public safety domains. 

       
  12. I again recommend that CSC promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black individuals and publicly report on actionable changes to policy and practice that will effectively reduce the over-representation of these groups among those exposed to uses of force. 

     
  13. I recommend that CSC expand its staff diversity training to include representation from Black community groups and external experts who can provide a more complete and relevant perspective. This training should be mandatory, in-person and oriented to practical and lived experiences of Black people. 

     
  14. I recommend that CSC develop a training program for front-line health professionals. This program should draw on the most recent research on racial bias and its impact on medical decisions and procedures. 

     
  15. I recommend that CSC develop a national strategy that specifically addresses the unique lived experiences and barriers faced by federally sentenced Black individuals. This strategy should include the following elements: 

     
  16. I recommend that CSC immediately develop national policy for the use of Voluntary Limited Association Ranges (VLARs) and any other sub-population living unit or range that clearly identifies: 

     
  17. I recommend that CSC consult with Indigenous community groups on the job description, role, mandate, and hiring process for the Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections position, and that they report publicly on their plans and short-term timelines to create and staff this position. 

     
  18. I recommend the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada include the Correctional Service of Canada and the Office of the Correctional Investigator in the development and implementation of the Indigenous Justice Strategy (IJS). Furthermore, the IJS should seek to redistribute a significant portion of the current resources within the federal correctional system to Indigenous communities and groups for the care, custody, and supervision of Indigenous Peoples. 

     

Annex B: Annual Statistics

Table A: OCI Complaints by Category and Resolution Status Footnote 98 

COMPLAINT CATEGORY OR SUBCATEGORY ACTIVE RESOLVED TOTAL 
ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION22
CASE PREPARATION19147166
CELL EFFECTS25262287
Exchange44
Canteen21820
Search and/or Seizure32225
Pen Pack43943
Transfers36265
Other13117130
CELL PLACEMENT64652
Protected Custody22
Double Bunking11213
Unit/Range31417
Other21820
CLAIMS AGAINST THE CROWN22426
Processing145
Decisions156
Other1515
COMMUNITY SUPERVISION3030
CONDITIONAL RELEASE47377
Detention11
Conditions33
Revocation33
Application55
Day Parole55
Suspension11415
Conditions11920
Other22325
CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT41668709
Health and Safety of Inmate Worksites112
Access to Showers167
Sanitation/Cleanliness14243
Temperature4545
Recreation Time25153
Lockdown3141144
Other33382415
DEATH OF INMATE268
DIETS4040
Special Diets33
Medical55
Religious2828
Other44
DISCIPLINE55156
Major Charges178
Procedures1910
Minor Charges1313
Other32225
DISCRIMINATION68187
Disability145
Gender1111
Religion31922
Race13031
Other11718
EMPLOYMENT64450
Suspension1515
Access51318
Other11617
FILE INFORMATION17122139
Access71724
Correction23840
Other86775
FINANCIAL MATTERS17135149
Access134
Pay4444
Other1388101
FOOD SERVICES44448
GRIEVANCES58792
Corrective Action22
Decision1010
Procedure23436
Other34144
HARASSMENT BY INMATE257
Verbal11
Physical112
Sexual112
Other22
HARM REDUCTION12223
Needle Exchange Program11
Drug Strategy55
Opiate Substitution Therapy11617
HEALTH CARE42457499
Hunger Strike268
Dental13132
Decisions43236
Access14114128
Medication9159168
Other12115127
IMMIGRATION/DEPORTATION11
INMATE REQUEST PROCESS31720
Procedure22
Response77
Other3811
LEGAL ACCESS12116128
MAIL38184
Seizure44
Delivery/Pickup12829
Other24951
MENTAL HEALTH75966
Decisions11
Quality of care11
Self-Injury1910
Access22729
Other42125
OCI52213265
Alleged Reprisal from Contact1910
Decisions/Operations82230
Other43182225
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES44
OUTSIDE COURT55
OUTSIDE JURISDICTION2020
PAROLE BOARD OF CANADA DECISIONS22224
PROGRAMS37073
Quality/Content33
Decisions55
Access33942
Other2323
PROVINCIAL/TERRITORIAL MATTERS12627
RELEASE PROCEDURES36265
SAFETY AND SECURITY19201220
Staff32730
Incompatibles/Other Offenders66672
Other10108118
SEARCH22527
Strip Search11
Dry Cell134
Regular44
Other11718
SECURITY CLASSIFICATION107080
Initial44
Review42933
Other63743
SENTENCE ADMINISTRATION1616
SERIOUS INJURY OF IMNMATE11
SHU-NAC REVIEWS11
STAFF40438478
Management1616
Correctional Staff12138150
Case Management14147161
Other14137151
STRUCTURED INTERVENTION UNITS (SIU)93645
Placement/Review5813
Conditions31316
Other11516
TELEPHONE4123127
Use Suspension66
Access to a Telephone3333
Pin23739
Other23739
TEMPORARY ABSENCE93039
Escorted156
Unescorted257
Compassionate51924
Other112
TRANSFER19156175
URINALYSIS22022
USE OF FORCE144660
VISITS16124140
VRB Decision11
Regular Visits33
Treatment of Visitors33
Primary Family Visit2020
Cancellation/Suspension21921
Private Family Visit52530
Other85462
VLAR CONDITIONS11
GRAND TOTAL Footnote 99 431 4,330 4,761 

 

Table B. Interactions and Interviews by Region and Institution

Footnote 100 

 

 

REGION OR INSTITUTION CASES INTERVIEW DAYS IN INSTITUTIONS 
ATLANTIC 370 12 10 
Atlantic1064
Dorchester1123 Footnote 101 1
Nova Institution for Women6451
Shepody Healing Centre25
Springhill6344
QUEBEC 999 43 16 
Archambault1210 Footnote 102 1
Centre régional de santé mentale7
Cowansville12893
Regional Reception Centre750 Footnote 103 1
Donnacona7314
Drummond366
Federal Training Centre1098-
Joliette413
La Macaza722
Port-Cartier214174
Special Handling Unit119
Waseskun Healing Lodge4
ONTARIO 899 53 15 
Bath12941
Beaver Creek1354
Collins Bay58173
Grand Valley Institution for Women9733
Joyceville314 Footnote 104 2
Joyceville Assessment Unit87
Joyceville TD Unit1
Millhaven1430 Footnote 105 3
Millhaven Assessment Unit2
Millhaven TD Unit1
Millhaven – Regional Treatment Centre133
Warkworth20321
PRAIRIES 1,289 61 29 
Bowden192233
Drumheller133143
Edmonton3046
Edmonton Institution for Women464
Grande Cache1862
Grierson9
Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge5
Pê Sâkâstêw Centre21
Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge3
Regional Psychiatric Centre7632
Saskatchewan239134
Stan Daniels Healing Centre4
Stony Mountain8884
Willow Cree Healing Lodge2
PACIFIC 881 39 12 
Fraser Valley Institution for Women118374
Kent1145
Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village31
Matsqui77-
Mission28711
Mountain112
Pacific911 Footnote 106 
Regional Reception Centre - Pacific21
Regional Treatment Centre - Pacific531
William Head5--
CCC-CRC/ PAROLEES IN THE COMMUNITY Footnote 107 285 
CCC-CRC-Atlantic141
CCC-CRC-Quebec67
CCC-CRC-Ontario28
CCC-CRC-Prairies32
CCC-CRC-Pacific12
Community-Atlantic10
Community-Quebec23
Community-Ontario38
Community-Prairies32
Community-Pacific29
UNSPECIFIED INSTITUTION Footnote 108 38 
GRAND TOTAL 4,761 208 83 

 

Table C. Cases and Interviews for Federally Sentenced Women’s Institutions

REGION OR INSTITUTION CASES INTERVIEWS 
ATLANTIC 64 
Nova Institution for Women645
QUEBEC 41 – 
Joliette41
ONTARIO 97 
Grand Valley Institution for Women973
PRAIRIES 51 – 
Edmonton Institution for Women46
Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge5
PACIFIC 118 37 
Fraser Valley Institution for Women11837
GRAND TOTAL 371 45 

 

Table D. Disposition of Cases

ACTION 
Internal Resolution Footnote 109 2,912
Inquiry Footnote 110 1,633
Investigation Footnote 111 317
TOTAL 4,862 Footnote 112 

 

Table E. Cases, Individual Complainants, and In-Custody Population by Region

REGION CASES INDIVIDUALS Footnote 113 IN-CUSTODY POPULATION Footnote 114 
Atlantic3621671,057
Quebec9863672,608
Ontario8724163,285
Prairies1,2645863,761
Pacific8712981,617
TOTAL Footnote 115 4,355 1,834 12,328 

 

Table F. Top Ten Most-Frequently Identified Complaint Categories by Population

Total In-Custody Population 
CATEGORY 
Conditions of Confinement70914.9
Health Care49910.5
Staff47810.0
Cell Effects2876.0
OCI2655.6
Safety and Security2204.6
Transfer1753.7
Case Preparation1663.5
Financial Matters1493.1
Visits1402.9
Indigenous Prisoners   
Conditions of Confinement20714.6
Health Care16211.5
Staff1349.5
Cell Effects1077.6
Safety and Security755.3
Transfer664.7
OCI614.3
Financial Matters443.1
Legal Access402.8
File information372.6
Telephone372.6
Federally Sentenced Women   
Conditions of confinement5714.4
Staff5614.1
Health Care5112.9
OCI235.8
Transfer215.3
Safety and Security194.8
Cell Effects164.0
Temporary Absence133.3
Security Classification102.5
Financial Matters102.5

 


Annex C: Other Statistics

A. Mandated Reviews Conducted in 2021-22

As per the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the Office of the Correctional Investigator reviews all CSC investigations involving incidents of inmate serious bodily injury or death.

Mandated Reviews by Type of Incident

INCIDENT TYPE REVIEWS 
Death (Natural Cause) Footnote 116 9
Assault24
Overdoses11
Injuries17
Attempted Suicide7
Suicide2
Murder2
Self-Injury2
Death (Other)1
TOTAL 75 

 

B. Use-of-Force Reviews Conducted by the OCI in 2021-22

The Correctional Service of Canada is required to provide all pertinent and relevant use-of-force documentation to the Office. Use-of-force documentation typically includes:

  • Use-of-force report;

     

  • Copy of incident-related video recording;

     

  • Checklist for Health Services review of use-of-force;

     

  • Post-incident checklist;

     

  • Officer’s Statement or Observation Report; and

     

  • Action plan to address deficiencies.

     

Note: The data in the following tables represent only incidents reviewed by the OCI in 2021-22, which is a subset of all use-of-force cases received during the same period. 

Table 1. Frequency of Most Commonly Used Use-of-force Measures

 ATL QUE ONT PRA PAC NATIONAL 
Reported incidents reviewed by the OCI 129 264 267 338 101 1,099 
MOST COMMON MEASURES USED Footnote 117 
Physical Handling 84 175 155 205 73 692 
Restraint Equipment 
(handcuffs, leg irons) 
56 82 160 171 60 529 
Inflammatory Spray (IS) or Chemical Agent (CA) Footnote 118 49 138 82 162 40 471 
MK-4 (IS)18583710129243
MK-9 (IS)173619448124
T-21 Muzzle Blast (IS)6121310142
MK-46 (IS)12476240
OTHER (IS)142108
T-21 (CA)260109
ISPRA (IS)312006

T-16 (IS)

 

211004

T-21 (CA)

 

011002

T-16 (CA)

 

100001

Other CAS)

 

010001
Verbal Intervention 31 75 63 148 58 375 
Pointing IS or CA with Verbal Orders 10 16 26 55 17 124 
Emergency Response Team (ERT) 14 23 10 56 
Shield 15 37 
Soft (Pinel) Restraints 10 11 29 
Direct-Impact Round Fired 20 
Pointing Direct Impact Round 14 
C8 Carbine (firearm) 11 
Baton 250029
Display and Charge of Firearm 
Warning Shots Fired 
Distraction Device DT-25 (Flash Grenade) 

GRAND TOTAL Footnote 119 

 

251 535 527 804 278 2,395 

 

Table 2. Frequency of Most Commonly Used Use-of-force Measures at Women’s Institutions

REPORTED INCIDENTS REVIEWED BY THE OCI 96 
MOST COMMON MEASURES USED FREQUENCY 
Physical Handling 76 
Verbal Intervention 76 
Restraint Equipment (handcuffs, leg irons) 47 
Inflammatory Spray (IS) or Chemical Agent (CA) 24 
MK-4 (IS)13
MK-9 (IS)11
Pointing IS or CA with Verbal Orders 16 
Soft (Pinel) Restraints 
Emergency Response Team (ERT) 
Baton 
Grand Total 257 

 

C. Toll-Free Contacts in 2021-22

Federally sentenced individuals and members of the public can contact the OCI by calling our toll-free number (1-877-885-8848) anywhere in Canada. All communications between federally sentenced individuals and the OCI are confidential.

Number of toll-free contacts received in the reporting period: 17,116 

Number of minutes recorded on toll-free line: 54,481 

D. National Level Investigations in 2021-22

  1. Update on the Experiences of Black Persons in Canadian Federal Penitentiaries (date of 2021-22 Annual Report tabling). 

     
  2. Restrictive Forms of Confinement in Federal Corrections (Male Maximum-Security Penitentiaries) (date of 2021-22 Annual Report tabling). 

     
  3. Ten Years since Spirit Matters: Indigenous Issues in Federal Corrections (Part 1) (date of 2021-22 Annual Report tabling). 

     

Response to the 49th Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator

Commissioner’s Message

As Commissioner, I am pleased to present the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) response to the recommendations outlined in the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s 2021-22 Annual Report.

Over the course of the year, CSC continued to deliver on its mission to support offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens, while continuing to face various operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the implementation of necessary measures to limit the spread of the virus in federal institutions. Ensuring that offenders have access to quality, safe, patient-centered services from qualified health care professionals remained a priority this year. CSC also made system-wide enhancements to help identify mental health needs and continued to implement harm reduction initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

Advancing reconciliation and supporting safe reintegration of Indigenous, Black and other racialized individuals into the community is another priority for CSC. Performance results for 2021-22 indicate that high percentages of Indigenous and Black offenders are not re-admitted to federal custody within 5 years following the expiration of their sentence (83.2% and 85.8%, respectively).

As outlined in my mandate letter from the Minister of Public Safety, CSC will continue its work to combat systemic racism and discrimination, and the overrepresentation of Black, racialized Canadians, and Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice system. To support this priority, CSC developed an Anti-Racism Framework and Actions, focusing on employees, offenders, and stakeholders. We also continue to implement training for staff on topics such as anti-racism, unconscious bias, Indigenous culture, and cultural competency. CSC has a number of culturally appropriate initiatives in place to support offenders while in our custody – and ultimately, to reduce recidivism. To further relationships with Indigenous Peoples and achieve coordination at multiple levels to address this overrepresentation, I am in the process of staffing a new position of Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.

CSC continues to refine the operation of Structured Intervention Units (SIU) within federal institutions. During 2021-22, this historic transformation that saw the abolition of administrative segregation reached the two-year mark. An external SIU Implementation Advisory Panel (IAP) was renewed, whose members monitor, assess, and report on issues related to SIU operations. In addition to the IAP, CSC consulted with stakeholders and individuals with diverse perspectives in order to ensure the success of the SIU model.

Significant change management initiatives implemented within SIUs have resulted in a steady increase in compliance with offering 4 hours of out of cell time, including 2 hours of meaningful interaction for each individual offender. In 2021-22, the percentage of offenders in SIUs offered opportunities for 4 hours out of cell had increased to 95% from 85% in 2020-21. As well, the percentage of time offenders actually availed themselves of the 2 hours of interaction time also increased to 55% from 45% in 2020-2021. Furthermore, the percentage who remained in the general population for 120 days or more after being released from a SIU increased to 66% from 56% in 2020-21.

This year, two new Commissioner’s Directives (CDs) were developed and promulgated, in consultation with experts and stakeholders. CD 100 Gender Diverse Offenders and CD 574 Sexual Coercion and Violence provide direction on procedural changes that reflect CSC’s commitment to meeting the needs of its offender population in ways that respect their human rights, ensure their safety and dignity as well as the safety of others in the institutions and community.

In 2021-22, sustained reductions in federal admissions and ongoing efforts for safe releases have resulted in a decline in federal inmates during the pandemic period. Again, this fiscal year, there has been an increase in the percentage of offenders not readmitted to federal custody within 5 years following sentence expiry, from 84.7% in 2016-17 to 87.8% in 2021-22.

I am proud of CSC’s accomplishments in 2021-22 and look forward to continuing work to enhance correctional environments, deliver positive results and keep Canadians safe.

Responses to Recommendations

  1. I repeat my recommendation to prohibit any indefinite dry cell placement beyond 72 hours. 

     

No dry cell placement is indefinite. CSC has improved oversight of dry cell placements that exceed 72 hours. As stated in Interim Policy Bulletin 684, which came into effect on April 28, 2022, when a dry cell placement exceeds 48 hours, the Institutional Head (IH) will notify, in writing, the Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Operations (ADCCO) in the Region. When the placement exceeds 72 hours, the IH, must notify, in writing, both the ADCCO and the Director General (DG), Security at National Headquarters. The ADCCO and DG, Security, will then receive an update every 24 hours thereafter, which will include a detailed rationale for maintaining the offender in the dry cell. The review conducted by RHQ and NHQ must ensure the rationale to maintain the inmate in a dry cell is well supported, dynamic, and subject to ongoing review.

With the passing of Bill C-19, which received Royal Assent on June 23, 2022, changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) now requires that inmates be visited daily by a registered health care professional to ensure the ongoing monitoring of their physical and mental health. Furthermore, the Minister will be putting forward additional reforms in the near future.

  1. With respect to CSC’s drug strategy, I recommend the following set of measures: 

     
    1. The Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) be rolled out nationally, in tandem with PNEP implementation. 

       

CSC has received and reviewed the external evaluation reports that have been completed to support the effective implementation of the PNEP and OPS programs. The expert report on PNEP indicated that participation rates may be the result of considerations such as stigma, fear, lack of understanding of harm reduction initiatives, and the nature of addiction.

CSC has established an action plan in response to the report including the above mentioned considerations, and has begun consultation with national stakeholders. To date, in response to the report, CSC has updated health promotion information for PNEP and OPS and has implemented the availability of tools in the OPS including safer snorting supplies and vein finders to reduce the risk of infection and trauma associated with poor injection practices. A training to increase understanding of substance use and stigma is currently being provided by an external expert to CSC’s health staff. Recent funding received has expanded CSC’s health resources including the recruitment of nurses and psychiatrists to ensure timely assessment, expanded hours of service delivery and staffing of future OPS at additional CSC institutions.

Similarly, these resources along with the engagement of National Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) Medical Advisor is helping CSC to eliminate its OAT waitlist. Naloxone is now available in every site, accessible to health care staff in the emergency drug kits and to correctional staff in strategic various locations within accommodation units where there are dedicated staff, or in inmate accessible storage kits in accommodation units where there are no dedicated staff (e.g., private family visits structures, houses). In addition, the officer in charge of conducting external escorts or ground transfers of inmates carry naloxone on their person as part of the required equipment. It is also provided to offenders upon release to the community. CSC is also exploring opportunities to further increase availability of naloxone to inmates. In the coming year CSC will implement other recommendations including consideration of the distribution of a discrete transport case to facilitate the safer return of used needles and an update of materials to inform individuals that there is no requirement to share PNEP participation with the Parole Board of Canada. In addition, external experts have resumed PNEP evaluation visits to institutions with the objective to consult with patients and staff, provide additional information and enable further review and input on the effective implementation of the PNEP in CSC.

The interim external expert’s report highlighted the importance of adequate preparation for the effective implementation of these programs. In keeping with the report’s recommendations and given the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not feasible to implement PNEP and OPS at all sites in twelve months. Before implementation, extensive work is required, including engagement with the sites, consultation with stakeholders and labour partners, infrastructure changes, procurement of supplies, and a review of Standing Orders. The identification of sites for implementation will be based on the current health needs of the population as well as enabling infrastructure. The four sites that had been identified for implementation of PNEP and OPS prior to the pandemic will be prioritized, and CSC will work towards identifying additional sites for implementation within the next twelve months.

Consistent with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS) and in recognition that problematic substance use is a health issue, CSC has implemented a range of prevention, harm reduction and treatments to work with individuals in response to this need. CSC is currently revising Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 585 - National Drug Strategy to align with the CDSS and reflect the interdisciplinary, evidence based approach that is being implemented to respond to federally-incarcerated persons who have a substance use disorder.

CSC recognizes the importance of preventing drug and substance use and has implemented prevention initiatives, including outreach programs such as Narcotics Anonymous/Alcoholics Anonymous, Peer Education Counsellors, and pathways initiatives for Indigenous inmates.

In addition, OAT, psychosocial support and peer support are among CSC’s suite of comprehensive health services. CSC is currently implementing Self-Management and Recovery Training, an evidence-based approach to substance use disorder.

CSC has recently made enhancements to its Correctional Training Program (CTP) curriculum to include modules on substance use and harm reduction initiatives. As well, CSC is developing a substance use workshop for correctional program officers to enhance their knowledge and skills for working with offenders for whom substance use is a risk factor. The workshop will be delivered to correctional program officers by end of fiscal year 2023. With the enhancement to training activities for officers who are often in direct and frequent contact with offenders, it is CSC’s objective that appropriate interventions and corrective measures will be used as part of their considerations in addressing offenders with addictions or substance abuse disorders.

In addition, to support the safety and security of the offenders, staff and visitors in institutions, CSC will continue to implement measures to address the introduction of contraband and trafficking within federal institutions. The implementation of effective contraband detection technologies, such as Body scanners and more sophisticated drone detection systems will assist in reducing the presence of drugs within correctional facilities and in the identification of those involved in the introduction and trafficking of drugs and substances.

  1. I recommend that CSC prioritize the current review of the security classification process, particularly as it applies to Indigenous women. In the interim, I recommend that Indigenous Social History (ISH) be assessed in a meaningful way for each decision rendered and that case management staff are provided with adequate training and support to apply the ISH. 

     

CSC uses a comprehensive and holistic approach to determine initial security classification, including actuarial tools, structured professional judgment approaches, assessment of individual case specifics, a comprehensive analysis and, when applicable, consideration of Indigenous Social History factors.

With respect to reclassification, CSC uses the Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW), in conjunction with professional judgment to determine a woman’s security level.

CSC is proactively undertaking a revalidation exercise of the Custody Rating Scale (CRS) for women and racialized offenders, in collaboration with external experts, to ensure the tool remains valid and reliable. CSC has also partnered with the University of Regina who is working, at arms-length, to develop an Indigenous-informed security classification process, from the ground up, to ensure it is gender-informed and culturally relevant for Indigenous peoples. This project is in its third year and, as a next step, Indigenous communities will be consulted.

CSC has engaged in significant staff training to ensure staff consider Indigenous Social History (ISH) in a meaningful way for initial security classification decisions and re-classification. ISH training is included in the initial training for Parole Officers and is also a component of the Indigenous Intervention Centres (IIC) training. In addition to that training, in 2018, CSC developed the Indigenous Social History Tool (ISHT) that provides guidance on how to consider Indigenous Social History in case management practices, recommendations and decisions for Indigenous offenders. Indigenous Intergenerational Trauma and its impact on Indigenous offender rehabilitation was included in the Parole Officer Continuous Development (POCD) 2019/2020 training. CSC also collaborated with KAIROS Canada in 2019 to facilitate Train-the-Trainer sessions, which resulted in CSC staff being certified in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE). This training better positions staff to understand the impacts and to make trauma informed recommendations and decisions, ensuring that the ISH is appropriately considered. Foundations for Indigenous Corrections (FIC) is a new mandatory training for all non Correctional Officer (CX) staff focusing on knowledge of Indigenous history and culturally specific considerations including: recognizing ISH and its application within CSC and the implementation of ISH considerations when working with Indigenous offenders.

CSC is strengthening its compliance monitoring and reviews to ensure that there is proper consideration of the ISH for security decisions.

  1. Once again, I recommend that the level system for maximum-security women be immediately rescinded. 

     

The level system is an essential element in the effective management of women offenders as it provides opportunity for maximum security offenders to engage in their correctional interventions while modeling acceptable behaviour to support their transition from maximum security to lower security levels. In addition to the interventions, services and activities offered to maximum-security women on the Secure Unit (SU), inmates have access to shared space such as healthcare, spiritual, recreational and vocational areas outside of the unit. They are also provided access to activities and interventions outside of the SU deemed appropriate to the needs and risk specific to the offender. This is unique to women’s corrections and allows for a graduated transition and ultimately a more successful reintegration. This is facilitated through the Reintegration Movement Levels that are outlined in CD 578 Intensive Intervention Strategy in Women Offender Institutions/Units. This responsive approach allows for earlier interaction with general population and eases the transition from a highly structured environment to a community-living environment.

The Reintegration Movement plans are reviewed every two weeks at the Interdisciplinary Team meeting with the aim of reducing security restrictions and successfully integrating the women into lower security levels as soon as possible. Without the ability to allow interaction and access to general population activities, the transition to lower security classification will inevitably be slower. As such the Reintegration Movement levels is an integrated model that allows SU women to minimize time spent on the SU and maximize reintegration outcomes.

  1. I reiterate my recommendation for alternative accommodations for women housed in Secure Units and their eventual closure. Funding and resources currently dedicated to Secure Unit operation should be redirected to better support and address the unique needs of women, particularly Indigenous women. 

     

Alternative accommodations, such as the Structured Living Environment, Pathways Unit, Enhanced Support Houses and Structured Intervention Units are well established at women offender institutions, and provide responsive interventions in accordance with risk assessments, security needs and correctional planning.

The secure units are there to manage the higher risks that some women present. In addition, maximum-security women who reside in the SU have access to shared spaces in the main compound of the institution (e.g., gym, recreation facilities, health services, spiritual and vocational areas) as well as activities and interventions provided outside the SU, as appropriate.

CSC will continue to examine its policies and procedures to identify further opportunities to facilitate the timely assessment for the movement of women offenders to lower security levels, while ensuring the continuum of mental health supports, cultural activities, and correctional programming and interventions as required. Through robust review and inclusion of the Indigenous Social History in all decision-making, CSC has noted some improvements.

In 2014-15, there were an average of 71 women classified as maximum security, and this number has decreased to 56 in 2021-2022. In addition, the rate of transition to higher classification for women has steadily declined since 2017-18 from a rate of 92.6 (rate per 1000) to 62.8 in 2021-2022.

Building on the current allocations of funding and resources, CSC will explore other avenues for funding to better support and respond to the unique needs of women, particularly Indigenous women.

  1. I recommend that CSC: 

     
    1. Collect, track, and publicly report on participation in the Mother-Child Program to better understand who it is serving and how the program is functioning. 

       

Building on the several decades of the operation of the mother-child program, the Women Offender Sector (WOS) has engaged with the Internal Audit & Evaluation Sector to include the evaluation/audit of the Mother-Child Program in its annual plan and to inform any adjustments that may be required. In the meantime, WOS will continue to review the programs requirements with a view to increasing the participation of eligible women offenders, especially Indigenous offenders.

In the meantime, to increase women offenders’ awareness of the program, WOS will develop and distribute a bulletin to be posted at all women offender institutions promoting the program, its admission criteria and the application process. In addition, WOS will enhance its engagement with external partners and agencies (e.g. provincial and territorial corrections as well as child welfare agencies and where applicable, Indigenous child welfare agencies, etc.) to strengthen our mutual collaboration. As a first step, WOS will engage with provincial and territorial correctional partners through a Heads of Corrections meeting where individual and shared responsibilities will be discussed to enhance case preparation and transition for women offenders.

With respect to reporting, WOS has engaged with the Information Management Services (IMS) Branch to explore ways to ensure information related to participation in the Institutional Mother-Child Program is captured to allow for collection, tracking and analysis of the program data. CSC will continue to ensure that participation data is adequately collected and, where appropriate and with due consideration to the Privacy Act requirements, publicly reported.

  1. I recommend that, without any further delay, CSC outfit all of its prisoner escort vehicles, including those currently in service, with seatbelt assemblies, handholds and other safety and restraint features that would meet its obligation to provide safe and humane custody of prisoners under security escort. I further recommend that CSC return to the drawing table to reconsider its planned “modernization” of its security escort fleet that is more responsive to Office concerns and recommendations. 

     

CSC has made considerable progress with the modernization of the escort fleet. To date, approximately 21% of our fleet of security escort vehicles have been replaced with new models with another 14% scheduled for this fiscal year. These are equipped with cameras to allow live viewing by escort officers in the main cabin, improved heating/air conditioning for offenders, emergency exits, an L-shaped bench in both sides of the insert allowing taller offenders to extend their legs along the length of the insert, and the extension of the length of the security insert.

Additionally, CSC will be seeking official confirmation from Transport Canada that the current security escort vehicles are in compliance with the provisions of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

  1. I recommend that CSC: 

     
    1. Develop policy to ensure all Black prisoners have consistent access to appropriate personal care products and that a wider selection of food items that reflect the cultural diversity of the prison population is included on the national canteen list. 

       

Based on consultation with inmates at various sites, CSC has made available culturally appropriate items such as food, and hygiene and hair products of various brands.

Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 890, Inmate Owned Canteens specifies that regional canteen lists are to include products, such as personal care and food items, that take into consideration the religious, spiritual, cultural, and gender diversity needs of the inmate population. To ensure consistent access for all Black inmates, CSC will highlight the importance of this existing policy requirement with Regions, and will conduct a review exercise to confirm that personal care and food items are available in all canteens.

Do-rags and hair extensions are currently being assessed for inclusion on the list of approved items in CD 566-12, Personal Property of Offenders. The CD is currently being updated and going through formal consultation. The OCI’s recommendations and comments, along with those offered by internal and external stakeholders, will be taken into consideration.

  1. I recommend that CSC conduct a comparative review, in partnership with Black community groups or external experts, to examine cumulative time spent by Black individuals before reclassification and cascading to lower levels of security. 

     

CSC is currently finalizing a quantitative research study examining admission, in-custody, and community supervision indicators for ethnocultural offenders. This includes results that are relevant to the issue of classification, and incorporates sub-analyses specific to Black offenders. The quantitative study will provide critical information for evidence informed services, programs and interventions by looking at: diversity trends, admission profiles, in-custody experiences, and release outcomes. CSC is also finalizing qualitative research, in collaboration with Nipissing University, to better understand the correctional experience of offenders on conditional release who self-identified during CSC’s admission screening protocol as being of ethnocultural background, including Black offenders.

In addition, CSC will take the following actions:

  • Conduct research examining the cumulative time spent by Black individuals before reclassification and cascading to lower levels of security. This research will be completed during 2023-24.

     

  • Develop and implement a consultation strategy that includes consultations on the research questions and methodology, before being launched, as well as a follow up discussion on the results. Consultations would include members of CSC’s advisory committees, Black community groups and/or external experts with interest in criminal / social justice matters. Consultations will begin in 2022-23 and continue into 2023-24.

     

  1. I recommend that CSC conduct a systemic review of its use of the Security Threat Groups classification criteria to ensure that only relevant information corroborated by external law enforcement, court or judicial authorities, and supported by evidence, are used to designate an individual with a Security Threat Group. 

     

Commissioner’s Directive 568-3, Identification and Management of Security Threat Groups is currently under review. The Preventive Security and Intelligence (PSI) Branch recognizes the need to place more emphasis on dynamic behaviours and that Security Threat Groups (STG) affiliation alone should not preclude an offender’s ability to participate in institutional level activities or initiatives, nor be considered a significant risk factor in and of itself. Every law enforcement agency (including CSC) has its own processes for verification of STG affiliation that are tailored to their particular operational environment. CSC works closely with criminal justice and law enforcement partners, as well as judicial partners to access relevant information related to STGs. As such, Security Intelligence Officers (SIOs) regularly utilize information from these agencies (particularly police) in the assessment process.

While relevant information from law enforcement and external partners is considered to designate/assess an individual with a STG, CSC also takes into consideration other information that can be supported with evidence, including those that may not be readily available to external agencies.

CSC relies on the training, experience and knowledge of its staff, specifically its SIOs, to utilize these criteria when making their recommendations to the decision-maker. Offenders are included in this process and have an opportunity to provide their own information for consideration.

Accurate STG affiliation information is an important component in population management, the security of institutions, and the safety of the persons therein. As such, CSC is committed to continuing to refine its affiliation processes based on research and best practices. To this end, CSC recently promulgated an Interim Policy Bulletin related to CD 568-3 and an Assessment of STG Affiliation Tool. The purpose of this tool is to provide clarification and national standards for the assessment of affiliation process, as well as the recording of this information.

CSC is currently engaged in multiple research projects related to STGs on various topics, including characteristics of STG affiliated offenders, pathways to STG involvement, and disaffiliation/disengagement. CSC will review the research projects to develop takeaways that can be used to enhance our policies and processes related to STGs. The research projects are all underway, and expected to be finalized and available for review by early next fiscal year.

  1. I recommend that, within the next year, the Service develop a gang disaffiliation strategy. This strategy should: 

     
    1. Incorporate best practices and lessons learned from community-based initiatives, correctional jurisdictions, and other public safety domains. 

       

CSC responds to the unique needs of ethnocultural and Indigenous offenders, by providing them with culturally-sensitive interventions, programs and services. CSC also partners with community organizations, to enhance ethnocultural and Indigenous interventions, both inside institutions and in the community.

CSC recently hired an external expert to assist in development of training related to STG affiliation (including disengagement) as part of the Parole Officer Continuous Development Training for 2022. CSC has also completed a research review of relevant literature, which will inform next steps in the area of disengagement.

In addition, CSC is working to develop a multi-disciplinary, comprehensive inventory of STG-related activities and initiatives, both in the institutions and in the community. These activities include those linked to enforcement, management, education, prevention, and disengagement. Once finalized, the inventory will be used to identify gaps, challenges and best practices. This analysis will also support strategic planning to continue to enhance CSC’s approach to STGs, specifically as it relates to interventions and disengagement.

The analysis and identification of gaps, challenges and best practices has recently started. The analysis and inventory is expected to be finalized early next fiscal year.

  1. I again recommend that CSC promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black individuals and publicly report on actionable changes to policy and practice that will effectively reduce the over-representation of these groups among those exposed to uses of force. 

     

Work is underway related to use of force incidents. A research project was initiated to explore the relationship between use of force and race, which will further enhance CSC’s understanding of any potential issues. The results of the research project will be shared and used as part of the analysis of the use of force incidents. Once completed, CSC will engage with stakeholders, including members of the National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee, the National Indigenous Advisory Committee, the National Association Active in Criminal Justice, Citizen Advisory Committee Members and the OCI, to obtain their input.

Should any trends emerge from the analysis, CSC will develop an action plan, in consultation with the stakeholders, to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black individuals in the use of force incidents. The research project is underway and is expected to be completed in December 2022.

In addition, use of force decision making scenarios are addressed annually within CSC’s continuous training program for Correctional Officers/Primary Worker group and are an essential component in our Correctional Officer/Primary Worker recruit training. Recruits and front line officers are trained to evaluate each individual situation and select the least restrictive measure consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders.

  1. I recommend that CSC expand its staff diversity training to include representation from Black community groups and external experts who can provide a more complete and relevant perspective. This training should be mandatory, in-person and oriented to practical and lived experiences of Black people. 

     

CSC will consult Black community groups and external experts to review CSC’s diversity training to get their views and perspectives. A national implementation strategy will be developed and submitted for approval at the Learning and Development Governance Board.

With respect to recruitment to enhance staff diversity, in 2021, CSC has set representation objectives for visible minority employees that further exceed workforce availability and take into account the offender population.

  1. I recommend that CSC develop a training program for front-line health professionals. This program should draw on the most recent research on racial bias and its impact on medical decisions and procedures. 

     

CSC understands that implicit and unconscious racial bias is present in a variety of social systems in Canada, including Canada’s health care system. Given it has been recognized as a systemic issue, CSC is seized with the need to reflect and act to eliminate any racial bias and/or discrimination in its operations and practices. Similar to the larger health care community, CSC Health Services is working to address racial bias and its impact on medical decisions and procedures to create an equitable environment. Although systemic change will take time, we are committed to put into place actions to start addressing this pressing issue immediately. In consultation with external experts in racial bias, CSC commits to providing health care professionals, including front line health professionals, with ongoing professional development to deliver the most recent information available for Indigenous, Black, and other Ethnocultural and racialized groups.

  1. I recommend that CSC develop a national strategy that specifically addresses the unique lived experiences and barriers faced by federally sentenced Black individuals. This strategy should include the following elements: 

     

While CSC has taken action to address gaps for Black offenders, and that outcomes for Black offenders have continued to improve (for example, 89.7% of Black offenders are not re-admitted to federal custody within five years following the end of their sentence, as compared to 89.6% for the total population), CSC believes that more can and should be done for Black offenders as they are the second most overrepresented population in CSC’s care and custody. In April of 2022, prior to the OCI recommendation, CSC had begun developing a Black Offender Strategy to identify ways to improve Black offender correctional outcomes. CSC has since expanded its strategy to also address the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s recommendations.

CSC’s Black Offender Strategy will be developed by reviewing and analyzing relevant reports and recommendations, current offerings for Black offenders and successful past pilots, research results and program performance measures, and the organizational resourcing model. CSC will review the results of two new ethnocultural studies that provide information on Black offenders to identify strengths and opportunities for action, including a new qualitative study on ethnocultural offenders produced by external researchers from Nipissing University. The Strategy will define priority areas for future research, performance measures and resource needs within CSC. It will be reported under CSC’s Anti-Racism Framework and position CSC to develop and implement bold, evidence-based actions that better respond to the needs of Black offenders. A closer look at the evidence will allow CSC to better explore the needs of Black offenders against the resources it has in place, and whether they are most effective.

At present, CSC has approximately 60 staff in the capacity of Ethnocultural Site Coordinators. In addition, some regions have piloted a Reintegration Officer position to inform future considerations. CSC will evaluate these roles and consider whether other dedicated resources or options should be explored to support offenders.

The Central Ontario District has championed the development of a Black Social History (BSH) initiative. The Ontario Region is piloting it across both districts and at the intake assessment unit of Joyceville Institution. Within the region, a guidance document was prepared and shared with all implicated staff along with targeted training. CSC will be reviewing the results of this pilot, including key learnings and the Impact of Race and Culture Assessments, to determine next steps and potential scalability of this initiative nationally. CSC is also exploring targeted training on the Ethnocultural Situational Stressors, which are outlined in the Ethnocultural Offender Responsivity Kit, to assist Parole Officers in understanding the background, meaning, and relevance of each stressor and how to consider ethnocultural offender needs and identify the most beneficial programs, interventions and services within the initial correctional plan and subsequent updates to it.

Over the years, CSC has produced several reports on ethnocultural offenders that include disaggregated data by race and ethnicity. CSC will continue to look at areas for further research, and will also look at its performance measurement framework to ensure that reporting on outcomes is broken down by race and gender so that CSC can monitor results in an ongoing way through the Departmental Results Report.

CSC works regularly with community stakeholders, volunteers, and partners who provide support to offenders. We are currently enhancing our national framework, tools and outreach in order to better share and promote opportunities available to offenders in communities across Canada. This will help ensure that Black-led community groups are able to be involved more consistently with inmates both inside our institutions, and upon an offender’s release, in order to promote their successful reintegration.

  1. I recommend that CSC immediately develop national policy for the use of Voluntary Limited Association Ranges (VLARs) and any other sub-population living unit or range that clearly identifies: 

     

The routine on the Voluntary Limited Association Range (VLAR) units/ranges mirrors the routine of the mainstream population and there are no restrictions related to conditions of confinement. Offenders are permitted time out of their cell and provided the opportunity for meaningful human contact, and have access to their case management team, programs, health services, visits, showers, laundry, yard, gym, employment, etc. It is also important to note that programs are offered to inmates in VLARs and other sub-populations, and being in these units does not constitute an inclusion or exclusion criterion for program enrollment. The decision to attend programs is ultimately made by each offender.

VLAR’s are currently being reviewed to see if there are any gaps to be addressed.

  1. I recommend that CSC consult with Indigenous community groups on the job description, role, mandate, and hiring process for the Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections position, and that they report publicly on their plans and short-term timelines to create and staff this position. 

     

CSC will be consulting the National Indigenous Advisory Committee, which has members from First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities, on the work description, role and mandate of the Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections, and will keep the Committee apprised on the plans and timelines to staff the position.

  1. I recommend the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada include the Correctional Service of Canada and the Office of the Correctional Investigator in the development and implementation of the Indigenous Justice Strategy (IJS). Furthermore, the IJS should seek to redistribute a significant portion of the current resources within the federal correctional system to Indigenous communities and groups for the care, custody, and supervision of Indigenous Peoples. 

     

The over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system is a serious and complex issue with many root causes, including systemic discrimination and the legacy of colonialism. CSC is committed to accelerating work to improve outcomes for Indigenous offenders in federal corrections in meaningful ways, and is applying heightened efforts to address the systemic factors that led to this issue.

The factors bringing Indigenous people into federal institutions and preventing them from safely and successfully reintegrating upon release go well beyond the capacity of federal corrections alone to address. CSC is eager to complement and expand on its internal efforts to address the over-incarceration of Indigenous people through active participation in whole-of-government initiatives, such as the Indigenous Justice Strategy (IJS), to develop bold new approaches to the administration of criminal justice and bolster levers for safe and successful reintegration.

The Government of Canada is working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. Addressing endemic differential outcomes for Indigenous people in federal corrections through approaches, which are responsive to their unique needs and circumstances, is an important foundation for this renewed relationship. In January 2021, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada was mandated with developing, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous partners, provinces, and territories, an IJS to address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system. Early pre-engagement conversations with Indigenous partners have demonstrated that this work must address matters that span across the justice system continuum, from prevention to re-integration.

CSC understands that effectively developing the IJS requires a broad, collaborative, inclusive, distinctions and regionally-based engagement process with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, and justice stakeholders and practitioners, which should model the Government’s commitment to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, respecting existing relationships, and embodying the spirit of nation-to-nation and Inuit-Crown, government-to-government relations. As such, CSC is represented at all levels of the federal IJS governance, which is informing the federal contribution to the cooperative development of an IJS that identifies legislative, program and policy initiatives to address overrepresentation of Indigenous people and systemic discrimination in the Canadian justice system.

CSC will continue to support the IJS and its engagement processes, including through participation in Indigenous- and Justice-led engagements with Indigenous peoples, provinces, and territories, through horizontal collaboration across government departments and agencies, and by developing a coordinated response to proposed corrections-focused priorities for the IJS. Engagement on the IJS is expected to continue through 2023. A draft IJS will be developed based on the recommendations arising from engagement, and will be shared with partners for collective consideration. The recommendation from the Office of the Correctional Investigator to “redistribute a significant portion of the current resources within the federal correctional system to Indigenous communities and groups for the care, custody, and supervision of Indigenous peoples” has been noted by both Justice Canada and CSC, and is being included in the list of recommendations for collective consideration as part of this process.

CSC will continue to work with Indigenous stakeholders with a vested interest in federal corrections through the delivery of culturally responsive programming, interventions and support services. CSC's efforts are part of a whole-of-government approach, working with horizontal partners, organizations, all levels of government, Indigenous communities and Elders to address issues spanning a whole continuum, before, while and after a person comes into contact with the criminal justice system.

Footnote 1

Examples of the conflict between harm reduction (needle exchange) and zero tolerance to drugs in federal prisons include: a) Discipline and charges continue to be implemented if the prisoner is found to be in possession of illicit drugs or drug paraphernalia (except for the PNEP kit and supplies provided); b) PNEP kits can be seized if the syringe or needle is altered, missing or observed outside the kit; and, c) Drugs and drug paraphernalia (except official CSC-issued PNEP kit and supplies) are considered contraband items, subject to disciplinary measures.

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Footnote 2

Leonard, L. (October 2020). Evaluation of the Prison Needle Exchange Program – Interim Report to March 2020. University of Ottawa: Ottawa. (Unpublished). 

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Footnote 3

Government of Canada. (July 8, 2019). Canadian drugs and substances strategy. Canada.ca.

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Footnote 4

This data was not disaggregated by gender. The length of SIU placements at women’s institutions is much lower than that for men’s. Women represented less than 5% of all individuals in SIUs in 2020-21.

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Footnote 5

Hannah-Moffat, K., & Shaw, M. (2001). Taking risks: Incorporating gender and culture into the classification and assessment of federally sentenced women in Canada. Status of Women Canada.

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Footnote 6

Webster, C., & Doob, A. (2004). Classification without validity or equity: An empirical examination of the custody rating scale for federally sentenced women offenders in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 46 (4), 395–422.

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Footnote 7

Public Safety Canada. (2012). Marginalized: The Aboriginal women’s experience in federal corrections. 

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Footnote 8

Office of the Auditor General of Canada. (2017). Report 5-preparing women offenders for release - Correctional Service Canada. (See sections 5.14 to 5.28)

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Footnote 9

Public Safety Canada. (2012). Marginalized: The Aboriginal women’s experience in federal corrections. 

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Footnote 10

CSC & Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. (April 1990). Creating choices: The report of the task force on federally sentenced women. Page 68.

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Footnote 11

For example: Wakefield, S., & Wildeman, C. (2018, January). How Parental Incarceration Harms Children and What to Do About It . National Council on Family Relations; Murray, J., Farrington, D. P., & Sekol, I. (2012). Children’s antisocial behavior, mental health, drug use, and educational performance after parental incarceration: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138 (2), 175–210.

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Footnote 12

CSC & Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. (April 1990). Creating choices: The report of the task force on federally sentenced women. 

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Footnote 13

Library of Parliament. (January 2022). Correctional Service Canada’s institutional Mother-Child Program. (Unpublished). Note: This unpublished report was requested by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Department of Public Safety. According to CSC, they have not validated the contents of this report.

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Footnote 14

Cowie, C. (February 8, 2017). Presentation to the Senate of Canada Standing Committee on Human Rights , as cited on page 45 of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights (June 2021). Human rights of federally sentenced persons. Senate of Canada. 

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Footnote 15

Based on data obtained from CSC’s Corporate Reporting System – Modernized (CRS-M; April 2022), there were a total of 596 federally incarcerated women.

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Footnote 16

Public Safety Canada. (June 27, 2008). Minister Day Tightens Rules for Mother-Child Program to Ensure Child Protection. Canada.ca

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Footnote 17

Data obtained from CSC’s Data Warehouse (April 2022).

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Footnote 18

Library of Parliament. (January 2022). Correctional Service Canada’s institutional Mother-Child Program. (Unpublished).

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Footnote 19

CSC & Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. (April 1990). Creating choices: The report of the task force on federally sentenced women. 

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Footnote 20

By way of the errors and omissions review of this annual report, CSC indicated anecdotally that one Inuit woman did in fact participate in the Mother-Child Program; however, this office could not verify this information with CSC’s own program data.

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Footnote 21

According to data obtained from CSC’s CRS-M on April 28, 2022, Indigenous women accounted for 50% of incarcerated women.

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Footnote 22

Miller, K. (2017). Canada’s Mother-Child program and incarcerated aboriginal mothers: How and why the program is inaccessible to aboriginal female offenders. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 37 (1).

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Footnote 23

Ibid. 

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Footnote 24

Office of the Correctional Investigator. (OCI; 2017). Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2016–2017. 

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Footnote 25

CSC began the procurement process to replace its security escort vehicles in 2019. It was expected that its entire fleet of security escort vehicles (essentially small Dodge or Ford minivans) would be replaced by April 2024.

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Footnote 26

OCI. (November 2013). A case study of diversity in corrections: The Black inmate experience in federal penitentiaries. 

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Footnote 27

Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. (1994). Racism behind bars: The treatment of Black and other racial minority prisoners in Ontario prisons. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Also, see: Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. (1995). Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

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Footnote 28

Owusu-Bempah, A., Jung, M., Sbaï, F., Wilton, A. S., & Kouyoumdjian, F. (2021). Race and incarceration: The representation and characteristics of Black people in provincial correctional facilities in Ontario, Canada. Race and Justice. 

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Footnote 29

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2020). A disparate impact: Second interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service. Government of Ontario.

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Footnote 30

Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. (June 2021). Human rights of federally sentenced persons. Senate of Canada.

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Footnote 31

Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. (2019, February). Interim Report – Study on the human rights of federally-sentenced persons: The most basic human right is to be treated as a human being (1 February 2017 - 26 March 2018). Page 43. Senate of Canada.

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Footnote 32

Statistics Canada. (February 27, 2019). Diversity of the Black population in Canada: An overview. Statcan.Gc.Ca.

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Footnote 33

White includes those self-identifying as White, Euro-Eastern, Euro-Western, Euro-Southern, Euro-Northern, and Euro-French.

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Footnote 34

Indigenous includes those self-identifying as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.

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Footnote 35

The category of Peoples of Colour includes 14 self-identified visible minority groups (excluding Indigenous and Black) based on race categories in CSC’s Offender Management System (OMS).

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Footnote 36

CSC response to OCI documentation request, August 24, 2021.

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Footnote 37

Quote taken from CSC response to OCI documentation request, August 24, 2021.

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Footnote 38

Quote taken from CSC response to OCI documentation request, August 24, 2021.

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Footnote 39

For more information, see: CSC (October 2021, last updated). CSC Anti-racism framework and actions. CSC-SCC.Gc.Ca.

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Footnote 40

CSC, CRS-M.

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Footnote 41

All 12 interviews with Black women were conducted at Grand Valley Institution given the majority of Black women are incarcerated at GVI.

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Footnote 42

See, Thomas, Z. (September 9, 2020). Hair and skin are important to a black child’s identity – but many social workers don’t understand this. The Conversation.

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Footnote 43

Kimeria, C. (October 17, 2019). African Scientists are leading the next wave of innovation and research on Black skin and hair. Quartz Africa.

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Footnote 44

Legal Defense Fund. (July 5, 2022, website last updated ). Natural Hair Discrimination. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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Footnote 45

Unless indicated otherwise, the data reported here and in the following sections was not disaggregated by gender. By way of the errors and omissions review of this annual report, CSC clarified that there has not been a Black female prisoner classified as maximum security at initial Offender Security Level since 2018-19. Black women also served less time incarcerated (% sentence served) than other populations. That being said, removing women offenders from the equation results in no noticeable change in the reported findings.

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Footnote 46

CSC Data Warehouse (February 23, 2022).

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Footnote 47

By way of the errors and omissions review of this annual report, CSC responded to this finding saying: “It is unclear what exactly is being referred to here… If no affiliation exists, it is unclear how this would negatively effect [sic] the offender.”

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Footnote 48

CSC Form 1184–02: Assessment of Affiliation with a Security Threat Group is used to assess an offender’s affiliation with a security threat group.

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Footnote 49

Wortley, S., & Owusu-Bempah, A. (2011). The usual suspects: Police stop and search practices in Canada. Policing and Society , 21(4), 395–407; and Cotter, A. (February 16, 2022). Perceptions of and experiences with police and the justice system among the Black and Indigenous populations in Canada . Statistics Canada.

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Footnote 50

Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. (June 2021). Human rights of federally sentenced persons . Senate of Canada. (Recommendation 61).

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Footnote 51

Quote taken from CSC’s response to the OCI’s information request provided to the Office on April 11, 2022.

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Footnote 52

OCI. (November 2013). A case study of diversity in corrections: The Black inmate experience in federal penitentiaries. 

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Footnote 53

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2020). A disparate impact: Second interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service. Government of Ontario.

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Footnote 54

Ibid. 

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Footnote 55

R. v. Anderson , 2021 NSCA 62.

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Footnote 56

Research and Statistics Division. (September 2017). Spotlight on Gladue: Challenges, experiences, and possibilities in Canada’s criminal justice system . Department of Justice.

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Footnote 57

R. v. “X”, 2014 NSPC 95 (CanLII)

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Footnote 58

Department of Justice Canada. (August 13, 2021). Pre-sentencing impact of race and culture assessments receive government of Canada funding. Canada.Ca.

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Footnote 59

My Office has previously reported on the toxic culture at Edmonton Institution (see, 2018-2019 Annual Report) and has again reported on it in this Annual Report.

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Footnote 60

CSC. (August 31, 2021). Call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion: Annex A: Correctional Service of Canada workforce analysis. CSC-SCC.Gc.Ca.

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Footnote 61

Hoffman, K. M., Trawalter, S., Axt, J. R., & Oliver, M. N. (2016). Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (16), 4296–4301.

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Footnote 62

CORCAN is a special operating agency within CSC. It provides vocational and on-the-job training, in addition to essential skills training and employability services to incarcerated persons as well as those under supervision by CSC in the community.

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Footnote 63

CSC Data Warehouse (April 7, 2022).

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Footnote 64

Owusu-Bempah, A., Jung, M., Sbaï, F., Wilton, A. S., & Kouyoumdjian, F. (2021). Race and incarceration: The representation and characteristics of Black People in provincial correctional facilities in Ontario, Canada. Race and Justice. 

Return to footnote 64 referrer 

Footnote 65

Arbour, L. (1996). Commission of inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston . Solicitor General Canada.

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Footnote 66

See, OCI (2020). Annual Report 2019-2020 – National systemic investigation on therapeutic ranges. 

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Footnote 67

We decided to focus our investigation on areas outside of the SIUs, as it is currently being monitored and assessed by a newly appointed Advisory Panel chaired by Mr. Howard Sapers.

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Footnote 68

Although our focus was on maximum-security institutions, our findings have been found to generalize to some medium-security institutions as well.

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Footnote 69

Prolonged solitary confinement refers to solitary confinement for a period in excess of 15 consecutive days.

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Footnote 70

See, OCI. (April 23, 2020). First update on the impacts of COVID-19 on federal corrections; and OCI. (2022). Annual Report 2020-2021 – An investigation of the use of medical isolation in federal Corrections. Page 62.

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Footnote 71

Since this investigation occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was sometimes difficult to ascertain the impact of pandemic measures on out-of-cell time.

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Footnote 72

The term “general labourer” refers to odd jobs that are required for the day such as cleaning showers, serving meals, or cleaning the range.

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Footnote 73

A prisoner can have multiple work assignments. The numbers in the cells of this table refer to work assignments. The number of prisoners employed can be found at the bottom of the table.

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Footnote 74

In response to the OCI’s 2020-2021 Annual Report, CSC stated: “Despite the pandemic, CSC has been able to maintain the number of inmates in SIUs at an average of approximately 150 across Canada, which roughly represents less than 1.5% of federal inmate population in Canada. This points to a shift in mindset on the part of both staff and inmates. CSC continues to make active offers to inmates for time out-of-cell, meaningful human contact, and participation in activities and programs that support their rehabilitation.”

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Footnote 75

For more about the two-year rule, see the OCI’s 2017-2018 Annual Report.

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Footnote 76

By way of the errors and omissions review of this annual report, CSC provided the following comment: “There is no such 2-year rule. CSC policy does not oblige federally sentenced persons convicted of homicide to serve a minimum of two years in maximum security. The policy identifies that the decision maker in determining the placement of the aforementioned offenders at a lower security level is the Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Operation and Programs or the Deputy Commissioner for Women. While the seriousness of the offence committed by the inmate is one of the factors considered in assigning a security classification in accordance with section 18 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations , a comprehensive review of all the factors and assessment of the three risk dimensions identified in section 18 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations will determine the security classification of an inmate.”

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Footnote 77

By comparison, 40% of all prisoners in standalone maximum-security institutions have indeterminate sentences. This data was taken from CSC’s CRS-M and reflects institutional counts as of April 24, 2022.

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Footnote 78

Roughly five months before the implementation of SIUs.

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Footnote 79

Macdonald, N. (February 18, 2016). Canada’s prisons are the “ new residential schools. ” Macleans.ca.

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Footnote 80

Section 84 is part of the release process and applies to individuals who want to serve their conditional or statutory release in an Indigenous community or in an urban area with the support and direction of an Indigenous organization.

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Footnote 81

CSC CRS-M (April 2021).

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Footnote 82

Public Safety Canada (January 2022). 2020 Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview. 

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Footnote 83

OCI. (January 2020). News release: Indigenous People in federal custody surpasses 30% ; and OCI. (December 2021). News release: Proportion of indigenous women in federal custody nears 50%. 

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Footnote 84

CRS-M (February 15, 2022).

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Footnote 85

According to CD 568-3 Identification and Management of Security Threat Groups , STGs include any group, gang, organization or association consisting of three or more members, in one of the following: street or prison gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, organized crime, Indigenous gangs, white supremacy groups, subversive groups, terrorist organizations and hate groups.

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Footnote 86

CRS-M (February 15, 2022).

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Footnote 87

The median age of Indigenous vs. non-Indigenous individuals upon admission to federal corrections is 32 and 35 respectively (Public Safety Canada [2020] CCRSO).

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Footnote 88

Statutory Release is a legislatively requirement that federally incarcerated individuals serve the last third of their sentence in the community. It is not conditional and is not granted by the PBC; rather, CSC supervises these individuals and impose conditions of release similar to full parole.

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Footnote 89

CSC CRS-M – Offender Movement: Releases data cube .

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Footnote 90

Stewart, L.A., Wilton, G., Baglole, S., & Miller, R. (August 2019). A comprehensive study of recidivism rates among Canadian federal offenders . CSC: Research Division.

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Footnote 91

CSC’s CRS-M – Offender Movement: Admissions data cube. 

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Footnote 92

Pathways is a signature initiative within CSC’s Indigenous Continuum of Care available to incarcerated individuals. It is described by CSC as, “an Elder-driven intensive healing initiative, that reinforces a traditional Indigenous way of life through more intensive one-on-one counselling, increased ceremonial access, and an increased ability to follow a more traditional Indigenous healing path consistent with Indigenous traditional values and beliefs.”

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Footnote 93

CSC (June 2019). National Indigenous Plan. EXCOM presentation.

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Footnote 94

Ewert v. Canada, 2018 SCC 30, [2018] 2 S.C.R. 165.

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Footnote 95

Minister of Public Safety Canada (October 2020). CSC Budgetary Investments since 2015 . Minister’s Appearance before SECU Committee Notes (Retrieved on March 3, 2022).

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Footnote 96

Section 84 is part of the release process and applies to individuals who want to serve their conditional or statutory release in an Indigenous community or in an urban area with the support and direction of an Indigenous organization.

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Footnote 97

Obtained via data request from CSC. Data Warehouse Services, RADAR-Prime, AID-Admission (Extraction Date: 2021-10-10); and, Performance Direct (data up to the end of the fiscal year 2020-2021).

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Footnote 98

The OCI may commence an investigation on receipt of a complaint by or on behalf of a federally sentenced person, or on its own initiative. Complaints are received by telephone, letters, and during interviews with the OCI’s investigative staff at federal correctional facilities.

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Footnote 99

These totals are a snapshot of the OCI’s internal data from the week of May 17, 2022. Future reporting may be different as cases are updated.

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Footnote 100

Starting in January 2021, the Office pivoted to a virtual visit model, which guided how investigators conducted business during the pandemic. However, over the reporting period, investigators gradually returned to in-person visits and conducted 46 in total in addition to 277 virtual interviews at 27 institutions. Additional interviews were also completed for the investigations featured in the body of this Annual Report. These investigations involved a combination of virtual visits, telephone interviews, and written responses via email with both staff and prisoners. In light of the above complexities, readers should not compare the data in this table to those in previous Annual Reports.

Return to footnote 100 referrer 

Footnote 101

Includes Shepody Healing Centre.

Return to footnote 101 referrer 

Footnote 102

Includes Centre régional de santé mentale.

Return to footnote 102 referrer 

Footnote 103

Includes the Special Handling Unit.

Return to footnote 103 referrer 

Footnote 104

Includes Joyceville’s Assessment Unit and TD Unit.

Return to footnote 104 referrer 

Footnote 105

Includes the Regional Treatment Centre, Assessment Unit, and the TD Unit.

Return to footnote 105 referrer 

Footnote 106

Includes the Regional Treatment Centre.

Return to footnote 106 referrer 

Footnote 107

CCC – CRC: Community Correctional Centres and Community Residential Centres.

Return to footnote 107 referrer 

Footnote 108

Includes 37 cases where the complainant requested to remain anonymous and one territorial case where the individual contacted the Office from a community-based facility in the Yukon.

Return to footnote 108 referrer 

Footnote 109

Internal Resolution: When the investigator only reviews simple file information or notes, or speaks with the federally sentenced individual before closing the case.

Return to footnote 109 referrer 

Footnote 110

Inquiry: Same as Internal Resolution except that the investigator also completes one action in response to the complaint to acquire additional information before closing the case.

Return to footnote 110 referrer 

Footnote 111

Investigation: Same as Inquiry, but with two or more additional actions. Investigations differ in that they are more complex than Inquiries and require more significant analysis. Any case that results in a recommendation is also classified as an Investigation. An Investigation may also be a systemic case which requires that the situation be monitored.

Return to footnote 111 referrer 

Footnote 112

A case may be reopened and re-resolved more than once, each with its own reasons for why it is closed. This is the reason that the total in this table is larger than the actual number of complaints reported in Table A.

Return to footnote 112 referrer 

Footnote 113

The number of individuals who contacted our office to make a complaint (i.e., complainants). 142 cases were removed because the complainant(s) wished to remain anonymous.

Return to footnote 113 referrer 

Footnote 114

Year-end count of in-custody population broken down by Region for fiscal year 2021-22, according to the Correctional Service Canada’s Corporate Reporting System (CRS-M).

Return to footnote 114 referrer 

Footnote 115

Does not include CCC-CRCs or Parolees in the community. There were 173 unique contacts from the community, and 1 individual who contacted the Office from the Yukon (territorial jurisdiction).

Return to footnote 115 referrer 

Footnote 116

Deaths due to “natural causes” are investigated under a separate Mortality Review process involving a file review conducted at National Headquarters.

Return to footnote 116 referrer 

Footnote 117

A use-of-force incident can involve more than one measure.

Return to footnote 117 referrer 

Footnote 118

Inflammatory Sprays commonly referred to as OC (oleoresin capsicum) or “pepper spray,” contain a natural active ingredient capsaicin derived from pepper plants. Chemical Agents contain an active chemical ingredient, and result in extreme irritation of the eye tissues, producing the involuntary closure of the eyes. The devices listed here are designed to deliver either inflammatory or chemical agents, or both.

Return to footnote 118 referrer 

Footnote 119

Totals are larger than the number of incidents reviewed by the OCI because each incident can involve more than one measure.

Return to footnote 119 referrer 

Banner Image
Banner of the annual report cover page

Spirit Matters: Aboriginal People and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

PDF Copy

Body

Final Report 

October 22, 2012 


TABLE OF CONTENTS 

Executive Summary 

Scope of Investigation 

Methodology 

Parliament's Intent for Sections 81 and 84 

Context and Background 

Use of Section 81 Agreements – Analysis 

Why Has Progress Stopped? 

Barriers in Developing and Maintaining Section 81 Agreements 

Barriers in the Aboriginal Community 

CSC Operated Healing Lodges 

Use of Section 84 Releases – Analysis 

CSC 's Continuum of Care Model for Aboriginal Corrections 

Implementation of Gladue Principles in Federal Corrections 

Conclusion 

Recommendations 

Appendix A – Consultations and Interviews 

Appendix B – Bibliography 

Endnotes 


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


  1. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act ( CCRA ) makes specific reference to the unique needs and circumstances of Aboriginal Canadians in federal corrections. The Act provides for special provisions (Sections 81 and 84), which are intended to ameliorate over-representation of Aboriginal people in federal penitentiaries and address long-standing differential outcomes for Aboriginal offenders. 

     
  2. It has been 20 years since the CCRA came into force, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator ( OCI ) believes that a systematic investigation of Sections 81 and 84 of the Act is both timely and important. This investigation aims to determine the extent to which the Correctional Service of Canada ( CSC ) has fulfilled Parliament's intent at the time that the CCRA came into force. It examines the status and use of Section 81 and 84 provisions in federal corrections for the period ending March 2012, identifies some best practices in Aboriginal corrections and assesses the commitment by CSC to adopt principles set out in the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark decision of R. v. Gladue . The investigation concludes with key recommendations for enhancing CSC 's capacity and compliance with Sections 81 and 84 of the CCRA

     
  3. Section 81 of the CCRA was intended to give CSC the capacity to enter into agreements with Aboriginal communities for the care and custody of offenders who would otherwise be held in a CSC facility. It was conceived to enable a degree of Aboriginal control, or at least participation in, an offender's sentence, from the point of sentencing to warrant expiry. Section 81 further allows Aboriginal communities to have a key role in delivering programs within correctional institutions and to those offenders accepted under a Section 81 agreement (Aboriginal Healing Lodges or Healing Centres). 

     
  4. The investigation found that, as of March 2012, there were only 68 Section 81 bed spaces in Canada and no Section 81 agreements in British Columbia, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada or in the North. Until September 2011, there were no Section 81 Healing Lodge spaces available for Aboriginal women. 

     
  5. One of the major factors that inhibit existing Section 81 Healing Lodges from operating at full capacity and new Healing Lodges from being developed is the requirement that they limit their intake to minimum security offenders or, in rare cases, to "low risk" medium security offenders. The evolution of this policy, which was neither Parliament's intent nor CSC 's original vision, is seen as a way for the Service to minimize risk and exposure. It creates a number of problems, exacerbated by the fact that only 11.3% of Aboriginal male offenders, or 337 individuals,were housed in minimum-security institutions in 2010-2011. In effect, CSC policy excludes almost 90% of incarcerated Aboriginal offenders from even being considered for transfer to a Healing Lodge. With this limitation, it is no surprise that the investigation found that Healing Lodges do not operate at full capacity. 

     
  6. In addition to the four Section 81 Healing Lodges, CSC has established four Healing Lodges operated as CSC minimum-security institutions (with the exception of the Healing Lodge for women that accepts both minimum and some medium security inmates). CSC -operated Healing Lodges can provide accommodation for up to 194 federal incarcerated offenders, which include 44 beds for Aboriginal women. 

     
  7. Section 81 Healing Lodges operate on five-year contribution agreement cycles and enjoy no sense of permanency. There is no guarantee that the agreements will be renewed. Indeed, they are subject to changes in CSC priorities and funding, including a 2001 reallocation of $11.6M earmarked for new Section 81 facilities to other requirements. 

     
  8. We found that the discrepancy in funding between Section 81 Healing Lodges and those operated by CSC is substantial. In 2009-2010, the allocation of funding to the four CSC - operated Healing Lodges totalled $21,555,037, while the amount allocated to Section 81 Healing Lodges was just $4,819,479. Chronic under-funding of Section 81 Healing Lodges means that they are unable to provide comparable CSC wages or unionized job security. As a result, many Healing Lodge staff seek employment with CSC , where salaries can be 50% higher for similar work. It is estimated that it costs approximately $34,000 to train a Healing Lodge employee to CSC requirements, but the Lodge operators receive no recognition or compensation for that expense. 

     
  9. Another factor inhibiting the success and expansion of Section 81 Healing Lodges has been community acceptance. Just as in many non-Aboriginal communities, not every Aboriginal community is willing to have offenders housed in their midst or take on the responsibility for their management. 

     
  10. CSC did not originally intend to operate its Healing Lodges in competition with Section 81 facilities, but rather saw itself as providing an intermediate step that would ultimately result in the transfer of those facilities to community control under Section 81. As the investigation notes, however, negotiations to facilitate transfer of CSC Healing Lodges to First Nation control appear to have been abandoned. Most negotiations never moved beyond preliminary stages. In some Aboriginal communities, this breakdown in engagement has resulted in long-standing acrimony and mistrust directed at Canada's correctional authority. 

     
  11. The intent of Section 84 was to enhance the information provided to the Parole Board of Canada and to enable Aboriginal communities to propose conditions for offenders wanting to be released into their communities. It was not intended to be a lengthy or onerous process, yet that is exactly what it has become: cumbersome, time-consuming and misunderstood. A successful Section 84 release plan requires significant time-sensitive and co-ordinated action. As the investigation reveals, there are only 12 Aboriginal Community Development Officers across Canada responsible for bridging the interests of the offender and the community prior to release. 

     
  12. The Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Gladue (1995) and, more recently, in a March 2012 decision ( R. v. Ipeelee ) compelled judges to use a different method of analysis in determining a suitable sentence for Aboriginal offenders by paying particular attention to the unique circumstances of Aboriginal people and their social histories. These are commonly referred to as Gladue principles or factors. CSC has incorporated Gladue principles in its policy framework, requiring it to consider Aboriginal social history when making decisions affecting the retained rights and liberties of Aboriginal offenders. Although the Gladue decision refers to sentencing considerations, it is reasonable to conclude that Section 81 facilities would be consistent with the Supreme Court's view of providing a culturally appropriate option for federally sentenced Aboriginal people. Notwithstanding, we find that Gladue principles are not well-understood within CSC and are unevenly applied. 

     
  13. Today, 21% of the federal inmate population claims Aboriginal ancestry. The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders continues to widen on nearly every indicator of correctional performance:
    • Aboriginal offenders serve disproportionately more of their sentence behind bars before first release.
    • Aboriginal offenders are under-represented in community supervision populations and over-represented in maximum security institutions.
    • Aboriginal offenders are more likely to return to prison on revocation of parole.
    • Aboriginal offenders are disproportionately involved in institutional security incidents, use of force interventions, segregation placements and self-injurious behaviour.
  14. The investigation found a number of barriers in CSC 's implementation of Sections 81 and 84. These barriers inadvertently perpetuate conditions that further disadvantage and/or discriminate against Aboriginal offenders in federal corrections, leading to differential outcomes:

    1. Restricted access to Section 81 facilities and opportunities outside CSC 's Prairie and Quebec regions.
    2. Under-resourcing and temporary funding arrangements for Aboriginal-controlled Healing Lodges leading to financial insecurity and lack of permanency.
    3. Significant differences in salaries and working conditions between facilities owned and operated by CSC versus Section 81 arrangements.
    4. Restricted eligibility criteria that effectively exclude most Aboriginal offenders from consideration of placement in a Section 81 Healing Lodge.
    5. Unreasonably delayed development and implementation of specific policy supports and standards to negotiate and establish an operational framework to support robust, timely and coordinated implementation of Section 81 and 84 arrangements.
    6. Limited understanding and awareness within CSC of Aboriginal peoples, cultures, spirituality and approaches to healing.
    7. Limited understanding and inadequate consideration and application of Gladue factors in correctional decision-making affecting the interests of Aboriginal offenders.
    8. Funding and contractual limitations imposed by CSC that impede Elders from providing quality support, guidance and ceremony and placing the Service's Continuum of Care Model for Aboriginal offenders in jeopardy.
    9. Inadequate response to the urban reality and demographics of Aboriginal offenders, most of whom will not return to a traditional First Nations reserve.
    10. CSC 's senior management table lacks a Deputy Commissioner with focused and singular responsibility for progress in Aboriginal Corrections.

    The OCI concludes that CSC has not met Parliament's intent with respect to provisions set out in Sections 81 and 84 of the CCRA . CSC has not fully or sufficiently committed itself to implementing key legal provisions intended to address systemic disadvantage. 

     

  15. It is understood that CSC does not control who is sent to prison by the courts. However, 20 years after enactment of the CCRA , the CSC has failed to make the kind of systemic, policy and resource changes that are required in law to address factors within its control that would help mitigate the chronic over-representation of Aboriginal people in federal penitentiaries.

SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION


1. It has been 20 years since the Corrections and Conditional Release Act ( CCRA )(S.C. 1992, c. 20) came into force on June 18, 1992, and 13 years since the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark decision in R. v. Gladue . [1] Twenty years later, the Office of the Correctional Investigator ( OCI ) believes that it is both timely and important to review Aboriginal-specific sections of the CCRA . This investigation aims to determine the extent to which the Correctional Service of Canada ( CSC ) has reflected Parliament's intent at the time that the CCRA came into force. It examines the status and use of Section 81 and 84 provisions up to the period ending March 2012, identifies some best practices in Aboriginal corrections and assesses the commitment by CSC to adopt the principles set out in R. v. Gladue . The investigation concludes with key findings and recommendations for enhancing CSC 's capacity and compliance with Section 81 and 84 provisions of the CCRA .

METHODOLOGY


2. The Correctional Service was notified of the OCI 's intent to commence this investigation in October 2011. In the course of this investigation, a review of CSC , Public Safety Canada, Parliamentary Committee reports and other relevant documentation was completed. The documents consulted are listed in Appendix B . CSC Headquarters provided all available and relevant documents and statistics relating to Sections 81 and 84. All data and sources are accurate as of March 31, 2012. A review copy of this report was shared with CSC headquarters for factual verification on August 31, 2012.

3. In conducting the investigation, three of the four existing Section 81 Healing Lodges were visited: Stan Daniels Healing Centre in Alberta; Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan; and Waseskun Healing Centre in Quebec. A site visit of the newly opened Buffalo Sage Healing Centre for women in Alberta was also conducted. The fourth Lodge, O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi, located in a remote part of Manitoba, was not visited due to travel time and funding restrictions.

4. Interviews were held with CSC Headquarters staff and regional officials in the Pacific and Prairies regions. Site visits were conducted at three of the four CSC -operated Healing Lodges: Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for women in Saskatchewan; Pe Sakastew Centre in Alberta; and Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village in British Columbia. (Willow Cree Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan was not visited because of time limitations.) Interviews were also conducted with staff from the Native Counselling Services of Alberta (which operates both the Stan Daniels Healing Centre and the Buffalo Sage Healing Centre); Elders at Saskatchewan Penitentiary (where an Aboriginal Pathways Unit has been established); an Elder at Pe Sakastew Centre in Alberta; and leadership from the Nekaneet First Nation (where the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is located).

5. To gain better insight into the original intent of Sections 81 and 84, the investigation was enhanced through correspondence with a member of the 1980s Correctional Law Review and a former Director of CSC 's Aboriginal Issues Branch. Supplementary information used for this investigation was also provided by the Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division, Public Safety Canada. A list of all site visits and consultations, with the exception of individuals who spoke under condition of confidentiality, is attached as Appendix A .

PARLIAMENT'S INTENT FOR SECTIONS 81 AND 84


6. The CCRA was enacted with the express purpose of contributing to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by: (a) carrying out sentences imposed by courts through the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders; and, (b) assisting the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens through the provision of programs in penitentiaries and in the community. The principles guiding the CCRA during the period covered by this investigation include: (a) the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the corrections process; (b) the Correctional Service of Canada use the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members and offenders; and (c) correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and Aboriginal peoples, as well as to the needs of other groups of offenders with special requirements. [2] 

7. With respect to Aboriginal offenders, the CCRA includes specific provisions relating to their care, custody and release:

81. (1) The Minister, or a person authorized by the Minister, may enter into an agreement with an aboriginal community for the provision of correctional services to aboriginal offenders and for payment by the Minister, or by a person authorized by the Minister, in respect of the provision of those services.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), an agreement entered into under that subsection may provide for the provision of correctional services to a non-aboriginal offender.

(3) In accordance with any agreement entered into under subsection (1), the Commissioner may transfer an offender to the care and custody of an aboriginal community, with the consent of the offender and of the aboriginal community.

84. Where an inmate who is applying for parole has expressed an interest in being released to an aboriginal community, the Service shall, if the inmate consents, give the aboriginal community

( a ) adequate notice of the inmate's parole application; and

( b ) an opportunity to propose a plan for the inmate's release to, and integration into, the aboriginal community.

84.1 Where an offender who is required to be supervised by a long-term supervision order has expressed an interest in being supervised in an aboriginal community, the Service shall, if the offender consents, give the aboriginal community

( a ) adequate notice of the order; and

( b ) an opportunity to propose a plan for the offender's release on supervision, and integration, into the aboriginal community.

8. Aboriginal-specific provisions of the CCRA are a natural and progressive extension of section 35 of the Canadian Constitution respecting existing treaty rights of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and their unique traditions, customs and cultures, as well as section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CCRA provisions for Aboriginal offenders in fact arise from years of federal task forces and commissions, as well as previous attempts to involve Aboriginal people in developing and delivering programs and services to Aboriginal offenders in correctional institutions and in the community. Prior to the enactment of the CCRA , Aboriginal communities and organizations were instrumental in establishing Native Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods in federal correctional institutions, as well as co-ordinating Elders' services, substance abuse programs and cultural activities for incarcerated Aboriginal people.

9. Other sections of the CCRA are also relevant to this investigation. These include: section 80, which directs CSC to provide programs designed to address the needs of Aboriginal offenders; section 82, which establishes a consultative body, the National Aboriginal Advisory Committee; and section 83, which makes it clear that "aboriginal spirituality and aboriginal spiritual leaders and elders have the same status as other religions and other religious leaders." An earlier OCI report (November 2009), entitled Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections, examined many of these issues in detail. [3] 

Section 81 

10. Section 81 of the Act is to be given the widest possible interpretation when both sub-sections (1) and (3) are read together. It gives Aboriginal communities and organizations the latitude to negotiate whether they want to enter into an agreement, the number and type of offenders they are prepared to accept and the risk they will take in accepting offenders into their communities. This section of the CCRA was drafted in such a way as to enable a degree of Aboriginal community control, or at the very least, participation in an offender's sentence, from the point of sentencing to warrant expiry.

11. This provision does not place express limitations on the offender's security level that an Aboriginal community could not accept, nor the time during which an Aboriginal offender would be under the authority of an Aboriginal community or organization. In fact, CSC initially felt that Section 81 arrangements would eventually be available to all Aboriginal inmates regardless of security classification, although it was recognized that it would take time to build trust between CSC and Aboriginal communities. [4] 

12. Significantly, the section further allows for Aboriginal people to play a key role in delivering programs within institutions and does not exclude non-Aboriginal offenders from being accepted under a Section 81 agreement. Section 81 is purposefully broad to: provide options for care and custody to the broadest number of Aboriginal inmates (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) in federal institutions in order to eventually reduce over-representation; provide appropriate programs and services to Aboriginal offenders based on traditional spiritual and cultural values; and reinforce relationships with Aboriginal communities.

13. It is important to understand that Section 81 does not transfer jurisdictional responsibility for corrections, which remains with the Federal Government. Rather, it is permissive legislation that allows for certain services and programming, including care and custody, to be negotiated and delivered by Aboriginal people and communities for payment by the Crown. This distinction between transfer of correctional services to Aboriginal communities and jurisdictional control (which remains the prerogative of the Federal Government) has been made clear from the onset through statements by the Solicitor General (now Minister of Public Safety) during parliamentary hearings, [5] court action [6] and, subsequently, by the federal Inherent Right of Self-Government Policy . [7] As they have evolved, Section 81 agreements rely on mutual consent, trust and recognition between two respective orders of government.

Section 84 

14. Section 84 of the CCRA was intended, in part, as a response to long-standing criticisms of the Canadian correctional system by Aboriginal communities and organizations. Consultations as part of the 1988 Task Force on Aboriginal People in Federal Corrections, among others, heard that offenders were being released into communities without notice, without communities knowing what had happened to the offender while incarcerated and without the ability to propose conditions that the community felt were important to ensure its safety. As a result, Aboriginal communities were not able to present a plan to support the successful release and reintegration of the offender or to have the ability to hold an offender accountable to that plan.

15. The original intent of Section 84 was to enhance the information provided to the National Parole Board (now Parole Board of Canada) and to give authority and voice to Aboriginal communities in preparing a release plan. It was not intended to trigger a lengthy or onerous process for CSC , the offender or the community.

16. Section 84 was originally conceived within the context and confines of First Nation and Inuit communities, which have defined leadership and geographic boundaries. It was recognized, however, that Section 84 also had to apply to those offenders being released to urban areas due to the fact that the majority of Aboriginal offenders come from, and are released to, urban areas. It was further acknowledged that this emerging urban reality would present significant challenges, particularly in the larger metropolitan centres, and that those protocols and processes would have to evolve over time and through experimentation and adaptation.

CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND


17. The severe and chronic state of Aboriginal over-representation in federal penitentiaries has been a concern of CSC , and the Federal Government since the 1970s. Aboriginal offenders now account for 21.5% of CSC 's incarcerated population and 13.6% of offenders supervised in the community. The total Aboriginal offender population (community and institutional) represents 18.5% of all federal offenders. [8] The situation of Aboriginal female offenders is even more concerning. In 2010-11, Aboriginal women accounted for over 31.9% of all federally incarcerated women, [9] representing an increase of 85.7% over the last decade. [10] 

18. While Aboriginal people are over-represented in federal corrections nationally, the numbers reach even more critical levels in the Prairie Region, where Aboriginal people comprise more than 55% of the total inmate population at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and more than 60% at Stony Mountain Penitentiary. The situation is even worse in some provincial institutions. For example, in 2005 Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan represented 14.9% of the total population but accounted for 81% of those admitted to provincial custody and 76% of youth admitted to custody. Estimates at that time indicated that the national adult Aboriginal incarceration rate, both federally and provincially, was 910 per 100,000 as compared to 109 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal Canadians. [11] 

19. The Aboriginal population is much younger and growing much faster compared with the rest of the Canadian population. [12] As a consequence, there are proportionally more Aboriginal people either in or about to enter "at risk" of conflict with the law age groups (18 to 25-year-old men and women). It is anticipated that the current Aboriginal "baby boom" will cause the number of Aboriginal offenders to rise even further over time. For example, according to Statistics Canada population projections for Saskatchewan, by 2017 the proportion of Aboriginal young adults in that province is expected to double from 17% in 2001 to 30% in 2017. [13] This growing cohort of Aboriginal youth is already a key and independent driver in rising provincial and federal rates of incarceration.

20. Up until the 1960s, it is generally acknowledged that Aboriginal people were, in fact, under-represented in federal penitentiaries. That changed over the following years and was finally recognized by the Federal Government in a 1975 report by the Treasury Board Secretariat, [14] which noted that the Aboriginal inmate population in federal penitentiaries was 8% over-represented in institutions in proportion to their population in Canada. [15] 

21. In February 1975, a National Conference on Native Peoples and the Criminal Justice System and a Federal-Provincial Meeting of Ministers were held in Edmonton, Alberta. These events made clear that: Aboriginal offenders faced unwarranted detention in maximum security facilities; it was virtually impossible for them to transfer to lower security penitentiaries; and there was a need for greater involvement of Aboriginal communities and organizations in corrections. [16] As a result, the Federal-Provincial Meeting of Ministers adopted the general principle that Aboriginal communities should have greater responsibility for the delivery of criminal justice services to their people. [17] 

22. Following the Edmonton Conference, several federal and provincial task forces affirmed the need for greater Aboriginal participation, responsibility and control over corrections. In 1988, the Task Force on Aboriginal Peoples in Federal Corrections [18] recommended the adoption of the Correctional Law Review's proposal to create special legislative provisions that would allow Aboriginal people to assume greater control over corrections.

23. In 1991, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba went further and concluded that the principles and procedures of the Canadian criminal justice system were incompatible with Aboriginal custom and law. [19] The Inquiry recommended that Aboriginal communities be empowered to establish a separate, Aboriginal-controlled justice system. [20] That same year, the Law Reform Commission of Canada stated that the justice system should not be a uniform system, but one which Aboriginal people themselves have shaped and moulded to their particular needs and that there should be community-based and controlled correctional facilities. [21] 

24. Arguably, the most important review of Canada's relationship with Aboriginal people was undertaken by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (RCAP). In its 1995 interim report, Bridging the Cultural Divide , the Commission concluded that "the justice system has failed Aboriginal peoples" and the key indicator demonstrating this failure is the steadily increasing over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canadian penitentiaries and prisons. [22] The Commission report recognized the value of Aboriginal cultural and spiritual programs and affirmed the intent of the CCRA to ensure their equality in the federal institutions. RCAP also recognized the need for "community-based and community-controlled Aboriginal programs that build upon the work done inside the prisons."

25. The findings from various task forces and commissions all point to the failure to adapt correctional systems to meet the needs of the growing Aboriginal offender population. While some remedial action had taken place in other parts of the justice system, most noticeably through the improvement of policing by First Nations and through the expansion of circuit courts and Aboriginal courts in both urban and First Nation communities, the prevailing view is that the justice system has failed Aboriginal people. This viewpoint can be traced directly to the chronic and increasing over-representation of Aboriginal people in provincial, territorial and federal correctional facilities. As Aboriginal over-representation increased over the past decades, Aboriginal political leaders and the media still generally view the failure of the entire justice system through the lens of over-representation.

26. The CCRA , and in particular Sections 81 and 84, was a significant step by the Federal Government in enhancing Aboriginal community involvement in corrections and, over time, potentially reduce Aboriginal over-representation in federal corrections. Numerous studies have been conducted over the past decades concerning Aboriginal involvement in corrections, and all conclude that the issues bringing Aboriginal people into federal institutions go well beyond the capacity of federal corrections alone to address. The offending circumstances of Aboriginal offenders are often related to substance abuse; inter-generational abuse and trauma; residential schools; low levels of education, employment and income; and substandard housing and health care, among other factors.

27. Within corrections, Aboriginal offenders tend to be younger; to be more likely to have served previous youth and/or adult sentences; to be incarcerated more often for a violent offence; to have higher risk ratings; to have higher need ratings; to be more inclined to have gang affiliations; and to have more health problems, including Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and mental health issues and addiction. [23] 

28. While it is recognized that CSC does not have control over the number of offenders entering the federal system, it can have an impact on the number of offenders returning to a penitentiary after their release. The enhancement of Aboriginal cultural and spiritual opportunities for offenders, particularly if offered in an Aboriginal environment, is acknowledged as a positive approach to the successful reintegration of Aboriginal offenders.

USE OF SECTION 81 AGREEMENTS – ANALYSIS


29. Section 81 does not stipulate how Aboriginal communities are to manage offenders under their care and custody. Two distinct approaches have evolved over time. The first, and most common approach, is through the funding of Aboriginal Healing Lodges or Healing Centres. These facility-based centres house offenders transferred from CSC institutions and provide Aboriginal cultural, spiritual and correctional programming. The second approach is through funding agreements with Aboriginal communities that accept offenders into their community and provide custody and programs without the establishment of a formal healing centre.

30. Since the CCRA 's enactment 20 years ago, CSC has entered into four funding agreements with Aboriginal communities and organizations to support the establishment and maintenance of Healing Lodges. These facilities have a total Section 81 bed capacity of 68 spaces. (Although some CSC corporate documents refer to a total Section 81 capacity of 111 spaces, the actual figure is 68, accounting for the fact that while Stan Daniel's Healing Centre has 73 beds, only 30 are designated pursuant to a Section 81 agreement). [24] 

Healing lodge bed capacity
FACILITY OPENING DATE REGION BED CAPACITY 
Prince Albert Grand Council ( PAGC
Spiritual Healing Lodge
1995Prairie – Saskatchewan5
Stan Daniels Healing Centre1999Prairie – Alberta30
O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi Healing Lodge1999Prairie – Manitoba18
Waseskun Healing Centre2001Quebec15
TOTAL   68 

Source : CSC Data Warehouse

31. In September 2011, CSC increased the bed capacity of Section 81 Healing Lodges with the establishment of 16 bed spaces for Aboriginal women at the Buffalo Sage Healing Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. In addition, approval has been given to expand the O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi Healing Lodge by six spaces. The Waseskun Healing Centre is currently in discussions with CSC for the creation of a healing facility for Aboriginal women that could include six bed spaces for Section 81 transfers and two spaces for Section 84 releases. Waseskun Healing Centre is also hoping to expand its Section 81 capacity through the construction of five new bed spaces. It is important to note that these additional spaces are not the result of negotiations with new Aboriginal communities, but rather extensions of already existing agreements.

32. Not all Section 81 agreements resulted in the establishment of Healing Lodges. The Alexis First Nation in Alberta and the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan signed Section 81 Community Custody Agreements to assume responsibility for the transfer of offenders. In both agreements, offenders are to be accommodated in the community and confined within the boundaries of the reserve, unless permission had been granted for an escorted temporary absence, work release or unescorted temporary absence. The offender is to be under the supervision of an individual, or individuals, approved by both CSC and the First Nation. As part of the custody plan, the offender must be given clear direction on limits on movement within the boundaries of the reserve and clear direction on times when they must be in their place of residence.

33. Further, a schedule is required that permits both the offender and affected members of the community to be aware of where the offender will be, a specific period of time where the offender is formally accounted for and a record of movement over the course of the day. Each First Nation is required to submit a budget to enable CSC to calculate a per diem rate under the agreement. The Alexis First Nation signed its Section 81 agreement in April 1999 for the transfer of up to five inmates. The George Gordon First Nation signed its agreement in June 2002. Other than one transfer to the George Gordon First Nation, no records were found to indicate that other transfers were completed. Since the George Gordon First Nation agreement was signed 10 years ago, CSC has not entered into any additional non-facility Section 81 agreements.

34. With only four Section 81 Healing Lodge agreements having been signed since the CCRA was enacted 20 years ago, the lack of movement toward enhancing Aboriginal community involvement in federal corrections, as intended by Parliament, has not been achieved.

WHY HAS PROGRESS STOPPED?


Aboriginal Community Interest Existed 

35. From the time the CCRA was enacted, there has been an interest on the part of several Aboriginal communities and organizations to become involved in federal corrections through Section 81 agreements. In 2001, CSC reported that two additional Section 81 agreements were in the final drafting stage, three were in negotiation and 17 others were in preliminary discussion phase. [25] In 2002, there were two new agreements under review and an additional four under negotiation for a potential increase of 39 new bed spaces. [26] 

Change in Policy Direction 

36. In 2000, CSC sought additional funding to construct and operate new community Section 81 Healing Lodges and was provided with $11.9M over five years under Public Safety Canada's Effective Corrections and Citizen Engagement Initiative . [27] An essential component of Effective Corrections was to address the over-representation of Aboriginal offenders in federal prisons through enhanced participation of and collaboration with Aboriginal communities. The investigation found, however, that the Waseskun Healing Centre was the only new stand-alone Section 81 facility to be completed using Effective Corrections funds.

37. Although there was interest on the part of Aboriginal communities to enter into negotiations for Section 81 agreements, CSC 's "final" evaluation of the first installment of Effective Corrections funding, completed in June 2004, indicates that, beginning in 2001-02, CSC "re-profiled funds from Healing Lodge development to Institutional Initiatives in order to establish the Pathways Ranges." [28] According to 2002 documents reporting on how CSC planned to use Effective Corrections money, [29] funds were not to be redirected to cover other institutional costs. [30] However, this appears to be what happened, as CSC used Effective Corrections funding to pilot and subsequently expand Pathways Healing Units in medium security penitentiaries, increase the number of Aboriginal Community Development Officers, support a National Aboriginal Working Group and pilot an Aboriginal gangs initiative at Stony Mountain Institution. [31] In other words, the investigation found that Effective Corrections funding originally earmarked to enhance Aboriginal community reintegration was used largely to create new penitentiary-based interventions for Aboriginal inmates.

38. To explain the change in policy direction from community to institutional priorities, CSC 's Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Offenders 2006 to 2011 indicates that it "lacked Aboriginal-specific programs in institutions to help offenders prepare for the healing lodge environment." [32] As a result, CSC moved to "re-focus" efforts on consolidating and expanding penitentiary-based interventions for Aboriginal inmates. In effect, CSC 's experience and view during this period of "learning" and "refocus" (2000-2005) was that Aboriginal inmates were not adequately prepared to be released to alternative community arrangements and the Healing Lodges themselves lacked the management and accountability capacity and expertise to safely and appropriately support them. [33] In response to a 2002 Research Report, [34] a Healing Lodge Action Plan was adopted with specific aims to: i). strengthen internal Healing Lodge operations; ii). improve understanding of Healing Lodge programs and services by CSC ; iii) improve the transfer and selection process of candidates; and iv) improve the relationship between CSC and Healing Lodge staff. [35] 

39. While some improvements were made, the documentary record indicates that CSC chose to abandon its commitment to create new Section 81 agreements and facilities at the very same time as it was receiving additional government funding to do precisely that. At the beginning of 2000, records indicate that CSC was actively negotiating with several Aboriginal communities and groups to expand section 81 agreements.

40. Effective Corrections funding was extended in 2005-2006 for another five years, to an ongoing level of $8 million per year, of which Correctional Service Canada's annual share was $4.8 million. The majority of the renewed funding ($3.7M annually) has been used to expand institutional Aboriginal Pathways "healing units" across all of CSC 's five regions. [36] No new Section 81 agreements or community reintegration facilities for Aboriginal offenders have been created since 2001. (The Buffalo Sage Healing Centre for women, which opened in September 2011, is an expansion of an existing agreement with the Native Counselling Services of Alberta .)

41. From 2001-02 to 2010-11 the Aboriginal inmate population increased by 35% for men (from 2,129 to 2,875) and 86% for women (from 98 to 182). [37] CSC 's 2012-13 Report on Plans and Priorities indicates that the Service plans to expand the number of Pathways Units to 25 operational sites across all five of its regions. [38] A similar commitment to increasing investment in Aboriginal community reintegration initiatives appears to be lacking.

BARRIERS IN DEVELOPING AND MAINTAINING SECTION 81 AGREEMENTS


Lack of Policies and Standards 

42. As a previous report commissioned by the OCI pointed out, a CSC audit of Healing Lodges concluded that 16 years after the CCRA was enacted there was still no CSC policy framework in place to support the establishment of Section 81 Healing Lodges, with little direction provided in CSC policies or procedures. [39] Further, the criteria used to assess requests to enter into Section 81 agreements had not been clearly defined. There was no requirement for CSC Regions to report to National Headquarters on agreements, nor had CSC defined performance indicators for effective monitoring and reporting. [40] The 2008 audit of Section 81 management practices similarly concluded that "[W]ith the exception of monitoring Healing Lodge residents, the roles and responsibilities of CSC personnel involved with offenders prior to their placement in Section 81 Healing Lodges are not well defined, understood and followed." [41] National policy guidelines referencing the negotiation, implementation and management of Section 81 and 84 processes were finally issued in July 2010 [42] in response to the 2008 audit findings, 18 years after the enactment of the CCRA

43. Section 81 facilities are not bound by all of CSC policies, other than those that have been developed to facilitate admissions, transfers and application processes. Even so, Section 81 facilities are expected to maintain "acceptable" programs, provide "appropriate" services and meet standards comparable to CSC . Until recently, in fact, there was little consistency in the Section 81 agreements, reflecting the relative degrees of autonomy and administrative control that were originally negotiated between CSC and Aboriginal community providers. As a consequence, each Aboriginal-operated Healing Lodge has developed its own approach to healing, rehabilitation and reintegration, consistent with its community's values, practices, traditions and beliefs. At the same time, real and perceived variations between CSC and Aboriginal-operated Healing Lodges can lead to a lack of trust and breakdown in communication. These "mixed messages" often surface in differences regarding "comparable" Section 81 funding, objectives, program content and effectiveness. The capacity of Section 81 facilities to safely and effectively manage offenders while meeting CSC service delivery standards and supervision expectations is another long-standing source of friction. [43] By far the most contentious issue is the expectation that the Section 81 facilities provide comparable services and outcomes as CSC at a considerably reduced per diem rate.

Transfer Eligibility Criteria 

44. One of the factors that inhibit existing Section 81 Healing Lodges from operating at full capacity (and new Healing Lodges being developed) is the requirement that they limit their intake to offenders classified as minimum security, or, in rare cases, medium security offenders who present a low risk to public safety. [44] Allowing only minimum security inmates (or medium in exceptional cases) to be eligible for transfer to a Section 81 Healing Lodge reflects neither Parliament's intent nor CSC 's original vision. Rather, it is an internal CSC policy that has evolved to minimize its risk and exposure. This policy poses a number of problems, but is exacerbated by the fact that while 22.2% of Aboriginal offenders received a minimum-security classification under the Custody Rating Scale in 2010-2011, [45] only 11.3% were actually placed in minimum-security institutions. Compared to non-Aboriginal offenders, a lower percentage of Aboriginal male offenders are classified as minimum-security risk. [46] That percentage has decreased over time: [47] 

Transfer Eligibility Criteria
Region2006-2007 2009-2010 2010-2011 
Incarcerated Minimum Incarcerated Minimum Incarcerated Minimum 
Atlantic1333022.5%1141412.3%1161613.8%
Quebec3007123.6%285258.8%331216.3%
Ontario4386815.5%418225.3%438276.2%
Prairies1,90852027.2%1,45315410.6%1,60620512.8%
Pacific61615024.3%4666313.5%4856814.0%
Total 3,395 839 24.7% 2,736 278 10.2% 2,976 337 11.3% 

Source : CSC Data Warehouse. 
Note: Data reflects male inmates with valid security classification.

45. The data indicates that CSC 's policy criteria effectively exclude about 90% of Aboriginal federal offenders from being considered for transfer to a Healing Lodge. In 2010-11, there were a total of 337 Aboriginal men accommodated in minimum security facilities, or about 11% of all Aboriginal men in federal institutions.

46. It is significant to note that Section 81 Healing Lodges could operate at full capacity even if they only accommodated minimum security inmates. In 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, Section 81 Healing Lodges accommodated less than 25% of Aboriginal male minimum-security inmates: [48] 

Year end snapshot of the average physically-in count for March 31, 2010 and March 31, 2011
Region 2009-2010 2010-2011 
Minimum Security Inmates Section 81 Healing Lodge Beds Minimum Security Inmates Section 81 Healing Lodge Beds 
Atlantic1400%1600%
Quebec251560%211571%
Ontario2200%2700%
Prairies1545334%2055326%
Pacific6300%6800%
Total 278 68 24% 337 68 20% 

Source : CSC Data Warehouse. Year End Snapshot of the average "physically-in" count for March 31, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

47. Section 81 Healing Lodges do not exist outside the Prairie and Quebec Regions, although there is a clear indication that there is a need for, and capacity to fill, Healing Lodges in the Pacific, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, as well as in the North. Without a Healing Lodge in these regions, either Aboriginal offenders are denied the opportunity to avail themselves of a community healing environment or they are transferred to a facility where they face the prospect of losing contact with their families and home communities. (A similar comparison for Aboriginal female offenders cannot be made, as there were no Section 81 bed spaces for Aboriginal women until 2012.)

48. In 2011, 1,009 offenders were informed about Section 81 opportunities and 593 expressed an interest in a transfer. [49] Based on these numbers, it is unclear why the Healing Lodges were not filled to capacity. For Section 81 Healing Lodges, the average "physically-in" count for fiscal years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 is shown below: [50] 

Average physically-in count for fiscal years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011
Healing Lodge 2009-2010 2010-2011  
Capacity Count Count 
PAGC Spiritual Healing Lodge5480%480%
O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi Healing Lodge181372%1372%
Stan Daniels Healing Centre301343%2273%
Waseskun Healing Centre151386%1066%
Total/Average Percentage 68 43 63% 49 72% 

Source : CSC Data Warehouse. Year End Snapshot of the average "physically-in" count for March 31, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

Funding and Permanency of Section 81 Healing Lodges 

49. Without a doubt the two greatest inhibiting factors to the establishment of new Section 81 Healing Lodges, which are in fact intertwined, are funding and permanency. While federal penitentiaries and CSC -operated Healing Lodges are permanent institutions and treated as such, Section 81 Healing Lodges are on five-year contribution agreement cycles and enjoy no sense of permanency. Nor does entering into a Section 81 agreement necessarily create an economic benefit to Aboriginal communities and organizations. On the contrary, those agreements can create a serious disadvantage, particularly if the bed occupancy rate is lower than forecasted. There are no guarantees that the agreements will be renewed, and they are subject to potential changes in CSC policy priorities and funding pressures. In at least one case, a Section 81 Healing Lodge has had its agreement subject to six-month extensions while negotiations proceed towards a new five-year agreement. [51] 

50. The discrepancy in funding between Section 81 Healing Lodges and those operated by CSC is substantial. In 2009-2010, the allocation of funding to the four CSC -controlled healing lodges totalled $21,555,037. For the same period, the amount associated with Aboriginal-controlled Section 81 Healing Lodges totalled $4,819,479. [52] It should be noted that the funding to Section 81 Healing Lodges included funds for expenditures relating to the operation of CSC Regional Headquarters and Section 81 Healing Lodges receive funds for residents under conditional release. The cost per offender at CSC -controlled Healing Lodges is approximately $113,450 whereas it is $70,845 at Aboriginal-controlled facilities, or about 62% of the CSC rate.

51. The under-funding of Healing Lodges means that they are unable to provide wages comparable to that earned by CSC employees. For example, at Stan Daniels Healing Centre, as recently as 2011 a lack of funding resulted in some staff being let go while remaining staff were given a 1% cost of living increase. Funding inequity and instability leads to frequent staff turnover and cycles of layoffs, resignations, new hires, etc. A 2005 Evaluation Report of Stan Daniels indicated that while the facility is cost-effective in providing similar correctional results at a lower cost, changes in the funding formula were nevertheless required to take into account the higher supervision costs in meeting the needs of an increasing proportion of statutory release residents. [53] 

52. Aboriginal offenders tend to be assessed in higher need and/or higher risk categories on account of previous criminal history, including more extensive involvement in the criminal justice system, as well as employment, family, substance abuse, mental health and community reintegration factors. Costs to house and supervise special needs groups and individuals in the community are increasing. Section 81 funding formulas should reflect the operating realities associated with an increasingly complex needs profile and caseload.

53. Section 81 Healing Lodge agreements require their staff to have a wide range of competencies – from offender supervision, awareness of CSC procedures and protocols to financial reporting. These present a burden for most Aboriginal communities and organizations that have not had a previous relationship with CSC or exposure to CSC procedures. Preparing detailed financial reports that are required for all contribution agreements with the Federal Government is also time-consuming and technical. Further, existing Section 81 Healing Lodges have reported that the burden placed on them by CSC for reporting, while at the same time limiting funding for staff positions has been a cause of high staff turnover and burnout. Healing Lodge staff have complained about the lack of training opportunities available to them from CSC , which, because of high staff turnover, needs to be ongoing. In some cases, the Section 81 Healing Lodges have become training grounds for Aboriginal people who then leave those facilities to work for CSC .

54. The movement of employees to CSC is not unexpected. CSC can offer many advantages that Section 81 Healing Lodges cannot. Staff salaries can be upwards of $25,000 to $30,000 more in CSC facilities. Those moving to CSC enjoy working in a stable unionized workplace. The Native Counselling Services of Alberta estimates that it costs Section 81 Healing Lodges approximately $34,000 to fully train an employee to CSC standards, but they receive no direct compensation for that training.

55. Because Section 81 agreements are five years in duration, little or no flexibility exists for Healing Lodges to meet unexpected demands on their budgets. Improvements to their infrastructure, due to either emergencies or CSC security-related requirements, cannot take place on a timely basis without either seeking additional funding from CSC or re-profiling their budget by reducing staff and/or services. One of the most significant pressures on healing lodge operations is changes to insurance coverage. Insurance companies, which are hesitant to take any undue risk, pressure Healing Lodges to abide by the full range of federal corrections standards and procedures or face a significant increase in the cost of liability coverage. For example, at one Centre, its costs to maintain insurance increased by $28,000 this past year alone with no increase in funding provided by CSC . Not only did it have to absorb the increased cost of insurance, but it was also pressured by its insurance company to follow CSC security-related procedures, which it felt were inconsistent with an Aboriginal approach to healing.

56. The findings of this section point to weaknesses, discrepancies and barriers in CSC 's approach to Section 81 Healing Lodges. Lack of equitable salaries, chronic under-funding and lack of permanency for Section 81 facilities raise questions of fairness and equity and further contributes to conditions of systemic disadvantage for Aboriginal offenders.

BARRIERS IN THE ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY


57. Another factor that has been recognized as inhibiting the growth of Section 81 Healing Lodges has been community acceptance. Just as with many non-Aboriginal communities, many Aboriginal communities are not prepared to have offenders released to their community or to take on the responsibility of managing offenders. This reaction may be due to the lack of personnel, programs and services available in the community to meet the offender's needs, or a fear of potential victimization by the offender. Band elections in First Nations are other variables that cannot be ignored, as a change in leadership can often result in changing priorities and the cessation of negotiations with CSC .

58. With the exception of Stan Daniels Healing Centre, the other Section 81 Lodges are in rural or remote communities. Their relative isolation makes it harder to accept offenders with medical or mental health issues who require transportation or specialized staff to meet their medical needs. A significant percentage of Aboriginal offenders are excluded from being transferred to a Healing Lodge by virtue of being active gang members or, in some cases, sex offenders.

CSC -OPERATED HEALING LODGES


59. In addition to the four Section 81 Healing Lodges, CSC has established four Healing Lodges that are operated as CSC minimum security institutions (with the exception of the healing lodge for women that accepts both minimum and medium security inmates).

Healing Lodges that are operated as CSC minimum security institutions
FACILITY OPENING DATE REGION CAPACITY 
Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge1995Prairie – Saskatchewan44
Pe Sakastew Centre1997Prairie – Alberta60
Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village2001Pacific – British Columbia50
Willow Cree Healing Lodge2003Prairie – Saskatchewan40
Total   194 

60. CSC -operated Healing Lodges can provide accommodation for up to 194 federal incarcerated offenders, which includes 44 beds for Aboriginal women. Approval has recently been given for the Willow Cree Healing Lodge to expand by an additional 40 bed spaces for male offenders, bringing the overall capacity for CSC - operated Lodges to 230.

61. Although CSC -operated Healing Lodges fall outside the scope of this investigation, they are relevant for two reasons. Primarily, there is the perception among some Section 81 Healing Lodge staff and CSC officials that CSC -operated Healing Lodges are in competition with Section 81 Healing Lodges for minimum security inmates. Both 
Pe Sakastew Centre and Willow Cree Healing Lodge are in close proximity to the Stan Daniels Healing Centre and the PAGC Spiritual Healing Lodge, respectively. The CSC -operated Healing Lodges have an average bed count that is between 13% and 17% higher than for Section 81 Healing Lodges. [54] 

CSC operated Healing Lodges
CSC Healing Lodge 2009-2010 2010-2011  
Capacity Count Count Percentage 
Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge443682%4091%
Willow Cree Healing Lodge403895%3997%
Pe Sakastew Centre604677%5287%
Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village503264%3162%
Total/Average Percentage 194 152 80% 162 85% 

Source : CSC Data Warehouse.

62. Second, CSC did not intend to operate its Healing Lodges in competition with Section 81 facilities, but rather saw itself as providing an intermediate step that would ultimately result in the transfer of those facilities to community control under Section 81 agreements. Accordingly, negotiations were initiated with the Nekaneet First Nation for the transfer of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge to First Nation control and with the Samson First Nation for the transfer of the Pe Sakastew Centre. However, these negotiations never proceeded past the preliminary stages for three reasons:

  1. First Nations communities with CSC -operated Healing Lodges enjoy the benefits of having a facility in their community without assuming full responsibility;
  2. CSC Healing Lodges provide stable employment for band members that could not be enjoyed if they were under Section 81; and
  3. The funding provided to Section 81 Healing Lodges is substantially lower than that of CSC facilities.

63. As some key informants noted, another reason for ceasing negotiations was that CSC did not engage the Chief and Council in a meaningful way, and this lack of partnership created a long-standing sense of acrimony and mistrust between the two parties. This lack of community engagement with CSC -operated Healing Lodges has been raised in the Service's evaluation of Healing Lodges [55] and during the course of this investigation. For example, leadership of the Nekaneet First Nation feel that the original vision for the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge has been lost, and the community has taken a "hands off" position until it is revisited and acknowledged by CSC . Similarly, the Samson Cree First Nation has begun to question the value of the Pe Sakastew Centre, given that it has also moved away from the community's vision of a healing lodge and has not provided the level of employment to community that members originally expected. Moreover, when community members are hired, they occupy low level positions with few opportunities for advancement. As a result, there has been some discussion in the community about changing the Pe Sakastew Centre into a substance abuse treatment centre.

64. A notable exception to the lack of community engagement is found at the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village. This facility is given strategic direction by a community Senate that provides advice to a co-operative board made up of representatives from both the community and the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village. Further, the Chief and one other member of the Chehalis First Nation sit on the facility's Citizens' Advisory Committee. There is also a strong relationship with the Chehalis Cultural Centre and Elders from the community play a key role in ensuring that the proper protocols are acknowledged and used at the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village. As a result, staff and inmates are invited to almost every ceremony in Chehalis and community members are invited to participate in ceremonies at the facility. The First Nation has hired a community engagement officer to work with the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village.

USE OF SECTION 84 RELEASES – ANALYSIS


65. Section 84 speaks to Parliament's intent to transfer some responsibility for federal corrections to Aboriginal people. Section 84 differs substantially from Section 81 in that it is directive and not permissive. To that end, Commissioner's Directive 702 was rewritten in 2008 to state that the Regional Deputy Commissioner will ensure Aboriginal communities are engaged in the reintegration process for consenting Aboriginal offenders returning to those communities pursuant to section 84 of the CCRA . [56] 

66. Determining the number of successful Section 84 release planning processes is problematic. It was only in 2008 that CSC 's Offender Management System developed a screen for tracking Section 84 and there is inconsistency in its use across the country. This impacts upon CSC 's ability to extract accurate information about the use and effectiveness of Section 84 release processes. [57] 

67. The numbers for successfully completed release plans developed and presented to the Parole Board utilizing Section 84 fluctuates dramatically, from a recorded high of 226 in 2005-06 to 51 in 2006-07, 60 in 2009-10 and 99 in 2010-11. These relatively low numbers cannot be explained solely by a lack of interest on the part of Aboriginal inmates, especially given that 593 offenders expressed an interest in Section 84 releases in 2010-2011. [58] A few reasons can be offered to explain the discrepancy between interest and take-up. For example, the investigation found that there are only 12 Aboriginal Community Development Officers ( ACDO s) across Canada whose role is to bridge the interests of the inmate and the community prior to release. ACDO caseloads are often large and focus on an individual case can easily be distracted. The Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012) now includes statutory release within the scope of Section 84. This may increase the number of interested offenders wishing to explore this option.

68. A section 84 Conditional Release Planning Kit has been produced and widely distributed throughout CSC and to communities to provide a comprehensive guide on this release option. [59] The kit outlines 25 tasks that are necessary to complete a Section 84 release plan. These tasks are shared by inmates, Primary Institution Workers, Institutional Parole Officers, ACDO s, Parole Officers and Aboriginal communities or organizations. The process is complex and requires a number of time-sensitive and co-ordinated actions.

69. Several individuals interviewed were of the view that Section 84 is not well-understood by correctional authorities and that the process to complete a Section 84 release is too lengthy, cumbersome and frustrating. Problems can arise at the very beginning of the process when an inmate is required to write a letter of interest to the community he or she wishes to be released to. This raises issues of disclosure of personal information on the part of the inmate, which he or she may not want shared with the community in which the victim, or family, may reside. Release plans can be stopped by a change in the community's leadership following elections, or in some cases, by not knowing the appropriate person in the community who can be responsible for making a decision.

70. Another problem is resources. Communities are not compensated for monitoring an offender's compliance with Section 84 conditions. CSC , however, does make provision for the payment of services where it is required in a release plan. Program and transportation costs are supposed to be reflected in the plan, although there are no guarantees that those costs will be covered by CSC . The decision to cover those costs is made on the basis of how the course or program addresses the offender's needs and the availability of funds. [60] The fact that CSC can determine the validity of programs to support a released offender's healing and reintegration, and not the Aboriginal community itself, is viewed as patronizing by many Aboriginal people and communities.

71. Some of those interviewed felt that the intent of Section 84 is misunderstood by some officials who wrongly believe that offenders were only to be returned to a First Nation community if they agreed to follow a traditional healing path. (This is not the case in the Prairie Region, where ACDO s will work with all faith communities to ensure that Aboriginal offenders have the support from their religious denomination to continue their spiritual journey.) The perception that Section 84 releases should focus on First Nation communities is not in accord with the reality that the majority of Aboriginal offenders will be released to urban centres. More attention needs to be paid to developing relationships with urban Aboriginal organizations – such as has been done with the Circle of Eagles Lodge in Vancouver and Friendship Centres in Saskatchewan – to develop the understanding and capacity to accept Section 84 released offenders.

72. A common concern raised was that there were too few ACDO s to develop the necessary relationships with First Nation and urban Aboriginal communities in addition to keeping a caseload that can exceed 100 clients. One option to reduce the amount of work required to facilitate Section 84 releases is to involve Aboriginal collective organizations in acting as an "agent" on CSC 's and the offender's behalf.

73. Some work has been done in that regard. The Mi'kmaq Legal Support Network ( MLSN ) in Nova Scotia has worked with CSC , Parole Board of Canada and Aboriginal Affairs Canada to develop a template/protocol to facilitate the release and healing of offenders from provincial and federal correctional institutions. The protocol is designed to enhance the capacity of Mi'kmaq communities to safely reintegrate offenders into their communities in a cohesive manner by developing relationships between and among the offender, the community, MLSN and governments, thereby allowing communities to provide effective healing processes through the implementation of new programs and approaches. The protocol has the capacity to accelerate community capacity to determine the nature of their involvement with offenders and victims to implement strategies designed to support the successful release of offenders. [61] 

74. Under this protocol agreement, the MLSN will take an active role in Section 84 releases. In partnership with CSC , the MLSN will arrange for the offender to receive a temporary absence that will enable him or her to sit in a circle with the community to discuss accountability and issues of concern to all parties. As much as possible, these circles are in the community. Following the circle, a release plan is prepared for inclusion in the offender's parole application. Section 84 Committees are also established to consult with community members and leadership on those activities and responsibilities that the community is prepared to assume in support of a released offender. These appear to be an emerging set of best practices.

CSC 'S CONTINUUM OF CARE MODEL FOR ABORIGINAL CORRECTIONS 


75. A review of CSC 's Continuum of Care Model for Aboriginal Offenders and the Circle of Care for Aboriginal Women is outside the scope of this investigation. However, this Continuum impacts on both Section 81 and 84 initiatives. Developed and implemented in 2003 in consultation with Aboriginal stakeholders, the Continuum and Circle of Care integrates culturally appropriate and spiritually significant interventions throughout an offender's sentence. The Continuum begins at intake, followed by paths of healing throughout institutional placement, and ends with the successful reintegration of Aboriginal offenders into their community. [62] This model, and the approach taken by CSC to improve corrections for Aboriginal offenders, should be seen as a major step forward compared to only three decades ago when Sweetgrass was routinely banned in federal institutions and Elders were not given the respect they deserved.

The Aboriginal Corrections Continuum of Care model

76. Both Sections 81 and 84 are integral pieces of the reintegration phase of the model. As a result, all of the preceding elements of the model, from assessment through the Pathways initiatives to all aspects of programming, need to work toward producing the maximum benefits for inmates as they proceed through their healing journey. Should any element of the Continuum not function as intended, the offender's healing journey will not be as effective as expected, may result in longer portions of their sentence being served in an institution and delay opportunities for offenders to take advantage of Sections 81 and 84.

77. Pathways units in medium security institutions [63] are evolutionary in that they were originally established to provide a greater number of Aboriginal offenders with more culturally appropriate environments at a time when Section 81 facilities were not being utilized at full capacity. Pathways provide an alternative environment that supports offenders who have made a demonstrated commitment to traditional activities, ceremonies and healing. In 2010-2011, 18.2% of the total Aboriginal inmate population spent time in a Pathways unit with some promising results. Pathways offenders received transfers to lower security institutions at a higher rate than most of the Aboriginal population, positive urinalysis results were lower and they were more likely to obtain a discretionary release. [64] 

78. It is not an understatement to say that Elders play a pivotal role in healing by providing ceremony, guidance and support to Aboriginal offenders. At a meeting with Elders and Aboriginal program staff at Saskatchewan Penitentiary a number of concerns and issues were raised that result in inhibiting the healing of Aboriginal inmates in institutions and impact their ability to be transferred to a lower security institution and eventually to a Healing Lodge. Elders at Section 81 and CSC -operated Healing Lodges are integral to the healing environment but are faced with many of the same problems faced by CSC institutional Elders. Due to budgetary constraints, Elders are not able to provide the time and level of care they feel are essential to meet the needs of their clients and promote the healing environment of those lodges. A more thorough investigation of Elders and their role within CSC 's Continuum of Care approach appears warranted.

IMPLEMENTATION OF GLADUE PRINCIPLES IN FEDERAL CORRECTIONS


79. The Gladue Supreme Court decision arises from Section 718(e) of the Criminal Code that states a court shall impose a sentence that takes into consideration that "all available sanctions or options other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders." [65] This section of the Criminal Code was introduced in 1995 to deal with concerns about the overuse of incarceration as a means of addressing crime, particularly as it applied to Aboriginal peoples. Parliament recognized that the over-representation of Aboriginal offenders in prisons was systemic and race-related, and that the mainstream justice system was contributing to the problem. Since the enactment of this section of the Code in 1996, courts across Canada have been mandated to exercise restraint in imprisonment for all offenders, but particularly for Aboriginal people. [66] 

80. Citing Gladue in R. v. Ipeelee ( SCC , March 2012), [67] the Supreme Court again called upon judges to use a different method of analysis in determining a fit sentence for Aboriginal offenders by paying particular attention to the unique circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. In so doing, Canada's highest court called for culturally appropriate sanctions to be handed down for Aboriginal offenders. A reasonable interpretation of these decisions is that Gladue principles should be applied to all areas of the criminal justice system in which an Aboriginal offender's liberty is at stake.

81. CSC has committed to incorporating Gladue considerations into Aboriginal corrections at the policy and operational level. Aboriginal social history considerations can include, but are not limited to: effects of the residential school system, family or community history of suicide, experience in the child welfare or adoption system, experiences with poverty, level or lack of formal education, and family or community history of substance abuse. Training on Gladue principles has recently been provided to some staff on a pilot basis. Commissioner's Directive (CD) 702 (Aboriginal Offenders) provides that all CSC staff will consider an Aboriginal offender's social history when making decisions concerning security classification, reclassification to security levels, segregation placements and conditional release, among other factors. [68] Several other CDs integrate Gladue principles, including 705-6 (Correctional Planning and Criminal Profile), 705-7 (Security Classification and Penitentiary Placement), 710-6 (Review of Offender Security Classification) and 712 (Case Preparation and Release Framework). [69] 

82. Gladue principles, and the Commissi oner's Directives that support them, should have a significant impact on an Aboriginal inmate's access to Section 81 Healing Lodge space and programs. Application of Gladue principles should help to ensure Aboriginal inmates are placed at an appropriate security level, have access to cultural and correctional programs to begin their healing journey and opportunities to cascade down to minimum security institutions. Placement in a Section 81 Healing Lodge is a natural progression in an Aboriginal offender's healing and eventual reintegration and may be seen as responsive to the Supreme Court's view that culturally appropriate measures should be available for Aboriginal offenders.

83. However, it is far from clear as to how Gladue principles are being applied in federal corrections. Consultations with CSC and Healing Lodge staff revealed a common theme that the principles set out in Gladue, and the intent of CD 702 was not well understood, nor did those consulted present concrete ideas about how they could be implemented. CSC has developed and piloted a staff training module on Gladue principles, but the impact of that training on the day-to-day treatment of Aboriginal offenders will not be known for some time.

84. The pilot training revealed that institutional staff held a common, but mistaken, belief that Gladue social histories should only be written for Aboriginal offenders who are following a traditional path and working with an Elder, when in fact CSC policy directs that Gladue applies to every Aboriginal offender upon admission to a federal institution. [70] This and other misconceptions point to a need for adequate Gladue training for all CSC staff involved in making decisions that affect the liberty of Aboriginal offenders. Concern was also raised during interviews that the inappropriate use of Gladue principles, particularly during the assessment period, could result in offenders being placed in a higher level of security classification, thereby limiting access to programming. CSC 's Strategy for Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework provides that it will comply with the Gladue decision. The Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 , however, makes no mention of Gladue or achievements in implementing the direction set out in CD 702, four years after the policy was originally promulgated.

CONCLUSION


85. This investigation concludes that CSC has not met Parliament's intent for section 81 and 84 of the CCRA . CSC has not given Section 81 agreements priority, nor have they become a viable alternative to CSC -controlled institutions.

86. Section 81 of the CCRA , particularly when sub-sections (a) and (c) are read together, clearly directs CSC to take a new and different approach to address the chronic over-representation of Aboriginal people in federal corrections. Parliament intended that CSC share control and responsibility, though not jurisdiction, with Aboriginal communities and organizations for the care and custody of Aboriginal offenders.

87. CSC has had two decades to address issues of relationship, trust and risk management in the implementation of Section 81. However, by 2011 there were only four Section 81 Healing Lodges, with a total bed capacity of 68, and no Section 81 Healing Lodges in British Columbia, Ontario, the Atlantic Provinces or the Territories. The bed capacity of Section 81 Healing Lodges, if operated at full capacity, can only accommodate 2% of Aboriginal inmates in federal corrections, or 20% of those inmates classified as minimum security. Until very recently, in fact, there has been neither a policy framework in place to support the establishment of Section 81 Healing Lodges nor criteria to assess proposals from Aboriginal communities to develop a Section 81 Healing Lodge or a non-facility-based approach to offender custody. No new stand-alone Section 81 facilities have been added since 2001, despite a near 40% increase in the Aboriginal incarcerated population between 2001-02 and 2010-11. [71] 

88. The result is that the four existing Section 81 Healing Lodges are in a precarious position. They face insecurity due to the lack of permanent and adequate financial resources to meet ongoing operational and infrastructure costs. These are major factors inhibiting the success of existing facilities and expansion of new Section 81 Healing Lodges. Staff are underpaid and have little capacity to improve their salaries, which can result in either worker burnout or seeking employment in CSC , where there are better wages and job security. Section 81 Healing Lodges receive no compensation or recognition for the value-added they provide to corrections by virtue of volunteer support and staff training and upgrading. These are significant barriers to transferring existing CSC -operated Healing Lodges to community control under Section 81 and to communities being willing to negotiate agreements under Section 81.

89. While the policy of transferring only minimum security offenders gives a degree of comfort to both Section 81 and CSC -controlled Healing Lodges, its benefits do not outweigh the problems it creates. CSC should work with Section 81 Healing Lodges to seek ways of allowing those Healing Lodges to determine which offenders would benefit from the lodge's healing approach, regardless of their security classification, without jeopardizing the facility's physical and healing environment.

90. Over 70% of all released Aboriginal offenders do not return to a First Nation community but are rather released to an urban community, yet three of the four Section 81 Healing Lodges are on First Nation land, as are all of the CSC -controlled Healing Lodges. In spite of concerns raised by CSC that releasing an offender to an urban area would heighten the risk of revocation or re-offense, there is a demonstrated need for the Service to reflect current demographics in its Sections 81 and 84 plans. Urban communities across Canada enjoy a variety of Aboriginal organizations and services which could sponsor or support a Section 81 Healing Lodge or Section 84 release.

91. It is understood that not all Aboriginal offenders are interested in following a healing path based on traditional cultural and spiritual practices. Many of these offenders generally follow one of the Christian denominations, and many come from communities that hold Christianity at the core of their beliefs. While incarcerated, some of these offenders want to maintain their relationship with their faith and continue to practice it after release. A gathering of Aboriginal Christian leaders from across Canada proposed the creation of a Christian-based Healing Lodge whose principles mirror those of traditional Aboriginal people. [72] CSC should consider including a Christian-based model in any future expansion of Section 81 agreements.

92. Until September 2011, the only option for federally sentenced Aboriginal women to take advantage of an Aboriginal Healing Lodge environment was to be transferred to the CSC -operated Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan. Although Pathways units have been established at two of the five regional women's facilities (Edmonton Institution for Women and Fraser Valley Institution) and a Healing House is operating at Nova Institution in Truro, Nova Scotia, these are institutional-based services and supports. In 2011, 16 Section 81 bed spaces for Aboriginal women (Buffalo Sage Healing Centre) were opened in Edmonton, Alberta. Aboriginal women from other provinces are consequently precluded from healing opportunities in a community-controlled environment or are forced to transfer to Saskatchewan or Alberta. This poses a particular hardship for Aboriginal women with children.

93. Section 84 releases were never intended to be complex processes. Rather, they were to be a way of enhancing community participation in the release process by offering support to a released offender and applying conditions to safe and timely release. A number of those consulted either did not understand the intent of Section 84 or were frustrated by the complex and lengthy process involved before the arrangement could be considered by the Parole Board of Canada.

94. This investigation found that CSC only has 12 Aboriginal Community Development Officers ( ACDO s) across Canada who are responsible for developing relationships with Aboriginal communities and co-ordinating the Section 84 process. This is clearly not sufficient to meet demand.

95. Elders are at the centre of any healing process, be it through ceremony, teaching or counselling. They are an invaluable resource. For Section 81 Healing Lodges, under-funding often results in limited availability of Elders. Unless and until Elders are able to focus their work on addressing the healing needs of offenders, have manageable caseloads and are properly compensated, CSC 's Continuum of Care Model will not meet its full potential of successfully reintegrating Aboriginal offenders into their communities. A more thorough investigation of Elders services in federal institutions and Healing Lodges and factors that may inhibit their capacity to meet the needs of Aboriginal offenders is warranted.

96. Of all elements of CSC 's Aboriginal corrections strategy, the application and implementation of Gladue principles appears the least understood and most misrepresented. Although CSC has recently piloted Gladue training for its employees, it will take leadership to bring focus to Commissioner's Directive 702 and others. Gladue training should not be given in isolation but as part of an overall and extensive training program for all CSC staff.

97. As noted earlier, there are currently two federal penitentiaries in the Prairie Region whose population is more than 50% Aboriginal. Given the growing over-representation of Aboriginal people in federal corrections, the Aboriginal "baby-boom" and the impact of legislative reforms, it is possible that other federal institutions, particularly in the Prairie Region, may also become "Aboriginal" institutions. To effectively manage that population, CSC institutional staff must have a deeper understanding of Aboriginal peoples, cultures and traditions.

98. While the healing work being done in Section 81 Healing Lodges may not appear the same as mainstream correctional programs, those programs are well received by its residents and they are effective. In fact, Section 81 Healing Lodges and their sponsoring Aboriginal Agencies are responsible for major program innovations in Aboriginal corrections, including the Native Counselling Services of Alberta 's (NCSA) In Search of Your Warrior healing program and the Waseskun Healing Centre's Waseskun Net program that links Aboriginal inmates to their home communities.

99. Full implementation of Sections 81 and 84 of the CCRA is complex and time-consuming and will not alone solve the problems of Aboriginal over-representation in federal corrections. CSC could well be faced with a correctional system that is overwhelmingly Aboriginal in nature in the Prairie region and a significant factor in all other regions. The current approach to Aboriginal corrections will not suffice. Challenges based upon the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or actions under human rights legislation will likely increase. CSC must move beyond its current approach, which prioritizes penitentiary-based interventions over community-based alternatives.

100. As detailed in this investigation, over the years a series of barriers have been created in CSC 's implementation of Sections 81 and 84 provisions of the CCRA . In failing to make Section 81 and 84 arrangements more readily accessible to more Aboriginal offenders, CSC bears some responsibility for widening performance discrepancies and disproportionate representation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders. Chronic under-funding of Section 81 facilities, restrictive eligibility and placement criteria and differential outcomes perpetuate conditions of disadvantage for Aboriginal offenders in federal corrections. Consistent with expressions of Aboriginal self-determination, Sections 81 and 84 capture the promise to redefine the relationship between Aboriginal people and the federal government. Control over more aspects of release planning for Aboriginal offenders and greater access to more culturally-appropriate services and programming were original hopes when the CCRA was proclaimed in November 1992. Twenty years later, it is time that federal corrections more closely aligned its policies, resources and actions with Parliament's original intent.

RECOMMENDATIONS


1. CSC should create the position of Deputy Commissioner for Aboriginal Corrections to ensure that adequate co-ordination takes place between and among the various components of CSC , federal partners and Aboriginal communities.

2. CSC should develop a long-term strategy for additional Section 81 agreements and significantly increase the number of bed spaces in areas where the need exists. Funding for this renewed strategy should either be sought from Treasury Board or through internal reallocation of funds and amount to no less than the $11.6 million re-profiled in 2001 and adjusted for inflation.

3. CSC should re-affirm its commitment to Section 81 Healing Lodges by: (a) negotiating permanent and realistic funding levels for existing and future Section 81 Healing Lodges that take into account the need for adequate operating and infrastructure allocations and salary parity with CSC , and (b) continuing negotiations with communities hosting CSC -operated Healing Lodges with the view of transferring their operations to the Aboriginal community.

4. In all negotiations, CSC should enter into Memoranda of Understanding with the appropriate agency or First Nation leadership to ensure that the leadership and Elders are involved and considered equal partners in those negotiations.

5. CSC should re-examine the use of non-facility based Section 81 agreements as an alternative to Healing Lodges, particularly in those communities or regions where the number of Aboriginal offenders may not warrant a facility. The results of this examination would form part of CSC 's overall strategy for Section 81.

6. CSC should thoroughly review the process for Section 84 releases with the goal of significantly reducing red tape and accelerating the process.

7. CSC must expand its staff training curricula to include in-depth training about Aboriginal people, history, culture and spirituality for all staff, including training in the application of Gladue principles to correctional decision-making. This training should not just be "one-offs," but rather ongoing training provided throughout an employee's career.

8. CSC must resolve the issues faced by Elders in both institutions and Healing Lodges to ensure that their primary concern and responsibility is the healing of Aboriginal offenders. Further, CSC should set realistic standards of service, caseloads and payment for Elder services. CSC should be responsible for reporting on progress made in achieving those standards as part of its Management Accountability Framework.

9. CSC should partner with Aboriginal collectives, be they Tribal Council, Métis or Inuit organizations or urban associations, to develop protocols for Section 84 releases into their respective communities. These protocols, possibly based on the MLSN model, would define the relationship between CSC and Aboriginal communities and set in place a process for accepting and monitoring released offenders under Section 84.

10. CSC should work with Aboriginal Christian, Inuit and other identifiable communities to develop Section 81 agreements where warranted.

APPENDIX A


CONSULTATIONS AND INTERVIEWS 

Correctional Service Canada 

Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate

Pacific Regional Office

Alberta District Office

Prairie Regional Office

CSC -Operated Healing Lodges 

Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village, British Columbia

Pe Sakastaw Healing Lodge, Alberta

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, Saskatchewan

Section 81 Healing Lodges 

Stan Daniels Healing Centre, Alberta

Buffalo Sage Healing Centre for Women, Alberta

Prince Albert Grand Council ( PAGC ) Spiritual Healing Lodge, Saskatchewan

Waseskun Healing Centre, Quebec

Other 

Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division, Public Safety Canada

Leadership of the Nekaneet First Nation, Saskatchewan

Elders and staff at Saskatchewan Penitentiary

Elder at Pe Sakastew Centre, Alberta

Aboriginal Organizations 

Native Counselling Services of Alberta

APPENDIX B


BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Bell, Shawn. (2008). "Waseskun Healing Centre: A Successful Therapeutic Healing Community." Aboriginal Peoples Collection, APC 28 CA. Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division. Public Safety Canada. Ottawa.

Canada. (1985, c). Criminal Code of Canada , R.S.C. C-46.

Canada. (1992). Corrections and Conditional Release Act , S.C., c. 20.

Correctional Investigator Canada. (2011). Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2010-2011 . Ottawa.

Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2006). Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections 2006-2011 .

Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2010). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework .

Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2011). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 .

Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Issues Branch. (2001). National Action Plan on Aboriginal Corrections .

Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Issues. (2001). Effective Corrections Initiative: 2000-2001 Performance Management Report .

Correctional Service Canada, Community Reintegration Branch. (2010). Discussion Paper: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Community Reintegration: A Strategic Context .

Correctional Service Canada, Evaluation and Review Branch, Performance Assurance Sector. (2004). Final Report – Effective Corrections Initiative – Aboriginal Reintegration .

Correctional Service Canada, Evaluation and Review Branch, Performance Assurance. (2005). Evaluation Framework of the Assessment of the Nekaneet First Nation Capacity to Enter into CCRA Section 81 with the Correctional Service of Canada .

Correctional Service Canada, Evaluation Branch, Performance Assurance Sector. (2005). Evaluation Report: The Section 81 Agreement between the Native Counselling Services of Alberta and the Correctional Service of Canada: The Stan Daniels Healing Centre .

Correctional Service Canada, Internal Audit Branch. (2008). "Audit of Management of Section 81 Agreements."

Correctional Service Canada, Research Branch, Policy Planning and Coordination. (2002). An Examination of Healing Lodges for Federal Offenders in Canada .

Correctional Service Canada. (1990). Evaluation Framework. Aboriginal Offender Pilot Projects . Community and Institutional Programs Task Force. Ottawa.

Correctional Service Canada. (1998). "Procedures for Initiating Section 84." (Internal Memorandum).

Correctional Service Canada. (2000). « Plan des Dépenses de Financement (2000-2005).» Unpublished. CR reference 1750-16.

Correctional Service Canada. (2002). "Effective Corrections Results." (Reporting Date June 3, 2002).

Correctional Service Canada. (2010). "Guidelines 712-1-1: CCRA Section 84: Application Process."

Correctional Service Canada. (2011). "Evaluation Report: Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections – Chapter One: Aboriginal Healing Lodges." Evaluation Branch, Policy Sector.

Correctional Service Canada. (2012). Commissioner's Directive 702 Aboriginal Offenders .

Correctional Service Canada. (2012). Report on Plans and Priorities 2012-13 .

Correctional Service of Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (undated). Conditional Release Planning Kit .

Davis-Patsula, Paula, and Marilyn Mogey (1993). Evaluation of the Stan Daniels Correctional Centre . Native Counselling Services of Alberta.

Mann, Michelle. (2009). Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections . Office of the Correctional Investigator.

Mi'kmaw Legal Support Network. (2010). Building a Bridge. Aboriginal Inclusion in Community Healing and the Process of Reintegration for Aboriginal Offenders . Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division, Public Safety Canada.

National Parole Board, Department of Supply and Services. (1988). Final Report. Task Force on Aboriginal Peoples in Federal Corrections .

Public Safety Canada, Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division. (2006). "A Matter of Faith: A Gathering of Aboriginal Christians." Aboriginal Peoples Collection APC 24 CA.

Public Safety Canada, Corrections Policy Division. (2005). Aboriginal Corrections Strategic Plan 2005-2010 . Aboriginal

Public Safety Canada. (2000). Aboriginal Corrections Policy Strategic Plan .

Public Safety Canada. (2011). Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview: Annual Report 2011 . Ottawa.

Public Safety Canada. (2011). Final Report 2010-2011 Evaluation of the Effective Corrections and Citizen Engagement Initiatives .

Public Works and Government Services Canada. (2000). A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Report of the Sub-Committee on Corrections and Conditional Release Act of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, Canada Communications Group. (1995). Bridging the Cultural Divide: A Report on Aboriginal People and Criminal Justice in Canada .

Schlecker, Regan, Dawn. (2001). Dreamcatcher 22: Commissions of Inquiry and Aboriginal Criminal Justice Report . Vancouver: University of British Columbia.

Solicitor General Canada. (undated). "Influences on Canadian Correctional Reform . " Working Papers of the Correctional Law Review 1986 to 1988 .

Statistics Canada. (2005). Projections of the Aboriginal Populations, Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2001 to 2017 .

Statistics Canada. (2006). "Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations, 2006." 2006 Census .

Treasury Board Secretariat. (1975). The Native Inmate within the Federal Penitentiary System .

Young, Sara. (2011). Gladue and Correctional Service Canada: A Report on the Application of Gladue Principles in Federal Corrections in Canada . Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division, Public Safety Canada.

ENDNOTES


[1] R. v. Gladue (1999) 1 S.C.R. 688. 

[2] Corrections and Conditional Release Act , S.C. 1992, c. 20.

[3] Michelle M. Mann. (2009). Good Intentions, Disappointing Results: A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections . Office of the Correctional Investigator.

[4] Conversation with Gina Wilson, former Director General, Aboriginal Issues, Correctional Service Canada.

[5] C-36 Government Motions to Amend . (1992). In response to a motion by Mr. Blackburn (NDP) to amend Section 81(1) to state, "The Minister shall enter into an ...," the Government rejected the motion stating: "The Minister cannot be obliged to enter into an agreement. Key to negotiating and entering into an agreement satisfactory to the Minster and aboriginal communities is mutual consent."

[6] Mountain Institution (Native Transfer Committee) v. Canada. (1997). 125 F.T.R 10 (T.D. ) where the Court stated, in part: "This was an action on behalf of 1,800 aboriginal inmates for the transfer of the offenders into the care and custody of the aboriginal community pursuant to s. 81...The Court also stated the claim was not good at law, for there was no enforceable requirement for the Service to implement community placement under this section, as it is permissive and not mandatory."

[7] The Inherent Right to Self-Government Policy specifically states that "Penitentiaries and Parole" fall within a category of authorities where administrative authority can be negotiated but jurisdiction remains with the Federal Government.

[8] Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2011). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 , p. 4.

[9] Public Safety Canada (2011). Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, Annual Report 2011 , p. 51.

[10] Ibid. p. 61.

[11] Public Safety Canada. (2000). Aboriginal Corrections Policy Strategic Plan .

[12] Statistics Canada. (2006). "Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Métis and First Nations." 2006 Census findings.

[13] Statistics Canada. (2005). Projections of the Aboriginal Populations, Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2001 to 2017 .

[14] Treasury Board Secretariat. (1975). The Native Inmate within the Federal Penitentiary System , p. 3.

[15] Ibid. p. 4.

[16] Solicitor General Canada, Communications Division. (1975). Native Peoples and Justice: Reports on the National Conference and the Federal-Provincial Conference on Native Peoples and the Criminal Justice System , p. 11.

[17] Ibid. p. 38.

[18] National Parole Board, Supply and Services Canada. (1988). Final Report: Task Force on Aboriginal People in Federal Corrections , p. 78.

[19] "Public Inquiry into the Administration of Justice and Aboriginal People." Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba , Volume 1, p. 83.

[20] Ibid. p. 642.

[21] Ibid. p. 24.

[22] Royal Commission on Aboriginal People. (1995). Bridging the Cultural Divide .

[23] Mann, op. cit.

[24] CSC 's total Section 81 capacity of 68 bed spaces has been confirmed by Stan Daniel's and CSC 's Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate, National Headquarters.

[25] Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Issues Directorate. (2001). National Action Plan on Aboriginal Corrections , p. 3.

[26] Correctional Service Canada. (2002). Effective Corrections Results . CR 1750-16, p. 9-10. (Reporting Date June 3, 2002).

[27] The overall Effective Corrections Initiatives were originally funded at $45 million over 5 years (2000-01 to 2004-05), shared between CSC ($30 million), Parole Board of Canada ($6.5 million) and Public Safety Canada ($8.5 million). Public Safety Canada (March 2011), Final Report 2010-2011 Evaluation of the Effective Corrections and Citizen Engagement Initiatives. 

[28] Correctional Service Canada, Evaluation and Review Branch, Performance Assurance Sector. (2004). Final Report – Effective Corrections Initiative – Aboriginal Reintegration .

[29] Correctional Service Canada. (2002). Effective Corrections Results , p. 2.

[30] Ibid. p. 2.

[31] Correctional Service Canada. (2004). Final Report – Effective Corrections Initiative .

[32] Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2006). Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections 2006 – 2011 .

[33] Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2010). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework .

[34] Correctional Service Canada, Research Branch, Policy Planning and Coordination. (2002). An Examination of Healing Lodges for Federal Offenders in Canada .

[35] Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate. (2010). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework .

[36] Correctional Service Canada. (2006). Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections 2006-2011 .

[37] Public Safety Canada. (2011). Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview: Annual Report 2011 .

[38] Correctional Service Canada. (2012). Report on Plans and Priorities, 2012-13 .

[39] Mann, op. cit.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Correctional Service Canada, Internal Audit Branch. (2008). Audit of Management of Section 81 Agreements , p. 6.

[42] The policies include: Guidelines 541-2: "Negotiation, Implementation and Management of CCRA Section 81 Agreements"; Guidelines 710-2-1: " CCRA Section 81: Admission and Transfer of Offenders"; Guidelines 712-1-1: " CCRA Section 84: Application Process."

[43] Correctional Service Canada, Research Branch, Policy Planning and Coordination. (2002). An Examination of Healing Lodges for Federal Offenders in Canada , p. 59.

[44] CSC . (2010). CSC Guidelines, 710-2-1: "Section 81: Admission and Transfer of Offenders."

[45] Correctional Service Canada. (2011). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 , p. 21.

[46] Public Safety Canada. (2011). Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, Annual Report 2011 , p. 53.

[47] Data from CSC 's Offender Management System provided by Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate, January 30, 2012.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Correctional Service Canada. (2011). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 , p. 6.

[50] Data from CSC 's Offender Management System, provided by Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate, January 30, 2012.

[51] Interview with Waseskun Healing Centre staff.

[52] Correctional Service Canada. Evaluation Branch, Policy Sector. (2011). Evaluation Report: Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections – Chapter One: Aboriginal Healing Lodges , p. 11.

[53] Correctional Service Canada, Evaluation Branch, Performance Assurance Sector. (October 2005). "Evaluation Report: The Section 81 Agreement between the Native Counselling Services of Alberta and the Correctional Service of Canada: The Stan Daniels Healing Centre .

[54] Data from CSC 's Offender Management System provided by Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate, January 30, 2012.

[55] Correctional Service Canada. (2011). Evaluation Report: Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections

[56] Correctional Service Canada. (2008). Commissioner's Directive 702 – Aboriginal Offenders .

[57] Correctional Service Canada. (2011). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 , p. 9.

[58] Ibid., p. 6.

[59] Correctional Service Canada, Aboriginal Initiatives Branch. (Undated). Conditional Release Planning Kit .

[60] Correctional Service Canada. (1998). Procedures for Initiating Section 84 ., p. 19. (Internal memorandum.)

[61] Public Safety Canada, Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division, Mi'kmaw Legal Support Network. (2010). Building a Bridge. Aboriginal Inclusion in Community Healing and the Process of Reintegration for Aboriginal Offenders .

[62] Correctional Service Canada. (2011). Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework Year End Report 2010-2011 , p. 6.

[63] Pathways units are also operating at two of the five regional women's facilities – Edmonton Institution for Women and Fraser Valley Institution.

[64] Ibid ., p. 10

[65] Criminal Code of Canada , R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s. 718.2(c).

[66] Mann (2009), op. cit.

[67] R. v. Ipeelee , 2012 SCC 13.

[68] Correctional Service Canada. (2008). Commissioner's Directive 702 – Aboriginal Offenders , s. 17.

[69] It should be noted, however, that these CDs are currently under revision.

[70] Sara Young. (2011). Gladue and Correctional Service Canada: A Report on the Application of Gladue Principles in Federal Corrections in Canada , p. 14-15. Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division, Public Safety Canada.

[71] Public Safety Canada (2011), op. cit.

[72] Public Safety Canada, Aboriginal Corrections Policy Division. (2006). A Matter of Faith: A Gathering of Aboriginal Christians . Aboriginal Peoples Collections APC 24 CA.


Date modified 
2013-09-16 



 

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Office of the Correctional Investigator - Report

A Case Study of Diversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries Final Report

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Body

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION 

METHODOLOGY 

CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND 

Legislative and Policy Framework 
Profile of Federally Sentenced Black inmates 

ANALYSIS: CORRECTIONAL EXPERIENCES OF BLACK INMATES 

Population Management 
Cultural Needs of Black Inmates are not being met 
Conditions of Confinement 

ANALYSIS: CORRECTIONAL OUTCOMES OF BLACK INMATES 

DISCUSSION 

What does Diversity mean for CSC

KEY FINDINGS 

REFERENCES 

INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION


1. The face of Canadian corrections is changing. As the Canadian population has become increasingly diverse so too has the federal offender population. The visible minority 1 offender population (community and incarcerated) has increased over the past 5 years by 40%. Visible minorities now constitute 18% of the total federally sentenced offender population (those incarcerated and in the community) which is largely consistent with representation rates in Canadian society (19.1%) 2 . In 2011/12, Caucasians continued to make up the largest proportion of the federal offender population (62.3%). By comparison, Aboriginals represented 19.3%, Blacks 8.6%, Asians 3 5.4%, and Hispanics 4 0.9% of the population respectively 5 . Increasing diversity presents important challenges for the Correctional Service of Canada ( CSC ), particularly with respect to the relevancy of programs and services as well as representative hiring and the need for greater staff cultural competence, awareness and sensitivity.

2. Prejudice and bias, particularly with respect to Aboriginal peoples, have been well documented in studies and inquiries of the Canadian criminal justice system 6 . However, little Canadian research has systematically explored the treatment of visible minorities within the criminal justice system and even less so on their experiences in correctional facilities, primarily because of the lack of or limited access to data. The principal Canadian study in this field, conducted by The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System 7 , examined the extent to which criminal justice practices, procedures and policies in the police, courts and correctional institutions in Ontario reflected systemic racism. Overall, the Commission found evidence of systemic racism within each of the components of the criminal justice system and made a number of recommendations to improve its accountability. Specifically, with respect to correctional institutions, the Commission found evidence of pervasive racial hostility and intolerance within prison environments, racial segregation of inmates within and among prisons and racial inequality in regards to the delivery of institutional services. While this study is now dated and was conducted in provincial institutions in only one province, it provides important contextual information, both from a qualitative and quantitative perspective, on the experiences of Black inmates 8 and visible minorities more generally, within the Canadian criminal justice system and provides a foundation for the present case study.

3. The 2011/12 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator ( OCI ) identified Black 9 inmates as one of the fastest growing sub-populations in federal corrections. It highlighted the increasing over-representation of this group relative to their proportion within the Canadian population. Over the last 10 years, the number of federally incarcerated Black inmates has increased by 75% (767 Black inmates in 2002/03 to 1340 Black inmates in 2011/12) with most of this increase occurring in the last 6 years (2006/07 to 2011/12) 10 . Black inmates now account for 9.3% 11 of the total federal prison population (up from 6.1% in 2002/03) while representing approximately just 2.9% 12 of the Canadian population (see diagram).

A graph that demonstrates 10 year inmate population trends

4. In light of the recent and rapid increases in this sub-population, the OCI committed to a review of the experiences and outcomes of Black inmates in federal custody. The objectives of this review are threefold:

  • Provide an overall profile of federally incarcerated Black offenders.
  • Examine the experiences and outcomes of Black inmates in federal corrections.
  • Assess and review the actions taken by CSC to respond to the needs of this growing segment of the prison population to determine if sufficient and appropriate measures are in place to facilitate the safe and timely community reintegration of Black inmates.

METHODOLOGY


5. The CSC was notified of the OCI ’s intent to commence this review in April 2012. The case study involves a research strategy which relies on quantitative and qualitative measures to examine the following issues:

  • A review of relevant research.
  • Analysis of data from both the CSC and Parole Board of Canada ( PBC ).
  • Qualitative interviews with the following groups and individuals: Black Inmate Committees, Black inmates, CSC personnel, community volunteers and Audmax (an organization currently on contract with CSC to provide ethnocultural services) 13 .

6. Site visits to conduct interviews with Black inmates and CSC staff were carried out at five federal institutions in three regions over the four-month period November 2012 – February 2013 (See Table 1). Three regions (Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic) were selected recognizing that the large majority of federally sentenced Black inmates (86%) are currently incarcerated in institutions in these regions 14 . While it is possible that Black inmates in the Prairie and Pacific regions have very different experiences than those in the other three regions, the sample provided a good representation in terms of official languages, regions and gender. Maximum security institutions were under-represented in this investigation; however, many male inmates reported having begun their prison term in a maximum security institution before being moved to medium security and thus spoke of experiences in both types of institutions. As of April 14, 2013, only 3 Black women were classified as maximum security 15 .

Table 1: Sites visited for the case study 
InstitutionRegionSecurity level# of Black inmates 
in 2011/12
Black inmates as a proportion 
of the institutional population
JoycevilleOntarioMedium13737%
Collins BayOntarioMedium10927%
Grand Valley Institution for WomenOntarioMulti-level4323%
ArchambaultQuebecMedium3510%
DorchesterAtlanticMedium308%

Source: CRS , March 2013

7. The Chair of the Black Inmate Committee at each institution was contacted to inform them of the case study and request their participation and assistance in consulting with members of the Committee to identify issues to bring forward. Notices were also posted in all ranges informing Black inmates of the case study and the opportunity to voluntarily participate. The Chair of the Black Inmate Committee was interviewed at each institution. Interviews were also conducted with Black inmates at four of the five institutions 16 . These interviews unfolded in one of three ways: individually; in small groups (2-3 participants), and; in large focus groups (10-20 participants). In total, 73 Black inmates (30 women and 43 men) were interviewed.

8. Interviews were also conducted with CSC staff at each of the five institutions. In total, 24 CSC staff members were interviewed including individuals in the following positions: Wardens, Assistant Wardens Operations / Interventions, Chiefs of Health Care/Psychology, Manager, Programs, Correctional Managers, Security Intelligence Officers, Parole Officers, Grievance Coordinators, and Correctional Officers.

9. Interviews were also conducted with Chaplains employed by CSC , two community groups/volunteers and Audmax.

10. Overall, while the interviews were guided by a questionnaire, they were often informed and directed by the experiences and knowledge of those being interviewed. However, all elements of the questionnaire were discussed in every interview.

11. Finally, the OCI contracted with the Afrikan Canadian Prisoner Advocacy Coalition ( ACPAC ) to provide a background literature review, expertise and analysis of Black Canadians in conflict with the law. ACPAC is a research coalition whose members bring a unique and distinctive mix of knowledge, practical skills, expertise and experience related to issues of the over-representation of African Canadians in federal penitentiaries, mental health and marginalized groups, racial discrimination and cultural competence, equity and diversity training. ACPAC members have extensive experience working with African Canadians who have experienced incarceration in Canada’s federal penitentiaries and provincial jails and have expertise in the development, implementation, delivery and assessment of mental health programs for African Canadians.

CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND


Legislative and Policy Framework

12. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act ( CCRA ) includes provisions that require correctional policies, programs and practices to respect, among other things, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences. In addition, the CCRA and the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations ( CCRR ) entitle inmates to reasonable opportunities to participate in and express religion or spirituality. These are in line with and respect section 2 and 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides for freedom of religion and guarantees individuals equality under the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability. Equal treatment and equal protection under the law are also protected in Part I of the Canadian Human Rights Act and section 3 of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. 

13. While the CCRA and CCRR are part of CSC ’s legislative framework, Commissioner's Directives ( CD ) provide policy direction on areas prescribed by law and on fundamental areas of corrections. CD 767 - Ethnocultural Offenders: Services and Interventions provides further guidance specific to ethnocultural offenders to ensure their specific needs and cultural interests are identified and managed through the provision of effective services and responsive interventions. Among other things, CD 767:

  • Ensures correctional programs, services and interventions are developed and provided to meet the identified needs of ethnocultural offenders.
  • Ensures the offender assessment process considers ethnocultural differences and that there is a process in place to identify the needs and cultural interests of ethnocultural offenders.
  • Directs CSC management to build and maintain partnerships with communities and organizations that will help respond to the needs of ethnocultural offenders.
  • Encourages offenders to form multicultural associations to help meet their cultural needs and interests.
  • Establishes the creation and management of the National and Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committees.
  • Fosters an environment free of racial profiling, harassment and stereotyping where ethnocultural services, activities and interventions can take place.

Profile of Federally Sentenced Black inmates

14. The majority of Black inmates under federal sentence are incarcerated in Ontario and Quebec (61% and 17% respectively); however, there are also sizable populations in the Prairie and Atlantic regions where approximately 11% and 8% of Black inmates are incarcerated 17 .

15. Only 4% of Black inmates incarcerated in a Canadian federal penitentiary were women (55) in 2011/12; the majority, 96%, were men (1285). 18 The Black inmate population is a young one. One-half of Black inmates are 30 years of age or younger while only 8% are over the age of 50. 19 By comparison, only 31% of the general inmate population is 30 years of age and under. One in five are 50 years of age and over 20 .

16. The Black inmate population is a very diverse group and includes a variety of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and experiences. Just over half (53%) of Black inmates were born in Canada. Of those that were foreign born, Black inmates were most likely to be born in Jamaica and Haiti (17% and 5% respectively) 21 . However, there are also sizable populations from Barbados, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Somalia and Sudan, representing many different cultures, traditions and customs. The high proportion of Black inmates born in countries other than Canada presents CSC with some challenges as many of these inmates may speak a language other than English or French as their first language. While the majority of Black inmates reported affiliating with some form of Christianity, other religious faiths were represented as well, including Muslim (23%) and Rastafarian (6.5%) 22 . Differing religious diets, clothing, medicines, books and worship practices adhered to by the faithful must be accommodated by the CSC .

Why are Black inmates incarcerated? 

17. The majority of Black inmates (51%) were incarcerated for Schedule I 23 (violent) offences in 2011/12. 18% were incarcerated for Schedule II 24 (drug) offences 25 . Approximately 18% of Black inmates were incarcerated for first degree murder or second degree murder. These proportions are consistent with those of the overall inmate population. The one group of offences where Black inmates differ substantially from the general inmate population is with respect to sex offences. Approximately 10% of Black inmates were incarcerated for sex offences in 2011/12, compared to 15.5% of all federal inmates 26 .

Federally Sentenced Black Women 

18. In 2011/12, there were 55 Black women inmates serving time in a federal penitentiary, representing 9.12% of the incarcerated women population. The majority (78%) of Black women are incarcerated at Grand Valley Institution ( GVI ) in the Ontario region. Over the past 10 years, the number of incarcerated Black women fluctuated very little between 2002 and 2010, at which point the number increased by 54% and then again by another 28% between 2010 and 2012. The number of incarcerated Black women appears to be rising quickly.

19. In 2011/12, Black women were most likely to be incarcerated for Schedule II (drug) offences (53%). Interviews with Black women at GVI revealed that most were incarcerated on drug trafficking charges. Many indicated that they willingly chose to carry drugs across international borders, primarily as an attempt to rise above poverty. There were some who reported having been forced into these activities with threats of violence to their children and/or families. Most Black women interviewed were foreign nationals. Many spoke of the difficulties of being far from their family and community support networks as well as the high cost of calling home from prison which meant that they rarely spoke with family members 27 . Maintaining contact with home and family presents huge reintegration challenges. Many Black women in federal custody face deportation upon completion of their sentence.

20. There were other concerns noted by the women in group and individual interviews: the lack of availability and access to special medicated creams and ointments for skin and hair care; lack of appropriate skills training (rather than laundering, folding, ironing and sewing of clothes); and, cuts to part-time chaplains, reflecting a concern that their spiritual needs could not be met by Christian chaplains. Finally, though many Black women at GVI were incarcerated for drug trafficking, conviction for this type of offence does not necessarily translate into having a drug addiction or substance abuse problem. Several women reported that they could not understand why they were required to complete this type of programming, even as part of a broader core correctional program, in the absence of an identified need.

Gang affiliation 

21. One aspect that distinguishes Black offenders and Black male offenders in particular, is gang affiliation. As of April 14, 2013, Black inmates were nearly two times more likely than the general inmate population to have a gang affiliation (21.3% vs 12.3%) 28 . In general, gangs are involved in all areas of criminal activity, the most common being the trafficking of illicit drugs. Other criminal activities include the facilitation of street-level prostitution, theft, robbery, fraud and weapons offences. 29 A study conducted by CSC (2004) found that male offenders with a gang affiliation were more likely to have committed violent, weapons and drug-related offences. 30 

ANALYSIS: CORRECTIONAL EXPERIENCES OF BLACK INMATES


Population Management

22. CSC has a Population Management Strategy which encourages the integration of various populations in support of maintaining diverse institutions 31 . However, the review found that Black inmates are disproportionately incarcerated in specific institutions in the Ontario and Quebec regions. For example, there are five medium security institutions in Ontario 32 ; however, more than half (55%) of Black offenders in medium security in Ontario are incarcerated in two institutions (Collins Bay and Joyceville). In Quebec, there are also five medium security institutions 33 , yet 60% of Black inmates in medium security are incarcerated in two institutions (Cowansville and Archambault). Senior CSC personnel interviewed for the case study highlighted the importance and ‘best practice’ of integrating various populations and maintaining diverse ranges and institutions. They reported that this practice significantly reduces violence and contributes to an environment that is less prone to discrimination and cultural stereotyping. While it is possible that this situation may partially be explained by offender requests to transfer to institutions where there is cultural programming or to be closer to those of their own culture, it is unlikely to completely account for their disproportionate numbers in particular institutions.

Cultural Needs of Black Inmates are not being met

23. The CSC has implemented an extensive governance structure, including an Ethnocultural Services section at national headquarters, a Regional Manager of Ethnocultural Services, Institutional Ethnocultural Coordinators as well as a National and Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committee, all intended to better identify and manage the needs and cultural interests of ethnocultural offenders. Notwithstanding, this review found that the cultural needs of Black inmates are not being adequately met or addressed in 3 key areas: correctional programs, availability of products and cultural food, and community support.

Correctional programs not culturally relevant 

24. The CCRA (S. 76) states that the CSC shall provide a range of programs designed to address the needs of the offenders and contribute to their successful reintegration. Over the last 20 years, CSC has prioritized the use of correctional programs as an important means of reducing rates of re-offending.

25. This review found that while CSC programs provide Black offenders with important tools and strategies, they do not necessarily or adequately match their reality. Black inmates reported that they could not see themselves reflected in the programs and they felt that these were not rooted in their historical or lived experiences. CSC staff reported that they did not feel that culture was particularly relevant when administering programs as they are meant to target criminogenic, not cultural factors. Inmates, on the other hand, felt that their life experiences were very much shaped by the culture they grew up in and thus what led them to committing a crime may be very different than that of other inmates. Black inmates reported that they believe programs would be more effective and they would get more from the programs if they were to more closely reflect their experiences. Black inmates agreed that a more diverse teaching staff would contribute to an environment where they would feel more comfortable to openly discuss issues relevant to their own experiences, culture and traditions. While research conducted by CSC indicates that correctional programs are equally effective across a broad range of ethnic groups, particularly in terms of decreased likelihood of recidivism, it is also noted that offender ethnicity and culture are important in effectively administering correctional programming 34 .

26. CSC does offer some ethnocultural programming specific to Black heritage and culture (e.g. Springhill: 5-week program to educate inmates on Africentric Healing, Reintegration and Culture; Westmorland Institution: 10 week Employability Program; Dorchester: Drumming Program; Atlantic region: CSC and PBC co-sponsored information session for Afro-Canadian offenders relating to parole application process). These programs are only offered in one region (Atlantic region), at one institution, on an inconsistent basis, and some, like the drumming program, have limited space for participation (9 participants/session). As well, CSC provides libraries with cultural resources (books, magazines, newspapers etc.) in most institutions and some institutions have an ethnocultural arts program (e.g. visual, literary, performing and musical arts), however many Black inmates reported that these materials were limited.

27. Participation in and support for cultural events in institutions can be an important complement to CSC programs. Some inmates talked about the pride they felt when hosting a cultural event (e.g. Black History Month, a drumming demonstration) and interacting with and educating others about their traditions. While CSC promotes and organizes a number of cross-cultural awareness activities (e.g. seminars, speakers, workshops, festivals, etc.), support for these events at the institutional level is not consistent. The Black Inmate Committees at some institutions reported having sufficient help and guidance to plan their events, host cultural meals, and bring in guest speakers whereas others reported little to no assistance to the point that very few events had ever taken place within the institution. For instance, the Black Inmate Committee at one institution had tried on several occasions to meet with the Regional Manager, Ethnocultural Services to discuss issues and ask for guidance; however, after 18 months, the only response they received was that the duties of this position had changed and that they would have to work with their institutional representative, whom they did not feel was providing sufficient support.

Cultural products often not available 

28. All Black inmates, particularly Black women, indicated a lack of access to hygiene products specifically designed for their hair/skin type through canteen. Many women expressed the importance of appearance within the Black culture and the significance of this in terms of self-confidence and self-worth. Several Black women wore head coverings because they were self-conscious that their hair had become brittle and fallen out as a result of not having access to appropriate products. Black inmates (both men and women) also raised issues of severe dry skin and the need for lotions better suited to their skin type.

29. Over the past three years, reductions in non-essential health care services previously provided by CSC has placed an additional burden requiring non-prescription items such as medicated shampoo, creams and lotions for skin conditions to be purchased through the inmate canteen. Many Black inmates reported very limited access to these products and those items that were available, were very expensive.

30. CSC recently updated CD 890 - Inmates’ Canteen which included areference stating that:

“The objective is to allow inmates to purchase basic health and hygiene articles currently available at the institutional canteen with the credit from their hygiene account; each institution will ensure that these categories of products currently available are offered at the canteen from the hygiene account. Institutions will also ensure that the cultural and gender diversity of the inmate population is also taken into consideration for the types of products currently available. Institutions could reduce the availability of certain categories or types of products if the limitation of their clientele requires it or because of the size of the canteen or the limited turnaround of the products.”

While this reference attempts to provide for a diversity of products in canteen, it was included only as a footnote rather than as a separate part of the CD and thus lacks the authority to ensure that a range of products are in fact available.

31. Another issue that inmates felt very strongly about was the lack of access to food that was consistent with their culture and traditions. Throughout the review, inmates reported a lack of or inconsistent access to cultural food, particularly through canteen. CD 880 - Food Services states that CSC must provide inmates with an appropriate diet based on the requirements of their faith; however there is no similar provision for cultural food (which is different than food based on religious requirements) either as part of the Food Services or Inmates’ Canteen CD . While the provision of cultural food is not mandatory, it is an important step toward achieving greater recognition of cultural differences and equality of treatment.

Lack of relevant community support 

32. Commissioner’s Directive 767 - Ethnocultural Offenders: Services and Interventions requires that CSC “build and maintain partnerships and networks with communities and organizations that will help respond to the needs of ethnocultural offenders and assist in their reintegration”. The review found that in all of the institutions visited, it was evident that linkages to Black community groups were very limited or non-existent.

33. Many Black inmates reported never having seen, spoken to, or met with anyone from a Black community group though most expressed a strong desire to have these linkages. Some inmates in the Ontario region reported hearing about or talking to representatives from the Black Inmates and Friends Association ( BIFA ), an organization previously on contract with the CSC to provide ethnocultural services 35 .

34. The Black Inmate Committee at one of the institutions visited reported that they had discussed hiring a community representative using their own resources to come into the institution once a month to provide advice and support. While the proposal was still in its infancy, the discussion is noteworthy. Inmates earn very little while incarcerated so the fact that the group was considering contributing to a fund to pay for a community advisor is indicative of their need and want for community support.

35. CSC has established a Mentorship program that links offenders with community agencies to provide support and community connections. However, no offender interviewed for this case study had been part of this program or had even heard of it and it is unclear which institutions are currently offering it. CSC staff also reported that social workers and parole officers are responsible for helping offenders connect with community groups, but again Black inmates reported very little assistance in this respect. The Black Inmate Committee at one institution reported trying to organize an event with the intent of bringing in representatives from Black community groups to inform parole officers of the services available to Black inmates. However, the event has not moved forward because of a perceived lack of support/interest from CSC staff.

36. CSC staff acknowledged the difficulty in getting Black community groups into the institutions as they are often situated at a distance from urban centres where community groups are usually located. As a result, CSC staff concluded that it was costly, in terms of resources and time, for volunteers to make the trip to the institution. These groups can significantly impact the reintegration success of Black inmates. Temporary absences (escorted and unescorted) could be used to connect Black inmates with community organizations/groups. One Black Inmate Committee reported that they had requested a cultural TA to a community organization for some of its members and “…after 3 years, they ( CSC staff) are still apparently working on it”.

Conditions of Confinement

37. The review found that while many Black inmates reported interactions with inmates and CSC staff that were considerate and respectful, all reported experiencing discrimination by other inmates and correctional officials. Significantly, the investigation found that Black inmates were most concerned about their treatment by CSC staff. They held CSC staff to a higher standard as they felt that they are trained (and required) to be professional and respectful in carrying out their duties.

38. As the literature suggests, the ways in which discrimination and prejudice are displayed or expressed have shifted over time from more overt forms (e.g. racist language and behaviour) to more covert and subtle forms (e.g. ignoring, shunning) often making it difficult to recognize and counteract 36 . Unlike the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System (1994) which found Ontario prisons to be very hostile environments for Black inmates in terms of the use of racist language, federal Black inmates reported that while they heard and/or experienced the use of racist language, it was not felt to be pervasive. More concerning to them were the behaviours exhibited by many CSC staff. Much of what inmates reported to the Office falls within what the literature describes as “covert discrimination”.

39. Many inmates talked about being ignored by staff when asking questions. One inmate commented that the guards “…look right through me and say nothing, they just look right through me like I am not standing right in front of them”. Many Black inmates felt that their needs did not appear to be a priority and that their concerns were often ignored. This sentiment was particularly prevalent for Black inmates with respect to health care needs. Many reported being ignored by health care staff or told to “put in a request”. They felt that issues identified by other inmates were taken more seriously or immediately addressed. Many felt as though there was a ‘different set of rules’ for Black inmates. While feelings of being ignored or disregarded by correctional staff are no doubt common to many inmates, this behaviour particularly resonates with Black inmates as it reinforces their lived experiences with racism and discrimination on a daily basis. In prison, it increases feeling of marginalization, exclusion and isolation. Further, even though some of these incidents may appear insignificant, the cumulative impact may be no less hurtful or stigmatizing when compared to more overt types of discrimination.

40. Black inmates reported numerous examples of stereotyping. Judgments about their character and lifestyle were also common. Most of the Black men described being labeled a ‘gang member’, a ‘trouble maker, a ‘drug dealer, and/or a ‘womanizer’. Many CSC staff corroborated this and agreed that there were staff members that were biased and employed stereotypes, viewing everything Black inmates did through bias and prejudice, though they felt that most CSC staff were fair and professional. At all the men’s institutions, the label ‘gang member’ and ‘trouble maker’ were commonly applied, particularly when three or more Black inmates gathered together (The label ‘trouble maker’ was also prevalent at the women’s institution again when Black women congregated).

41. The gang member/affiliation stereotype is a particular concern of Black male inmates. They felt as though everything they did or said was viewed and assessed using a ‘gang lens’. They reported that this label often prevented them from obtaining CORCAN jobs or jobs of trust within the institution thus relegating them to work that provided little experience and/or training to help them upon release. Many Black inmates discussed how their body language, manner of speaking, use of expressions, style of dress and association with others were often perceived as gang behaviour by CSC staff. The ‘trouble maker/gang member’ stereotype was so pervasive at one institution that the Black Inmate Committee stopped meeting and disbanded. They felt that their meetings garnered unfair scrutiny by officers who would walk by almost constantly and question members of the Committee after the meetings to find out what had been discussed.

Gang Affiliation 

42. While Black inmates are two times more likely to have a gang affiliation, the great majority (79%) are not a member of a gang. Despite this, the gang affiliation label is the one issue that seems to both distinguish and define the Black inmate experience in federal penitentiaries.

43. On the surface, gang affiliation as identified, assessed and defined by CSC appears to be based on objective criteria: reliable source identification (informants, community or institutional sources); tangible written or electronic evidence (e.g. pictures); common and/or symbolic identification, (e.g. scars, marks and tattoos or criminal organization paraphernalia); and observed behaviour that by its nature or association gives reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offender has a gang affiliation. 37 In practice, these criteria can be discretionary and prone to confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret information or behaviour in a way that confirms preconceptions and subjective judgements. Once applied, the validity and reliability of the gang label appear to be rarely questioned, particularly among those in operational positions working with Black inmates. This kind of labeling is particularly questionable when it relies on internal security intelligence information or prison informants, which are not always corroborated by external law enforcement, court or judicial authorities.

44. Those who felt they were wrongly labeled felt particularly vulnerable because dissociating from a gang requires inmates to provide a written request to terminate his/her affiliation with a gang ( CD 568-3 - Identification and Management of Security Threat Groups ). However if they do this, they felt like they were admitting to something that they were in fact not part of.

How has CSC responded to discrimination and stereotyping? 

45. CSC has implemented a number of measures aimed at addressing discrimination and stereotyping. These include measures aimed at improving cultural representation among staff (e.g. targeted hiring, career fairs, career development programs for visible minority staff, etc.) and enhancing staff diversity and cultural competency training (e.g. development of reference materials specific to ethnocultural offenders, responsivity portal, etc.). Other measures focus on CSC ’s human resources planning and include initiatives that ensure equality and representation across the organization such as the Diversity and Employment Equity Committee, the National Advisory Council on Diversity, an Employment Equity Action Plan and developmental programs for employment equity groups. To its credit, CSC commissioned a national consultation in 2011 with visible minority employees which resulted in a Visible Minority Action Plan containing 37 actions, though it is unclear what has been accomplished to date.

46. While these activities and processes are important, there is a need for continuous reinforcement and training. CSC staff reported a need for practical training on culture and diversity. Employee participation in institutional cultural events is essential to encourage learning and interaction with other cultures where the focus is other than security. Moreover, there is a need to consistently monitor and evaluate the outcome of these programs and activities to ensure they are having the desired effect. This review found little evidence that monitoring or evaluation had occurred on any of the equity measures implemented by the CSC .

47. One issue that both Black inmates and CSC staff felt strongly about was the need for more representative staff, particularly at those institutions with large proportions of visible minority inmates. At Joyceville institution for example, in 2012/13, visible minority inmates represented fully 56.4% 38 of the inmate population however, only 5.8% 39 of Joyceville staff were visible minorities. Regardless of whether the proportion of visible minority staff meets or exceeds the workforce availability on a national basis, there is a clear need for CSC staff to more closely represent the diversity of the inmate population at the institutional level. Interestingly, the one institution where inmates fully agreed that staff-inmate relations had improved in terms of discrimination and stereotyping was the one in which the proportion of visible minority inmates more closely reflected that of staff.

Ridiculed for having an accent 

48. While Black inmates reported having some difficulty communicating with correctional staff because they were not fluent in English or French, they were more concerned about the ridicule targeted at Black inmates who spoke with an accent. Inmates gave examples of over-hearing CSC staff mocking the accents of Black inmates or trying to speak with a Jamaican accent for example to their colleagues. One inmate reported a correctional officer asking him “What is wrong with your tongue, don’t talk to me like a hoodlum”.

49. CD 767 - Ethnocultural Offenders: Services and Interventions ensures the assistance of an interpreter for offenders who do not speak English or French for any hearing or for the purposes of understanding materials provided to the offender. While this ensures that inmates not speaking English or French will be accommodated for formal proceedings, it does not address the challenges inmates have day-to-day communicating with correctional staff. Black inmates reported that some staff spoke languages other than English or French which proved to be a great benefit to some of the inmates. Inmates at all institutions indicated that a more diverse staff would certainly help to mitigate issues of ridicule and mockery as they felt it would be more difficult for staff to engage in this type of behaviour around their peers of other cultures.

ANALYSIS: CORRECTIONAL OUTCOMES OF BLACK INMATES


Employment and pay levels 

50. Employment while in prison is important as it can aid in an inmate’s reintegration into society by offering an opportunity to learn skills and acquire experience that are required to work in trades such as construction and manufacturing. Black inmates consistently reported difficulties finding prison employment and the lack of Black inmates working in jobs of ‘trust’ or for CORCAN. Many felt this was a result of being stereotyped and labeled as a ‘gang member’ or as a ‘trouble maker’. The prison unemployment rate in 2012-13 in federal correctional facilities was 1.5%; however, for Black inmates this rate was much higher at 7% 40 . Black inmates are also considerably less likely than the general inmate population to be employed in a CORCAN job. CORCAN jobs are in high demand as they provide inmates with vocational skills and experience in a particular trade. In 2012/13, 29% of all inmates were working in some CORCAN capacity compared to only 22% of Black inmates 41 . These findings are consistent over the past 10 years.

51. At two of the men’s institutions, the Black inmates felt that they were discriminated against and could not get a job with CORCAN even after applying on several occasions. They reported that the only Black inmates that worked at CORCAN were those that had previously worked there; it was rare for new Black inmates to be recruited. At one of the institutions, CSC staff recognized this as an issue and worked with the job coordinator to ensure more Black inmates were put forward and considered for CORCAN jobs which eventually resulted in a few Black inmates being hired.

52. By contrast, it is encouraging to note that Black inmates are essentially on par with the general inmate population with respect to inmate pay. In fact, Black inmates were slightly more likely than the general inmate population to be at the highest level of pay (28% vs 26%) and slightly less likely to be at the lowest level of pay (4% vs 5%).

Risk and Need 

53. Black inmates are slightly less likely than the general inmate population to be rated as having high needs for intervention or to be rated as high risk to re-offend and more likely to be rated with low needs and low risk despite their greater likelihood of having a gang affiliation. 55% of Black inmates were rated as high risk and 57% as high need compared to 59% of all inmates who are high risk and 60% as high need. By comparison, 10% of Black inmates were rated as low risk compared to 8% of inmate population and 7% of Black inmates were rated as low need compared to only 5% of the inmate population 42 .

Security Classification 

54. Inmates are classified upon incarceration to ensure they are placed in the correctional setting that most appropriately meets their programming and custodial needs. Security classification is a continuous process that starts on admission and is re-evaluated periodically according to established guidelines until warrant expiry. Decisions regarding an inmate’s security classification are based on a number of factors (e.g. institutional adjustment, escape risk and, should the offender escape, risk to the public for a new offence, etc). Security classification is important as it determines where an inmate is incarcerated, the conditions of confinement, access to programming and community reintegration.

55. Despite being rated as lower risk to re-offend and lower need overall, between 2009/10 and 2012/13, Black offenders were consistently more likely than the general inmate population to be placed in maximum security and less likely to be placed in minimum security. For example, on average over the last 4 years, approximately 10.4% of inmates were assigned to maximum and 29.3% to a minimum security institution; however, 15.1% of Black inmates were assigned to a maximum security institution and only 21.6% were assigned to a minimum (See Table 1 below). Moreover, over the last 5 years (2007/08-2011/12) Black inmates were consistently less likely to have their Custody Rating Scale score overridden in favour of a placement in a medium or minimum security institution 43 .

Table 1: Percentage of Initial Penitentiary Placements (%) 
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 4-year Average  
Total      
Maximum9.6%11.1%10.6%10.4%10.4%
Medium56.2%55.3%55.1%53.6%55.1%
Minimum30.4%28.6%29%29.1%29.3%
Total 4,9905,0305,0064,657 
      
Black      
Maximum14.7%15.5%18.4%11.9%15.1%
Medium60.8%63.9%58%64.3%61.8%
Minimum22.7%18.9%21.8%22.8%21.6%
Total 375440376378 

Source: CSC Data Warehouse, March 2013.

Institutional Charges 

56. Although prison rules are rigorously framed, discipline can be highly discretionary or subjective in some cases. Previous research in prisons in Ontario indicates that Black inmates are more likely to be charged with misconduct that involves subjective judgement on the part of correctional officers (e.g. disrespect toward staff, disobeying a rule, etc.) and less likely to be charged with misconduct where correctional officers must show factual proof, such as possession of contraband 44 . This is important because institutional charges can have serious consequences and may lead to additional time added to a sentence and/or denial of parole.

57. Between 2007/08 and 2011/12 45 , the number of disciplinary charges incurred by Black inmates increased by 59% despite the fact that the number of disciplinary charges laid over the same time period decreased by 7%. Over the 5 year period, Black inmates were consistently over-represented in categories of charges that could be considered discretionary or requiring judgement on the part of correctional officers. For example, in 2011/12, Black inmates made up 9.3% of the incarcerated population, yet comprised 13% of those charged for disrespect toward staff, 21% of those charged for disobeying an order, 24% of those charged for jeopardizing the safety and security of the institution or another person and 12% of those charged with committing a disturbance. By contrast, over the same 5-year period, in the categories that could be considered less discretionary, Black inmates were consistently under-represented in those charged for possession of stolen property, theft, damage or destroy property and possession of unauthorized items.

58. This evidence supports reports from Black inmates who felt targeted with respect to institutional charges, particularly charges related to disrespect or causing a disturbance. For example, many Black inmates felt they were targeted with these types of charges because they tended to speak loudly in conversations with other inmates and used expressive hand or body gestures while speaking. While these gestures were viewed by Black inmates as “just part of our culture”, they were perceived by correctional staff as aggressive or belligerent. Black women in particular reported being targeted for “kissing their teeth” which essentially equates to saying “whatever” (as reported by Black women) but was often viewed by correctional staff as disrespectful behaviour.

Segregation and Use of Force 

59. Between 2007/08 and 2011/12, Black inmates were consistently over-represented in involuntary/disciplinary segregation placements. This finding may partially be explained by the fact that CSC uses segregation to manage incompatible groups and individuals, such as separating gang members. While the law requires segregation to be used as a last resort and for the shortest period possible, it has become a standard tool of population management to maintain the safety and security of the institution; however, this approach may be disproportionately impacting Black inmates.

Table 2: Segregation placements for Black inmates (%) 
2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012  
Voluntary 3.73.54.06.35.4
Involuntary/Disciplinary 8.69.310.010.811.7
Black inmates as proportion of total inmate population 7.38.08.59.19.3

Source: CSC Data Warehouse, February 2013

60. Likewise, in 2012/13 Black inmates were over-represented in use of force incidents. Black inmates were involved in 13% 46 of use of force incidents while representing 9.3% of the inmate population. It is not unreasonable to conclude that discrimination and stereotyping reported by Black inmates may be a contributing factor in their over-representation in incidents of use of force. Stereotypes in particular may lead to a belief that some groups are more dangerous or violent than others and this is often reinforced through negative media images. Interestingly, Black inmates did not report that they felt targeted with respect to segregation placements or use of force incidents.

Conditional Release 

61. Almost all federal inmates will eventually return to the community. Temporary absences and parole, offer an important step in gradually and safely releasing offenders into the community. A period of supervision in the community is safer than releasing offenders directly from prison at the end of a sentence without any period of community supervision. Grant rates for federal day parole and full parole have been on a downward trend since 2001/02 for all inmates 47 .

62. According to Parole Board of Canada, statistics over the last 5 years (2007/08 to 2011/12) show that Black offenders have consistently been less likely than the general inmate population to be granted federal day or full parole (See Table 3).

Table 3: Grant Rates for Federal Day and Full Parole by Race (%) 
2007/082008/092009/102010/112011/125-year average 
Day Parole       
Black666258545558
Total737168636468
Full Parole       
Black16201292516
Total202118172320

Source: Parole Board of Canada: Performance Monitoring Report 2011/12

63. Over the 5-year period (2008/09 to 2012/13), Black offenders were as likely as the general inmate population to be released on statutory release or at warrant expiry 48 .

64. Over the past 10 years, Black inmates were consistently under-represented in those granted escorted temporary absences ( ETA s) and unescorted temporary absences ( ETA s). For example, in 2011/12, Black inmates represented 9.3% of the inmate population, but only 3.8% of those on an ETA and even more striking, only 1.6% of those on ETA s. This evidence supports reports from Black inmates who felt that they were not given access to ETA s and ETA s.

Correctional Outcomes: Post discharge/release 

65. Surprisingly, while conditions and treatment seem to be more difficult or unfavourable for Black inmates, as a group they manage relatively well once released from prison. Over the last 5 years, (2007/08 – 2011/12), successful completion rates for both federal day and full parole were consistently higher for Black offenders. For example, in 2011/12, Black offenders had a successful completion rate for full parole of 83% compared to 79% for all offenders 49 . Moreover, Black offenders were no more likely than all offenders to have their federal day or full parole revoked for a violent offence.

66. Over the same time period, Black offenders were also consistently more likely than the overall offender population to successfully complete their statutory release supervision period. They were as likely as all other offenders to have their statutory release revoked for a violent offence.

67. Finally, post-warrant expiry provides an important measure of an offender’s ability, over the long-term, to sustain a crime-free life while in the community after completion of his/her sentence. Black offenders were generally less likely to be readmitted on a new federal sentence while on parole, statutory release or at warrant expiry 50 .

A resilient population? 

68. As noted earlier, Black inmates appear to fare better post-discharge and have better release outcomes, despite inequitable treatment within institutions. There is some research to suggest that there are certain aspects of the Black North American life and culture that may serve as protective factors. Racial socialization (e.g. receiving messages emphasizing racial pride and learning about one’s heritage and culture) and the building of social support networks (e.g. family, extended family, the community, churches and adoption of family members) which are common in Black communities, have been shown to be related to resiliency and the ability to overcome adversity 51 . It is possible that these protective cultural factors contribute to better than average correctional outcomes among Black inmates post-discharge/release. While beyond the scope of this review, it is clear that more research is required to determine the causes behind what would otherwise appear to be counter-intuitive findings.

DISCUSSION


What does Diversity mean for CSC ?

69. CSC has implemented a number of measures to better identify and meet the needs of a more ethno-culturally diverse inmate population and it has developed an organizational structure to support this work: diversity committees (e.g. national and regional ethno-cultural advisory committees, National Advisory Council on Diversity, National Diversity Committee); cultural programs and awareness activities; sensitivity and diversity training; and staffing initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of employment equity groups (e.g. targeted recruitment, Diversity and Employment Equity Committee, mentorship and leadership programs). However, challenges remain and CSC will face increasing pressures to accommodate a wide range of diversity of needs.

Representative Workforce 

70. Both CSC staff and Black inmates highlighted the importance of ensuring a representative workforce at all levels and throughout the institution. While CSC meets and often exceeds the workforce availability and employment equity targets on a national basis, it is not well reflected at the institutional level. CSC has implemented a number of human resources strategies aimed at increasing employee representativeness through various targeted hiring campaigns and improving the upward mobility of visible minority employees. However, this review found no evidence that these initiatives had been reviewed or evaluated in terms of their effectiveness or ability to produce the desired outcomes. Recruitment and retention strategies need to prioritize and target front-line institutions (not just regional or national headquarters) which house the greatest proportion of ethno-cultural offenders. Correctional officers who can speak languages other than English or French are increasingly important assets in improving interactions and communication with the increasing number of foreign-born inmates.

Staff training 

71. CSC has developed a number of training courses, workshops and manuals to ensure employees are trained on diversity issues, however challenges remain in ensuring they are efficient and effective. CSC needs to ensure that its diversity training is consistent across all regions, integrated within the overall training framework and followed-up with ongoing practical training, experiences and support. A national diversity awareness training plan that begins at employee orientation and is continuous throughout a staff member’s career could go a long way to increasing much-needed cultural awareness and cultural competency within CSC ranks. This training should be rooted in practical operational experience and target front-line correctional officers as a matter of priority.

Ethno-Cultural Correctional Programming 

72. The review also yields some important findings with respect to the content, delivery and relevance of ethno-cultural correctional programming. For example, ethno-cultural programs are often available in only one institution per region. This program delivery practice gives rise to population management strategies that run contrary to integrative practices and principles. It is also clear that core correctional programs need to be reviewed, revised and updated from a diversity perspective to incorporate more modules, examples and components drawn from lived ethno-cultural experience. More visible minority program facilitators would help ensure relevance, uptake and retention, potentially resulting in higher program completion rates.

Organizational culture 

73. Results of the 2012 Ethical Climate Survey clearly demonstrate, that there is much room for improvement in how CSC staff value and model respect, fairness, inclusiveness, accountability and professionalism in the workplace. 52 The voluntary staff survey collected information on abuse of power, discrimination, harassment, inappropriate behaviour and other rude and degrading treatment. Overall, close to 25% of respondents indicated that they had experienced discrimination on at least one of the prohibited grounds (race = 45%, gender = 43.6% and age 36.3%) over the past year. Of those having experienced discrimination, over 60% reported that the source of discrimination was other co-workers senior to them in the department, including managers. 31.8% of the sample reported having been harassed in the workplace in the past year, mostly by others senior to them, immediate supervisor(s) or colleagues in their own work unit. The results contribute to an overall finding of an unhealthy, even “toxic,” 53 workplace. On the basis of how poorly CSC staff appear to treat one another, it is an open question as to how offenders of another culture, nationality, religion, creed or race are treated behind penitentiary walls. CSC must ensure a healthy organizational culture as it is the foundation from which to build.

Monitoring, reporting and evaluation 

74. In 2004, CSC produced a one-time research report entitled “ A Profile of Visible Minority Offenders in the Federal Canadian Correctional System ”. This review found no evidence to suggest that this type of research is ongoing within CSC , nor is there any public reporting on how visible minority populations fare in federal custody. Continuous monitoring and reporting are the basis for effective decision-making and for bench marking progress.

KEY FINDINGS


75. Despite a Population Management Strategy that encourages the integration of various populations and the identified ‘best practice‘ of maintaining diverse ranges as a way of reducing violence, CSC disproportionally incarcerates Black inmates in specific institutions in the Ontario and Quebec regions.

76. Discrimination is a commonly reported experience among Black inmates interviewed and it often acts as a barrier to prison employment, alienates and isolates them from full participation and reinforces feelings of differential treatment.

77. Black inmates face stereotyping by CSC personnel that often labels them as gang members. Behaviours, actions or spoken communication of all Black inmates appear to be assessed through a ‘gang lens’.

78. Some aspects of the assessment of gang affiliation is based on criteria that is discretionary and sensitive to interpretation and judgement, resulting in a disproportionate number of Black inmates identified or treated as a gang member.

79. Core correctional programs do not adequately reflect the lived experiences of Black inmates and provide them with few opportunities to discuss issues relevant to their knowledge, culture or traditions.

80. When ethnocultural programming is offered to Black inmates, it is often available in only one institution, on an inconsistent basis and may have a limited capacity to for participation.

81. CSC has not met the requirements set out in CD 767 - Ethnocultural Offenders: Services and Interventions . The CD specifically directs CSC management to build and maintain partnerships with communities and organizations to help respond to the needs of ethnocultural offenders. This review found that partnerships with Black community groups and organizations were limited or in most cases, non-existent.

82. Black inmates do not have consistent access to appropriate hygiene products intended for their hair/skin type through canteen causing many to experience severe hair loss and dry skin issues.

83. Despite being rated as a population having a lower risk to re-offend and lower need overall, Black inmates are more likely to be placed in maximum security institutions.

84. Black inmates are released later in their sentence (lower parole grant rates) and are less likely to be granted temporary absences.

85. On many indicators of correctional performance, Black inmates fall behind that of the general inmate population:

  • More likely to incur institutional charges;
  • Less likely to be employed, particularly in jobs of ‘trust’ or with CORCAN,
  • Over-represented in segregation placements; and,
  • Disproportionately involved in use of force incidents.

86. In spite of conditions and treatment within federal prisons that seem to be more difficult or unfavourable for Black inmates, they are generally less likely to be readmitted on a new federal sentence while on parole or statutory release. Readmission rates for Black inmates after warrant expiry are also better.

87. Recommendations based on the findings of this case study will be reported in the upcoming 2012/13 Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator.

REFERENCES


Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and David Dietrich, “The New Racism: The Racial Regime of Post-Civil Rights America,” in Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and Experiences (2011).

Brown, Danice, “African American Resiliency: Examining Racial Socialization and Social Support as Protective Factors.” Journal of Black Psychology 34(1): 32-48 (2008).

Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System, Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System (1994 and 1995).

CSC , “Population Management Strategy: It’s Everyone’s Business”, Correctional Operations and Programs, 2010.

CSC , 2012 Ethical Climate Survey: Results and Analysis .

Criminal Intelligence Service Canada ( CISC ), 2006 Annual Report on Organized Crime in Canada. Ottawa: CISC , 2006.

Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, 2010 Report on Organized Crime Catalogue no. PS61-1/2010.

Dovidio, John and Samuel Gaertner, “When Good People Do Bad Things: The Nature of Contemporary Racism.” in Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and Experiences (2011).

Lersch, K.M. and T. Mieczkowski, “Violent Police Behaviour: past, Present, and Future Directions.” Aggression and Violent Behaviour 10: 552-568 (2005).

Lewis, Stephen, “Report of the Advisor on Race Relations to the Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae.” (1992)

Luciani, Frederick, Laurence Motiuk and Mark Nafekh, “An Operational Review of the Custody Rating Scale: Reliability, Validity and Practical Utility.” CSC (1996)

Nafekh, Mark and Yvonne Stys, “A Profile and Examination of Gang Affiliation within the Federally Sentenced Offender Population.” CSC (2004).

Parole Board of Canada, Performance Monitoring Report, 2011/12 .

Public Safety Canada, Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview , 2012

Smithson, Hannah, Rob Ralphs and Patrick Williams, “Used and Abused: The Problematic Usage of Gang Terminology in the United Kingdom and Its Implications for 
Ethnic Minority Youth.” British Journal of Criminology 53(1): 113-128 (2012).

Statistics Canada, “Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada.” Catalogue no. 99-010-X2011001 (2013).

Statistics Canada, “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2011.” Catalogue no. 85-002-X (2012).

Statistics Canada, “Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population.” Catalogue no. 91-551-X (2010).

Trevethan, Shelly and Christopher Rastin, “A Profile of Visible Minority Offenders in the Federal Canadian Correctional System.” Correctional Service of Canada No R-144 (2004).

Usher, A. & Stewart, L, “The effectiveness of correctional programs with diverse offenders: A meta-analytic study”. Research Report R 246 Ottawa, ON, CSC (2011).

Utsey, Shawn, Mark Bolden, Yzette Lanier and Otis Williams, “Examining the Role of Culture-Specific Coping as a Predictor of Resilient Outcomes in African Americans 
from High-Risk urban Communities.” Journal of Black Psychology 33(1): 75-93 (2007).

Wortley, Scot, "Hidden Intersections: Research on Race, Crime and Criminal Justice in Canada." Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal 35 (3): 99-117 (2004).

Wortley, Scot and Julian Tanner, “Discrimination or ‘Good’ Policing: The Racial Profiling Debate in Canada,” in Our Diverse Cities , Number 1, Spring 2004.

Wortley, Scot, “Police Use of Force in Ontario: An Examination of Data from the Special Investigations Unit,” Research project conducted on behalf of the African Canadian 
Legal Clinic for submission to the Ipperwash Inquiry (2006).

Footnotes


1 Members of visible minorities are defined by the Canadian Employment Equity Act as "persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.”

2 Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey (May 8, 2013)

3 For CSC “Asian” includes offenders who are Arab, Asiatic, Chinese, East Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, South East Asian Arab/West Asian and South Asian

4 For CSC “Hispanic” includes offenders who are Hispanic and Latin American

5 Public Safety Canada: Corrections and Conditional Release Overview, 2012.

6 Among others see: First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries , Report of the Independent Review Conducted by the Honourable Frank Iacobucci, 2013; Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Matters Relating to the Death of Neil Stonechild , 2004.

7 Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Justice System, Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System (1994 and 1995)

8 The terms of reference for the Commission directed it to examine the experiences and vulnerabilities of all racial minority communities, with a main focus on systemic racism as experienced by Black people, women and youth.

9 The case study uses the term ‘Black’ to denote those inmates who voluntarily self-identified during the CSC intake process as being ‘Black’. The CSC currently uses 28 categories of racial identification, which has recently increased from 15 categories. Previously, Black inmates primarily self-identified under the category ‘Black’, however with the recent addition of geographical-based race categories, some may now self-identify as ‘Caribbean’ and ‘Sub-Sahara African’. While many different terms (Black, African, Caribbean, etc.) are used throughout the literature, this case study employs the term ‘Black’ to be consistent with the way in which the CSC collects and reports race data. Further, it is recognized that this group is very diverse and comprises various nationalities as well as ethnic and cultural groups. However, in order to have a representative sample, it is necessary to group them together for the purposes of the analysis. Finally, it should be noted that not all Black inmates included in the investigation and analysis are Canadian citizens as some are foreign nationals.

10 Corporate Reporting System ( CRS ): April 16, 2013

11 CRS : April 16, 2013

12 Statistics Canada; 2011 National Household Survey

13 Questionnaires are available upon request.

14 In 2012/13, there were 200 Black inmates in the Prairie and Pacific regions spread across 23 institutions ( CRS : April 8, 2013).

15 CSC Data Warehouse: April 17, 2013

16 Only the Chair of the Black Inmate Committee was interviewed at Joyceville Institution, however he had consulted with other inmates and brought forward issues on their behalf.

17 CRS : July 26, 2012

18 CRS : July 26, 2012

19 RADAR: April 17, 2013

20 RADAR: April 17, 2013

21 RADAR: July 27, 2012

22 RADAR: July 26, 2012

23 Schedule I is comprised of sexual offences and other violent crimes excluding first and second degree murder (see the Corrections and Conditional Release Act )

24 Schedule II is comprised of serious drug offences or conspiracy to commit serious drug offences (see the Corrections and Conditional Release Act )

25 CRS : June 26, 2012

26 CRS : Aug. 1, 2012

27 CSC policy does not allow for the use of considerably less expensive calling cards.

28 CSC data warehouse: April 14, 2013

29 Criminal Intelligence Service Canada: 2010 Report on Organized Crime.

30 Nafekh, Mark and Yvonne Stys, “A Profile and Examination of Gang Affiliation within the Federally Sentenced Offender Population” (2004)

31 CSC , “Population Management Strategy: It’s Everyone’s Business”, Correctional Operations and Programs, 2010.

32 Ontario Medium Security institutions: Joyceville, Collins Bay, Warkworth, Fenbrook and Bath

33 Quebec Medium Security Institutions: La Macaza, Leclerc, Archambault, Drummond and Cowansville. It should be noted that Leclerc will be closing so inmates currently incarcerated there will move to other institutions.

34 Usher, A. & Stewart, L. , “The effectiveness of correctional programs with diverse offenders: A meta-analytic study.” Research Report R 246 Ottawa, ON, CSC (2011)

35 Audmax Group has since replaced BIFA as the organization responsible for providing ethnocultural services in the Ontario region; however they do not work specifically with Black inmates, but with all inmates using a culturally sensitive/appropriate approach. Many Black offenders felt that Audmax was good in terms of providing practical small business training, but did not feel that this group was appropriate to discuss or address cultural issues or needs.

36 Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and David Dietrich, “The New Racism: The Racial Regime of Post-Civil Rights America,” in Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and Experiences (2011).

37 CSC , Assessment of Affiliation with a Security Threat Group 

38 CRS : March 21, 2013

39 HRMS as of December 31, 2012

40 CRS : April 24, 2013

41 CRS : April 24, 2013

42 CSC Data Warehouse, April 17, 2013

43 CSC Data Warehouse, June 5, 2013

44 Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Justice System, Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System 1994.

45 CRS , June 5, 2013.

46 CSC Data Warehouse, March 27, 2013

47 Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, 2012

48 CRS : March 27, 2013

49 Parole Board of Canada, Performance monitoring Report 2011/12

50 Parole Board of Canada, Performance Monitoring Report 2011/12

51 Brown, Danice, “African American Resiliency: Examining Racial Socialization and Social Support as Protective Factors.” Journal of Black Psychology 34(1): 32-48 (2008).

52 CSC , 2012 Ethical Climate Survey: Results and Analysis 

53 The CSC , 2012 Ethical Climate Survey: Results and Analysis 


Date modified 
2014-02-28 



 

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Office of the Correctional Investigator - Report

Office of the Correctional Investigator Annual Report 2020-2021

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Body

June 30, 2021

The Honourable Bill Blair 
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness 
House of Commons 
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Minister,

In accordance with section 192 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , it is my privilege and duty to submit to you the 48th Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator.

Yours respectfully,

 

Ivan Zinger, J.D., Ph.D. 
Correctional Investigator


Table of Contents

Correctional Investigators Message 

Executive Director’s Message 

National Updates and Significant Cases 

National Level Investigations 

1. Investigation into Uses of Force Involving Federally Incarcerated Black, Indigenous, Peoples of Colour (BIPOC) and Other Vulnerable Populations 

2. A Review of Women’s Corrections 30-Years since Creating Choices 

3. Preliminary Observations on Structured Intervention Units 

4. An Investigation of the Use of Medical Isolation in Federal Corrections 

5. An Investigation into a Suicide in a Maximum Security Facility 

6. Canada’s Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) 

Correctional Investigator’s Outlook for 2021-2022 

Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award 

Annex A: Summary of Recommendations 

Annex B: Annual Statistics 

Annex C: Other Statistics 

Annex D: Corporate Reporting 


Correctional Investigator's Message

Photo of Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger, 
Correctional Investigator of Canada 

I write the opening message to my 2020-21 Annual Report in the midst of the third wave of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Months from now, when my report has been tabled in Parliament and publicly released, I hope that the worst of these very difficult times will be behind us. It has been extremely challenging to fulfill particular aspects of my mandate when regular visits to federal prisons by my staff members continue to be suspended. Though my Office moved to a virtual visits model in early 2021, an approach that allows my investigators to confidentially interview prisoners by remote video link-up, nothing replaces in-person visits. The added value of my Office’s work rests in the ability of investigative staff to develop a personal rapport and dialogue with incarcerated individuals and prison staff, conduct in-person interviews, experience and inspect first-hand the lived realities of incarceration, and seek to resolve issues informally on site. I look forward to the day when my staff and I have returned to the office and in-person visits to prisons have resumed.

In the meantime, at the risk of being overly optimistic, I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts and findings, based on the work of my Office, on how the pandemic has affected federal corrections. My intent is to reflect on this experience in a way that could help guide or shape the way forward for corrections in a post-pandemic world. I will conclude with some reflections on how my Office conducted business in these times of COVID-19 and will introduce some of the (non-COVID) investigations completed during this reporting period.

I think that it is fair to say that the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), like the rest of the country, was not adequately prepared to meet the scourge of a rapidly evolving global pandemic. Understandably, there was considerable concern, confusion and even panic as the first wave of COVID-19 (end of March to end of May 2020) led to outbreaks at six penitentiaries in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. In the initial wave, 361 prisoners contracted the virus. A second, more-virulent wave of prison outbreaks took hold in early November with new positive case counts peaking in mid-December. By the end of the reporting period (March 31, 2021), during COVID’s third wave, CSC had reported 1,450 infections among prisoners, with 21 institutions out of 43 experiencing an outbreak. Approximately ten percent of all prisoners have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, which is a significantly higher rate of infection than in the Canadian population. Footnote

 
Photo of COVID-19 infected units at Port Cartier Institution.

COVID-19 infected units at Port Cartier Institution 

Of course, statistics do not tell the whole story. Behind the aggregate numbers lie some sobering realities. Quite simply, some individuals and some institutions fared better than others. For example, proportionally more institutions in the Prairie region experienced outbreaks (7 of 12) compared to the other regions. In my second COVID-19 status update report (February 2021), I reported, with concern, that Indigenous individuals accounted for close to 60% of all positive COVID-19 cases in federal prisons since November. Demographically, Indigenous peoples behind bars are relatively younger than other racial groups. Accordingly, the higher infection rates among Indigenous peoples considerably lowered the overall age of those infected.

I also noted at that time that there appeared to be a connection between transmission rates and the infrastructure, age and design of prisons. For example, Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Stony Mountain Institution, two of the oldest and largest prisons in Canada, experienced the highest number of COVID-19 infections, including multiple outbreaks. Both institutions house a large number of Indigenous individuals, who have suffered a higher infection rate than other groups. Also, the oldest parts of these institutions have poor ventilation, large and open congregate spaces, and cells with open bars.

At the same time, despite their substantially smaller numbers, female prisoners experienced virtually the same percentage of infections (11.8%) as their male counterparts (11.7%). Footnote 2 This was likely a consequence of the congregate housing and living arrangements at the regional women’s sites.

 

While the COVID-19 spread among the prison population often mirrored what was happening in the community, the differential rates of infection and the uneven spread of COVID-19 between and among the prison population would benefit from further examination. Transmission vectors (from outside to inside), community and prison rates of spread, containment and isolation measures, cleaning and hygiene protocols, and infection prevention and control measures should all be carefully scrutinized and examined for both vulnerability and resiliency. This work would help inform future prevention, surveillance and response efforts, and ideally should be conducted independent of the prison service.

  1. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety engage the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct an independent epidemiological study of the differential rates of COVID-19 infection and spread in Canadian federal prisons and report results and recommendations publicly. 

     

The measures adopted to contain, control and prevent active outbreaks in prison—the indefinite suspension of in-person visits, extended periods of lockdown and cellular confinement, interruption of programs and services, restrictions on yard and out-of-cell time, and the imposition of 14-day medical-isolation periods—have been exceptionally difficult and depriving for people living behind bars. At the time of writing this report, most prisons remain closed to visits and some individuals have not had a contact visit in more than a year. Other extreme measures—near-total cellular isolation (22 hours or more per day), fresh-air exercise once every two or three days, 20 minutes out-of-cell time every other day to shower or use the telephone—violate domestic law and international human rights standards. Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of prison health indicators—use-of-force incidents, number of natural deaths in custody, prisoners engaging in self-injurious behaviours—ticked upward this year, suggestive of a possible pandemic “bump” and perhaps indicative of how some prisoners cope in times of extreme stress, uncertainty and anxiety.

In my initial update, I reminded correctional and public health authorities that even in the midst of a public health emergency, fundamental human rights and dignity must still be respected. Moreover, the same measures and protections recommended by national public health authorities must be provided to correctional populations. Equivalence-of-care principles and duty-of-care obligations apply regardless of one’s status or emergency. The unusual hardships and extraordinary conditions imposed by COVID-19 on correctional populations and the issue of remedies may have to be resolved through the courts. The point, however, that prisoners’ rights required curtailment or suspension in the interest of public health and safety is one worth recognizing, as we consider the lessons learned from the pandemic.

Pandemic measures and restrictions widened gaps in the system. They exposed the lack of a medical parole framework that would have allowed some medically compromised or elderly individuals who met legislated criteria a mechanism to seek early release from prison on health grounds. In my investigation of aging and dying behind bars, I called for such a mechanism, only to be met by silence. While there is a framework by which individuals can be granted parole by exception, only a handful are approved each year, a number which remained relatively unchanged over the course of the pandemic. The continued absence of action to find a practical and cost-effective reform caused unnecessary pain and suffering throughout the COVID-19 health crisis. It could have been avoided.

In the same vein, the realities of the pandemic highlighted the widely known and well-documented inadequacies in program access and capacity behind bars, and further exposed barriers to reintegration in a system that has unfortunately refused to update its technological and service-delivery platforms for prisoners. When the pandemic struck, there was simply no capacity to support on-line or virtual learning or correctional programming of any kind in a federal penitentiary. When program interventions—educational, vocational and correctional—were suspended or curtailed by pandemic measures and staff reductions, there wasn’t enough bandwidth or infrastructure to pivot to remote, digital or e-learning platforms, beyond video visits. Our investigation into correctional interventions conducted during the second wave of the pandemic found that reductions or interruptions in programs delayed parole hearings and community release. As a result, through no fault of their own, incarcerated individuals who were eligible for community supervision spent more time behind bars than they would have in normal times.

The pandemic also laid bare a model of program service delivery that is obsolete and inexplicably information-depriving. Stuck somewhere in the early 1990s, it is a system that has failed to provide people behind bars with access to computers that do not rely on CD-ROMs or floppy disks to operate or update. In our prisons, supervised access to email or the Internet is non-existent, yet these are widely available in prisons throughout the industrialized world. In my investigation last year of learning behind bars, I noted that our federal prisons are falling further behind the rest of the industrialized world. They are not providing those who are incarcerated with the vocational skills, education and learning opportunities they need to return safely to the community and live productive, law-abiding lives. The sole recommendation from that report, like so many before it, was met by bureaucratic resistance and government inertia. Had the Service adopted or advanced recommendations from my last annual report, many of the problems that were amplified by pandemic conditions could have been reduced or avoided altogether.

It is important to acknowledge that, as bad as things were, they could have been a whole lot worse. In my last COVID-19 update, I cited a number of initiatives that have helped CSC to limit infection rates. Countless staff made exemplary efforts and personal sacrifices to continue working through the pandemic. I witnessed this dedication first-hand in visits to institutions in Quebec and Ontario during the first and second waves of the pandemic. Extraordinary commitment, selfless service and duty to others by CSC staff should be acknowledged and commended. Other bright spots in CSC’s pandemic response include:

  1. Access to rapid COVID-19 testing; 

     
  2. Universal campaign to vaccinate correctional populations and staff; 
     
  3. Early vaccination of medically compromised and elderly individuals in custody; 
     
  4. Expansion of video visitation capacity; 

     
  5. Collaboration with external disease infection, prevention, control and response agencies and experts; and, 

     
  6. Deliberate, focused and enhanced communication with external stakeholders and families about the latest developments in CSC’s pandemic response. 

     

These measures have undoubtedly made a positive difference and saved lives.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the commitment and courage of the not-for-profit community corrections sector and the hundreds of staff, volunteers and facilities that kept their services running and doors open to individuals returning to the community during this crisis. The community corrections sector is truly one of the unheralded and unsung heroes of these times, especially considering that prison release rates throughout the pandemic have remained relatively in line with historic averages. These providers operate with little acknowledgement and a per diem rate that is a fraction of the cost of incarceration. There is more that community providers could and should do and, with more appropriate funding and staffing levels commensurate with skills and training, I have every confidence that they could provide an even wider range of services and interventions that would better support safe and timely community reintegration.

  1. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety promptly conduct an in-depth review of the community corrections sector with a view to considerably enhancing financial, technical and infrastructure supports. Funding for a reinvigorated community corrections model could be re-profiled from institutional corrections in direct proportion to declining warrants of committal and returning admissions, and the planned and gradual closures of redundant or archaic penitentiaries. 

     

Before concluding, let me introduce a few non-pandemic-related investigations conducted this past year that are included in the body of my report. The Office undertook an investigation of uses of force involving incarcerated Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Colour (BIPOC), as well as other vulnerable populations (women, and individuals with a history of mental-health issues, self-injury and/or attempted suicide). In context of wider social movements and calls to action in Canada and elsewhere, and consistent with our oversight role to review all uses of force in corrections, this investigation takes a specific look at the intersection of racial representation and use-of-force incidents in Canadian federal penitentiaries. Other items reported here include:

  1. A Review of Women’s Corrections 30-Years since Creating Choices

     
  2. Preliminary Observations on Structured Intervention Units; 

     
  3. An Investigation of the Use of Medical Isolation in Federal Corrections; 

     
  4. An Investigation into a Suicide in a Maximum-Security Facility; and, 

     
  5. A repeated request for Canada’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. 

     

These investigations are suggestive of the non-COVID-related systemic work that remains to be addressed, along with a range of commitments such as Patient Advocates, 24/7 nursing healthcare coverage in federal prisons, and combatting sexual coercion and violence behind bars, which have been delayed because of the pandemic.

 

To my staff, I say a heartfelt thank you for your commitment and dedication through these extraordinary times. May we soon celebrate better and brighter days together.

On a final note, my Office has been working with the Head of Federal Agencies to develop an alternative reporting framework that would streamline reporting obligations to reduce the burden for small departments and agencies. Our objective is to meet accountabilities for stewardship and transparency to Canadians by creating a single template or annex that could be added to an existing Annual Report. This is what I have done this year in an annex to this report to lead the way to ensure that the reporting burden is reduced for small agencies with limited resources.

 

Ivan Zinger, JD., Ph.D. 
Correctional Investigator 
 

 

REPORTING BURDEN FOR SMALL AND MICRO AGENCIES

Since my arrival at the Office of the Correctional Investigator back in 2004, I was struck by both the complexity of operating a small independent agency and the extent of the reporting burden imposed by central agencies and other Departments. When I was first appointed as Correctional Investigator of Canada four years ago, I took over the responsibilities of my predecessor as a member of the Heads of Federal Agencies Steering Committee (Steering Committee). In 2019, the Steering Committee established four Working Groups to address various challenges experienced by small and micro agencies. I volunteered to co-lead the Working Group on the Reporting Burden. It became apparent that there is a strong consensus among small and micro agencies that the reporting burden is overly bureaucratic and developed for all government organisations, which makes it very difficult to manage for small and micro organizations. The process goes beyond what is required to adhere to the reporting principles described in the Foundation Framework for Treasury Board Policies for SDA.

Photo of binder containing the 2020-21 corporate reporting requirements for the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

Binder containing the 2020-21 corporate reporting 
requirements for the Office of the Correctional 
Investigator. 

To give some perspective, as a Deputy Head of a small agency, my Office has the same reporting burden than the very large Department that is subject to my independent oversight. While my agency has only 40 employees and an annual budget of $5.4M, I am required to issue almost same amount of reports, around 40 mandatory reports, than the Correctional Service of Canada, which has about 19,000 employees and a budget of more than $2.5B. Unlike CSC, my legislation also requires me to produce an annual report, which provides information about the work accomplished by my Office, for each fiscal year. I recognize that it is imperative to demonstrate and assure good stewardship of taxpayers’ money and sound management of human resources, but the lack of appreciation for the burden placed on small and micro agencies is striking.

The amount of red tape and unnecessary reporting requirements imposed on small and micro agencies hinder the delivery of my Office’s legal mandate. I currently have four full time employees and two casual employees assigned to Corporate Services. My Office also hires occasionally contractors to support its Corporate Services (e.g., develop a new case management system and redesign our cloud website). Those OCI employees are required to manage the following:

  1. Financial Management Services. 

     
  2. Human Resource Management. 

     
  3. Information Management. 

     
  4. Information Technology. 

     
  5. Management and Oversight. 

     
  6. Material services. 

     
  7. Acquisition Services. 

     
  8. Real Property Services. 

     
  9. Technical support for communication tools (Internet, Intranet). 

     

In addition, they have to negotiate and manage a staggering 15 MOUs for various services with other Departments. This workload and the associated reporting burden are excessively high, moving away from the reporting efficiency principle and establishing a reporting framework where the cost to create and submit information should be kept to a minimum. In fact, I understand that a few small/micro agencies are now dedicating 30-50% of their personnel to Corporate Services. This is not the case for my Office but continuing with the existing staffing level without alleviating some tasks is becoming increasingly difficult.

The Heads of Small Agencies have raised the reporting burden issue with Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) for more than a decade now. Some small gains were made years ago, e.g., removing the requirement for the Management Accountability Framework and more recently, and to its credit, TBS initiated a process to assess which reporting requirements could be streamlined. TBS launched an initiative to renew its Information Collection Requirements Inventory. This database was designed to facilitate analysis of who is subject to requirements, the types of requirements, frequency of reporting and other important areas. Concurrently, TBS was hoping to uncover any duplication or redundancy of requirements, as well as identify best practices on mode of submission (e.g., digital platforms, other ways of electronic submission) that could be used to help ease burden related to these requirements. To date, TBS identified more than 140 collection requirements in 19 policy areas and offered only minor tweaks to the overall reporting burden. More importantly, out of the 40 reports prepared by OCI during 2020-21, TBS is only responsible for 40%, so any minor reduction has limited impact on current workload.

The Steering Committee is committed to continue to work towards reducing the current reporting burden and to engage TBS by participating in workshops and information exchanges. On a parallel stream, the Reporting Burden WG considered that an alternative approach may assist the GoC’s approach to reporting. The approach was simple, if there were no policy or legal constraints on existing reporting requirements, what would a report on all activities of a small agency look like? If the report was consistent with modern principles and best practices of accountability, openness, transparency, accessibility and sound management for a publicly funded agency, what basic information should be included?

With the financial assistance of the Steering Committee, the Reporting Burden WG retained the services of a consulting firm to review all 40 reports prepared by the OCI in the last fiscal year and develop a single streamlined report that would meet the following criteria:

  1. Open Data – those items that are being reported as a result of the open government priority; 

     
  2. Transparency – those items that are being reported to address the government priority of transparency; 

     
  3. Accessibility - those items being reported to facilitate parliamentarians’ access to reports and information; 

     
  4. Compliance – those items being reported to comply with a policy or directive; 

     
  5. Legislative – those items being reported as a result of a legislative requirement; 

     
  6. Sound Management – those items being reported to demonstrate sound management to parliamentarians including oversight, stewardship, and accountability; and, 

     
  7. Duplication – those items being reported under other requirements and not required to re-publish. 

     

Unfortunately, the laws and regulations are so prescriptive and convoluted that compliance with the law was not achieved. This may in part explain why TBS cannot provide a larger reduction of the reporting burden of small agencies. If this alternative to reporting was going to be implemented, legislative and regulatory reforms would be required.

The report is in Annex D of my Annual Report and provides an overview of financial, human resources, planning and performance information about the operations of the OCI, as well as all reporting information to quasi-judicial bodies. This easily accessible report of only 12 pages summarizes required reporting information to fulfill OCI’s commitment to the public service value of transparency and as well communicates our management successes and challenges to Parliamentarians, Canadians, auditors, controllers, stakeholders and civil society at large. With the content of this year’s Annual Report, the readers can for the first time in a single document assess value for money and effectiveness of a small agency.

  1. I recommend that the President of Treasury Board recognize the reporting burden of small and micro agencies, and play a leadership role by developing a whole-of-government approach to alleviate this burden. Before full legal and regulatory reforms can be introduced, I recommend that TBS consider legal exemptions for eligible small and micro agencies to start reporting differently. 

     

 

Executive Director’s Message

I was very happy to join the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) as Executive Director and General Counsel in October 2020. Although I had big shoes to fill, I was enthusiastic for a new challenge, particularly in an area I was passionate about and for an organization with such an important mandate. I am grateful to work side by side with a dedicated, hard-working team of subject matter experts as I continue to appreciate the complexity of issues that arise in correctional settings.

As with all organizations, our focus over the past year was on accommodating work from home for all employees, in addition to ensuring continued delivery of our mandate: to provide the essential service of supporting the fair and humane treatment of persons serving federal sentences. Striving to continue to deliver the same quality of service, we were faced with challenges as we were not able to go into institutions to meet with prisoners face-to-face. That said, I am proud of how we were able to pivot to virtual visits so that we could still hear from incarcerated individuals on the range of issues they are experiencing. This could not have happened without the helpful collaboration of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). I am encouraged by the examples I see every day of the collaboration between OCI employees and CSC staff who work together to ensure that individuals in our correctional institutions are treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with the law and human rights principles.

My first task in joining the OCI was to get to know the team and to explore what they see as challenges and opportunities for the organization. I also wanted to ensure that the management team worked together as a united, high-functioning team. The tone for collaboration and healthy working habits starts at the top of the organization, creating a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.

In the last quarter of the year, we embarked on the first phase of a strategic planning exercise. With the COVID pandemic still upon us and in the midst of a third lockdown as I write this, we needed a sense of renewal for the organization. We committed to a theme for 2021 of Reconnecting, Re-energizing, and Re-engaging. We decided that we will focus on providing our employees with a workplace of choice by ensuring that: employees have the tools and training they need to do their work; roles and responsibilities for all employees are clear; our website is updated, reflecting our priorities and providing easier access to our information; and we engage in developing diversified well-being initiatives to best support our employees as this pandemic continues, and going forward.

In this next fiscal year, I hope we will be able to return to the workplace and to interact with each other in person. I also look forward to determining our priorities as well as developing a road map for identifying systemic issues and investigations. We will be developing an outreach and engagement strategy with our key stakeholders so that we can find ways to establish partnerships, a necessary and effective approach for a micro-agency with limited resources. We will also continue with phase 2 of our strategic planning exercise, developing a 3–5 year plan that will help us maximize the efficiencies we must find to operate within our allotted resources.

Finally, I look forward to continuing to support Canada’s Correctional Investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, as well as the entire team at the OCI, in delivering on our mandate to protect the human rights of those serving federal sentences.

 

Monette Maillet 
Executive Director & General Counsel 
Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada 

 

National Updates and Significant Cases

This section summarizes policy issues or significant individual cases raised at the institutional and national levels in 2020-21. All of the issues and cases presented here were either the subject of discussions with institutional Wardens, an exchange of correspondence, or an agenda item in bilateral meetings involving the CSC Commissioner and myself, and our respective senior management teams. This section, then, serves to document progress in resolving issues of significance or concern.

No Progress on Sexual Coercion and Violence in Federal Corrections

My last annual report included a national investigation into sexual coercion and violence (SCV) in federal prisons. It found that the prevalence of SCV is largely unknown. It revealed considerable gaps in the Service’s approach to detecting, investigating and preventing sexually problematic behaviours behind bars. Further to this investigation, I issued five recommendations to improve how CSC responds to this pervasive yet underreported issue, among which was to introduce legislation immediately, similar to the United States’ Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) that was introduced in 2003. I also called upon the Minister of Public Safety to fund a national prevalence study to be conducted by fully independent experts. In response to the recommendations, the Minister committed that Public Safety would develop “a research plan, slated to begin in Fall 2020 to begin assessing SCV in federal corrections . . . An interim report on the work undertaken is set to be developed by Spring 2021.” In their response to the recommendations, the Service did not commit to any actionable change in approach. Footnote 3 It indicated only that it would support the work to be initiated by the Department. At the time this report was written, and after requests for updates from Public Safety, my office had yet to see a research plan or interim report indicating whether such work had been initiated.

Over the course of the reporting period, my office continued to receive complaints and concerns from incarcerated persons who have witnessed or experienced SCV. Despite the recommendations issued through our national investigation, this office has observed no appreciable difference in the way CSC prevents, detects, tracks or manages these types of incidents. We continue to hear cases of alleged perpetrators simply being shuffled around within and between institutions as the preferred method for “resolving” formal complaints of sexually problematic behaviours.

In their response to our recommendations, CSC noted, “The Service takes this issue very seriously. In order to ensure a safe and secure environment for all offenders in its care and custody, numerous measures have been put in place to ensure such acts are dealt with swiftly.” Unfortunately this has not been the case. There has been a disappointing lack of response and action subsequent to our recommendations. We know that the most vulnerable individuals are the ones most negatively affected by such inaction. I urge the Minister of Public Safety and the Commissioner of CSC once again to undertake the work required to address this issue effectively.

Continued Over-reliance on Use-of-Force Measures 

Over the last reporting period, my use-of-force team brought to my attention a number of egregious incidents and recurring issues further to their reviews of use-of-force incidents in federal institutions. While many of these concerns are raised in the systemic investigation into uses of force I present later in this report, I want to highlight some of my office’s observations and interventions on individual cases.

Time and time again, we see examples of the general over-reliance on often unnecessary, and in some cases harmful, force interventions. My staff reviewed a number of incidents demonstrating unwarranted and dangerous use of direct-impact rounds on individuals who posed a low risk of harm to themselves or others. In one case, an individual was shot with an impact round from a 40-mm launcher near his left shoulder, just above his collarbone, dangerously close to an “emergency target zone.” This could have caused serious, and possibly life-threatening, injuries. After follow up from my staff, there was agreement from institutions that the use-of-force in some of these cases was inappropriate.

Similarly, my staff continue to see the over-use of inflammatory spray, which is problematic in and of itself and runs counter to the Engagement and Intervention Model (EIM). It is particularly concerning when used on individuals who have serious mental health concerns, or who are engaging in self-harm. We reviewed, for example, an incident involving a man certified under the province’s mental health act. Through the course of a healthcare procedure, facilitated by the Emergency Response Team (ERT), the individual became uncooperative. In response, the ERT used two separate bursts of pepper spray, handcuffs and other forms of physical handling and, at one point, a shield to kneel the patient over a cement bench. Clearly, more time, engagement, and verbal interventions should have been used with this man to de-escalate the situation, particularly given his mental health needs. Concerns regarding this incident were raised at all levels of the review. It was clear that the approach and techniques used (particularly the second burst of pepper spray and shield) were demonstrative of serious violations of use-of-force policies, run counter to numerous principles of the EIM, and revealed a number of health care deficiencies. Furthermore, this case and a number of others reviewed by my staff this year raise concerns regarding the role and responsibilities of ERTs. Inconsistent or non-existent use of verbal interventions or negotiations, inadequate assessment and reporting on the risk associated with the actions of incarcerated individuals, and the poor deployment and unreliable operation of cameras to record incidents, among other issues, suggest the need for greater oversight of ERT interventions.

Other incident reviews and interventions by my staff involving individuals with mental health concerns, or those actively engaged in self-harm or suicidal behaviours, continue to highlight my concerns regarding the need for more-effective and humane ways of responding to complex and troubling behaviours that stem from mental health issues. We continue to see examples of use-of-force incidents where the mental health elements at play are not adequately assessed, acknowledged, communicated or factored into the interventions. In turn, these are not reflected in the reporting and documenting of incidents. In my investigation into uses of force with BIPOC individuals and other vulnerable populations, I offer a number of recommendations to the Service to improve how it responds to incidents where force is often used, particularly those involving individuals with complex needs.

Use of Force Following an Attempt to Access the Prison’s Overdose Prevention Site 

My office has previously reported on CSC’s harm-reduction programs such as the Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP) and the Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS), indicating that the way in which they were developed and implemented has limited enrollment. For example, PNEP kits can be seized if the syringe or needle is altered, missing or observed outside the kit. In other words, a zero-tolerance approach to drug possession in CSC facilities remains in effect. Drugs and drug paraphernalia (except CSC-issued PNEP kit and supplies) are still considered contraband items, subject to disciplinary measures. Not surprisingly, only a handful of prisoners participate in these programs that CSC rolled out nationally in spring 2019.

Over the reporting period, my office intervened on a use-of-force case that occurred following the denial by health care to allow an individual to access the OPS. After being denied access, the prisoner returned to his unit and locked himself in his cell. Correctional officers suspected he was carrying contraband most likely because he had tried to access the OPS. When officers arrived at his cell, they found the door window was covered. They opened the door and saw the prisoner snorting a white powder. They searched his cell, and seized drug paraphernalia, but they left him in his cell, where he covered his cell window again. Authorization was given to place him in an observation cell. When the escort team arrived, he did not cooperate with several direct orders. Physical handling, pain compliance and handcuffs were used to contain the situation. While the use of force may have ultimately been necessary given the resistance and lack of cooperation, the contradiction between the zero-tolerance approach to drug possession in prisons and access to harm-reduction measures such as PNEP and OPS created a situation that should never have occurred. Individuals accessing these services should be able to do so without the fear of reprisal. This would no doubt increase the number of those willing to participate. Other measures such as verbal interaction, engagement, counselling or observation may have resulted in a more positive outcome.

Lack of Appropriate Response Following a Recommendation Pertaining to a SHU Prisoner 

Nearly two years ago, my Office highlighted the cases of three men who presented similar challenges for the Service. Throughout their incarceration, the men have spent significant time in segregation, been on mental health monitoring, and been transferred many times to other institutions. More importantly, they seem unable to cope with highly structured environments that trigger violent behaviours. Their symptoms and skill deficits appear to be specifically aggravated by heightened security measures. Nonetheless, the correctional response to these maladaptive behaviours is often to further restrict their conditions of confinement.

Strategies developed by institutional staff and mental health professionals have had limited impact on their behaviours and responsiveness to interventions. Recognizing that the management of the violent behaviours of these three men has been extremely challenging for both institutional staff and management, I recommended, under section 20 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , an external in-depth examination of the correctional profiles of these three men. At the time, CSC responded that it would conduct a clinical review of their care with a view to identifying any potential opportunities for improvement, including placement options.

Over the reporting period, my office again intervened on behalf of one of the three men being held at the Special Handling Unit (SHU), as his situation had once again become critical. It also appeared that—rather than accepting my recommendation to conduct an external examination of this man’s case—the Service conducted an internal exam. It concluded that, while not ideal, the SHU is an environment where the security of this man is best maintained. My office continues to monitor this case and follow up with the institution to ensure the best-possible case-management strategies are implemented for this individual.

Investigation into Uses of Force Involving Federally Incarcerated Black, Indigenous, Peoples of Colour (BIPOC) and Other Vulnerable Populations

Correctional authorities have a variety of tools and approaches to manage situations they assess as problematic, disruptive, or potentially unsafe. In addition to less-invasive or potentially less-harmful tactics, such as verbal interventions, uses of force allow correctional staff to employ physical actions (e.g., use of restraint equipment, dispensing inflammatory spray) to gain control or obtain the cooperation of individuals and resolve situations. The staff rely on these actions daily.

The use of force dates back as far as the prison system itself. It also has a long-standing history of criticism for its potential and well-documented misuse. More recently, the issue of force—specifically applied to individuals who are Black, Indigenous, or Peoples of Colour (BIPOC) — catapulted into the forefront of international public discourse in May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd while he was restrained by Minneapolis police officers. Less than a month later, in Canada, we saw video of the violent arrest and use of force on Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam. Since then, mounting incidents have spurred worldwide protests calling for reforms to address systemic bias and the discriminatory application of harmful, and in some cases fatal, responses to incidents. In Canada, there has been widespread public outcry calling for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to take a closer look at their policies and practices, such as the use of force, and how they are applied to BIPOC individuals, women, individuals with mental health issues, those with histories of self-injury, and other vulnerable populations.

In the wake of these events, and many others, there has been heightened social recognition that systemic bias exists, and has for generations, in most Canadian institutions. Corrections is no exception to this reality. In this context, it is important to recognize that within the most discretionary of policies and practices, such as when and how force is used, bias—implicit or otherwise—has considerable room to creep in.

Investigating uses of force is a key priority for my Office. Following a use-of-force intervention, CSC provides us with all incident-related documentation. This includes a use-of-force report, a copy of incident-related video recordings, checklists for health services, a review of the use of force, Officer Statement and Observation Reports, prisoners’ version of events, and an action plan to address deficiencies.

Part of the role my Office has taken on is not only to investigate individual complaints related to uses of force that are brought forward, but to review proactively all use-of-force incidents in federal prisons, and make recommendations to CSC when problems are identified. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to investigate concerns for which there is evidence of systemic issues in practices such as the use of force.

In previous reports, I have issued numerous recommendations calling for reductions to the use of force and the use of inflammatory agents, specifically with vulnerable populations. This office has conducted investigations into the role use of force has played in troubling individual cases, such as the deaths of Ashley Smith and Matthew Hines, and on specific groups of concern, such as women who chronically self-harm. Footnote 4 In keeping with this office’s persistent efforts to raise concerns regarding how force is used, we have also taken the current social calls-to-action as the impetus for an examination of how force is applied in federal corrections, specifically with BIPOC individuals, to advance discussions and solutions to the inequities these individuals face behind bars.

Purpose and Methods

The present investigation examines use-of-force incidents, events and occurrences involving federally incarcerated BIPOC individuals, as well as incidents involving other potentially vulnerable populations. As illustrated in the diagram below, use-of-force incidents are cases, as determined and tracked by CSC, consisting of situations involving at least one individuals where force was applied at least once, documented, and tracked. A use-of-force event , as defined for the purposes of the present investigation, includes each use-of-force incident-by-person combination, which acknowledges that each person can be involved in more than one incident, and each incident can involve more than one person. Lastly, given that each person can experience more than one type and instance of force within and across incidents and events, a use-of-force occurrence , as defined for this investigation, constitutes each instance of force used on each individual within and across incidents and events.

Example: Use-of-Force Incident

A diagram depicting an example of a use-of-force incident. Person A; Use-of-force event; Use-of-force occurrences; 1. Physical handling, 2. OC spray (x2). Person B; Use-of-force event; Use-of-force occurrences; 1. Physical handling (x2), 2. OC spray, 3. Restraint. Person C; Use-of-force event; Use-of-force occurrences; 1. Physical handling, 2. OC spray.

The above is an example of one use-of-force incident involving three unique individuals. This incident represents three use-of-force events , and nine use-of-force occurrences. 

Quantitative and qualitative data available for all use-of-force incidents from the last five years (April 2015 to October 2020) was extracted from CSC’s data warehouse system for analysis. We examined data at the individual and incident level overall, as well as by race and groups of interest. In addition to demographic information, we examined data on the frequency of incidents, reasons for uses of force, and types of force for each person involved in each incident.

This review explored these questions:

  • Who is involved in use-of-force incidents?

     

  • How are BIPOC individuals represented in use-of-force incidents?

     

  • What are the features of use-of-force incidents involving BIPOC?

     

  • Is use-of-force applied differently to BIPOC and non-BIPOC individuals?

     

  • How are other groups such as women, individuals with mental health issues, and histories of self-harm represented in use-of-force incidents?

     

    WHAT IS USE-OF-FORCE IN FEDERAL CORRECTIONS?

    Use-of-Force includes “any action by staff that is intended to obtain the cooperation and gain control of an inmate”. Use-of-force can be either spontaneous (i.e., an immediate intervention to a situation) or planned (e.g., staff are deployed through an intervention plan, deployment of the Emergency Response Team [ERT]).

    According to CSC policy, use-of-force must be justifiable and used only as a last resort after verbal methods of negotiations have been attempted and proven unsuccessful or deemed “inappropriate”. Only under these circumstances may staff use force for the following reasons:

    • maintain compliance with institutional rules and regulations

       

    • maintain institutional safety and security

       

    • self-defence

       

    • in defence of others (staff or prisoners)

       

    • protection of property

       

    The following are examples of uses of force that can be used by correctional staff. One or more types of force can be used in an incident.

    • physical handling or control (not including assistive or therapeutic touch)

       

    • use of a chemical or inflammatory agent, intentionally aimed at an individual or dispensed to gain compliance

       

    • non-routine use of restraint equipment

       

    • use of batons or other intermediary weapons

       

    • display or use of firearms

       

    • any direct intervention by the ERT

       

    Engagement and Intervention Model (EIM)

    In January 2018, CSC introduced the EIM to replace the Situation Management Model as a “risk-based model intended to guide staff in both security and health activities to prevent, respond to, and resolve incidents, using the most reasonable interventions”.

    According to CSC, the intention of the EIM was to incorporate a more integrated, person-centered approach than the previous model, with a focus on the following five guiding principles:

    • preservation of life

       

    • interdisciplinary teamwork

       

    • CSC Mission & Values

       

    • necessary & proportionate

       

    • leadership

       

    Source: CSC Hub Operational Procedures “About Use of force” and “Engagement and Intervention Model”. 

     

    Use-of-force Incidents

    To provide context to the analysis by race, the following offers a broader description of the number of use-of-force incidents for the federal prison population overall, and a descriptive analysis of the documented reasons for uses of force and the types of force used in these incidents. Since 2015-16, there have been 9,633 documented use-of-force incidents. Despite the overall decrease in admissions to federal prisons and decreases in the prison population, the number of use-of-force incidents has increased steadily over the last five years.

    Graph 1. Total Use-of-Force Incidents per Fiscal Year

    A graph depicting the total number of use-of-force incidents per fiscal year from 2015-2016 to 2020-2021. 2015-2016: 1,515; 2016-2017: 1,386; 2017-2018: 1,339; 2018-2019: 1,536; 2019-2020: 1,874; 2020-2021: 1,983

    While concerning, these increases are particularly troubling given that they coincide with the introduction of strategies aimed at reducing uses of force, most notably the Engagement and Intervention Model (EIM). The model was developed directly in response to my special report on the preventable death of Mathew Hines. Footnote 5 He died unexpectedly in federal custody in 2015 following a series of inappropriate use-of-force incidents at Dorchester Penitentiary. I issued ten concrete recommendations to CSC regarding urgent changes needed in response to incidents that too often result in the use of force, particularly those involving individuals exhibiting signs of physical or mental health distress. Consequently, in response to the third recommendation issued in Fatal Response , the EIM was developed in 2017 as a “situation-management model emphasizing the importance of non-physical and de-escalation responses to incidents” that theoretically should have resulted in more “person-centered approaches” to resolving incidents. In turn, these should have led to an observable decrease in use-of-force incidents.

    This graphic represents CSC’s risk-based, person-centered Engagement and Intervention Model, and is used to assist staff with engagement and intervention strategies.

    Engagement and Intervention Model (2018)

    This graphic represents CSC’s risk-based, person-centered Engagement and Intervention Model, and is used to assist staff with engagement and intervention strategies.

    Reasons and Types of Force

    We examined the reasons why force was used, and the types of force used. Overall, the majority of incidents were attributed to being “assault related,” such as assaults on inmates, and inmate fights (50%); “behaviour related,” such as disciplinary issues and disruptive behaviours (37%); and those related to self-injurious behaviours, such as self-inflicted injuries (8%). The rest involved contraband, property or other issues. It should be noted that CSC’s database, the Offender Management System (OMS), may not always capture the full context of incidents. In many cases, the reasons entered into the database are the most generic, or most “significant,” categories. Consequently, an incident that started, for example, as a self-harming incident that later involved the individual hitting a staff member might only be recorded as an “assault-related incident.” Therefore, we interpreted the reasons for force with caution. They may not have reflected the full picture of contributing behaviours.

    Similarly, we examined the types of force used. Footnote 6 For ease of analysis, we organized the more-than-40 types of force represented in the data into five categories: Footnote

    1. Inflammatory Sprays (e.g., oleoresin capsicum [OC] spray, or “pepper spray”); 
       
    2. Inflammatory Munitions (e.g., flameless or tactical grenades); 
       
    3. Firearms (e.g., 9 mm pistol, shotgun); 
       
    4. Non-inflammatory Devices/Options (e.g., batons, physical handling); and, 
       
    5. Restraints (e.g., handcuffs, leg irons, body belts). 
       

    Overall, the far-and-away most-common types of force used were inflammatory sprays. They accounted for 42.3% of all force types in all incidents. This was followed by non-inflammatory options, used in a quarter of occurrences, followed by restraints (16.2%), inflammatory munitions (9.3%), and firearms (3.3%).

    Similar to the perplexing findings showing the overall rates of force increasing over time, it is both concerning and disappointing that, despite the introduction of the EIM, staff still rely heavily on inflammatory sprays to “resolve” incidents. In fact, an analysis of types of force by fiscal year showed that use of inflammatory sprays was the most common type of force in each of the last five years, accounting for 40-47% of force types used each year. This practice is contradictory to the intent and letter of the EIM. It suggests that the shift anticipated in replacing the Situation Management Model with the EIM has not occurred. This office has previously recommended that CSC evaluate whether the EIM has had the intended impacts. It is clear by these metrics it has not.

    1. I recommend that CSC conduct an in-depth evaluation of the EIM with a view to implementing changes that will reduce the over-reliance on force options overall, particularly inflammatory sprays, and provide concrete strategies for adopting evidence-based, non-force options for resolving incidents. 

       

    Who is Involved in Use-of-force Incidents?

    Between April 2015 and October 2020, the nearly nine-thousand documented use-of-force incidents that occurred in federal prisons involved 5,063 unique individuals. Footnote 8 For 4,952 of these, CSC had information on demographic characteristics including race. Table 1 provides a profile by self-identified racial group of all individuals involved in a use of force. Footnote 9 The vast majority were males (+90%), housed in medium- or maximum-security settings, and largely assessed as high-risk or high-need.

    Table 1: Profile of Individuals Involved in Use-of-Force Incidents, by Race Groups

     

     

    INDIGENOUS 
    (n = 1,932) 

    WHITE 
    (n = 2,090) 

    BLACK 
    (n = 609) 

    POC 
    (n = 321) 

    AVERAGE AGE 

    28.3

    31.2

    26.8

    27.4

    AVERAGE SENTENCE LENGTH 
    (YEARS) 

    3.8 
    (SD=3.7)

    4.1 
    (SD=4.6)

    3.9 
    (SD=3.6)

    3.7 
    (SD=3.6)

    GENDER* 

    % Male

    91.6

    95.7

    98.2

    98.4

    % Female

    8.4

    4.3

    1.8

    1.6

    SECURITY LEVEL** 

    % Maximum

    31.2

    24.5

    31.9

    31.5

    % Medium

    30.9

    30.2

    32.3

    33.3

    % Minimum

    1.8

    1.6

    1.6

    1.2

    % FIRST FERDERAL SENTENCE 

    58.6

    53.0

    71.6

    80.7

    RISK LEVEL 

    % High

    77.3

    74.1

    76.0

    68.2

    % Medium

    21.8

    23.4

    21.8

    28.3

    % Low

    0.9

    2.4

    2.1

    3.4

    NEED LEVEL 

    % High

    89.0

    85.0

    80.0

    78.5

    % Medium

    10.6

    13.6

    17.6

    19.6

    % Low

    0.5

    1.2

    1.6

    1.9

    Notes: 
    * There was no “other” gender category; however, 43 individuals had a gender considerations flag in OMS. 
    ** There was a substantial amount of missing information on security level for each group; therefore, percentages do not add up to 100.

     

    Women and Use-of-Force

    Over the five-year period, 824 incidents involved 271 unique women. Overall, women accounted for five percent of all individuals involved in uses of force, which is consistent with their proportion of the prison population. The majority of these incidents in facilities designated for women occurred in maximum security. Consistent with the prison population overall, most uses of force were related to assault (44.5%) or “behaviour-related” (27.2%). A much larger proportion of use-of-force incidents involving women, however, comprised incidents of self-injury (26.8% of all uses). For Indigenous women, nearly one-quarter (24.4%) of all incidents were in response to self-injurious behaviours.

    BIPOC individuals accounted for more than two-thirds of all women involved in uses of force (67%), which was largely driven by the high numbers of Indigenous women. On average, Indigenous women accounted for 60% of all women involved in uses of force, despite accounting for approximately 40% of imprisoned women over the last five years.

    When examining the use of force involving women, it is important to acknowledge the role of repeat or chronically involved individuals. As previously stated, individuals can be involved in more than one use-of-force incident. This is particularly salient for women. In fact, during the period under investigation, six women accounted for nearly one-third of all use-of-force incidents in women’s facilities. Moreover, one woman accounted for 11% of all incidents (89), and two women accounted for more than 50 incidents each. When the reasons for force were examined for all incidents involving these women, more than half were documented as occurring in response to self-injurious behaviours.

    In the face of such findings, we need to ask ourselves: why are we expecting force options to effectively resolve mental health crises? Given that many of these women continue to self-harm and repeatedly experience force at the hands of correctional staff, clearly this approach is not working. If force should be used only when verbal negotiations have failed, this may be evidence that more-effective verbal negotiation and de-escalation techniques and training are needed. Staff need the right tools and training in order to respond effectively. And for the most chronically self-harming individuals, prisons may not be where they can or should receive the care they need. Meeting chronic self-harm with chronic use of force is an ineffective (and likely damaging) approach to working with people who have mental health needs. Moreover, attempts to extinguish temporarily the symptoms of otherwise possibly untreated underlying complex health issues is neither a productive nor humane correctional practice.

    USE-OF-FORCE WITH OTHER VULNERABLE POPULATIONS

    An examination of use-of-force incidents involving individuals with other vulnerabilities (i.e., history of self-injury and/or suicide attempts, mental health issues) was conducted for all incidents that took place between April 2015 and October 2020.

    Individuals with a History of Self-injury and/or Suicide Attempts

    • Nearly half (46%) of all individuals involved in a use-of-force incident had a history of self-injury or attempted suicide.

       

    • 12% of all use-of-force incidents were identified as being as a result of self-injurious behaviour.

       

    • More than one-quarter (27%) of all use-of-force incidents involving federally sentenced women were in response to self-injurious behaviour.

       

    • Inflammatory sprays were the most common type of force used for incidents documented as being initiated by self-injurious behaviour (i.e., used in 43% of self-injury incidents). In fact, that rate of use of inflammatory sprays for incidents of self-harm is the same as the overall rate of use for all incident types.

       

    1. I recommend CSC review and revise its policy and practice regarding use of inflammatory sprays when responding to incidents involving individuals who are self-harming or suicidal, with a view to reducing their use when responding to individuals who are experiencing mental health crises. 

       

    Individuals with Mental Health Concerns

    • Previous work by this office’s use-of-force review team found that, based on a review of individual files for a sample of nearly 2,000 use-of-force incidents, 41% of cases involved at least one individual with documented mental health concerns.

       

    • Given the lack of reliable administrative mental health indicators available, it is currently not possible to identify the proportion of individuals involved in uses of force who have mental health concerns.

       

    1. I recommend that CSC develop a reliable method for administratively tracking individuals with mental health concerns in order to identify how policies and practices, such as use-of-force, impact this particularly vulnerable population. 

       

    Note: An attempt was made to utilize the mental health “flag” data available in CSC’s Offender Management System (OMS); however, this information demonstrated numerous issues with data quality and reliability.

     

    Race of individuals involved 
    in Use-of-Force incidents 
    April 2015 to October 2020

    A pie chart depicting the race of all individuals involved in use-of-force incidents over the last five years.White: 42%; Indigenous: 39%; Black: 12%; People of Colour (POC): 7%

    Individuals Involved in Use-of-Force Incidents by Racial Group

    We examined the racial profile of individuals involved in use-of-force incidents. Despite accounting for 44% of the prison population, BIPOC individuals accounted for nearly 60% of all individuals involved in a use-of-force incident over the last five years. During the same period, White individuals accounted for 42% of all individuals involved in a use-of-force, while representing 52% of the prison population. Specifically, Indigenous individuals have been vastly over-represented, accounting for 39% of all individuals involved in uses of force, while comprising approximately 28% of the prison population over the same time. Black individuals were also over-represented, accounting for 12% while only representing 9% of the prison population.

     

    Graph 2. Representation of White and BIPOC Individuals in the General Canadian Population, Federal Prison Population, and Use-of-Force Population

    A bar graph depicting the representation of White, Black, and Indigenous individuals, and People of Colour (POC) in the general Canadian population, federally incarcerated population, and use of force population. General Canadian Population: White: 72%, POC: 19%, Black: 3.5%, Indigenous 5%; Federally Incarcerated Population: White: 52%, POC: 7%, Black 9%, Indigenous: 28%; Use of Force Population: White: 42%, POC: 7%, Black: 12%, Indigenous: 39%

    Taken together, Black and Indigenous peoples have accounted for 51% of individuals involved in uses of force since 2015 while representing 37% of the prison population and 8.5% of the Canadian population. Conversely, White individuals and Peoples of Colour were under-represented in the population of individuals involved in uses of force (42% and 6.5% respectively) compared to their representation in the prison population (52% and 7% respectively).

    Use-of-force Events by Race

    We also examined racial representation in incidents. An incident can, and often does, include more than one person, and therefore potentially more than one race group. We reviewed racial representation in use-of-force events (each unique incident-by-person combination). Graph 3 shows the total use-of-force events by racial group for the last five fiscal years. Footnote 10 

    Graph 3. Total Number of Use-of-Force Events by Race per Fiscal Year

    Graph depicting the total number of use of force events by race, per fiscal year. 2015-2016, Indigenous: 707, White: 998, Black: 338, POC: 133; 2016-2017, Indigenous: 936, White: 925, Black: 234, POC: 125; 2017-2018, Indigenous: 992, White: 876, Black: 230, POC: 120; 2018-2019, Indigenous: 1,053, White: 950, Black: 260, POC: 111; 2019-2020, Indigenous: 1,427, White: 1,127, Black: 386,POC: 191

    Note: The data points across race groups within each fiscal year are not mutually exclusive and therefore the total of incidents per year does not add up to the total of incidents shown in Graph 1.

    It is clear that use-of-force events have increasingly involved Indigenous individuals more than any other racial group, a trend that has been on the rise since 2015-16. In fact, in that year, the number of uses of force involving Indigenous individuals exceeded the number involving White individuals. It has continued to increase since. Not only are Indigenous individuals over-represented among unique persons involved in uses of force, they are vastly over-represented in use-of-force events.

    Use-of-force Occurrences by Race

    It was of interest to compare the average number of use-of-force incidents per person by racial group. Similarly, just as an individual could be involved in more than one use-of-force incident, an individual could be exposed to multiple occurrences (instances or applications of force) for each incident (see Table 2). For example, one individual could be involved in an incident where one occurrence and one type of force is used, such as one occurrence of physical handling. Another person could be involved in one incident but experienced three types of force and four occurrences of force, such as one occurrence of physical handling, one restraint, and two separate rounds of pepper spray.

    As shown in Table 2, a comparison of the average number of use-of-force incidents and average number of force occurrences per person involved in a use-of-force incident for each race group revealed that Indigenous individuals experienced:

     

    • The highest average number of incidents per person compared to all other groups (more than three incidents per person on average);

       

    • The highest average number of occurrences of force compared to all other groups (i.e., more than five occurrences of force per person on average);

       

    • Higher average number of incidents (3.01 vs. 2.78) and occurrences of force (5.45 vs. 5.02) compared to the population average; and,

       

    • Significantly more incidents per person compared to White individuals (3.01 vs. 2.61).

       

    Table 2: Average Number of Use-of-force Incidents and Average Number of Occurrences of Force per Person by Race Group

     

    RACE GROUP 

    AVERAGE # INCIDENTS 
    PER PERSON 

    AVERAGE # OF OCCURRENCES 
    OF FORCE PER PERSON 

    INDIGENOUS

    3.01

    5.45

    BLACK

    2.78

    5.43

    WHITE

    2.61

    4.56

    POC

    2.53

    4.71

    POPULATION 
    AVERAGE

    2.78

    5.02

     

    While accounting for 12% of individuals involved in uses of force over the last five years, Black individuals had a higher average number of incidents per person (2.78) compared to White individuals and Peoples of Colour. It is also important to note that the average number of use-of-force occurrences for Black individuals (5.43) was very nearly as high as that for Indigenous individuals (5.45). While Black individuals are involved in a comparatively small number of incidents, their exposure to force is considerably denser per person compared to the other racial groups.

    Reasons for and Types of Force by Racial Group

    A brief examination of documented reasons for force demonstrated that while all race groups had generally the same rank order for the reasons attributed to the use-of-force incident, the following differences emerged:

    • Indigenous individuals and POC had a significantly higher proportion of assault-related incidents compared to White and Black individuals, and to the total population;

       

    • Indigenous and White individuals had significantly more uses of force attributed to self-injury compared to Black, POC and the total population; and,

       

    • Black and POC had a higher proportion of incidents attributed to contraband than White and Indigenous peoples, and the total population.

       

    Table 3: Reasons for Uses of Force by Race Group and Total Population

     

     

    INDIGENOUS 
    (n = 1,932) 

    WHITE 
    (n = 2,090) 

    BLACK 
    (n = 609) 

    POC 
    (n = 321) 

    TOTAL 
    POPULATION 

    % ASSAULT-RELATED

    53.3

    45.7

    49.1

    56.9

    50.0

    % BEHAVIOUR-RELATED

    34.7

    39.7

    41.5

    31.9

    37.3

    % SELF-INJURY

    8.1

    9.7

    2.9

    3.0

    7.8

    % CONTRABAND

    1.9

    2.6

    4.0

    4.7

    2.7

     

    The Unique Role of Race in Uses of Force

    The examination of use-of-force at the individual and incident levels consistently demonstrates the over-representation of Indigenous and Black individuals compared to their representation in the general population, prison population, and to other racial groups. Furthermore, it illustrates the overuse and density of force experienced specifically by Black and Indigenous individuals. While these results alone are compelling, the evidence does not tell us why over-representation exists. This in turn raises the question: could the greater use of force experienced by Black and Indigenous individuals be explained by the higher rates of these groups in higher security and risk groups? In other words, when taking into account the influence of risk level, security level, and other factors related to increased involvement in uses of force, is race uniquely related? More specifically, when making other important factors equal, does identifying as Indigenous or Black alone result in individuals being more likely to be involved in a use-of-force incident?

    To explore this, two years of use-of-force data was examined, including all individuals who were in federal custody between 2018 and 2020. Individuals involved in at least one use-of-force incident were compared to those who were not involved in a use-of-force during that time (see Table 4). Information on risk level, security level, age, gender, and sentence length were obtained for each individual in order to analyze the relationship between race (Indigenous or Black, versus not) and involvement in a use-of-force incident.

    Table 4: Comparison of Factors between Individuals Involved and Not Involved in Uses of Force Between 2018 and 2020

     

     

    INVOLVED 
    (n = 2,967) 

    NOT INVOLVED 
    (n = 24,283) 

    % INDIGENOUS OR BLACK

    53.5

    33.8

    AVERAGE AGE

    29.9

    37.1

    AVERAGE SENTENCE LENGTH (YEARS)

    4.0

    3.2

    GENDER

    % Male

    94.3

    93.4

    % Female

    5.4

    6.6

    SECURITY LEVEL

    % Maximum

    35.4

    3.5

    % Medium

    34.0

    35.2

    % Minimum

    1.7

    21.7

    RISK LEVEL

    % High

    76

    46.2

    % Medium

    21.8

    37.3

    % Low

    1.8

    13.4

    Source: CSC Data Warehouse (February 2021).

     

    Based on the data, the vast majority of all individuals incarcerated between 2018 and 2020 were males (93.5%), assessed as high or medium risk (49.5% and 35.6%, respectively), housed in medium security (35%), and serving an average sentence of 3.3 years (see Table 4). Footnote 11 Approximately 11% of all individuals were involved in at least one use-of-force incident, and 54% of all individuals involved in a use-of-force incident identified as Indigenous or Black. Footnote 12 

    A comparison and examination of the factors (race, age, sentence length, gender, security level, and risk level) demonstrated a significant relationship between each factor and involvement in a use-of-force incident. Specifically, being younger, having a longer sentence, being male, being higher security and risk, and identifying as Indigenous or Black were significantly associated with being involved in a use-of-force incident. Footnote 13 

    Next, we examined the relationship between race and involvement in a use-of-force. Footnote 14 This analysis revealed that identifying as Indigenous or Black made individuals significantly more likely to be involved in a use-of-force incident. Specifically, the odds of being involved were 2.5 times greater for an Indigenous or Black individual compared to someone who identified with another racial group. When the other factors were added to the model (age, gender, risk level, security level, and sentence length), all factors were significantly associated with involvement in a use-of-force. Importantly, the results indicate that the relationship between race and use-of-force, holding the effects of all five other factors constant, was still significantly associated with use-of-force involvement. Put differently, after controlling for the influence of age, risk, security level, gender, and sentence length on involvement in use-of-force, being Indigenous or Black was uniquely associated with increased odds of being involved in a use-of-force incident.

    Other factors likely also play a role in explaining involvement in uses of force, but this finding tells us that the over-representation of Indigenous and Black individuals in use-of-force incidents cannot simply be explained by their greater proportions in higher risk or security groups, their younger age, or sentence length. The unique and significant role of race should be a wake-up call to the Service to take an earnest look at how use-of-force methods are applied and to whom they are applied the most. This finding provides compelling evidence to suggest that force is applied to Indigenous and Black individuals disproportionately, and possibly because of race, above and beyond more legitimate reasons. Put simply, race alone should not be a “risk factor” for exposure to uses of force.

     

    1. I recommend that CSC promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black individuals and publicly report on actionable changes to policy and practice that will effectively reduce the over-representation of these groups among those exposed to uses of force. 

       

    Conclusion

    The use of force in prisons is a powerful tool that has been afforded to correctional agencies. It can serve an important purpose within strict parameters and in limited circumstances. But, like many other practices that have ample room for discretionary use, the use of force has become a go-to method for correctional management. It is a method that is vulnerable to the influence of implicit and explicit bias.

    Evidence of the over -use of force generally, and specifically with Black and Indigenous individuals, is irrefutable. This reality stands in disappointing contrast to the implementation of seemingly promising measures, such as the EIM, which had demonstrated some organizational will to move away from the over-reliance on force. The outcomes, however, are not only inconsistent with, but diametrically opposed to, the intentions of such measures.

    There has been no better time or motivation than the current social climate for the Service to engage in self-reflection and examine its use-of-force policies and practices overall and with specific attention to Black and Indigenous peoples, as well as other vulnerable groups, who are disproportionately and most negatively affected.

    A Review of Women’s Corrections 30-Years since Creating Choices 

    April 2020 marked the 30-year anniversary of Creating Choices . Footnote 15 Launched as a blueprint for women’s federal corrections in Canada, Creating Choices denoted the beginning of a correctional system that is recognized as woman-centered. The Commissioner of Corrections established the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women (herein referred to as the Task Force) in 1989. The Task Force relied heavily on the lives, experiences and insight of federally sentenced women in examining the management practices for women in-custody, and in developing a plan and guidelines for future policies and interventions. The Task Force made short- and long-term recommendations that significantly changed women’s corrections. It enshrined five principles integral to a woman-centered approach to corrections: empowerment; meaningful and responsible choices; respect and dignity; supportive environment; and shared responsibility.

    Photo of the Structured Intervention Unit and Secure Unit yard at Nova Institution.

    Structured Intervention Unit and Secure Unit yard 
    at Nova Institution 

    Six years after the Task Force released its report, the Solicitor General of Canada released Honourable Louise Arbour’s report on her inquiry into events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, ON. Footnote 16 The report investigated incidents that took place between a group of incarcerated women and staff. The report issued 14 main recommendations, and served alongside Creating Choices as the political impetus for many of the operational and cultural changes in women’s federal corrections.

    My Office has reported on women’s corrections in successive Annual Reports, noting many achievements, but also highlighting many problematic practices and areas where improvement was urgently needed. More than once, I have shown that an increased population of incarcerated women corresponds with an erosion of the key principles articulated in Creating Choices . The elevated number of incidents of self-injury, use of force, assaults (including sexual), fights, attempted suicides and interrupted overdoses among women point to a system that falls short of the principles and intentions embraced in Creating Choices . New issues have also arisen over the years that have further challenged the system and approaches to managing women’s corrections.

    In 2020-21, the Office broadly examined the evolution of women’s corrections over the past three decades. We conducted confidential interviews with incarcerated women in each region, and CSC staff, to better inform our analysis and findings. Hearing directly from women who are serving time and staff who have worked within the Creating Choices framework is essential to better understanding the challenges and scope of the issues. We also reviewed academic literature, stakeholder resources and parliamentary reports.

    The following analysis examines women’s corrections, set against the nine problems identified in Creating Choices . These include:

    1. The Prison for Women is not adequate;

       

    2. Prison for Women is over secure;

       

    3. Programming is poor;

       

    4. Women are isolated from their families;

       

    5. The needs of Francophone women are not met;

       

    6. The needs of Aboriginal women are not met;

       

    7. Responsibility for federally sentenced women must be broadened;

       

    8. Women need to be better integrated into the community; and,

       

    9. Incarceration does not promote rehabilitation.

       

    Highlights of the Main Findings

    • Creating Choices was a ground-breaking initiative that led to many improvements in women’s corrections; however, overall, little has changed for most federally incarcerated women. Footnote 17 

       

    • One of the most significant changes over the past thirty years has been the sheer increase in the number of federally sentenced women. Admissions to women’s federal correctional facilities more than tripled, from 170 in 1990-91 to 562 in 2019-20.

       

    • The composition of the population changed significantly. The population of federally sentenced Indigenous women increased by 73.8% over 30 years. Indigenous women comprise 43% of the federally sentenced women population, up from 23% in 1990-91.

       

    • Nearly all of the problems identified thirty years ago (inadequate infrastructure, over-securitization, lack of programming and services, poor community reintegration practices) remain significant areas of concern today, some have deteriorated even further and all are contributing factors to poor correctional outcomes for many women.

       

    • A security-driven approach continues to pervade nearly every aspect of women’s corrections, preventing CSC from realizing fully the vision in Creating Choices . Footnote 18 

       

    • Programming, services, and interventions remain a substantial problem. While we heard from some women that they have had positive experiences in programs, correctional programming is not resulting in better community outcomes for many others. Indigenous women have limited access to specialized programming, and to Elders and Indigenous Liaison Officers. Job training for women is often grounded in gendered roles and expectations, offering few marketable skills.

       

    • Despite CSC research demonstrating that women granted temporary absences (TAs) experience lower unemployment and have fewer returns to custody, the use of TAs and work releases is limited. This prevents women from pursuing services and interventions outside prison that would offer opportunities better suited to their needs and interests.

       

    • Correctional practices that re-traumatize women (random strip searches), or a workplace culture that permits comments from staff that discriminate or bully women on the basis of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, in no way contribute to a healing environment.

       

    THE VOICES OF WOMEN

    As part of our work for this chapter, we interviewed a number of women serving time. Below are their thoughts on the evolution of women’s corrections, challenges they face and the realization of Creating Choices .

    On Empowerment and Choice:

    “I have not felt that CSC is there to support us. Everything is a fight with management. Zero empowerment from the site, I have been disrespected by staff and witnessed staff disrespecting other inmates, I have submitted human rights complaints, discrimination/harassment complaints on behalf of other inmates. Decisions are taken in our case and they inform us of them, we are not consulted or part of the process.”

    “Systemically we used to have more choices (Escorted Temporary Absences, Work Releases, even what we can get on the grocery list). It seems more restrictive now.”

    “Escorted Temporary Absences/Work Releases abysmal. Been trying for 2.5 years but PO keeps changing things, now I need an updated Psych assessment and CP update. Frustrating.”

    On Programs and Services:

    “I was really impressed with the Correctional Program Officer who taught my program. They were able to deal with all the different personalities and reach us in different ways. They were able to challenge me and bring me out of my shell.”

    “My skills are better and have improved since my program. It was a good experience. I was cautious about the info I released because of other people in the group. Spoke to the CPO about it though. My coping skills have improved significantly.”

    “Not having good enough access to mental health (psychiatrist), more doctors that can help, not just to prescribe meds to us.”

    “Aboriginal Women Offender Correctional Programming: Had an amazing experience with the Elder and the facilitator. It transformed my life.”

    “Volunteers who want to come in to help us have to go through so many approval process, takes so long.”

    “Obviously the mother-child program is positive but it could function better (lack of training of the people who are managing it, too many layers of approval).”

    “Reintegration is the biggest challenge. Women leave prison with no employable skills, no solid skills on how to look for work. If you leave on SR, you’re on your own, where is the building bridges? Vocational options are so limited for women (food, sewing, cleaning…).”

    On Security:

    “I’ve watched it go from being women-centered and supportive…to going back to a more male model. I attribute the start of this downward trend to when PW had to start wearing uniform.”

    “I feel like we have gone away from creating choice, with the exception of a few staff. Feels like more of a punishment-based model.”

     

    Profile of Federally Incarcerated Women

    One of the most apparent differences in the landscape of women’s corrections today compared to 1990 is the large increase in the number of federally incarcerated women in Canada. Admissions more than tripled from 170 in 1990-91 to 562 in 2019-20.

    Graph 1. Federal Admissions to FSW Facilities 1990-91 to 2019-20

    A graph depicting federal admissions to facilities for federally sentenced women from fiscal year 1990-91 to 2019-20. 1990-91: 170, 1991-92: 189, 1992-93: 210, 1993-94: 233, 1994-95: 253, 1995-96: 244, 1996-97: 282, 1997-98: 285, 1998-99: 333, 1999-00: 339, 2000-01: 390, 2001-02: 344, 2002-03: 357, 2003-04: 389, 2004-05: 404, 2005-06: 448, 2006-07: 485, 2007-08: 469, 2008-09: 504, 2009-10: 497, 2010-11: 493, 2011-12: 499, 2012-13: 427, 2013-14: 457, 2014-15: 506, 2015-16: 561, 2016-17: 576, 2017-18: 559, 2018-19: 563, 2019-20: 562

    Source: CSC Data Warehouse (April 10, 2021).

    According to CSC’s Data Warehouse, on April 10th, 2021 there were 615 individuals incarcerated in federal facilities designated for women. A further 713 were supervised in the community. As shown in Table 1, most women were incarcerated in the Prairie (30.1%) or Ontario (28.8%) regions. Approximately half of women were housed in medium security, while only one-quarter were classified as minimum security. Most women were serving relatively short sentences averaging three years. The vast majority (86%) were serving their first federal sentence. While the largest proportion of incarcerated women was assessed as high needs (61.3%), and medium (41%) or high risk (40%), most women were also assessed as having medium or high levels of motivation, or accountability, or both. Based on data from CSC’s Corporate Reporting system, there were nearly as many incarcerated women who identified as White (44%) as there were women who identified as Indigenous (43%); the remaining 14% identified as visible minority or other. Although the specific circumstances of Indigenous women will be discussed in a subsequent section, it is worth noting here the differences in the profile of incarcerated Indigenous women. For example, compared to incarcerated non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women were significantly younger. Their median age at admission was 29, compared to 36 for non-Indigenous women. They represented nearly twice the proportion of non-Indigenous women in maximum security, and received higher risk and needs ratings.

    Table 1: Demographic Profile of Federally Incarcerated Women

     

     

    NON-INDIGENOUS 
    (n = 327) 

     

    INDIGENOUS 
    (n = 252) 

     

    TOTAL 
    (N = 615) 

     

     

    # (MEDIAN) 

    # (MEDIAN) 

    # (MEDIAN) 

    AVERAGE AGE AT 
    ADMISSION 

    37.5 
    (36)

    30.7 
    (29)

    34.7 
    (32)

    SECURITY CLASSIFICATION 

    Minimum

     

    96

    29.4

    50

    19.8

    151

    24.6

    Medium

     

    173

    52.9

    140

    55.6

    318

    51.7

    Maximum

     

    22

    6.7

    32

    12.7

    54

    8.8

    AVERAGE SENTENCE LENGTH 
    (YEARS) 

    3.1 
    (2.00)

    -

    3.1 
    (2.00)

    -

    3.0 
    (2.00)

    -

    FIRST-TIME FEDERAL 
    OFFENDER 

    276

    84.4

    218

    86.5

    529

    86

    REGION 

    Pacific

     

    37

    11.30

    47

    18.7

    88

    14.3

    Prairie

     

    62

    19.0

    115

    45.6

    185

    30.1

    Ontario

     

    114

    34.9

    53

    21.0

    177

    28.8

    Quebec

     

    63

    19.3

    14

    5.6

    84

    13.7

    Atlantic

     

    51

    15.6

    23

    9.1

    81

    13.2

    RISK LEVEL 

    High

     

    120

    36.7

    123

    48.8

    245

    39.8

    Medium

     

    140

    42.8

    100

    39.7

    252

    41.0

    Low

     

    44

    13.5

    15

    6.0

    66

    10.7

    NEED LEVEL 

    High

     

    175

    53.5

    193

    76.6

    377

    61.3

    Medium

     

    108

    33.0

    42

    16.7

    160

    26

    Low

     

    18

    5.5

    1

    0.4

    21

    3.4

    REINTEGRATION 

          

    High

    45

    13.8

    3

    1.2

    53

    8.6

    Medium

    187

    57.2

    147

    58.3

    349

    56.7

    Low

    69

    21.1

    86

    34.1

    156

    25.4

    MOTIVATION 

          

    High

    111

    33.9

    63

    25.0

    185

    30.1

    Medium

    167

    51.1

    160

    63.5

    337

    54.8

    Low

    23

    7.0

    13

    5.2

    36

    5.9

    ACCOUNTABILITY 

          

    High

    86

    26.3

    53

    21.0

    146

    23.7

    Medium

    176

    53.8

    171

    67.9

    361

    58.7

    Low

    38

    11.6

    10

    4.0

    48

    7.8

    Notes: Data on race was unavailable for approximately 6% of the population. For the remaining demographic characteristics, data was missing for 8-15% of the population. 
    Source: CSC Data Warehouse (Based on women incarcerated on April 10th, 2021).

     

    Assessment of Women’s Corrections against the Nine Problems Identified in Creating Choices 

    1. The Prison for Women is Not Adequate

    In 1990, the Task Force was clear that the single federal prison for women, in operation from 1934 to 2000 and located in Kingston, Ontario, was completely inadequate. Its design was based on a men’s maximum-security facility, which meant that most women were held at a higher security level than required. The prison was noisy, poorly ventilated and lacked sufficient space to accommodate correctional interventions. Improvements were made over the years, but the inflexibility of the design and the prison’s high security wall resembled a fortress that separated women from the community. The Task Force recommended that five regional women’s sites be constructed with cottage-style units to incorporate independent living, non-intrusive security measures, natural light, fresh air, space, privacy, dedicated spiritual space, and access to land.

    Photo of a yard at Edmonton Institution for Women.

    A yard at Edmonton Institution for Women 

    Photo of the communal living residences at Grand Valley Institution.

    Communal living residences at Grand Valley Institution 

    Five regional sites

    Despite the adherence to many of the recommendations in Creating Choices , the regional sites continue to pose challenges. The construction of one facility in each region, while better than one national facility, still requires many women to serve their time far from their family and community. Recent CSC research found that women (and men) who received visits from friends and family were more successful when released back into the community. Footnote 19 Many women are mothers, and many families cannot afford to travel for visits. Incompatibles (gang-affiliated members, individuals in protective-custody, and other groups) within a region may also require that women be transferred even further away from their supports. This may be particularly difficult for Indigenous women transferred to a region with fewer cultural supports, or women transferred to a region with little support in the language of their choice.

     
    Overcrowding

    Built for a much smaller population, two of the five regional sites—Grand Valley Institution (GVI) and Edmonton Institution for Women (EIFW)—are often overcrowded. The intent in Creating Choices was that the size of each facility would reflect the regional population and that “effective implementation of community strategies should, over time, reduce the need and length of stay in these facilities.” Creating Choices also recommended that women be incarcerated in the region in which they are convicted and sentenced. It also provided for transfers for “personal or program reasons.” While it appears this principle is often adhered to, overcrowding and the presence of incompatibles has meant that some women have been transferred for reasons that are not personal or program-related. Over the last couple of years, overcrowding and incompatibles at EIFW has meant that several women, many of them Indigenous, have been transferred to Joliette Institution in Quebec. Not only are they moved further from their families and cultural supports, they are placed in an institution with few supports that can communicate in the language of their choice. Correctional programming was difficult to arrange in English when only a few Anglophone women were transferred to Joliette, but as the numbers rose, English correctional programs became available. Still, there is no Elder who can speak English, but there is an English-speaking Indigenous Liaison Officer. There are currently 32 women at Joliette in the Quebec region whose preferred language is English; 11 of them were sentenced in the Prairie region. Footnote 20 My Office recently intervened in a case where a woman was approved for penitentiary placement to EIFW upon warrant of committal. However, because of overcrowding at EIFW, she was recommended for penitentiary placement to Joliette. It was important for my Office to intervene because the woman was serving a short sentence of two years and eight months; a pen placement so far from her community could have reduced her motivation to address her needs. All her community supports, and her release plan, were in Alberta. She had been recommended for multiple programs and, as per the Case Management Team’s (CMT) assessment, she appeared focused on completing the interventions to address her needs, and motivated to work towards her Correctional Plan. The CMT reported that without appropriate programming and intervention completion, her reintegration potential was low. After my Office’s intervention, the EIFW management team changed its decision and placed her there. Transfers out of region should be minimized and used only as a last resort, not as a means of controlling population levels. More innovative solutions—such as security classification reviews, transferring Indigenous women to a Healing Lodge or returning women to the community—control population levels better, and are more beneficial to women.

    Overcrowding has also been an issue in the Secure Unit at EIFW and also GVI. Many women in the Secure Units have complex mental health issues. Overcrowding and double-bunking can increase stress, anxiety, and incidents of self-harming and suicidal behaviour, particularly given that there is often very little movement out of the unit.

    Infrastructure
    Photo of a living unit at Grand Valley Institution.

    Living unit at Grand Valley Institution 

    Built many years ago, the regional facilities require regular maintenance. Women have reported issues with hot and cold water, water pressure, extreme temperatures within the units, broken appliances, and houses in disrepair. While maintenance and upkeep of the facilities is an ongoing requirement, these conditions can create tension and stress among the women, particularly when repairs take several weeks or when they must move units while repairs are being completed. In the Secure Unit at one regional facility, a security panel broke last autumn; it was not replaced until this spring. During this period, the routine on the Secure Unit was modified. Women were locked in their pod after 3 pm, with no evening recreation. Their doors were locked between security rounds (every 45 minutes), resulting in numerous complaints to my Office.

    Even retrofitted, the facilities are poor living spaces for aging women or those with mobility challenges. As discussed in Aging and Dying in Prison: An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody , many physical barriers remain for those who are mobility impaired. Effective retrofits are often limited because of the age of the facility. Footnote 21 My Office has heard complaints from women that their requests to use the elevator prompt frustrated responses from staff. Also, staffing challenges can result in extended waits for the elevator, and suggestions by officers that the women not move between floors. Infrastructure issues should not prevent women from accessing the areas they are permitted to enter.

    Access to health care

    Over the past five years, health care has been a leading concern in complaints to my Office. Often they focus on access, medications, wait times (particularly for dental care), a lack of routine testing (mammograms, pap smears), and trauma-informed care. These issues suggest that CSC continues to struggle to fulfill its legal obligation to provide essential health care equivalent to community standards, and reasonable access to non-essential health care. Footnote 22 

    Ineffective grievance system

    My Office has highlighted the deficiencies in CSC’s grievance system repeatedly. We continue to receive complaints about relatively minor matters that should have been dealt with at the institutional level rather than escalated to my Office. Although CSC has added resources, there remain extensive delays in resolving complaints and grievances. The elimination of the second (regional) level several years ago was supposed to result in a more streamlined, two-tiered system of review and redress of prisoner complaints corresponding to a final grievance (institutional) at the national level. However, the number of grievances going forward to the national level and the amount of time required to resolve them has led to some egregious delays and backlogs. CSC has an obligation under section 90 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, to resolve offender grievances “fairly and expeditiously.” As I highlighted in my 2016-17 Annual Report, it would be more efficient to give managers the means and capacity to resolve matters in their institutions and to re-invest funding into Alternative Dispute Resolution, which has proven successful. Women have also reported fearing reprisal for using the grievance system and being told that their complaints will be used against them. A fair, efficient and effective prisoner grievance system would go a long way to alleviate some of the problems that plague women’s institutions.

    Photo of the frame for a sweat lodge and the border fence at Fraser Valley Institution.

    The frame for a sweat lodge and the border fence 
    at Fraser Valley Institution 

    2. Prison for Women is Over-Secure

    Many of the more progressive ideas and concepts in Creating Choices that would have created a more promising era—such as the presumption of minimum security classification at admission; no perimeter fencing; no maximum security units; and no segregation for incarcerated women—have long since been abandoned in favour of a system that puts security and control at the forefront. It was not until the minimum-security units opened in 2014 that minimum-security women were no longer surrounded by a fence. As sacrifices and compromises were made over the years, the management of women behind bars has become less distinguishable from the rest of CSC operations. The regional facilities did little to ease the overly secure environment for women and, in many respects, provided opportunities to bring in additional security measures.

     
    Photo of an observation cell next to the Structured Intervention Units at Nova Institution.

    Observation cell next to the Structured Intervention 
    Units at Nova Institution 

    Use of restrictive housing

    For years, women have been subjected to various forms of restrictive housing such as segregation, clinical isolation, mental health observation, suicide watch, dry cell, and now Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). Though these different types of restrictive environments have very specific uses in policy, they often mean that women are placed in traditional prison cells in an environment that prioritizes a security-first approach over a therapeutic or healthcare-based intervention. Women have described these cells as cold, dirty and isolated. Many of the SIUs are located in areas previously used for segregation. Many observers have commented that SIUs are simply the new segregation. Given the mental health needs of many women, these restrictive and secure environments are neither appropriate nor healing. They often leave women feeling hopeless, distraught and helpless, particularly when dealing with their emotional or mental health issues. Rather than isolating women, consideration should be given, where appropriate, to placements in alternative and more supportive housing.

     
    Photo of the Structured Intervention Unit and Secure Unit yard at Nova Institution.

    Structured Intervention Unit and Secure Unit 
    yard at Nova Institution 

    Photo inside the maximum-security unit at Grand Valley Institution.

    Inside the maximum-security unit at Grand 
    Valley Institution 

    The Secure Unit

    The Secure Unit (maximum security) is, not surprisingly, the strictest of all areas in women’s facilities. My Office has previously identified these units as highly restrictive and repressive. The closed, cramped living arrangements lead to tension, frustration and conflict. My staff continue to see many of the same women held in Secure Units visit after visit. Some have had their security classification overridden from medium to maximum. Others have been placed in the Secure Unit following behaviours arising from underlying mental health issues. Others have not successfully cascaded to lower levels of security. As well, as my Office has previously reported, women in maximum security have been subject to at least two unique classification or level systems over the years intended to manage their movements. The now defunct Management Protocol, introduced in 2003, was a very severe regime for incarcerated women considered “unmanageable” within the maximum-security population. It was used almost exclusively to manage high-needs, high-risk Indigenous women. This system was replaced by the level system, which continues to manage the movement of women when they leave the Secure Unit to access services such as health care, visits, programs or school. Women are often subject to restraint for off-unit movement. Like the Management Protocol, the level system tends to capture high-needs, high-risk Indigenous women who are over-represented in the Secure Unit.

    While many of these women require a structured environment, the restrictive, security-driven approach within the Secure Unit can make their mental health issues worse. Women’s behaviours, many of which contribute to their maximum-security status, are often the result of untreated trauma and mental health issues. They would be better addressed with support rather than restriction and security. The addition of full-time mental health workers within the Secure Unit would go a long way in assisting many of these women.

     
    The application of policy in an overly restrictive manner

    Over 2015-16 to 2019-20, use-of-force incidents in women’s facilities reached their highest level in 2018-19 (266 incidents) before dropping slightly in 2019-20 (242). My Office has highlighted the concerning trend in use-of-force on women who are self-harming, and on women with serious mental health issues. The replacement of the Situation Management Model with the Engagement and Intervention Model has not resulted in consistent changes to the way in which these cases are managed. Women continue to experience a security response to what should be a health-related intervention. In 2020-21, my Office investigated once again a particularly egregious case of use-of-force on a woman who was self-injuring and experiencing mental health issues (See the Use-of-Force case). While my Office received a positive response from CSC that detailed its failures, and action items to improve incident responses, this case illustrates again that ongoing work and continuous monitoring are required with respect to the management and treatment of women with mental health issues, and with individuals engaging in self-harming behaviours. Given the number of similar cases I have brought forward to the Service over the years, I remain concerned by the apparent lack of progress on these issues at the institutional and organizational level. The absence of sufficient mental health care, coupled with a security-first approach to managing situations stemming from acute psychological distress, are a risky model for an organization to reinforce, or passively allow to occur.

    USE-OF-FORCE CASE

    In 2020-21, my Office investigated a case of use-of-force on a young Indigenous woman residing in the Secure Unit. She was self-injuring and experiencing mental health issues.

    After she used her call button to ask for assistance, correctional officers arrived at her cell. She complied with their orders, was handcuffed and led to an interview room. There, she became very agitated and resumed injuring herself. Officers gave verbal orders from outside the room to stop, but they lacked keys to enter and the woman did not stop. When the keys arrived, the officers opened the door immediately and deployed pepper spray, which stopped her behaviour.

    After decontamination, the woman wanted to return to her unit. But she was not allowed. She became agitated again and resisted orders. Staff carried her to her unit.

    This case illustrates once again many of the Office’s systemic concerns regarding women’s corrections, including:

    • Reliance on security measures to manage incidents of self-harm;

       

    • Poor adherence to the Engagement and Intervention Model;

       

    • Lack of medical and mental health services;

       

    • Placement and treatment of women with mental health issues in the Secure Unit;

       

    • Gaps in post-use-of-force review procedures; and,

       

    • Poor organizational learning.

       

    In response to my correspondence, the Service acknowledged that more work is required to appropriately respond to health-related incidents. In fact, the Service agreed with most of my Office’s assessment of what went wrong in this particular case. CSC also described measures it is implementing, including:

    • Suicide Prevention and Intervention Strategy and a Clinical Framework to support staff in managing and responding to suicidal and self-injurious individuals;

       

    • Continuous updating of curricula and scenario-based training for use-of-force;

       

    • A Board of Investigation examining the management of institutional incidents under the old Situation Management Model and the new Engagement and Intervention Model to see if progress has been made in relation to the expected outcomes; and,

       

    • Regional action plans to monitor the implementation of the Engagement and Intervention Model.

       

    In September 2018, CSC implemented a random-strip-search calculator to standardize the assignment of random strip-searches. Most federally sentenced women are trauma and abuse survivors. Rather than reducing the effects of traumatic exposure, security-driven practices like these often reproduce traumatic events and worsen symptoms of previous trauma. The strip-searching policy for women should be grounded in an understanding of, and responsiveness to, the impact of trauma. To the extent possible, searches should avoid practices that are likely to re-traumatize unnecessarily, such as arbitrariness. A more trauma-informed, gender-responsive search policy would ensure an approach based only on identified risk (reasonable grounds) and necessity.

    SECTION 53 SEARCH FOR CONTRABAND

    On November 19, 2020, a women’s facility was locked down because of suspected contraband entering the institution. In order for the searches to take place, women were brought to the gym and required to wait for a long time. During the course of the lockdown, some women underwent strip searches under section 53 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , and questioned about the presence of drugs. Adding questioning to the strip searches that had already made the women vulnerable appears particularly security-driven, with little respect for the particular needs or harm such an experience may cause.

    In April 2021, my Office was informed that EIFW and Bath Institution had been chosen to pilot a body scanner. Footnote 23 While the introduction of body scanners may reduce the invasiveness of the strip search, this practice is further evidence of how far women’s corrections has moved away from Creating Choices to normalize security measures. Today, security measures such as this are simply accepted as routine or standard operating procedures. There appears to be no room or voice to question measures that run counter to a more-progressive vision of women’s corrections. The Service seems to justify this in the name of security and control. Although invasive searches may be required in some very specific instances, these should be limited to instances with sufficient evidence.

    Women have raised other issues with my Office that highlight the overly secure environment within women’s facilities:

    • Inconsistent escort requirements: some women have reported requiring shackles with a uniformed guard for a community medical appointment but can complete an escorted temporary absence without shackles accompanied by a volunteer;

       

    • Security staff remaining in the room during medical visits in the community;

       

    • Overly restrictive environments within the minimum units (i.e., count every two hours, with two stand-to counts, during the day; a 3:30 pm sign-in; restrictions on the walking path; and early curfews); and,

       

    • The over-use of cameras and surveillance contradicts a healing environment.

       

     

    1. I recommend that CSC conduct an external review to evaluate all security practices within women’s facilities with a view to eliminating or reducing overly secure procedures that move women’s corrections further away from the objectives identified in Creating Choices

       

    3. Programming is Poor

    Among the issues the Task Force identified was the need for more programming. Since 1990, correctional interventions offered to federally sentenced women have changed considerably in their number, variety, and methods. In the years following Creating Choices , individual correctional programs were offered to target specific criminogenic needs, such as the Women Offender Substance Abuse Program and the Anger and Emotion Management Program. However, there was a significant shift in the programs’ approach and content in 2010, when CSC implemented a new “holistic, gender- and culture-informed model” of correctional programs for women. The suite of Women Offender Correctional Programs (WOCP) and the Indigenous Women Offender Correctional Program (IWOCP) shifted away from specific program targets (where a woman might have needed to complete several programs to address all of her identified criminogenic needs) to an integrated, multi-target program. This approach starts with an engagement program, followed by moderate or high-intensity components, and concludes with a self-management (maintenance) program. These program elements can be delivered in the institution or the community. This model also includes a sex offender program for women who require it. Secure-unit women are offered a modular intervention to help address the reasons for their secure-unit placement, but this programming does not replace the program(s) required in their correctional plan. As can be seen from the Voices of Women quoted earlier, we heard from many women who have had positive experiences and have enjoyed and benefited from correctional programming, both in the content and facilitators. However, we also heard many complaints. Recently, large studies and investigations into issues facing federally sentenced women have noted major deficiencies regarding their programming. Footnote 24 While the number and variety of correctional programs offered to federally sentenced women have increased since Creating Choices , clear problems remain in their availability, quality, and effectiveness.

    Photo of the cultural room at Fraser Valley Institution.

    The cultural room at Fraser Valley Institution 

    Access to correctional programming

    Timely access to correctional programs is important for many reasons, including the need to prepare women expeditiously for successful release into the community. Poor access to programming was one of the major findings of the Auditor General’s (AG) 2017 investigation into women’s corrections. While timely access is a considerably bigger issue for the larger population of incarcerated men, the AG’s findings indicated that “Correctional Service of Canada did not allow many women to complete their correctional programs in time for parole.” Furthermore, for Indigenous women, the AG said that “few Indigenous women had access to culturally-specific correctional programs or interventions because of limited availability.” The AG found that Indigenous women were taking generic women’s programming largely because culturally relevant programming would not be offered in time. In November 2020, CSC released its own evaluation of women’s correctional programs which found similar access problems, particularly for Indigenous women. For example, only 51% of Indigenous women completed the main program before their day-parole eligibility date, compared to 79% of non-Indigenous women. While more than 95% of women were enrolled in the main program prior to their day- and full-parole eligibility, staff and incarcerated women alike noted problems with timely access. Specifically, staff attributed access barriers to resource deficiencies, particularly human resources, and insufficient program availability. Footnote 25 Consistent with the AG’s findings, CSC’s evaluation of program access found that “Indigenous individuals who were interviewed and had wanted to participate in an Indigenous program reported that they had not taken a program under either the Indigenous Integrated Correctional Program Model (IICPM) or IWOCP, as the programs were unavailable or not offered in a timely manner.” In addition to the availability issue, CSC does not have a definition of “timely access”; therefore, absent standards, the clock runs out for many women who could have benefitted from programs. Put simply, women cannot benefit from programs if they cannot take them in time for release, or at all.

    Relevance and quality of correctional programming

    The ability of correctional programs to produce the desired outcomes largely depends on the relevance and quality of the program material and format. For women in correctional settings, gender- and trauma-informed programs that also target criminogenic needs have demonstrably reduced offending behaviors. Footnote 26 While offering a seemingly more-efficient and internally consistent new model, the shift from individualized programs to the integrated WOCP and IWOCP model brought concerns that the programs’ content would become far too generic, and thereby contradict the goal of targeting individual criminogenic needs. Correctional programming quality has been raised in recent studies examining the experience of federally sentenced women, as well as in CSC’s recent evaluation of correctional programs for incarcerated women. The results demonstrated considerable concern from both incarcerated women and staff about program quality. For example, 85% of women who participated in the WOCP evaluation survey indicated that the content of correctional programs needed to change. They pointed to a lack of relevant need areas and insufficient practical skills that would assist them in their everyday lives. Furthermore, 61% of staff reported a need to make content more relevant and useful to the participants. They said its content should be more realistic, simpler, less repetitive, and more gender-informed.

    Relevance and quality are of even greater concern to women of diverse cultural or racial groups, such as Indigenous and Black women. In a survey of IWOCP participants, 75% of women said that the programming was not culturally appropriate. A quarter of staff described the content and format as insufficient in its cultural relevance or inappropriate. A majority of staff surveyed (65%) suggested improvements to program content and delivery for Indigenous women, such as more cultural sensitivity, more Elder involvement, more teachings applicable to individual circumstances, and generally more cultural relevance to the local community and the groups represented in the programs.

    Effectiveness of correctional programming

    Given women’s concerns about their ability to access good-quality programs, there is a question as to whether these programs effectively prepare them for successful release and reduce re-offending. CSC’s program evaluation examined the effectiveness of correctional interventions. It delivered disappointingly poor results, particularly in relation to the observed outcomes for women who completed programming compared to program-eligible women who did not participate. For example, the evaluation found that women who completed correctional programming had higher rates of revocations and substance-use-related outcomes compared to the non-participants. Furthermore, the evaluation found no significant differences in the grant rate for discretionary releases between women who completed programs versus those who did not.

    These are startling findings. They should raise major concerns for CSC. It should take a much-closer look at its program content and delivery methods to determine why they do not appreciably improve community outcomes. By this metric, CSC is failing women on one of the main goals of corrections, which is to provide those in its care with effective rehabilitative programs.

     

    1. I recommend that CSC conduct an independent in-depth study of its Women Offender Correctional Program (WOCP) and Indigenous Women Offender Correctional Program (IWOCP) to better understand why the programs have been deficient in producing improved correctional outcomes for participants, particularly for Indigenous women. 

       

    4. Women are Isolated from their Families

    Maintaining a family relationship throughout their incarceration increases the chances of a woman’s successful reintegration upon her release. The Task Force recognized this, particularly given the geographically isolated location of the single prison for women at the time. The construction of the five regional facilities brought many women closer to their home communities but many are still far from their family. Women have told my Office that visits can be difficult to coordinate with primary caregivers, and that long-distance visits and telephone calls are neither practical nor affordable.

    Two programs have been implemented to address some of these issues:

    • Mother-Child Program: a program allowing an incarcerated mother and their child to stay together during the mother’s incarceration. Children aged four and under can participate full-time. Children aged six and under are eligible for part-time participation.

       

    • Video Visits: an initiative that allows incarcerated individuals to maintain virtual contact with their family.

       

    The addition of the minimum-security units provided areas designed to support the mother-child program, including adjoining, but separate rooms for the mother and child. The addition of these units increased participation as expected, but strict eligibility criteria implemented in 2008 have excluded many women from participation

    Most incarcerated women are mothers. These programs have served to unite some of them with their children, but the lack of specific data on eligible mothers makes it difficult to determine whether incarcerated mothers are being adequately served by these programs.

    Community-based residential facilities

    Given that most community-based residential facilities are located in large urban areas, women often face the prospect of being released into a community that is not their own. For women from Nunavut, Whitehorse and Yukon territories, the closest community beds are located in Ottawa, Edmonton, and Prince George, BC respectively. Moreover, with limited bed space in their community, some women end up taking any bed that becomes available in order to leave prison, even if it is further from their family than the prison itself.

    5. The Needs of Francophone Women are Not Met

    The Official Languages Act (adopted in 1988 and revised in 2005) requires federal institutions to provide services in the official language of an individual’s choice without delay. The services must be of equal quality, regardless of the language chosen. Though the first Official Languages Act , enacted in 1969, ensured that Canadian citizens had access to federal services in their preferred official language, the Task Force noted the lack of French-language programming for Francophone women at the Prison for Women. The construction of a regional facility in Quebec went a long way to addressing this problem.

    6. The Needs of Indigenous Women are Not Met

    The needs and experiences of Indigenous women in federal corrections have recently received increased attention, in part as a result of broader, large-scale inquiries such as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and parliamentary studies such as The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women’s study on Indigenous Women in the Federal Justice and Correctional Systems. However, specific concerns about the growing number of, and inadequate treatment for, federally sentenced Indigenous women goes back decades. These issues were among those highlighted by the Task Force. As the number of Indigenous women continue to account for an increasingly larger proportion of federally incarcerated women, a respective increase in the efforts to address the complex needs and experiences of this population has never been more urgent.

    Graph 2. Proportion of Admissions to FSW Facilities since 1990, by Race Category

    A graph depicting federal admissions to facilities for federally sentenced women from fiscal year 1990-91 to 2019-20. 1990-91: 170, 1991-92: 189, 1992-93: 210, 1993-94: 233, 1994-95: 253, 1995-96: 244, 1996-97: 282, 1997-98: 285, 1998-99: 333, 1999-00: 339, 2000-01: 390, 2001-02: 344, 2002-03: 357, 2003-04: 389, 2004-05: 404, 2005-06: 448, 2006-07: 485, 2007-08: 469, 2008-09: 504, 2009-10: 497, 2010-11: 493, 2011-12: 499, 2012-13: 427, 2013-14: 457, 2014-15: 506, 2015-16: 561, 2016-17: 576, 2017-18: 559, 2018-19: 563, 2019-20: 562

    Source: CSC Data Warehouse (April 10th, 2021).

     

    As stated at the beginning of the chapter, Indigenous women are vastly over-represented in federal corrections, comprising 42% of incarcerated women while only accounting for approximately 4% of the Canadian population. As shown in the previous graph, the proportion of incarcerated Indigenous women has been steadily increasing over the last 30 years. In the last decade alone, the population of federally sentenced Indigenous women has increased by 73.8%. Despite new initiatives such as Healing Lodges and culturally informed correctional programs, each year the number of federally incarcerated women who identify as Indigenous continues to increase at an unabated pace. While there are various factors, both within and outside of the scope of corrections that contributes to these rates, there are many areas where the Service needs to expand and improve services for federally sentenced Indigenous women.

    Indigenous women are over-securitized

    In addition to being generally over-represented in the correctional population, Indigenous women are over-represented in the places and circumstances with the greatest restrictions on liberty. For example, Indigenous women are over-represented among those assessed as high-risk and designated as maximum security. We have heard examples of Indigenous women’s security classification being unreasonably over-ridden to higher security levels, which in turn has a detrimental impact on their ability to access programs or be granted parole. While classification over-rides can and are used to lower or maintain security levels, I have previously raised concerns about the reliability, validity, and potential cultural bias of risk assessment and classification tools, including the use of over-rides, when applied to Indigenous peoples behind bars. The topic has been widely discussed by academics and media, and was the basis of a recent Supreme Court of Canada case. Footnote 27 None of the tools used to make determinations of risk and security were designed for specific use with Indigenous women. Yet they are used daily to make important decisions that directly impact on their environment, ability to access services, and work toward release. It is incumbent upon CSC to take a close look at its policies and practices and ensure that it has sufficient evidence to merit the use of these tools with all groups under their care, including Indigenous women.

    Photo of the Pathways yard at Fraser Valley Institution.

    Pathways yard at Fraser Valley Institution 

    In addition to being over-classified, Indigenous women account for a disproportionate number of women involved in use-of-force incidents and SIU placements. Since April 2019, federally sentenced Indigenous women accounted for 61% of all women involved in uses of force. Since the introduction of SIUs in November 2019, 80% of all SIU placements in FSW facilities involved Indigenous women. Confinement and force, even in the best circumstances, are ineffective and often inhumane ways of modifying behaviour or providing people with tools to succeed. The manner in which the Service works with women, particularly Indigenous women, therefore requires a broader cultural shift away from security and force toward a focus on culturally informed health care and rehabilitation.

     
    Indigenous women need greater access to effective and culturally relevant services

    Though not unique to women’s facilities, the inadequate availability of culturally relevant programs and services for Indigenous women is a major concern for this office. While CSC offers an Indigenous Women Correctional Program stream, as noted in the previous section on correctional programming and consistent with the AG’s findings, we have heard many examples of programs delayed for a variety of reasons such as lack of staff. These delays deny women access to programs; they must often settle for generic alternatives to keep up with their correctional plans. Research suggests that culturally relevant correctional programming is more effective than generic programming. Footnote 28 While CSC’s evaluation of the WOCP and IWOCP programs did not show promising results, Indigenous women should receive the programming they choose and that is designed to meet their cultural needs. In 2019, CSC’s national recidivism study showed Indigenous women had re-offending rates higher than both non-Indigenous women and men (i.e., 47%, 21% and 39% respectively). This is clear evidence that CSC needs to do much more to address the needs of Indigenous women, a large part of which is making effective services available and accessible.

    A general lack of cultural services and supports appears to be an issue across regional sites and even at Healing Lodges. Footnote 29 Complaints describe inconsistent access to spiritual activities and ceremonies. We have heard of some institutions going months without the ability to conduct sweats, and women in Secure Units in particular reported inconsistent access to cultural programming or activities. Lack of services and programming delays are in part tied to the lack of Elders available at women’s sites. We have heard that Elders are spread too thin due to staffing shortages and the high demands of balancing teaching program modules while also having responsibility over multiple units. The availability and vulnerability of Elders and other Indigenous staff are concerns this office has raised previously. The Service needs to recruit and retain more Elders and to increase the representation of Indigenous staff in women’s facilities.

    Indigenous women need more for their mental health

    Given the history and legacy of colonization, and the disenfranchisement of Indigenous communities, the needs of Indigenous women who enter the correctional system are greater, in many ways unique, and therefore more complex. For example, nearly all federally sentenced Indigenous women have a current or lifetime diagnosis of a mental disorder and are identified as having moderate to high substance-abuse needs. Compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts, Indigenous women have significantly higher rates of reported past traumas, such as physical or sexual abuse (i.e., 72% vs. 48% for non-Indigenous women). Some evidence suggests that more than half of federally incarcerated Indigenous women attended residential school, or had a family member who attended. The actual rates are likely much higher. Relatedly, Indigenous women account for the majority of women involved in incidents of self-harm in federal prisons. For example, over the last year, Indigenous women were involved in 68% of incidents of self-injury. Many of these women experienced chronic self-injury and, in some cases, were involved in dozens of self-harming incidents each year. In the case of one Indigenous woman over a two-year period, she was involved in more than 300 incidents of self-harm. These figures clearly show that CSC is not meeting the mental health needs of Indigenous women. Therefore, when the stories of these individuals reach my Office, they raise a bigger question: is the Service capable of working effectively and humanely with Indigenous women who have such complex and chronic needs? Clearly, much more needs to be done to address the needs of women with traumatic histories, mental health issues, and self-harming tendencies.

    We have heard time and time again that Indigenous women do not have adequate access to the psychological services, and particularly the culturally informed services they need to cope with, and work through, their mental health issues and complex traumas effectively and safely. While more trained, specialized, and culturally competent staff would serve as a first step, it is time to think outside of the box and consider community-based alternatives for women who need these services. This, in part, requires a broader and much-needed cultural paradigm shift in corrections, particularly regarding incarcerated Indigenous women, toward a system that places greater emphasis on culturally informed health care services and community engagement.

    Photo of participants in the dog program at Nova Institution.

    Participants in the dog program at Nova Institution 

    7. Responsibility for federally sentenced women should be broadened

    Recognizing the importance of the voluntary sector and community stakeholders, the Task Force emphasized the inclusion of these groups in the rehabilitation and reintegration of women: “[T]he voluntary sector had a role to play in mobilizing citizenship participation, assisting government in setting priorities and preventing crime, providing critical analysis of government initiatives and providing public and community education programs. It is generally recognized by correctional systems that they alone cannot successfully accomplish all these things: the participation of the voluntary sector is required if there is to be any chance of success.” Footnote 30 Many community and voluntary organizations have become essential to the everyday operations of women’s institutions providing innovative programming and initiatives to assist women with their rehabilitation and reintegration back into the community. However, my Office continues to hear complaints regarding the challenges some Inmate Committees have experienced attempting to bring community volunteers into the prison. Given the diversity of the incarcerated population, efforts must be focused on ensuring that community organizations are representative of the population.

     

    BEST PRACTICES

    Over the years, my Office has observed that the programs and initiatives that encompass the five principles of Creating Choices —Empowerment, Meaningful and Responsible Choices, Respect and Dignity, Supportive Environment, and Shared Responsibility—are those that make the most positive difference in the lives of women. These progressive, fulfilling initiatives enable women to maintain connection, express creativity and demonstrate responsibility while improving self-esteem and emotional self-worth. This leads to feelings of respect, support and dignity, and empowers women to move forward.

    • Animal therapy has been a very successful healing tool. It allows women to connect with animals who do not demonstrate any judgment, but are responsive to a person’s body language and overall demeanour. An example is the programs to train dogs in obedience and skills as therapy pets to assist people in need. Another is the Four Seasons Horse Teachings Program that teaches basic care for horses while contributing to healing on spiritual, emotional, social, and physical levels.

       

    • Horticulture programming provides women with gardening skills that lead to tangible outcomes.

       

    • The Read Aloud Program, in partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society, allows women to read and record children’s books for their children.

       

    • Creative programming, such as drama and music programs through community partnerships, effectively enhances self-esteem and social skills.

       

    • Walking programs at various sites allow women to walk outside of the institutional perimeter and promote physical activity.

       

    • Peer support and mentoring programs enhance relationships for the mentor and mentee.

       

    • “Reminder Circles” are used at Healing Lodges to discuss alternative and less-punitive resolutions to institutional charges and behaviors, giving women guidance for better choices, both immediate and long-term.

       

    • The My Journey Program - Alternatives to STG Lifestyle for Women Offenders , created under the Indigenous Intervention Centre initiative, responds to the growing number of Indigenous women involved in street gangs. The facilitator brings experience, and the program is framed in a cultural context intended to help women to identify what drew them into the lifestyle, what keeps them attached and a plan that will allow them to exit the gang safely.

       

    • Employment fairs expose women to options for post-secondary education, vocational courses and routes to employment.

       

    • Restorative justice workshops encourage opportunities for federally sentenced individuals and the community that may lead to holistic, healthy approaches to healing.

       

    • Staff are committed and engaged to find innovative ways to ensure women have experiences and teachings that help them advance.

       

    Complex-needs cases at women’s regional facilities

    While the Task Force did not specifically address the needs of women with complex mental health needs, my Office has urged the Service often to fund alternative service agreements and make arrangements with provincial and territorial mental health providers that would allow for the transfer and placement of complex-needs individuals in community psychiatric facilities. There continues to be a handful of women with significant, complex mental health needs that are difficult to manage safely and humanely within a federal correctional facility. These women are often held in conditions, including the Secure Unit, that are inappropriate, ill-equipped and likely to make their mental health issues worse. Although they are few, they can disrupt and upset other women on the range who regularly witness incidents of self-harm and mental health crises. However, community psychiatric facilities can be reluctant to accept referrals from CSC, despite that fact that these facilities should be better equipped to support these women. Finally, it is not clear that lessons from deaths in women’s facilities have been learned or applied consistently. Though some of these women are monitored by the Regional or National Complex Mental Health Committees, and receive complex case funding from National Headquarters to support their operational needs, there remain challenges to ensuring their health and safety in a dignified and humane manner.

    COMPLEX MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS

    There are a few federally sentenced women whose mental health needs would likely be better managed in a community psychiatric facility. One such case involves a woman who throughout her incarceration has spent considerable time in the Secure Unit under various types of observation, and in segregation.

    This individual has a significant history of mental health issues, suicidal ideations, and self-injurious behaviours. Despite completing programs, she continues to struggle with her emotions and dealing with distress. She has spent some time in medium security, but behaviours resulting from her mental health issues have resulted in reclassifications to maximum security, including overrides from medium to maximum security. Rather than continuing the cycle of placements in the Secure Unit or under various types of observation, a placement in an external treatment facility would likely benefit her.

    8. Integrate Women into the Community

    The Task Force viewed community reintegration as essential to reducing the isolation and separation of women from their family, friends and community. Community access is also an effective way to broaden the supports and services available to help women take responsibility for their own lives. Temporary absences (TAs) are one way that women, particularly those with a minimum-security classification, can access the community. For individuals going before the Parole Board of Canada, TAs are particularly important in providing evidence of success within the community. An institutional head may authorize a TA for medical or administrative reasons, community service, family contact including parental responsibilities, personal development for rehabilitative purposes, or compassionate reasons. Footnote 31 CSC research indicates that the more TAs a woman receives, the lower her chances of unemployment or returning to custody. Footnote 32 Another CSC study found that women participating in any TA (Escorted Temporary Absences, Unescorted Temporary Absences, and Work Release) were significantly more likely to receive discretionary releases such as day parole. Footnote 33 

    Temporary absences

    Over the past five years, the number of Escorted Temporary Absences (ETAs) among women with a minimum-security classification has increased in every region. While the number of Unescorted Temporary Absences (UTAs) has increased over the same time, there are still very few UTAs overall. My Office often receives complaints from women regarding TAs cancelled for a lack of staff or volunteers to accompany them. Given the importance of TAs in expanding programming options, and for women going before the Parole Board of Canada, the Service should focus more on recruiting and maintaining volunteers to ensure TAs are completed and increased.

    Postponed parole hearings

    Women have also complained to my Office that there is a need to postpone parole hearings often because they have not yet had the opportunity to complete their correctional programming. Women find it difficult to access the community through TAs. Because of delayed correctional programming, some must remain incarcerated longer. While the proportion of women released on day parole increased over the past five years (40.4% in 2015-16 to 54.4% in 2019-20), the proportion returning to the community at their statutory release date remains high (43.8% in 2019-20). Timely correctional programming is essential to ensuring women return to the community as early as possible.

    Work releases

    Work releases are another important community-access mechanism. Their number has remained low over the past five years, though EIFW and GVI have had a couple of years in which they approved ten community work assignments. The low number of work releases is concerning particularly given the limited work opportunities within the facilities that would provide women with job-ready skills. At CORCAN, the special operating agency created to manage prison industries, jobs for women are often grounded in gendered roles and expectations, offering few marketable skills. In 2017-18, for example, for incarcerated women, most CORCAN employment opportunities were within the Textiles Business Line (83.5%). Assignments in construction and manufacturing represented 15.3% and 1.3%, respectively, of CORCAN assignments for incarcerated women. Footnote 34 In a recent investigation by the Office, women said they wanted opportunities in accounting, office administration, information technology, and residential and commercial painting. Footnote 35 Work releases not only offer women opportunities to work within the community, but they are also an important way CSC could broaden opportunities without creating its own infrastructure.

    Table 2: Escorted Temporary Absences (ETAs), Unescorted Temporary Absences (UTAs), and Work Releases taken by Women in Minimum Security between 2015-16 and 2019-20

     

    INSTITUTION 

    2015-16 

    2016-17 

    2017-18 

    2018-19 

    2019-20 

    FRASER VALLEY 

    ETAs

     

    187

    110

    202

    376

    627

    UTAs

     

    0

    3

    1

    13

    27

    Work Releases

     

    0

    1

    2

    1

    2

    EIFW 

    ETAs

     

    181

    229

    459

    606

    908

    UTAs

     

    15

    7

    218

    43

    57

    Work Releases

     

    1

    1

    10

    10

    5

    GRAND VALLEY 

    ETAs

     

    720

    956

    779

    1053

    1118

    UTAs

     

    28

    31

    14

    28

    46

    Work Releases

     

    4

    4

    4

    8

    10

    JOLIETTE 

    ETAs

     

    351

    392

    516

    342

    258

    UTAs

     

    9

    9

    41

    8

    28

    Work Releases

     

    2

    1

    0

    0

    0

    NOVA INSTITUTION 

    ETAs

     

    6

    8

    19

    238

    134

    UTAs

     

    0

    0

    0

    5

    1

    Work Releases

     

    0

    0

    2

    4

    2

    Note: Medical ETAs and UTAs are excluded. 
    Source: CSC Data Warehouse (August 27, 2020)

     

    Lack of community bed space

    Even when women are granted day parole, the bed shortage in community-based residential facilities (CBRFs) can leave them lingering in prison. This is particularly concerning given research that shows that a gradual supervised release provides individuals a better chance of successful reintegration. Footnote 36 For paroled women with mobility issues, complex mental health concerns, addictions or substance-abuse needs, the number of treatment beds available is even lower. CBRFs can include private-home placements, an option that is rarely used. The challenge for CSC is to ensure that women returning to the community find beds. Alternatives and innovative approaches should be pursued to ensure they are returned to their communities as early as possible and in collaboration with community partners.

     

    1. I recommend that CSC significantly increase the use of temporary absences and work releases for women, particularly those in minimum security, to ensure they can regularly access the community to provide more options and enhance their opportunities for successful reintegration. 

       

     

    1. I recommend that CSC return to the basic principles identified in Creating Choices and develop a long-term strategy to ensure that all women are prepared at their earliest date possible to return to the community and that significant resources be reallocated to the community supervision program and community correctional programming to support women back in the community. 

       

    9. Incarceration does not promote rehabilitation

    The vast majority of incarcerated women will return eventually to the community. Given that reality, one of the main goals of the correctional system is to provide them with rehabilitative opportunities and tools to prepare for a successful return. One of the problems identified in Creating Choices was the inherent difficulty of accomplishing rehabilitative aims in prison. The very nature of its physical, social, and cultural environment makes a prison a uniquely challenging setting in which to foster and encourage prosocial change in people. Therefore, in order for the Service to meet its task of supporting rehabilitative change, it bears a responsibility to make very determined efforts to reduce barriers and enhance mechanisms that are most important for effective rehabilitation.

    The previous sections touched on the more tangible elements of corrections that contribute to (or hinder) rehabilitation (e.g., correctional programming, reintegration initiatives). But, also fundamental to the process of rehabilitation are intangible factors that directly affect the quality of the healing environment, such as the culture, social climate and dynamics, and systems of power and support. It is these areas that are often neglected, as they are more difficult to measure and diagnose, and therefore are less likely to be addressed. Nonetheless, it is these elements in which women’s corrections may need to make the biggest strides. To illustrate some of the more intangible rehabilitative needs and gaps that remain, the following value statements are offered as guideposts, marking the direction women’s corrections needs to go to improve rehabilitation.

    Women need to feel safer: More than 80% of federally sentenced women have experienced physical violence, and nearly 70% report having experienced past sexual abuse. For Indigenous women, the rates are higher. Given this context, women need—in addition to good quality, targeted interventions—the basics of healthy daily living, such as the feeling of safety. This office has repeatedly heard that women do not feel physically safe when they endure re-traumatizing practices, such as random strip-searches and unnecessary force. We have heard that women do not feel emotionally safe when they are discriminated against or bullied by staff or fellow incarcerated persons on the basis of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We have heard that women feel spiritually unsafe when their cultural practices or belongings are disparaged or desecrated. My Office has often said that individuals go to prison as punishment, not for punishment. Therefore the Service has the responsibility to increase its efforts to provide incarcerated women with an environment free of gender- and culture-based violence, where they can pursue rehabilitative goals safely.

    Women need space to heal: It is estimated that nearly three-quarters of federally incarcerated women have a lifetime or current mental disorder, and a majority of this group also have co-occurring mental health and substance-abuse issues. Footnote 37 Consequently, the need for services and staff trained to manage complex cases has never been greater. Nonetheless, too many federally sentenced women cannot access the services and supports that are essential to their rehabilitative process. We have heard examples of women waiting months for escorted temporary absences to access sexual-assault support services not available on-site. At most institutions, there are wait lists for programs such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), making it difficult for some women to benefit from programs that should be available. Furthermore, the lack of supports and services is compounded by the often-austere, grim prison environment that is counterproductive to healing. This is particularly true of Secure Units, which house women with some of the greatest needs. Now more than ever, incarcerated women need the places and spaces to heal effectively. Funding should be redirected towards the services that they need most.

    Photo of the vocational training space at Grand Valley Institution.

    Vocational training at Grand Valley Institution 

    Photo of the vocational training space at Joliette Institution.

    Vocational training at Joliette Institution 

    Women need to have a sense of purpose: One of the barriers to rehabilitation is boredom. We heard from one woman serving a life sentence that she often finds herself mindlessly sewing squares of fabric simply to pass the time. In the absence of purposeful activity, women are often left feeling depressed, hopeless, and generally unmotivated. This is particularly so for women in maximum-security settings. In some cases, as my Office has previously reported, boredom leads to stress and incidents of violence or self-harm. In highly controlled environments such as the prison setting, it is difficult to inspire people to feel a sense of value in their daily lives. This is an essential element to encourage women to participate in the rehabilitative process. While some institutions have developed innovative programs for women, more must be done, particularly for women serving long sentences, to give them a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

    Women need prosocial models and support: In addition to maintaining their institution’s safety and security, correctional staff must also contribute to a prosocial environment to assist incarcerated women through their rehabilitation. Many staff in women’s facilities live up to this dual role, but this office has heard countless examples of staff exhibiting the very behaviours and attitudes the Service is attempting to extinguish in the incarcerated population. It is simply unacceptable for staff to direct derogatory, homophobic or transphobic language towards incarcerated women. We heard examples of staff mocking or denigrating women who participate in certain programs (e.g., needle exchange program or Opioid Agonist Treatment), thus creating a disincentive for participation in rehabilitative activities. Furthermore, the staffing shortage in women’s facilities is a chronic issue that affects the institutional climate. A staff shortage reduces women’s access to the daily services or programs they need. Moreover, the staff borrowed temporarily from men’s facilities, many of them men, have not been trained properly to work in women’s facilities. These stopgap measures have a direct impact on the rehabilitative climate and dynamics of women’s facilities, and depart from the spirit and letter of Creating Choices. Incarcerated women need properly trained, prosocial staff who will encourage their progress and contribute to a positive, rehabilitative institutional culture.

     
    Photo of living units at Nova Institution.

    Living units at Nova Institution 

    Emerging Issues in Women’s Corrections

    While many of the problems identified thirty years ago remain, other issues have arisen that the Task Force did not directly anticipate. They have become particularly prominent within the last decade. The addition of “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act (June 19, 2017), and the advocacy of the LGBTQ2+ community, have pushed the Service to rethink its policies seriously, particularly with respect to housing transgender individuals and the impact on other prisoners. As well, gang affiliations have become more prominent over the years, creating a group of women, many of whom are young and Indigenous, who require specialized assistance, support and programming.

    Gender considerations

    My Office first reported substantively on the issue of gender identity and gender expression in the 2018-19 Annual Report where I identified many of the challenges faced by women’s facilities in particular, in integrating and supporting transgender women. Since that time, my Office has received complaints from transgender individuals and others, including complaints about inappropriate comments from CSC staff and other incarcerated women which could be considered transphobic. Over the reporting period, my Office reviewed and provided extensive comments on CSC’s proposed Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 100: Management of Offenders with Gender Identity or Expression Considerations. This new stand-alone CD is an important step towards recognizing and addressing the needs of incarcerated individuals with gender identity and expression concerns, and in addressing my Office’s call for a single point of policy direction on these issues. My Office identified gaps and issues with respect to the proposed CD:

    • The need for an internal or external Working Group with specialized expertise to provide, guidance, support, training, and education to staff and prisoners;

       

    • The CD would benefit from an additional review by external experts in the field;

       

    • The CD requires responsibilities associated with the proactive protection of individuals with gender considerations and the development of a mechanism for these individuals to report abuse;

       

    • The need for staff training and the development of specialized staff; and,

       

    • The Gender Considerations Case Review Board (GCCRB) requires further specifications. For example, there is currently no recourse mechanism should an individual wish to challenge the outcome of a GCCRB decision.

       

    These concerns were raised with the Service on November 27, 2020 and as of the time of writing this report, my Office has not received any follow-up. Nor has the proposed CD been promulgated. Since raising our concerns, my Office has received further complaints from transgender individuals, and has reviewed a particularly egregious use-of-force incident on a transgender woman that resulted in a disciplinary investigation against CSC staff. This is an area my Office will certainly monitor.

    Female gang members

    Currently, 11.1% of federally sentenced women have a documented gang affiliation. Likely this is an underestimate. For 25 of the 68 gang affiliates, their gang type is listed as Indigenous. In other words, 37% of all women with a gang affiliation are listed as having ties to an Indigenous gang. CSC research suggests that compared to non-gang affiliated women, those with a gang affiliation have more serious criminal histories, cause more disturbances within the institution, and have higher levels of risk; they have lower levels of motivation, lower potential for reintegration, and poor institutional adjustment. In addition, many have prior youth and adult convictions and have previously served time. Footnote 38 These findings and statistics suggest there is an important need to understand the profile and needs of gang-involved women so that effective gang-management and intervention strategies can be developed. Currently, CSC’s national strategy for managing gangs is limited and appears to focus primarily on identification and verification rather than the overarching elements of prevention, intervention and disaffiliation. My Office will monitor this issue closely with the intention of ensuring a better, more-coordinated approach to assisting these individuals.

    Conclusion

    Though many changes have occurred over 30 years in women’s federal corrections, little has improved for the lives of many incarcerated women. Nearly all of the problems identified three decades ago remain significant concerns, and new issues have arisen. One of the most significant issues, the over-reliance on security measures, pervades nearly every problem within women’s corrections. The exceedingly secure environment was in no way envisioned by the Task Force. In many ways, it has prevented the Service from fully realizing the values and principles established in Creating Choices . Fences, official Correctional Officer uniforms, stab-proof vests, over-reliance on pepper spray, and now a body scanner – these all point to a regime focused on security and containment, not on rehabilitation and reintegration. In terms of security measures, some women’s facilities, particularly the Secure Unit, are beginning to resemble men’s institutions. Moreover, while the establishment of regional facilities addressed many of the concerns of the Task Force, they have created others. The regional facilities have allowed the Service to incarcerate more women. I am very much reminded of the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” The availability of prison cells has shifted the focus away from the community services and interventions highlighted in Creating Choices . It is clear that more-targeted change, including shifting institutional resources to the community, is required if we are to have any hope of realizing the vision of the Task Force and Creating Choices .

     

    1. I recommend the development of alternative accommodations for women housed in secure units and the eventual closure of all secure units. If secure units remain open, they should only be used for temporary removal and separation of women after a serious incident until a proper alternative placement is found. 

       

    Preliminary Observations on Structured Intervention Units

    A photo of the SIU range at Bowden Institution.

    The SIU range at Bowden Institution 

    In my last Annual Report, I briefly discussed the Government’s decision to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) to bring “transformational changes” to prisons. These changes included abolishing solitary confinement as defined by the Mandela Rules . In practice, the strategy was to replace the previous administrative-segregation regime with Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). Footnote 39 

    Rollout of the SIUs began in November 2019, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Footnote 40 As part of the overall strategy, the Minister of Public Safety established an external SIU Implementation Advisory Panel in September 2019 Footnote 41 to monitor the implementation of SIUs across the country. The Minister also appointed 12 Independent External Decision Makers (IEDM) Footnote 42 to review cases of individuals confined in SIUs and make decisions with respect to the length of stay and conditions of a placement.

    At the outset, aware that CSC was under pressure to implement SIUs, and that an Advisory Panel had been struck to monitor the implementation, I decided not to monitor heavily or evaluate CSC’s compliance until a reasonable amount of time had passed. No sooner had I made this decision than the pandemic began, and CSC facilities rapidly went into lockdown. During that time, members of the Advisory Panel released four reports examining CSC’s compliance with the legislative requirements for SIUs. Footnote 43 

     
    Photo of the vocational training space at Grand Valley Institution.

    An SIU cell at Port Cartier Institution 

    A photo of an SIU cell at Port Cartier Institution.

    The SIU common room at Port Cartier Institution 

     

    Though the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented my Office from physically visiting institutions since March 2020, my investigators have been using video links and phone calls to interview individuals incarcerated in SIUs, and to discuss matters with CSC staff. We see the need for a thorough investigation of the SIU rollout. In the meantime, I have made preliminary observations based on the following:

    • In-person interviews conducted over the past 18 months;

       

    • Analysis of complaints submitted to my Office by individuals in SIUs;

       

    • Reviews of IEDM decisions delivered to my office under section 37.83(3) of the CCRA and 23.07 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR); and,

       

    • Responses to questionnaires, sent by my Office between March and April 2021, to CSC staff working in SIUs and the individuals housed in these units. Footnote 44 

       

    A photo of the SIU yard at Port Cartier Institution.

    The SIU yard at Port Cartier Institution 

    The observations that follow must be put in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic during which conditions of confinement similar in nature to administrative segregation became somewhat normalized across all parts of institutional life. Strict compliance with the SIU provisions in the CCRA was perhaps an unrealistic expectation, particularly for those institutions that were experiencing outbreaks.

     
    A photo of the SIU range at Port Cartier Institution.

    The SIU range at Port Cartier Institution 

    Structured Intervention Units: Gaps and challenges following implementation

    1. Problems with transparency and accountability

    The amendments to the CCRA introduced through Bill C-83 included a number of provisions requiring CSC to “maintain a record” in its operation of SIUs for several situations:

    1. When an individual is transferred to an SIU, indicating the reasons for granting the authorization and any alternative that was considered; 

       
    2. When that individual has been offered an opportunity for four hours out of cell and two hours of “meaningful” human contact each day, noting if they refuse and the reason given for the refusal; 

       
    3. When that individual has not been given such an opportunity and the reason for denying them such; and, 

       
    4. When human interaction in the SIU is mediated or interposed by bars, security glass, door hatches, screens or other physical barriers. 

       

    My Office has identified 17 other provisions under law where CSC would reasonably be expected to maintain some administrative record in its operation of SIUs. Footnote 45 Despite being aware of these requirements since the summer of 2019 when the CCRA amendments took effect, CSC has not provided my Office with any reliable or timely compliance data.

    2. Lack of information regarding CSC’s compliance with IEDM removal orders

    As per section 37.83 (3) of the CCRA , an IEDM has the power to direct the removal of individuals from SIUs under certain conditions. While CSC has a formal review process to respond to the recommendations of IEDMs, the only information my Office has about them comes from responses to questionnaires we sent in March and April 2021. Only two of the seven institutions we canvassed reported that they were issued IEDM removal orders with which they were not able to comply. Virtually all CSC staff agreed that compliance was a significant challenge. One staff member said: “Very often, when IEDMs make a decision to withdraw from the SIU, we have already tried everything in the institution. Having a [protective-custody] clientele greatly limits our transfer options. Our institution is very often the end of the line and we no longer have the option of transferring an offender to another maximum-security institution . . . .”

    SIU STATISTICS – WHAT WE KNOW

    SIU Placements

    As of May 6, 2021 there were 173 individuals in an SIU. All but two were male. Of the 173 individuals, 46.8% self-identified as Indigenous, 31.2% White, and 13.3% Black. As per Commissioner’s Directive 711: Structured Intervention Units , if a detainee is authorized for transfer to an SIU, but is incarcerated at an institution without an SIU, that detainee may be subject to a “Restricted Movement” designation. As of May 6, 13 men were subject to restricted movement. Of these, seven identified as White, five as Indigenous, and one Black.

    Source: CSC Data Warehouse, May 6, 2021

    SIU Complaints to the OCI

    Between November 30, 2019 and April 15, 2021, my Office received 171 complaints about SIUs from 120 unique complainants (113 male, six female, and one undisclosed). Of these, 35% of complainants self-identified as White, 34%, Indigenous, and 20% Black. Atlantic Institution, Edmonton Institution, and Saskatchewan Penitentiary accounted for 42% of all complaints and 37% of all complainants. Overall, 40% of complaints to my Office regarding SIUs were related to placement decisions and ill-treatment by staff. Other reasons for complaints included unhygienic conditions or risk of COVID-19 exposure; the complainant refuses to transfer; temperature (too cold); access to supports; and access to programs and education.

    Source: OCI, Scripta Database, April 2021

    According to CSC staff, IEDMs often fail to appreciate the risk that removal may pose to the individual or the feasibility of a removal order. For several reasons, an individual may not be reintegrated into the mainstream prison population, including security concerns (incompatibles), population dynamics, or even the physical limitations of the institution. However, CSC staff said that they felt “pressured” to comply with IEDM orders. At times, the only option remaining was an interregional transfer, which had been especially difficult to arrange during the pandemic. CSC staff also said that one of their biggest challenges in complying with IEDM removal orders was the refusal of residents to leave SIUs when, compared to other areas of the prison, these environments are perceived (by staff and prisoners alike) to be significantly more desirable, or safer, places to reside, particularly at maximum-security facilities.

    A photo of the SIU cultural room at Stony Mountain Institution.

    The SIU range at Stony Mountain Institution 

    3. Comparatively better conditions in SIUs resulting in refusals to leave

    The legislative framework for SIUs has failed to prevent the creation, use or extension of segregation-like conditions. A wide range of restrictive confinement conditions and practices exists outside of SIUs that are subject to little or no external oversight or independent monitoring. These include:

    • Medical-isolation units where individuals can now be kept in isolation without any external oversight for up to 24 days;

       

    • Voluntary Limited Association Ranges;

       

    • Therapeutic Ranges;

       

    • Protective custody units; and,

       

    • Secure Units (maximum security) for women.

       

    Some of these areas might have strict operational functions under policy but, in practice, these highly restrictive environments avoid external scrutiny and at times have violated international standards of humane custody. Because of legislated requirements and oversight, SIUs are often less-restrictive than the situation prevailing in general population at the maximum-security facilities, with greater access to services and interventions, more opportunity to engage with staff (social workers, clinicians, programs officers) and, often, more out-of-cell time. A number of CSC staff remarked that the SIUs had far better conditions than the mainstream prison environment in maximum-security institutions. As one interviewee put it, “mainstream definitely gets less attention and interventions, fewer options.” Staff described the SIU environment as one where:

    • There are fewer prisoners;

       

    • Residents receive interventions with staff every day;

       

    • The pressure of living in prison is substantially reduced;

       

    • Progress can be made on programs;

       

    • Staff are accountable to very specific legislative provisions (time out of cell, human contact); and,

       

    • Residents feel safer and more secure than they would in the mainstream prison environment.

       

    Most of those residing in SIUs said positive things about their stay. A typical day included yard time, showers, SIU programming, telephone time and opportunities to interact with program officers, faith leaders, Elders, or groups. Many also commented positively on SIU staff. Describing the Elders and Indigenous Liaison Officers visiting the SIUs, one individual said, “You can tell that they care and want to be there to help us.” Another commented, “If someone says no, that they don’t want to come out of their cell, they’re not just left there . . . . Staff really try to get at why they don’t want to come out . . . and encourage them to come out of their cell.”

     
    A photo of the SIU yard at Stony Mountain Institution.

    The SIU yard at Stony Mountain Institution 

    A photo of the SIU range at Stony Mountain Institution.

    The SIU cultural room at Stony Mountain Institution 

     

    Not surprisingly, my Office has learned that, in maximum security institutions, individuals often refuse to leave SIUs because they perceive their experience there as more favourable. Interviews with SIU residents indicated that all but one would refuse to reintegrate, or would only consider reintegration under specific conditions. Most explained that their reluctance to reintegrate was due to feeling unsafe or unproductive in the general population, or not wanting to be placed into protective custody (or other sub-populations) at the risk of being labelled. One prisoner put it this way: “Being in the general inmate population requires playing games with the other inmates, by either participating in drug culture or concealing weapons and contraband for others. If you don’t participate, the other residents think that something suspicious is going on, like you’re talking to security.” Others remarked that the SIU was more conducive to advancing on their correction plan or moving into medium security. As one individual explained, “I’ve worked hard to change my life and to stay out of trouble. Used to be involved in subculture and [gangs]. The SIU is safer for me. I’ll refuse to leave SIU until my release date.”

    Refusals are typically addressed by alleviating integration concerns or by arranging transfers to other regions. All the staff reported that they work continuously to motivate and encourage residents to leave the SIU. They provide many options and use a team-based approach to maximize alternatives. Other good practices that CSC staff reported using included:

    • Mediation;

       

    • “Field trips” to units to familiarize individuals with the mainstream population;

       

    • Case conferences;

       

    • Transfers to a regional treatment centre for those with mental health issues;

       

    • Liaising with other sites about available programming; and,

       

    • Changes to security level.

       

    That said, it seems clear that the more oppressive conditions in maximum-security prisons need to be addressed to relieve the pressures (debt, intimidation, mental health issues, personal safety, incompatibles) forcing prisoners to “voluntarily” seek out SIU placements.

    COMPLAINTS ABOUT CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT IN THE MAINSTREAM PRISON POPULATION

    My Office received many complaints from prisoners at a maximum-security institution that staff shortages had reduced their access to the institution’s gymnasium and outside yard. Several said they had gone days without access, and that the severe conditions of confinement were leading to tensions within the prisoner population. Many also said that the SIU seemed to be more appealing as individuals housed there had daily access to the yard and “meaningful human contact.”

    In response to my Office’s intervention, the institution indicated that it has hired several recruits and that it continues to monitor and flag staffing needs with regional headquarters. Staffing issues are to be expected during the pandemic, but the basic rights of persons incarcerated in the mainstream population should not be compromised.

    4. Negative Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on SIUs

    There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on both SIUs and mainstream prison populations. During outbreaks, my Office has been informed that institutions have often not provided prisoners with their daily entitlements of four hours out of their cells and two hours of meaningful human contact. In some cases, CSC staff reported that they had to invoke the exception under section 19(1) (b) of the CCRR , which exempts CSC from meeting these provisions during “epidemics.” Even when the site was not experiencing outbreaks, they were still required to observe public health guidelines, which required them to conduct visits through windows or barriers.

    To their credit, the staff respondents demonstrated how often they were able to surmount challenges by replacing group activities with one-on-one programs, often delivered by video or phone. “This rarely happened before the pandemic,” said one interviewee. “Now we can offer virtual programs.”

    Conclusion

    My Office will undertake more work in this area over the coming year and will continue to monitor SIUs and restrictive housing practices. In the meantime, I offer my preliminary observations:

    1. The lack of data and transparency from CSC with respect to its SIU operations has made it difficult to assess its compliance with legislation.; 

       
    2. The expeditious removal of prisoners from SIUs and compliance with IEDM removal orders has been challenging. 

       
    3. Some individuals find SIU conditions more favourable than the mainstream maximum-security prison population because of their greater access to services and interventions, daily visits by nurses and Wardens, more opportunity to engage with non-security staff, and the possibility of greater out-of-cell time. 

       
    4. Given these “more favourable” conditions, some individuals refuse to leave the SIUs, as even the IEDMs have attested. 

       
    5. The pandemic has generally spared individuals confined in SIUs from the restrictive impact COVID-19 has had on prisons in general, with the exception of lockdowns during institutional outbreaks. 

       

     

    1. I recommend that CSC publish forthwith a quarterly record of SIU placement authorizations under section 34 (2) of the CCRA , including the reasons cited for granting authorization. This record should also include the number of instances where individuals were subjected to Restricted Movement under section 37.91 (1) of the CCRA. 

       

     

    1. I recommend that CSC finalize and publish a timeline indicating how it plans to meet its legislated reporting requirements under section 37 (2) (Obligations of the Service) and section 32 (3) (Physical Barriers), as well as under section 37.2 (Health care recommendations). 

       

    An Investigation of the Use of Medical Isolation in Federal Corrections

    A photo of the medical isolation unit at Stony Mountain Institution.

    Medical isolation unit at Stony Mountain Institution 

    A photo of a medical isolation cell at the Regional Reception Centre.

    Medical isolation cell at the Regional Reception Centre 

    During the early days of the pandemic, my Office observed CSC placing both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals into “Medical Isolation.” On April 23, 2020, in our first update on the impacts of COVID-19 on federal corrections, we raised concerns about this practice. It included cases of near-total cellular confinement (22-hours or more per day) and the denial of fresh-air exercise. In our second update, we reported, “Indefinite lockdowns or extended periods of cellular isolation continued at many facilities, even those that had not experienced an outbreak.”

    In July 2020, CSC “provisionally” Footnote 46 issued a directive: Medical Isolation and Modified Routine for COVID-19 (CD-822). In my review, I expressed concerns with its definition of medical isolation. I specifically drew attention to practical distinctions between medical isolation and quarantine identified by experts in the field of prison health. Footnote 47 Specifically, quarantine separates those who may have been exposed to a contagious disease and restricts their movement, while medical isolation singles out those who show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

    The criteria for CD-822, however, appear to apply medical isolation quite broadly, including:

    • All new admissions.

       

    • Those who have been in close contact with others who had symptoms or a diagnosis.

       

    • Transfers from external outbreak sites.

       

    • Interregional transfers.

       

     
    A photo of the medical isolation unit at Saskatchewan Penitentiary (maximum-security).

    Medical isolation unit at Saskatchewan Penitentiary 
    (maximum-security) 

    A photo of the medical isolation unit at the Federal Training Centre.

    Medical isolation unit at the Federal Training Centre 

     

    In effect, anyone entering an institution appeared to be a candidate for medical isolation – even without the symptoms or a positive test for COVID-19. Footnote 48 

    As the pandemic intensified, I became increasingly concerned. CSC’s approach to medical isolation had the potential to violate retained liberties by imposing restrictions beyond what was required to meet health and safety objectives, or that were clinically unjustified. Footnote 49 I decided to investigate by comparing the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the medical-isolation placements.

    What I found was discouraging. On September 22, 2020, CSC’s offender database showed not one active COVID-19 case, yet 376 prisoners were in medical isolation. Even when COVID-19 cases emerged, the number of medical isolations ran far higher. On November 17, 2020, with only 22 confirmed cases, the database showed 456 individuals in medical isolation. That same day, CSC publicly reported that 358 prisoners had recovered from COVID-19 and that 29 cases were inconclusive; a further 15 cases were pending. These numbers seem to indicate that CSC’s use of medical isolation far exceeded the need.

    In March, 2021, my Office confirmed Footnote 50 that there were between 247 and 401 individuals in medical isolation at the eight institutions with the highest number of COVID-19 cases at that point in time. Of these, between 165 and 168 had been in medical isolation for 14-days or more. Institutions provided reasons why individuals remained in isolation beyond 14 days. For some, especially at the women’s sites where population pressures continue to be a problem, CSC would reset the isolation clock to start the count from zero if a living unit received an individual with COVID-19 and a high transmission risk. Another common reason was a change in national policy. According to an updated version of CSC’s risk management framework, Shaping the New Normal (March 5, 2021 – Version 13):

    Upon admission / return, the inmate must medically isolate for 24 days, being released on day 25 . 24 days is required to cover both the incubation and recovery periods. As close as possible to day 14, the inmate will be offered a COVID-19 test. If the test is negative, there is no need for a recovery period and the medical isolation will end on day 15. If the inmate refuses the test or if the test is positive, they will remain in isolation until fully recovered and medically cleared by health services, which would normally be day 25. Should the inmate agree to be tested between days 15 and 24, and the result is negative, their isolation period may end. Note: inmates who have been confirmed to have recovered from COVID-19 will not be required to medically isolate, if medically cleared by Health Services (emphasis our own) .

    I am not aware of any clinical basis for a 24-day medical isolation period to cover both incubation and recovery, and there does not seem to be any precedent to justify such a lengthy isolation. Given the high risk for transmission in closed environments, I acknowledge the need to err on the side of caution. However, the application of restrictions to residual liberties should not degrade or violate the minimum standards and safeguards enshrined in law:

    A photo of the yard for the medical isolation unit at the Federal Training Centre.

    The medical isolation unit yard at the Federal Training Centre 

    • Minimum out-of-cell time, including access to fresh air exercise;

       

    • Regular health checks;

       

    • “Meaningful” contact with others;

       

    • External oversight and independent review; and,

       

    • Access to programs and services.

       

     

    Some of the recommendations I made in my initial review of CD-822 were never implemented, yet they remain applicable today. Accordingly:

     

    1. I recommend that Commissioner’s Directive 822: Medical Isolation and Modified Routine for COVID-19 , be immediately revised to include: 

       
    2. Definitions that clearly distinguish between the practice of medical isolation and quarantine, including clinically relevant criteria where appropriate. 

       
    3. Service standards (time restrictions, response times) for medical clearance and the institutional head’s authorization to discontinue medical isolation and quarantine. 

       
    4. Time restrictions for quarantine and medical isolation, with clear guidelines to allow for the extension of restrictions as per the advice of health care. 

       
    5. A requirement that any stays in medical isolation beyond 14-days be flagged in the offender management system (OMS), and be subject to the same level of review and oversight as those in place for Structured Intervention Units. 

       
    6. Basic expectations for conditions of confinement including out-of-cell, yard, and shower time, access to video visitation, and health care visits. 

       

    An Investigation into a Suicide in a Maximum Security Facility

    Through 2020-21, my Office closely monitored the progress of CSC’s investigation into the tragic death of a young Indigenous man who took his life in a maximum-security prison. Based on CSC’s initial reports, I flagged to the Commissioner my preliminary concerns:

    1. A succession of involuntary transfers from one maximum-security facility to another, made only to relieve this man’s solitary-confinement status. 

       
    2. Lack of consideration to the severity and frequency of his self-injurious and suicidal behaviours. 

       
    3. Insufficient consideration of Indigeneity ( Gladue factors, also known as Indigenous social history) in managing this young man’s sentence, including carrying out his transfers. 

       

    Based on these and other concerns, on December 13, 2019, I recommended that the National Board of Investigation (NBOI or Board):

    1. Include a board member recognized as an expert in Indigenous incarceration; 

       
    2. Be chaired by an external mental health professional; and, 

       
    3. Complete its investigation as soon as possible, keeping my Office apprised of its progress, and that it share its preliminary or draft reports. 

       

    I further requested that CSC’s investigation take into account the entire period of this man’s incarceration, and not just focus on the immediate events, factors or circumstances that led him to take his own life.

    The pandemic significantly delayed the board’s investigation of this case, including site visits and interviews, as well as its report. At my request, the board provided a preliminary draft report in August 2020. Upon review, on November 19, 2020 I requested an advance copy of the final report, board members’ interview notes, and their working papers. These documents were provided on December 2, 2020. Subsequently, I requested that CSC provide me with all relevant health care records, including mental health and clinical progress notes.

    The underlying findings and numerous issues of non-compliance identified by the board in its final report, subsequently confirmed by the Office’s review of correctional files and medical records, are deeply disturbing. In reporting on this case, out of respect to the deceased and his family, my Office has withheld personal information to protect their privacy. That said, the facts of the case are not in dispute.

    Supporting Facts and Case Analysis

    At the time of his death, M was a young, Indigenous man serving his first federal sentence for second-degree murder. The nature of his offence all but predetermined that M would be classified and placed in a maximum-security facility where it was expected that he would serve at least the first two years of his life sentence. Footnote 51 Early in his incarceration, M initially appeared to CSC staff as engaged, active, and motivated; their casework records showed that they considered him “polite and respectful” and often described his behaviour, demeanour, outlook, and attitude on life as “positive.” M repeatedly expressed interest in upgrading his formal education. The casework records also note his interest and participation in Indigenous services and interventions, including smudging ceremonies and healing circles. Footnote 52 

    As the NBOI report makes clear, the turning point in M’s incarceration came when he was assaulted and stabbed several times by a group of prisoners, seemingly revenging M’s testimony in implicating associates in the murder for which he was convicted. Understandably, from that point forward, M expressed legitimate fear for his life and safety. He immediately requested a “voluntary” placement in segregation. Once there, he resisted all attempts to return him to the mainstream prison population. Following the assault, M was continuously maintained in segregation, often under some form of mental health observation (suicide watch) or other restricted confinement status (e.g. Voluntary Limited Association Range), right up until his suicide six months later.

    In an attempt to alleviate or relieve M’s segregation status CSC resorted to involuntary transfers. In a six-month period, M was subject to three involuntary transfers. These transfers – which followed mandated reviews and were considered by CSC to be in his “best interests” or a chance for him to make a “fresh start” at another institution – were opposed by M, often violently. In fact, the lead-up to each transfer typically prompted him to escalate resistive or assaultive behaviour, and threats or acts of violence or self-harm. CSC typically used force to end each incident, often with pepper spray or a cell extraction that required the presence of, or handling by, the Emergency Response Team. Over time, successive incidents of assaultive or resistive behaviour against staff had the effect of narrowing or limiting placements other than segregation. From one mandated segregation review to the next, the need to relieve M’s segregation status was at issue. The ends and means of using involuntary transfers to alleviate segregation status are ultimately self-serving practices, particularly if the next placement results in more of the same.

    Each successive transfer and reception at a new institution seemed to interrupt or impede M’s progress, or the rapport that he may have been building with staff. With each transfer, M became less engaged with his correctional plan, mental health and cultural supports; he became even more isolated and withdrawn. Inexplicably, the last two involuntary transfers were made to institutions on the other side of the country. Both lacked Elder services and other Indigenous supports. The transfers permanently removed M from any source or hope of maintaining familial or cultural supports, and his mental health predictably declined.

    The NBOI report makes clear that there was never any serious or sustained attempt, clinical or otherwise, to get to the underlying issues of M’s increasingly self-destructive behaviours. These behaviours manifested uniquely during M’s incarceration. M’s suicidal and self-harming behaviours were typically managed on a per-incident basis, usually followed by a crisis intervention. There seemed to be no sustained effort or interest in diagnosing or treating M’s legitimate fears and anxieties that were the cause of his refusal to integrate. At various points in the chronology of M’s deepening cycle of disconnectedness and despair, the board’s report expressed surprise that he was not considered for referral to a Treatment Centre (psychiatric hospital) for mental health stabilization. To be fair, the report noted that M frequently denied active suicidal or self-injurious ideation, often declaring later that he intended only to prevent his transfer. In other words, M’s self-destructive behaviours were consistently seen as acts to avoid transfer into the mainstream population.

    The board identified a clear and escalating pattern in the severity and frequency of M’s suicidal and self-injurious behaviour across time and transfer. Over the course of his short period in custody (16 months), this behaviour cumulatively manifested itself in six known suicide attempts, 12 incidents of self-injurious behaviour, and 22 expressions of suicidal ideation/behaviour. Significantly, the board found that M’s self-inflicted behaviour was consistently minimized, downplayed or dismissed by staff, interpreted as instrumental (or willful) in nature, presumably to avoid integration with other prisoners. Staff perceived his fears and anxiety about integration as unwarranted, even though M felt that isolation was the only way to keep himself safe from harm.

    Despite M’s cycles of self-harm, suicidal ideation and other behaviours (noose tying, covering his cell windows, refusing to leave his cell), CSC never completed a comprehensive assessment of his suicide risk. Staff were aware of these behaviours, but there was no mental health treatment plan in place and no coordinated mental health continuum of care present among the transfer sites. To the point of the matter, there is no record or document to indicate that the involuntary transfers were opposed out of concern for M’s mental health. Mental health transfer opinions and transfer summaries were either not shared with receiving institutions or lacked relevant information. Formal summaries of mental health concerns or clinical progress notes were not forwarded from one site to the other. In effect, there was no continuity or continuum of care from one site to the next. As the board concludes, M’s history of self-injurious behaviour and suicidal ideation should have effectively ruled out his involuntary transfer. As the board put it: “The focus on alleviating Administrative Segregation status was the predominant case-management consideration.” In managing M’s sentence, it becomes abundantly clear that security and operational concerns trumped health care considerations.

    Even by CSC standards, the board’s eight recommendations seem timidly worded in their direction and intent. Like a number of other boards, these recommendations seem proportionately out-of-sync with the seriousness of the events in question. Three recommendations deal with operational or dignity concerns: address blind spots in camera coverage of cells, acquire more stable window coverings to block the cell window of an individual who could see the body, and purchase barriers (e.g. crime screen or tent) to cover a dead body.

    On more substantive matters, the board only makes one recommendation that seems to consider M’s Indigeneity: that the board’s findings be considered by national authorities in guiding and monitoring the strategic direction for Indigenous Corrections. Other recommendations direct the Assistant Commissioners of Health or Policy to “consider:”

    1. Implementing a process to ensure case management issues are considered in their totality; 

       
    2. Reviewing the timeline for consideration of mental health concerns to ensure information is current and proximal to [involuntary] transfers; 

       
    3. Reviewing documentary requirements for suicidal behaviour; and, 

       
    4. Ensuring this information is clear and written down to facilitate continuity of care upon transfers. 

       

    The board’s recommendations are primarily incident-driven and reactive, rather than systemic or preventive. Whether on their own or in their totality, it is not clear that the implementation of, or compliance with, any one of these measures would have prevented M’s suicide.

    Consistent with nearly every other CSC investigation into suicides, the board concluded that there were “no pre-incident indicators that could have predicted M’s death.” Actually, there were several immediate, documented and known suicide risk factors:

    1. M refused his noontime meal, then hanged himself a few hours later; 

       
    2. M had accrued prison debts and paid them off the day before his death; 

       
    3. M had fashioned a noose and hung it on the back of his window the week before his suicide; 

       
    4. M’s cycle and pattern of engagement in cyclical periods of self-injurious and suicidal behaviours became more frequent and severe as CSC prepared each involuntary transfer, and; 

       
    5. M spoke of the loss of family members immediately preceding his own death. 

       

    Finally, though there was an attempt to document and account for M’s Indigeneity post-incident, the effort comes across as procedural and perfunctory. In any case, the board seems to have abandoned the attempt as its narrative progresses. In fact, beyond an initial and brief description of M’s family history and background—history of substance abuse, family suicide, dislocation, familial involvement with residential schools and M’s experience with child welfare authorities—there was little sustained effort to include an Indigenous social-history analysis in this investigation. It is clear that M made progress; he was engaged and connected at institutions where Indigenous services, access to Elders and other cultural and spiritual services were available. Conversely, his mental health deteriorated in receiving facilities where those same cultural and spiritual interventions were substantively lacking. One is left wondering what a Gladue -inspired investigation would have yielded differently or substantively in the depth of analysis, findings, and recommendations.

    Findings

    From documentation received and reviewed in this case, I would draw attention to some other findings independently reached by my Office’s review of M’s suicide.

    1. The “voice” of health care in M’s case was missing or not heard, dismissed or disregarded, subsumed or subservient to operational and institutional security concerns. The tendency for security to trump or override health concerns is not new. It is, however, quite disturbing in terms of how banal and common this tendency and these acts of omission are to prison suicide investigations. In this case, health care failed to advocate for M’s mental health needs, as required by law for involuntary transfers. The disregard for M’s mental health, the continuous use of solitary confinement to manage his disruptive, assaultive or self-injurious behaviours, and his fall into despair and hopelessness all point to a series of cascading and systemic failures to provide for the necessities of his care required to protect and preserve life behind bars. Several of these failures have been previously documented in other prison suicides in segregation units. 

       
    2. At the time of M’s death, the practice of administrative segregation was under intense public and media scrutiny. The timing and circumstance of M’s case coincided with stepped-up efforts to reform segregation practice and end solitary confinement in federal corrections. Internally, there was mounting pressure and clear direction to reduce the overall number of placements and lengths of stay in “voluntary” segregation. Though the board’s report refers to the primacy of alleviating M’s segregation status through involuntary transfers, there is no attempt to put this case or the decisions rendered into their immediate policy and operational contexts. Curiously, for whatever reason, there appears to have been little national oversight of this case, despite the complex mental health needs and risks in play, and the elevated scrutiny of segregation (solitary confinement) practices at the time of M’s death. 

       
    3. Within CSC, we have observed an organizational bias to interpret non-suicidal, self-injurious behaviour as “instrumental” or malingering in nature (willful or self-serving in aim or intent), especially among male prisoners. Such omissions or oversights can be dangerous and even deadly. As the board rightly notes: “The fact that the expressions [of self-injurious or suicidal expression] are interpreted as instrumental does not reduce the risk.” Chronic self-injury, suicidal expression, or an escalation in the frequency and severity of these behaviours should be clinically assessed, and a treatment plan put in place immediately. 

       
    4. Lessons learned from other preventable deaths, particularly in relation to suicides in solitary confinement, do not seem to be applied from one incident investigation to the next. The board itself refers to similar findings in previous CSC investigations, yet still reaches a familiar conclusion: M’s suicide could not have been predicted nor prevented. However, the supporting facts, as well as the long list of areas of non-compliance, and the lack of consideration of M’s Indigeneity and mental health status, defy such a conclusion. More significantly, there are only two areas that really matter in an internal investigation of a suicide death in CSC custody – establishing what went wrong and how similar tragedies can be prevented . Unfortunately, the prevention piece is largely missing, which concerns me greatly. 

       
    5. CSC’s investigation could have been substantially enriched by insights into M’s upbringing, involvement with and influence by criminal peers and groups, history of substance abuse, and the impact of neurological disorder(s) on his behaviours. These factors should have informed M’s care and treatment plans. Instead, they are regarded as a footnote in a narrative of mostly disconnected and incongruous meaning. M’s Indigeneity seemed to matter little in a system where incidents of self-inflicted violence are misunderstood or perceived through a faulty lens of instrumentality. 

       

    Conclusion

    The real tragedy of M’s case is a failure to learn from previous preventable deaths. M’s case hinges on an escalating cycle of self-inflicted violence in depriving environments. His acts of self-violence were met by institutional violence. These disturbing narratives have been repeated a number of times in recent memory. The use of segregation or other restrictive confinement to manage complex mental health behaviours, and the use of involuntary transfers as a means to “relieve” or “reset” segregation status, were contributing factors in the preventable death of Ashley Smith in 2007. In 2013, the Office documented the fact that solitary confinement is an independent risk factor associated with prison suicide. Footnote 53 The literature has long established that physical isolation increases the risk of suicidal behaviour. Deprivation can be expected to elevate rather than reduce self-harm coping mechanisms. Although solitary confinement is now prohibited in federal corrections, CSC continues to place mentally ill people in intolerably harsh and depriving confinement.

    This case demonstrates, again, how poorly understood non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is, particularly for men, and perhaps even more so for Indigenous men in prison. The assumption that NSSI is primarily for instrumental reasons is unfounded and reflects a bias against incarcerated persons generally (and incarcerated males specifically), because they are often believed to be deceitful or intrinsically malingering by nature. Moreover, incarcerated men are often pegged as being instrumentally motivated because of their lower likelihood to seek help for emotional or psychological issues. No doubt, a history of trauma and systemic racism would further compound these already complex issues.

    For both men and women, NSSI is primarily for the purposes of emotional regulation. This is even more true for individuals with a history of trauma and a lack of modeling of healthy coping strategies. To interpret self-harming behaviours systematically as a bluff in an effort to exert control over one’s environment—because of gender and/or setting biases (and possibly/likely cultural incompetence), and not as a result of clinical assessment—is a dangerous line of thinking with, as in this case, fatal consequences.

    Based on my investigation of M’s suicide while in the care and custody of CSC, I make the following four recommendations:

     

    1. I recommend that CSC’s team of national investigators within the Incident Investigations Branch (IIB) be comprehensively trained in the principles and practices of Gladue analysis and Gladue report-writing (Indigenous social history). Further, National Boards of Investigation into a person of Indigenous ancestry should be principally led, investigated, and written from an Indigenous social history perspective. 

       
    2. I recommend that a Gladue -informed summary of M’s case be prepared and used as a national training and learning tool for all CSC staff. In the interests of transparency and accountability, any documentation prepared to meet my recommendations in this case should be made public. 

       
    3. I recommend that CSC discontinue the practice of labeling non-suicidal self-injurious behaviour in prison settings as “instrumental,” “willful,” or “deliberate” in nature or intent. A comprehensive mental health assessment of self-injurious and suicidal persons should be completed, and clear guidance provided to front-line staff in how to manage and de-escalate incidents of self-injurious and suicidal behaviour. 

       
    4. I recommend that the Commissioner proactively issue a formal apology to M’s family for the systemic failures of Correctional Service Canada. 

       

    Canada’s Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT)

    This past year has shown us just how vulnerable those in institutionalized settings are—from long-term care homes to prisons—and how we must ensure their protection to the highest extent possible.

    Canada has been known as a world leader in protecting human rights and democratic values. Laws and agencies guarantee our human rights. Canada has also been a leader by joining many international human rights treaties and making a commitment to report to the United Nations on their implementation. The Convention against Torture (CAT) is one example.

    Canada signed the CAT in 1985 and ratified it in 1987. However, merely reporting on how it meets its CAT obligations is not enough to ensure that the most vulnerable who are in places of detention are protected against mistreatment and torture behind closed doors. There exists a gap in Canada’s human rights system in protecting those in detention.

    “The most effective way of preventing torture therefore is to expose all places of detention to public scrutiny.” Footnote 54 

    Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2002, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) fills that gap. Countries who ratify the OPCAT are required to adhere to human rights obligations under international law for those in places of detention, and replace the secrecy traditionally associated with places where liberties are curtailed with openness, transparency, and accountability. Unfortunately, Canada has not signed OPCAT.

    In his 2005-06 Annual Report, my predecessor urged the government to demonstrate leadership by signing and ratifying OPCAT:

    “Moving quickly on signature and ratification would add to Canada’s long historical tradition of promoting and defending human rights at home and abroad. It would also provide an opportunity to review the role and mandate of oversight agencies involved in the monitoring and inspections of ‘places of detention’ and strengthen oversight mechanisms where required.”

    Fifteen years have passed. Despite persistent appeals by this Office and others, Canada has yet to ratify.

    The Obligation of State Parties under OPCAT

    OPCAT imposes two main obligations on state parties: cooperate with the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and designate one or several independent National Preventive Mechanisms (NPM) to carry out the OPCAT mandate. Footnote 55 

    The NPM would establish a system of regular and unannounced visits to places of detention. If implemented in Canada, the NPM would have minimum powers under Article 19 of the Optional Protocol to visit places of detention, and:

    1. Regularly examine the treatment of the persons deprived of their liberty in places of detention . . . with a view to strengthening, if necessary, their protection against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; 

       
    2. Make recommendations to the relevant authorities with the aim of improving the treatment and the conditions of the persons deprived of their liberty and to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, taking into consideration the relevant norms of the United Nations; and, 

       
    3. Submit proposals and observations concerning existing or draft legislation. 

       

    Who Would Fall Under the Remit of OPCAT?

    A narrow approach to implementing OPCAT would focus solely on places of detention. On any given day, Canada detains roughly:

    • 326 individuals in immigration detention (2019-20); Footnote 56 

       

    • 14,778 adults in remand custody (2018-19); Footnote 57 

       

    • 8,708 adults in provincial or territorial custody (2018-19);

       

    • 14,071 in federal custody (2018-19); and,

       

    • 716 in youth custody (2018-19).

       

    These numbers declined during the pandemic but, on any given day, roughly 40,000 individuals are in detention in Canada. This excludes those held under temporary police detention, detained in psychiatric facilities, armed forces detention, and courthouse cells.

     

    The Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture, adopted in December 2018, suggest that Canada is not sheltered from cases of individual or systemic ill-treatment of detained persons:

     

    • Over-representation of Indigenous people in the prison population;

       

    • Body cavity searches that may be abusive or violate human dignity;

       

    • Lack of appropriate capacity, resources and infrastructure to manage seriously mentally ill prisoners;

       

    • Deficiencies in general standards and conditions of detention, including sanitation, hygiene, and nourishment;

       

    • Preventable deaths in custody; and,

       

    • The use of solitary confinement.

       

    In addition to detained populations, as per Article 4 of OPCAT, the NPM mandate would also extend to all places where “people are or may be deprived of their liberty.” The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) states that OPCAT purposefully adopts a broad approach in defining places where liberty is deprived. Footnote 58 Besides detention centres, OHCHR also lists psychiatric institutions, means of transport for the transfer of detainees, and social care homes.

    Therefore, a more-liberal definition of “deprivation of liberty” would include the hundreds of thousands of Canadians residing in nursing homes, chronic care, or long-term-care hospitals, who bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Footnote 59 Indeed, long-term-care residents and staff accounted for more than two-thirds of all deaths in Canada, between March 2020 and February 2021, which were related to COVID-19. Footnote 60 

    Many long-term-care residents still must contend with neglect and abuse. Canadian military officials reported last May the horrifying conditions they found in five seniors’ homes with residents drugged, malnourished, bullied, and left in soiled beds for days.

    Although there is still debate about what falls under the remit of OPCAT’s Article 4, some believe that the question of whether nursing and long-term-care homes qualify has long been settled. Footnote 61 Australian legal scholar Laura Grenfell argues:

    “People who are deprived of their liberty in closed aged care units are in a vulnerable position and are at a disproportionately high risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Closed units in aged care facilities should not be allowed to fall under the OPCAT radar.” Footnote 62 

    The Canadian military report bears out Grenfell’s admonition, and raises important questions about the quality of inspection mechanisms. Footnote 63 

    Naturally, one might ask what recourse exists for those who find themselves or their loved ones subjected to inhumane conditions. How do we protect the dignity of those who depend entirely upon others for their well-being, care, and safety, and who have limited ability to engage in effective self-advocacy?

    Existing Oversight and Monitoring in Canada

    Canada hosts 26 external oversight bodies mandated to respond to complaints, and to investigate systemic issues in public and private institutions.

    In 2018, Matthew Pringle catalogued Canadian organizations with jurisdiction over places of detention: Footnote 64 

    • Two federal ombudsman offices;

       

    • One federal human rights commission;

       

    • 10 provincial or territorial ombudsmans; Footnote 65 and,

       

    • 13 provincial or territorial human rights commissions.

       

    Excluding the two federal ombudsman offices—the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman and the Office of the Correctional Investigator—the rest have broad, varied mandates that go beyond detention settings. More importantly, they rarely engage in proactive inspections. Instead, their work is largely triggered by an often-cumbersome complaints process. At the provincial and territorial level, broad mandates and limited resources often mean that places of detention receive partial attention.

    In short, Canada’s oversight and monitoring system is predominantly reactive. 

    Where individuals are routinely deprived of their liberty, there seems little reason to comply with international human rights standards. Canada has a strong framework of laws and policies including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms , the Criminal Code , the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act , and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act . However, even when an organization’s commitment to human rights standards is enshrined in domestic law, there still seems to be a disconnect between the pledge and the practice.

    In brief, Canada lacks a robust, coordinated, and proactive framework of monitoring and inspection to ensure the humane and lawful care and custody of individuals deprived of liberty. OPCAT could offer such a framework.

    Canada’s Longstanding Promise to Ratify OPCAT

    In Canada’s seventh periodic report under the CAT, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that the Optional Protocol “will no longer be optional for Canada in the future.” Footnote 66 The submission, made during the early days of Prime Minister Trudeau’s first term, added that:

    “Canada would begin a process to join it. The accession process will involve extensive consultations with other interested federal departments; the provinces and territories; Indigenous governments that may be implicated; and civil society. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is confident that once the necessary steps have been taken and all voices have been heard, Canada will be in a position to accede to the Optional Protocol.”

    In December 2016, the Department of Justice shared with my Office a discussion paper titled, “OPCAT: Considerations for Determining a Position on Canada’s Accession.” On May 19, 2017, I wrote to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to “offer some practical suggestions and options for moving forward with the ratification of OPCAT, including the implementation of a new single federal mechanism for all places of detention under federal authority, as well as sequencing and timing for signature and ratification.” At the time, I was encouraged, and I expected to see movement on the OPCAT under the new government, but there has been no progress.

    In fact, Canada has said since 2006 that it would consider the ratification of OPCAT, and has received repeated international pats on the back. Footnote 67 Today, 90 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol, including three of our Five Eye partners: the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Footnote 68 The United States formally objected to OPCAT in 2002. Footnote 69 

    A map of the world showing the countries that have ratified the OPCAT in dark green, signed but not ratified in light green, and non-members in grey. Last updated, October 24, 2019. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OPCAT_members.svg

    Graphic: A map of the world showing the countries that have ratified the OPCAT in dark green, signed but not ratified in light green, and non-members in grey. 
    Source: Louperivois , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons. Map last updated on October 24, 2019. Retrieved on July 26, 2021.

    Our government has been called to ratify OPCAT by Dubravka Šimonović, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (April 2018); Footnote 70 Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (April 2019); Footnote 71 and more than 20 countries during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2018. Footnote 72 

    Advancing OPCAT Implementation in Canada

    The common refrain from Canadian bureaucrats is that implementing OPCAT in a federal state is just too complicated. They suggest the provinces and territories are not willing, or that a federal-provincial-territorial agreement would take too great an effort. And, in any case, the existing human rights commissions and ombudsman offices sufficiently address Canada’s needs of prison oversight.

    Indeed, as the preceding analysis demonstrates, the system is inadequate. I am not suggesting that we start from scratch; rather, my proposal is to enhance what already exists. Other federal and devolved states have ratified and implemented OPCAT, so Canada does not have to reinvent the wheel. Footnote 73 

    Take Australia, for example. It ratified OPCAT on 21 December 2017, but declared under Article 24 that it would postpone its obligation to establish its NPM for three years. Footnote 74 Like Canada, Australia is a federation. Each Australian state and territory has its own mechanisms to oversee its prisons and detention centres. Despite having its fair share of challenges on the road to implementation, Australia continues to forge ahead. Footnote 75 Other federations and devolved states have implemented the OPCAT, including Germany, Argentina, Brazil, United Kingdom, Spain, Switzerland, Mexico, and South Africa.

    For Canada, the ratification of OPCAT with a declaration under Article 24 might be the way forward. This would allow the federal government to show its immediate commitment to international conventions, while giving it a clearly defined timetable to conduct meaningful consultations on OPCAT implementation with its Provincial and Territorial partners, stakeholders, and civil society. Canada would also be able to draw on the invaluable advice and support of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Footnote 76 

    Meeting the Terms of OPCAT

    There are considerable advantages in the federal government establishing a new, single, and dedicated NPM for all places of detention under its authority (penitentiaries, immigration holding centres, Canadian Forces Service Prison and Detention Barracks, and RCMP cells). The NPM would have the added benefit of serving as a centre of national expertise and assistance for the rest of the country as Canada moves toward full ratification. It is important that the NPM be independent, sufficiently resourced, and properly mandated to carry out its work effectively.

    Finally, a new NPM for all federal places of detention could best prioritize resources to inspect higher-risk places of detention. Farming out responsibilities to existing oversight agencies would be more costly and could inadvertently result in redundancies or inconsistent inspection practices.

    Ratification and implementation of OPCAT would add a layer to correctional oversight. In the case of federal corrections, a system of regular penitentiary inspections conducted at the national (NPM) level and internationally by the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), with both bodies focused on prevention, would best complement the roles and responsibilities of my Office, which is largely complaint-driven.

    Canada risks being left behind as one of the few states committed to democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law that has yet to ratify this important human rights-based convention.

    Regardless of whether a new or specialized body or combination of existing institutions are designated to meet OPCAT obligations, Canada needs to get on with the ratification to make it clear that we support efforts, at home and abroad, to protect the rights and dignity of all persons deprived of liberty regardless of cause, circumstance, or context.

     

    1. I recommend that the Prime Minister of Canada fulfill this Government’s commitment by signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and taking concrete steps within the next four years to ensure that this important human rights instrument is ratified. 

       

    Correctional Investigator’s Outlook for 2021-22

    Like all Canadians, the circumstances of the past year created unique challenges for this Office in conducting our daily work. While difficult, it also afforded us the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which we carry out our mandate. As we look ahead and slowly emerge from the pandemic, and we begin to re-engage with our clients and partners in the more conventional ways we used to enjoy, my Office will be implementing some of the lessons learned from the past year to enhance the ways in which we carry out our work.

    In the coming year, we will be conducting activities to refine and formalize our approaches to individual and systemic investigations. Part of this work will involve launching a new stakeholder-engagement strategy to better inform and bolster the scope and impacts of our work.

    For our systemic work, we are scoping, reviewing, and conducting initial analysis of data in order to build on the investigations we conducted over the past year, such as the use of force with BIPOC individuals. In particular, we are focusing on issues affecting federally incarcerated Indigenous persons, with targeted investigations of programs within the Indigenous Continuum of Care. We will continue to monitor the implementation and impacts of SIUs in a post-pandemic context. Additionally, we will be undertaking investigative work looking at the availability and impacts of community reintegration practices for federally-incarcerated persons.

    Though the pandemic brought some interruptions to our efforts in exploring our role and function in an inspection capacity, in 2021-22 we intend on furthering that preliminary work in enhancing our investigative mandate through inspection activities. To this end, we will continue with video visitations until institutional visits can fully resume, hopefully in the very near future.

    In closing, as I reflect on what this last year has shown us, it is that we were able to not only adapt and continue to move forward in trying times, but we have been able to emerge, with a stronger focus and an appetite for innovation, on the other side. In this spirit, my Office and I look forward to a productive year ahead in carrying out our important oversight responsibilities.

    Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award

    A photo of Joey Twins.

    Photo of Joey Twins 

    The Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award was established in December 2008, in honour of Mr. Ed McIsaac, long-time Executive Director of the Office of the Correctional Investigator and strong promoter and defender of human rights in federal corrections. It commemorates outstanding achievement and commitments to improving corrections in Canada and protecting the human rights of incarcerated persons.

    The 2021 recipient of the Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections award was Joey Twins, a survivor of the infamous Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario. Today, she is a passionate advocate for Indigenous women, girls, and youth in conflict with the law.

     

    Annex A: Summary of Recommendations

    Note: Responses to the recommendations were withheld due to a federal election having been called before the annual report could be tabled in parliament. The OCI expects that responses to its recommendations will be posted publicly when the report is tabled. 

    1. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety engage the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct an independent epidemiological study of the differential rates of COVID-19 infection and spread in Canadian federal prisons and report results and recommendations publicly. 

       
    2. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety promptly conduct an in-depth review of the community corrections sector with a view to considerably enhancing financial, technical and infrastructure supports. Funding for a reinvigorated community corrections model could be re-profiled from institutional corrections in direct proportion to declining warrants of committal and returning admissions, and the planned and gradual closures of redundant or archaic penitentiaries. 

       
    3. I recommend that the President of Treasury Board recognize the reporting burden of small and micro agencies, and play a leadership role by developing a whole-of-government approach to alleviate this burden. Before full legal and regulatory reforms can be introduced, I recommend that TBS consider legal exemptions for eligible small and micro agencies to start reporting differently. 

       
    4. I recommend that CSC conduct an in-depth evaluation of the EIM with a view to implementing changes that will reduce the over-reliance on force options overall, particularly inflammatory sprays, and provide concrete strategies for adopting evidence-based, non-force options for resolving incidents. 

       
    5. I recommend CSC review and revise its policy and practice regarding use of inflammatory sprays when responding to incidents involving individuals who are self-harming or suicidal, with a view to reducing their use when responding to individuals who are experiencing mental health crises. 

       
    6. I recommend that CSC develop a reliable method for administratively tracking individuals with mental health concerns in order to identify how policies and practices, such as use-of-force, impact this particularly vulnerable population. 

       
    7. I recommend that CSC promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black individuals and publicly report on actionable changes to policy and practice that will effectively reduce the over-representation of these groups among those exposed to uses of force. 

       
    8. I recommend that CSC conduct an external review to evaluate all security practices within women’s facilities with a view to eliminating or reducing overly secure procedures that move women’s corrections further away from the objectives identified in Creating Choices

       
    9. I recommend that CSC conduct an independent in-depth study of its Women Offender Correctional Program (WOCP) and Indigenous Women Offender Correctional Program (IWOCP) to better understand why the programs have been deficient in producing improved correctional outcomes for participants, particularly for Indigenous women. 

       
    10. I recommend that CSC significantly increase the use of temporary absences and work releases for women, particularly those in minimum security, to ensure they can regularly access the community to provide more options and enhance their opportunities for successful reintegration. 

       
    11. I recommend that CSC return to the basic principles identified in Creating Choices and develop a long-term strategy to ensure that all women are prepared at their earliest date possible to return to the community and that significant resources be reallocated to the community supervision program and community correctional programming to support women back in the community. 

       
    12. I recommend the development of alternative accommodations for women housed in secure units and the eventual closure of all secure units. If secure units remain open, they should only be used for temporary removal and separation of women after a serious incident until a proper alternative placement is found. 

       
    13. I recommend that CSC publish forthwith a quarterly record of SIU placement authorizations under section 34 (2) of the CCRA , including the reasons cited for granting authorization. This record should also include the number of instances where individuals were subjected to Restricted Movement under section 37.91 (1) of the CCRA

       
    14. I recommend that CSC finalize and publish a timeline indicating how it plans to meet its legislated reporting requirements under section 37 (2) (Obligations of the Service) and section 32 (3) (Physical Barriers), as well as under section 37.2 (Health care recommendations). 

       
    15. I recommend that Commissioner’s Directive 822: Medical Isolation and Modified Routine for COVID-19 , be immediately revised to include: 

       
    16. I recommend that CSC’s team of national investigators within the Incident Investigations Branch (IIB) be comprehensively trained in the principles and practices of Gladue analysis and Gladue report writing (Indigenous social history). Further, National Boards of Investigation into a person of Indigenous ancestry should be principally led, investigated, and written from an Indigenous social history perspective. 

       
    17. I recommend that a Gladue -informed summary of M’s case be prepared and used as a national training and learning tool for all CSC staff. In the interests of transparency and accountability, any documentation prepared to meet my recommendations in this case should be made public. 

       
    18. I recommend that CSC discontinue the practice of labeling non-suicidal self-injurious behaviour in prison settings as “instrumental,” “willful,” or “deliberate” in nature or intent. A comprehensive mental health assessment of self-injurious and suicidal persons should be completed, and clear guidance provided to front line staff in how to manage and de-escalate incidents of self-injurious and suicidal behaviour. 

       
    19. I recommend that the Commissioner proactively issue a formal apology to M’s family for the systemic failures of Correctional Service Canada. 

       
    20. I recommend that the Prime Minister of Canada fulfill this Government’s commitment by signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and taking concrete steps within the next four years to ensure that this important human rights instrument is ratified. 

       

    Annex B: Annual Statistics

    Table A: OCI Complaints by Category and Resolution Status Footnote 77 

    COMPLAINT CATEGORY OR SUBCATEGORY 

    ACTIVE 

    RESOLVED 

    TOTAL 

    ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION

    0

    4

    4

    Placement or Review

    1

    1

    Other

    3

    3

    CASE PREPARATION

    24

    125

    149

    CELL EFFECTS

    22

    224

    246

    Canteen

    22

    22

    Exchange

    1

    1

    Penitentiary Pack

    2

    35

    37

    Search or Seizure

    1

    7

    8

    Transfers

    6

    33

    39

    Other

    13

    126

    139

    CELL PLACEMENT

    0

    20

    20

    Double Bunking

    5

    5

    Unit or Range

    7

    7

    Other

    8

    8

    CLAIMS AGAINST THE CROWN

    1

    26

    27

    Processing

    5

    5

    Other

    1

    16

    17

    Decisions

    5

    5

    COMMUNITY SUPERVISION

    1

    41

    42

    CONDITIONAL RELEASE

    1

    61

    62

    Application

    3

    3

    Conditions

    6

    6

    Day Parole

    1

    1

    Detention

    2

    2

    Full Parole

    2

    2

    Revocation

    3

    3

    Other

    1

    20

    21

    Suspension

    24

    24

    CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT

    62

    669

    731

    Health and Safety of Inmate Worksites

    15

    15

    Lockdown

    5

    58

    63

    Recreation time

    1

    29

    30

    Sanitation or Cleanliness

    3

    28

    31

    Temperature

    4

    18

    22

    Access to Showers

    1

    2

    3

    Other

    48

    519

    567

    DEATH OF INMATE

    1

    5

    6

    DIETS

    3

    45

    48

    Medical

    1

    5

    6

    Religious

    24

    24

    Special Diets

    1

    5

    6

    Other

    1

    11

    12

    DISCIPLINE

    6

    39

    45

    Major Charges

    1

    10

    11

    Minor Charges

    1

    19

    20

    Procedures

    8

    8

    Other

    4

    2

    6

    DISCRIMINATION

    5

    60

    65

    Gender

    10

    10

    Race

    3

    22

    25

    Religion

    14

    14

    Other

    2

    14

    16

    EMPLOYMENT

    9

    34

    43

    Suspension

    5

    10

    15

    Other

    4

    22

    26

    Access

    2

    2

    FILE INFORMATION

    14

    190

    204

    Correction

    5

    47

    52

    Access

    1

    40

    41

    Other

    8

    103

    111

    FINANCIAL MATTERS

    10

    102

    112

    Pay

    3

    37

    40

    Access

    6

    6

    Other

    7

    59

    66

    FOOD SERVICES

    2

    44

    46

    GRIEVANCES

    14

    92

    106

    Corrective Action

    1

    1

    Decision

    5

    5

    Other

    8

    58

    66

    Procedure

    6

    28

    34

    HARASSMENT BY INMATE

    0

    12

    12

    Physical

    2

    2

    Sexual

    2

    2

    Verbal

    1

    1

    Other

    7

    7

    HARM REDUCTION

    5

    5

    Needle Exchange Program

    1

    1

    Opiate Substitution Therapy

    4

    4

    HEALTH AND SAFETY

    11

    120

    131

    HEALTH CARE

    41

    470

    511

    Access

    8

    112

    120

    Decisions

    5

    33

    38

    Dental

    2

    42

    44

    Hunger Strike

    2

    2

    Medication

    15

    138

    153

    Other

    11

    143

    154

    INMATE REQUEST PROCESS

    8

    8

    Procedure

    3

    3

    Response

    2

    2

    Other

    3

    3

    LEGAL ACCESS

    5

    64

    69

    MAIL

    11

    92

    103

    Delivery or Pickup

    3

    38

    41

    Seizure

    1

    3

    4

    Other

    7

    51

    58

    MENTAL HEALTH

    4

    45

    49

    Access

    1

    17

    18

    Decisions

    6

    6

    Quality of care

    2

    2

    Self-Injury

    1

    9

    10

    Other

    13

    13

    MOTHER-CHILD PROGRAM

    0

    1

    1

    OCI (COMPLAINTS AGAINST)

    7

    73

    80

    Decisions or Operations

    1

    5

    6

    Other

    6

    68

    74

    OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

    2

    1

    3

    OUTSIDE COURT

    0

    3

    3

    OUTSIDE JURISDICTION

    0

    3

    3

    PAROLE BOARD OF CANADA DECISIONS

    8

    53

    61

    PRACTICE OF SPIRITUAL OR RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE

    2

    5

    7

    PROGRAMS

    15

    55

    70

    Access

    10

    35

    45

    Decisions

    4

    4

    Quality or Content

    1

    1

    Other

    4

    16

    20

    PROVINCIAL OR TERRITORIAL MATTERS

    0

    1

    1

    RELEASE PROCEDURES

    3

    56

    59

    SAFETY OR SECURITY

    17

    166

    183

    Incompatibles or Other Offenders

    10

    66

    76

    Staff

    4

    18

    22

    Other

    3

    82

    85

    SEARCH

    0

    18

    18

    Dry cell

    3

    3

    Regular

    3

    3

    Strip search

    1

    1

    Other

    11

    11

    SECURITY CLASSIFICATION

    11

    50

    61

    Initial

    1

    1

    2

    Review

    5

    14

    19

    Other

    5

    35

    40

    SENTENCE ADMINISTRATION

    0

    8

    8

    STAFF

    30

    485

    515

    Case Management

    10

    80

    90

    Correctional Staff

    9

    134

    143

    Management

    21

    21

    Other

    11

    250

    261

    STRUCTURED INTERVENTION UNITS (SIU)

    2

    28

    30

    Conditions

    1

    6

    7

    Placement or Review

    1

    9

    10

    Other

    -

    13

    13

    TELEPHONE

    10

    123

    133

    Access to a telephone

    2

    20

    22

    PIN

    3

    38

    41

    Use Suspension

    5

    5

    Other

    5

    60

    65

    TEMPORARY ABSENCE

    3

    26

    29

    Compassionate

    2

    12

    14

    Escorted

    1

    7

    8

    Unescorted

    3

    3

    Other

    4

    4

    TRANSFER

    15

    186

    201

    URINALYSIS

    1

    10

    11

    USE OF FORCE

    12

    34

    46

    VISITS

    9

    114

    123

    Cancellation or Suspension

    22

    22

    Primary Family Visit

    10

    10

    Private Family Visit

    2

    31

    33

    Regular visits

    1

    4

    5

    Treatment of Visitors

    2

    2

    Other

    6

    45

    51

    COMPLAINT CATEGORY TO BE DETERMINED

    7

    1

    8

    NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION TO ASSIGN CATEGORY

    1

    10

    11

    Grand Total Footnote 78 

    402 

    4,107 

    4,509 

     

    Table B: Table B: Cases and Interviews by Region and Institution

    REGION OR INSTITUTION 

    CASES 

    INTERVIEWS Footnote 79 

     

    ATLANTIC 

    432 

    49 

    Atlantic

    83

    3

    Dorchester

    173

    17 Footnote 80 

    Nova Institution for Women

    61

    22

    Shepody Healing Centre

    16

    Springhill

    99

    7

    QUEBEC 

    945 

    104 

    Archambault

    105

    24 Footnote 81 

    Centre régional de santé mentale

    18

    Cowansville

    127

    9

    Regional Reception Centre

    86

    5 Footnote 82 

    Donnacona

    91

    20

    Drummond

    51

    5

    Federal Training Centre

    139

    7

    Joliette

    98

    12

    La Macaza

    144

    12

    Port-Cartier

    60

    8

    Special Handling Unit

    22

    Waseskun Healing Lodge

    4

    2

    ONTARIO 

    830 

    113 

    Bath

    171

    21

    Beaver Creek

    130

    11

    Collins Bay

    83

    10

    Grand Valley Institution for Women

    79

    24

    Joyceville

    23

    25 Footnote 83 

    Joyceville Assessment Unit

    94

    Joyceville TD Unit

    1

    Millhaven

    84

    12 Footnote 84 

    Regional Treatment Centre - Millhaven

    18

    Warkworth

    147

    10

    PRAIRIES 

    1,243 

    147 

    Bowden

    196

    23

    Buffalo Sage Wellness House

    5

    4

    Drumheller

    108

    15

    Eagle Women’s Lodge

    1

    5

    Edmonton

    240

    12

    Edmonton Institution for Women

    87

    24

    Grande Cache

    116

    7

    Grierson

    1

    0

    O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi Healing Lodge

    0

    0

    Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge

    9

    4

    Pê Sâkâstêw Centre

    7

    2

    Prince Albert Grand Council Spiritual Healing Lodge

    5

    5

    Regional Psychiatric Centre

    75

    7

    Saskatchewan

    295

    22

    Stan Daniels Healing Centre

    1

    0

    Stony Mountain

    93

    13

    Willow Cree Healing Lodge

    4

    4

    PACIFIC 

    791 

    68 

    Fraser Valley Institution for Women

    63

    6

    Kent

    120

    6

    Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village

    4

    1

    Matsqui

    170

    13

    Mission

    197

    16

    Mountain

    84

    14

    Pacific

    82

    9 Footnote 85 

    Regional Reception Centre - Pacific

    7

    Regional Treatment Centre - Pacific

    43

    William Head

    21

    3

    CCC-CRC/ PAROLEES IN THE COMMUNITY Footnote 86 

    268 

    GRAND TOTAL 

    4,509 

    481 

     

    Table C: Cases and Days in Federally Sentenced Women’s Institutions

    REGION OR INSTITUTION 

    CASES 

    INTERVIEWS 

    ATLANTIC 

    61 

    22 

    Nova Institution for Women

    61

    22

    QUEBEC 

    98 

    12 

    Joliette

    98

    12

    ONTARIO 

    79 

    24 

    Grand Valley Institution for Women

    79

    24

    PRAIRIES 

    102 

    37 

    Buffalo Sage Wellness House

    5

    4

    Eagle Women’s Lodge

    1

    5

    Edmonton Institution for Women

    87

    24

    Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge

    9

    4

    PACIFIC 

    63 

    Fraser Valley Institution for Women

    63

    6

    GRAND TOTAL 

    403 

    101 

     

    Table D: Disposition of Cases

    ACTION 

    NUMBER 

    Internal Resolution Footnote 87 

    2,357

    Inquiry Footnote 88 

    1,804

    Investigation Footnote 89 

    413

    TOTAL 

    4,574 Footnote 90 

     

    Table E: Cases, Individual Complainants, and In-Custody Population by Region

    REGION 

    CASES 

    INDIVIDUALS Footnote 91 

    IN-CUSTODY POPULATION Footnote 92 

    Atlantic

    432

    207

    1,274

    Quebec

    945

    393

    2,454

    Ontario

    830

    419

    3,293

    Prairies

    1,243

    579

    3,812

    Pacific

    791

    342

    1,730

    TOTAL Footnote 93 

    4,241 

    1,940 

    12,399 

     

    Table F: Top Ten Most-Frequently Identified Complaint Categories by Population

    POPULATION / CATEGORY 

    NUMBER 

    PERCENTAGE 

    Total In-Custody Population 

    Conditions of Confinement

    731

    16.21%

    Staff

    515

    11.42%

    Health Care

    511

    11.33%

    Cell Effects

    246

    5.46%

    File Information

    204

    4.52%

    Transfer

    201

    4.46%

    Safety or Security

    183

    4.06%

    Case Preparation

    149

    3.30%

    Telephone

    133

    2.95%

    Health and Safety

    131

    2.91%

    Indigenous Prisoners 

     

     

    Conditions of Confinement

    190

    13.86%

    Staff

    165

    12.04%

    Health Care

    157

    11.45%

    Cell Effects

    93

    6.78%

    Transfer

    69

    5.03%

    File Information

    64

    4.67%

    Safety or Security

    63

    4.60%

    Telephone

    42

    3.06%

    Financial Matters

    37

    2.70%

    Health and Safety

    35

    2.55%

    Federally Sentenced Women 

     

     

    Conditions of confinement

    100

    23.20%

    Health Care

    62

    14.39%

    Staff

    41

    9.51%

    Cell Effects

    22

    5.10%

    Health and Safety

    20

    4.64%

    Telephone

    17

    3.94%

    Programs

    14

    3.25%

    Safety or Security

    12

    2.78%

    Case Preparation

    11

    2.55%

    Security Classification

    8

    1.86%

     

    Annex C: Other Statistics

    A. Mandated Reviews Conducted in 2020-21

    As per the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the Office of the Correctional Investigator reviews all CSC investigations involving incidents of inmate serious bodily injury or death.

    Mandated Reviews by Type of Incident

    INCIDENT TYPE 

    REVIEWS 

    Death (Natural Cause) Footnote 94 

    38

    Assault

    36

    Overdoses

    21

    Injuries

    14

    Attempted Suicide

    10

    Suicide

    9

    Murder

    5

    Self-Injury

    2

    Death (Other)

    1

    TOTAL 

    136 

     

    B. Use-of-Force Reviews Conducted by the OCI in 2020-21

    The Correctional Service is required to provide all pertinent and relevant use-of-force documentation to the Office. Use-of-force documentation typically includes:

    • Use-of-force report;

       

    • Copy of incident-related video recording;

       

    • Checklist for Health Services review of use-of-force;

       

    • Post-incident checklist;

       

    • Officer’s Statement or Observation Report; and

       

    • Action plan to address deficiencies.

       

    Note: The data in the following tables represent only incidents reviewed by the OCI in 2020-21, which is a subset of all use-of-force cases received during the same period. 

    Table 1: Frequency of Most Commonly Used Use-of-force Measures

     

    Atlantic 

    Quebec 

    Ontario 

    Prairie 

    Pacific 

    National 

    Reported incidents reviewed by the OCI 

    150 

    329 

    231 

    593 

    168 

    1,471 

    MOST COMMON MEASURES USED Footnote 95 

    Physical Handling 

    114 

    186 

    126 

    407 

    108 

    941 

    Verbal Intervention 

    54 

    107 

    49 

    456 

    161 

    827 

    Inflammatory Spray (IS) or Chemical Agent (CA) Footnote 96 

    64 

    214 

    100 

    324 

    90 

    792 

    MK-4 (IS)

    20

    87

    53

    130

    55

    345

    MK-9 (IS)

    26

    63

    27

    116

    27

    259

    T-21 Muzzle Blast (IS)

    4

    25

    8

    46

    4

    87

    MK-46 (IS)

    3

    31

    5

    22

    4

    65

    T-16 (IS)

    3

    1

    5

    6

    0

    15

    T-21 (CA)

    2

    6

    0

    1

    0

    9

    ISPRA (IS)

    5

    0

    1

    2

    0

    8

    Grenades (CA)

     

    0

    0

    1

    1

    0

    2

    T-16 (CA)

     

    1

    0

    0

    0

    0

    1

    Other (IS)

     

    0

    1

    0

    0

    0

    1

    Restraint Equipment (handcuffs, leg irons) 

    42 

    100 

    142 

    344 

    96 

    724 

    Pointing Inflammatory Agent with Verbal Orders 

    24 

    34 

    102 

    25 

    190 

    Emergency Response Team (ERT) 

    18 

    34 

    18 

    27 

    32 

    129 

    Shield 

    13 

    38 

    17 

    83 

    Soft (Pinel) Restraints 

    15 

    30 

    53 

    Direct-Impact Round Fired 

    23 

    42 

    Baton 

    18 

    27 

    Pointing Direct Impact Round 

    13 

    23 

    Distraction Device DT-25 (flash grenade) 

    18 

    22 

    Display and Discharge of Firearm 

    11 

    C8 Carbine (firearm) 

    10 

    11 

    GRAND TOTAL Footnote 97 

     

    311 

    707 

    484 

    1,783 

    590 

    3,875 

     

    Table 2: Frequency of Most Commonly Used Use-of-force Measures at Women’s Institutions

    REPORTED INCIDENTS REVIEWED BY THE OCI 

    93 

    MOST COMMON MEASURES USED 

    FREQUENCY 

    Verbal Intervention 

    87 

    Physical Handling 

    80 

    Restraint Equipment (handcuffs, leg irons) 

    43 

    Inflammatory Spray (IS) or Chemical Agent (CA) 

    22 

    MK-4 (IS)

    14

    MK-9 (IS)

    6

    MK-46 (IS)

    2

    Pointing IS or CA with Verbal Orders 

    11 

    Soft (Pinel) Restraints 

    Emergency Response Team (ERT) 

    Shield 

    Grand Total 

    253 

     

    C. Toll-Free Contacts in 2020-21

    Federally sentenced individuals and members of the public can contact the OCI by calling our toll-free number (1-877-885-8848) anywhere in Canada. All communications between federally sentenced individuals and the OCI are confidential.

    Number of toll-free contacts received in the reporting period: 19,143

    Number of minutes recorded on toll-free line: 72,116

    D. National Level Investigations in 2020-21

    1. Report of an Investigation into the Resumption of Correctional Interventions ( Third COVID-19 Update , February 23, 2021). 

       
    2. Investigation into Uses of Force Involving Federally Incarcerated Black, Indigenous, Peoples of Colour (BIPOC) and Other Vulnerable Populations (date of 2020-21 Annual Report tabling). 

       
    3. A Review of Women’s Corrections 30-Years since Creating Choices (date of 2020-21 Annual Report tabling). 

       
    4. Preliminary Observations on Structured Intervention Units (date of 2020-21 Annual Report tabling). 

       
    5. An Investigation of the Use of Medical Isolation in Federal Corrections (date of 2020-21 Annual Report tabling). 

       
    6. An Investigation into a Suicide in a Maximum-Security Facility (date of 2020-21 Annual Report tabling). 

       

    Annex D: Corporate Reporting

    A. OCI at a Glance

    Who We Are

    The Correctional Investigator is mandated by Part III of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) as an Ombudsman and the primary function of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI or the Office) is to investigate and bring resolution to complaints from federally sentenced persons. The OCI is an independent agency, which has a responsibility to review and make recommendations on the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) policies and procedures arising from individual complaints to ensure that systemic areas of concern are identified and appropriately addressed. It also carries out systemic investigations of issues that affect large numbers of federally sentenced persons.

    As a micro agency, OCI functions with a $5.4M budget that consists of $4.5M salary budget (including employee benefits plans) and $898K allocated to the operational and maintenance budget.

    Table 1: Financial Highlights

     

    KEY FINANCIAL INDICATORS 
    (DOLLARS) 

    2020-21 

    2019-20 

    2018-19 

    2017-18 

    Total Revenues

    Total Expenditures

    $5,827,476

    $5,440,958

    $5,201,287

    $4,850,447

    AUTHORITIES USED BY PROGRAM 
    (DOLLARS) 

    2020-21 

    2019-20 

    2018-19 

    2017-18 

    Ombudsman for federal offenders

    $4,736,304

    $4,533,378

    $4,330,805

    $3,631,480

    Internal Services

    $1,091,172

    $906,680

    $870,482

    $1,218,967

    Total Expenditures

    $5,827,476

    $5,440,058

    $5,201,287

    $4,850,447

     

    Operation Risks

    The OCI has identified two ongoing operational risks:

    1. OCI’s nation-wide mandate and the sheer number and complexity of issues present a coverage risk due to high travel requirements that includes travel to remote locations. 

       
    • The implementation of virtual visits to comply with pandemic measures and minimize COVID-19 spread has provided the Office with a temporary alternative to in-person visits.

       

    1. The resolution of complaints in an environment traditionally closed to public scrutiny requires that the Office not only be, but be seen to be, independent of the Correctional Service of Canada, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Minister. 

       
    • The Correctional Investigator reporting relationship and authority to conduct independent investigations demonstrates the Office’s impartiality and effectiveness.

       

    In addition to the above, OCI has also identified the following operational risks:

    1. Phoenix continues to pose a risk of pay errors affecting employees as well as the management of the organizational budget.

       

    • Increasing the capacity in the Corporate Services Directorate will provide the team with some dedicated capacity, support and ability to respond to employee compensation issues in a timely manner.

       

    1. COVID-19 pandemic that has presented a significant risk to the health of employees as well as the continuity of operations. 

       
    • While an essential and critical service whose operations must continue, OCI was successful for the most part in restructuring office practices to accommodate work from home and support virtual visits to ensure continued delivery of the mandate. The lack of in person visits hindered the ability of the OCI to fully meet its legal mandate. Footnote 98 

       

    OCI Results Framework Footnote 99 

    The OCI’s Departmental Results Framework and Program Inventory identifies the following:

    • One core responsibility that is to provide independent oversight of federal corrections through the investigations of individual complaints of federally sentenced persons (incarcerated or in the community);

       

    • One program inventory that serves as the Ombudsman for federally sentenced persons to protect the independence and impartiality of the Office and support a safe, lawful and humane federal correctional practice.

       

    A diagram of OCI’s Departmental Results Framework and Program. Departmental Results Framework; Core Responsibility: Independent Oversight of Federal Corrections; Departmental Result: A safe, lawful and humane federal correctional practice; Indicator: Percentage of recommendations made in relation to individual offender complaints that were addressed by the CSC; Indicator: Percentage of recommendations made in relation to the OCI’s corporate priorities that were addressed by the CSC; Internal Services; Program Inventory; Program: Ombudsman for Federal Offenders.

    Table 2: Performance Highlights

     

    KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS 

    TARGET 

    2020-21 

    2019-20 

    2018-19 

    2017-18 

    Percentage of recommendations 
    made in relation to individual 
    offender complaints that were 
    addressed by the CSC

    90%

    82%

    89%

    89%

    69%

    Percentage of recommendations 
    made in relation to the OCI’s 
    corporate priorities that were 
    addressed by the CSC

    100%

    85%

    100%

    100%

    100%

     

    B. What We Achieved

    Core Responsibilities

    Independent Oversight of Federal Corrections

    The Office of the Correctional Investigator conducts investigations of complaints by federally sentenced persons (incarcerated or in the community); by sentenced persons on behalf of another sentenced person; and by family and friends on behalf of a sentenced person. It also carries out systemic investigations of issues that affect large numbers of federally sentenced persons. The Office reviews all Correctional Services of Canada investigations of deaths in custody and serious bodily injury cases to ensure compliance with law and policy, and conducts reviews of all use of force incidents. The OCI’s investigative activities support a safe, lawful and humane federal correctional practice to ensure that federal correctional decisions and practices are in compliance with human rights, law, policy, and are fair.

    Results

    Fiscal year 2020-21 was a challenging one for all, as measures were implemented to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also being innovative and accommodating the continuation of operations through the implementation of virtual visits. The office conducted 43 virtual visits (148 days) and conducted nine (9) inspections (9 days).

    During the last year, the investigative team received 4,509 complaints out of which 4,107 were reviewed/investigated. In addition to having conducted 481 interviews with sentenced persons, the team also produced and published three COVID-19 status updates providing an assessment of the pandemic impact within correctional institutions.

    Furthermore, the office conducted reviews of 1,471 incidents involving use of force and 136 reviews of investigation reports conducted under sections 19 and 19.1 of the CCRA related to incidents involving death or serious bodily injury.

    Gender-Based Analysis Plus 

    OCI’s focus for the 2020-21 fiscal year for GBA+ was on three specific groups: federally sentenced persons who are Indigenous; who are women; and those who have mental health issues.

    Results

    In its Annual Report, OCI demonstrated its commitment to GBA+ through its investigative work on Uses of Force involving federally incarcerated Black, Indigenous, Peoples of Colour and other vulnerable populations including women and individuals with mental health concerns. The Office continues to raise concerns regarding the lack of progress on tracking, responding to and preventing incidents of sexual coercion and violence. With changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act , OCI increasingly received and investigated complaints regarding the treatment of gender diverse individuals in federal institutions, and also conducted a comprehensive review of CSC’s new Commissioner’s Directive on gender considerations. Finally, the Office completed a focused review of women’s corrections 30-years since Creating Choices . This investigation included an analysis of a variety of GBA+ groups including Indigenous women, women with mental health considerations and gender diverse individuals housed in facilities designated for women.

    2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

    The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action for people, the planet and for prosperity. It seeks to strengthen peace in a larger freedom. Poverty in all its forms and dimensions is a challenge across this and other countries. If the clients served by the Office of the Correctional Investigator do not have a successful re-integration back into their communities, their rates of recidivism increase and the chances that they fall into poverty increase as well.

    Results

    Through the delivery of its mandate, the OCI contributes to two main UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals: Gender Equality (5) and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (16).

    As indicated in the GBA+ section, in its 2020-21 Annual Report, OCI examined the evolution of women’s corrections over a thirty-year period, since the release of the landmark report on the state of women’s corrections, Creating Choices . OCI’s in-depth review of women’s corrections offers a number of targeted recommendations to improve conditions for women who are federally incarcerated, with specific consideration of the needs of Indigenous women and women with complex histories of trauma and mental health concerns.

    Additionally, through the continuous delivery of its mandate, the OCI also contributes to the Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions goals by ensuring the fair and humane treatment of persons serving federal sentences. The OCI demonstrated this through its investigative work and recommendations related to use of force and CSC’s security-first approach to working with people who have mental health needs and its overuse with Black and Indigenous individuals. To support a stronger organization, the OCI increased its capacity to do more systemic investigative work. The investigative team also worked collaboratively with CSC staff to respond to inmate complaints with goal of improving conditions in institutions. Finally, OCI collaborates with international partners through the Expert Network to identify best humane practices in corrections.

    Greening Government

    Of the 13 goals identified as part of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, the Office has put in place measures to improve the carbon footprint with respect to greening government and clean energy.

    Results

    Over the past year, COVID19 pandemic has expedited OCI’s workforce mobility and has accommodated its personnel to work from home by implementing digital signature and paperless office practices. The Office has also been successful in pivoting and implementing virtual visits, which will inform our future planning and help improve our carbon footprint in support of the greening government initiative.

    Supporting Information on the Program Inventory Footnote 100 

    Table 1: Performance Statistics

     

     

    2020-21 

    2019-20 

    2018-19 

    OCI COMPLAINTS BY CATEGORY 
    & RESOLUTION STATUS 

    Active

    402

    341

    347

    Resolved

    4,107

    5,212

    4,904

    TOTAL 

    4,509 

    5,553 

    5,251 

    CASES & OCI'S DAYS IN INSTITUTIONS 

    Cases

    4,509

    5,553

    5,176

    Interviews

    481

    1,132

    1,345

    Days in Institutions

    N/A

    354

    476

    CASES & OCI'S DAYS IN FEDERALLY 
    SENTENCED WOMEN'S INSTITUTIONS 

    Cases

    403

    562

    592

    Interviews

    101

    109

    161

    Days in Institutions

    N/A

    54

    49

    DISPOSITION OF CASES 

    Internal Resolution

    2,368

    2,900

    1,769

    Inquiry

    1,821

    1,996

    1,604

    Investigation

    416

    669

    586

    Resolution Unspecified

    0

    37

    945

    Pending

    372

    0

    347

    TOTAL 

    4,977 

    5,602 

    5,251 

    CASES, COMPLAINANTS, & 
    POPULATION UNDER CSC 
    JURISDICTION 

    Cases

    4,509

    5,553

    5,251

    Individual Complainants Footnote 101 

    2,098

    2,460

    2,478

    Total CSC Population Footnote 102 

    21,512

    23,102

    23,464

    MANDATED REVIEWS BY 
    TYPE OF INCIDENT 

    Assault

    36

    46

    38

    Murder

    5

    3

    1

    Suicide

    9

    5

    2

    Attempted Suicide

    10

    11

    8

    Self-Harm

    2

    0

    2

    Injuries (Accident)

    14

    18

    7

    Overdose Interrupted

    21

    9

    8

    Death (Natural cause)

    38

    8

    44

    Death (Unnatural cause)

    1

    8

    4

    Escape

    0

    1

    2

    TOTAL 

    136 

    109 

    116 

    USE-OF-FORCE 

    Reported incidents reviewed by OCI

    1,471

    1,109

    1,616

    Reported incidents reviewed by OCI 
    (Federally Sentenced Women’s Institutions)

    93

    72

    159

     

    Internal Services

    Internal Services are those groups of related activities and resources that the federal government considers as services in support of programs and/or required to meet corporate obligations of an organization. Internal Services refers to activities and resources of the 10 distinct areas that support Program delivery in the organization. Regardless of the Internal Services delivery model in a department, these areas include: Acquisition Management; Communications; Financial Management; Human Resources Management; Information Management; Information Technology; Legal; Materiel Management; Management and Oversight; and, Real Property Management.

    Results

    The fiscal year 2020-21 has been a challenging one for Internal Services teams across all organizations. The OCI’s internal services were successful in providing information technology and information management equipment and available applications to ensure the implementation of work from home practices and support the continuing delivery of the program. Building on this momentum, the OCI has also initiated its Digital Office project with the implementation of digital signature and rolling out of a new information management system.

    C. Analysis of Trends in Spending and Human Resources

    Table 1: Budgetary Performance Summary for Core Responsibilities and Internal Services (dollars)

     

    CORE 
    RESPONSIBILITIES 

    MAIN ESTIMATES 

    PLANNED SPENDING 

    TOTAL AUTHORITIES 
    AVAILABLE FOR USE 

    ACTUAL SPENDING 
    (AUTHORITIES USED) 

    DIFFERENCE 
    (ACTUAL SPENDING 
    MINUS PLANNED 
    SPENDING) 

    PLANNED SPENDING 

    ACTUAL SPENDING 
    (AUTHORITIES USED) 

     

    2020-21 

    2021-22 

    2022-23 

    2019-20 

    2018-19 

    2017-18 

    Independent oversight 
    of federal corrections

    4,273,557

    4,316,189

    4,760,125

    4,736,304

    420,115

    4,272,778

    4,272,778

    4,533,278

    4,330,805

    3,631,480

    Internal Services

    1,030,053

    1,050,018

    1,176,390

    1,091,172

    41,154

    1,050,018

    1,050,018

    907,680

    870,482

    1,218,967

    TOTAL 

    5,303,610 

    5,366,207 

    5,936,515 

    5,827,476 

    461,269 

    5,366,207 

    5,322,796 

    5,440,958 

    5,201,287 

    4,850,447 

     

    As demonstrated in the table above, the organization’s expenditure pattern has been consistent for its core responsibility and internal services, fluctuating only slightly from year to year. The displayed increase in actual spending from 2019-20 to 2020-21 is mainly due to compensation adjustments due to new collective agreements. The OCI is not unionized but matches gains and benefits negotiated in collective agreements. The 2018-19 increase is attributable to program integrity funding secured in Budget 2018, which enhanced capacity to undertake investigations in federal correctional facilities. Footnote 103 

    Table 2: Human Resource Summary for Core Responsibilities and Internal Services (full-time equivalents)

     

    DEPARTMENTAL 
    PLANNING & 
    RESULTS 

    CORE 
    RESPONSIBILITIES 

    ACTUAL FULL-TIME EQUIVALENTS 





     

    PLANNED FULL-TIME EQUIVALENTS 





     

     

    2017-18 

    2018-19 

    2019-20 

    2020-21 

    2021-22 

    2022-23 

    Independent oversight 
    of federal corrections

    32

    32

    36

    33

    35

    35

    Internal Services

    4

    4

    5

    5

    6

    6

    TOTAL 

    36 

    36 

    41 

    38 

    41 

    41 

     

    As demonstrated in the table above, the organization’s FTE count remained stable ranging on average 39 FTEs. The increase in the number of FTEs starting in 2018-19 is attributable to program integrity funding secured in Budget 2018.

    Table 3: Analysis of Trends in Spending (dollars)

     

    DEPARTMENTAL 
    PLANNING & 
    RESULTS 

    APPROPRIATION 

    ACTUAL EXPENDITURES 




     

    PLANNED EXPENDITURES 




     

     

    2017-18 

    2018-19 

    2019-20 

    2020-21 

    2021-22 

    2022-23 

    Statutory

    495,747

    481,070

    545,982

    657,160

    567,907

    567,907

    Voted

    4,197,024

    4,369,377

    4,894,976

    5,170,316

    4,735,703

    4,735,703

    TOTAL 

    4,692,771 

    4,850,447 

    5,440,958 

    5,827,476 

    5,303,610 

    5,303,610 

     

    Over the last several fiscal years, the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s actual spending incrementally increased over the past four years. The program integrity funding secured in Budget 2018 increased the spending in 2019-20 to $5.2 million.

    Table 4: Condensed Statement of Operations (dollars)

     

    DEPARTMENTAL 
    PLANNING & 
    RESULTS 
    FINANCIAL 
    INFORAMATION 

    ACTUAL RESULTS 




     

    PLANNED RESULTS 




     

     

    2017-18 

    2018-19 

    2019-20 

    2020-21 

    2021-22 

    Total expenses

    5,356,331

    5,742,866

    6,065,332

    Data not available*

    6,040,371

    Total revenues

    NET COST OF 
    OPERATIONS 
    BEFORE 
    GOVERNMENT 
    FUNDING AND 
    TRANSFERS 

    5,356,331 

    5,742,866 

    6,065,332 

    Data not available* 

    6,040,371 

    *Note: Actual results for 2020-21 will be available in fall 2021 following the tabling of financial statements.

     

    The Condensed Statement of Operations highlights the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s consistency in establishing planned results and linking these to the financial resources required to achieve them.

    Financial Statements and Highlights

    Following the tabling of the public accounts, the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s financial statements (unaudited) for the year ended March 31, 2021, will be made available on the departmental website at www.oci-bec.gc.ca. 

    D. Access to Information Footnote 104 

    OCI is committed to responding to information requests from the public, the media and all those interested in our operations in a timely manner.

    From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 OCI received 28 new requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The OCI closed 40% of these requests within legislated timeframes.

    No complaints were submitted to the Privacy Commissioner during this reporting period.

    Table 1: Access to Information and Privacy Requests

     

    LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY 

    2020-21 

    2019-20 

    2018-19 

    Access to Information Act 

    15

    34

    39

    Privacy Act 

    13

    16

    8

     

    E. Official Languages

    In accordance with Section 48 of the Official Languages Act , OCI must submit official languages data into the Official Languages Information System II (OLIS II) to facilitate the President of the Treasury Board submitting an annual report to Parliament. The data below provides official languages information as at March 31, 2021.

    Table 1: Data Pertaining to the Official Languages Act 

     

    POSITION BY REGION 

    TOTAL NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES 

    FIRST OFFICIAL LANGUAGE 

     

     

    ENGLISH

    FRENCH

    National Capital Region 

    34

    14

    20

     

    No official language complaints were filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for this reporting period.

    F. Proactive Disclosure

    OCI is committed to making information readily available. By doing so, Canadians and Parliament are better able to hold the Government and public sector officials to account.

    Travel, Hospitality, and Conference Expenditures Footnote 105 

    In accordance with Section 4.1.3 of the Treasury Board Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures, departments are required to disclose the total annual expenditures for travel, hospitality and conferences. The total 2020-21 THC expenditures are as follows:

    Table 1: Total 2020-21 THC Expenditures

     

    EXPENSE 

    AMOUNT 

    Travel

    $1,698.31

    Hospitality

    $1,260.11

    Onsite Conference

    $1,764.26

     

    Contracts Over $10,000

    In accordance with the Contracting Policy, departments are required to disclose information on contracts over $10,000, as well as standing offer agreements and supply arrangements used by government departments. During the last fiscal year, the Office has awarded six (6) contracts over $10,000, which represents a total amount of $176,071.76. Footnote 106 

    Position Reclassification Footnote 107 

    In accordance with Section 85 of the Access to Information Act , departments are required to disclose when a reclassification of an occupied position in a government institution occurs. Over the last fiscal year, the following OCI positions were reclassified:

    Table 2: Position Reclassifications at the OCI

     

    POSITION TITLE 

    NUMBER 
    OF POSITIONS 

    INITIAL 
    CLASSIFICATION 
    & LEVEL 

    NEW 
    CLASSIFICATION 
    & LEVEL 

    Senior Policy & Research 
    Advisor, Systemic 
    Investigations

    1

    EC-05

    EC-06

    Early Resolution Officer

    7

    AS-02

    PM-02

     

    G. Attestation

    I attest that, to the best of my knowledge, all information in the above referenced data reported is accurate and complete.

    Sonja Mitrovic 
    CFO, Director, Corporate Services and Planning 


     

    Ivan Zinger 
    Correctional Investigator of Canada 

     

     

Footnote 1

As of May 10, 2021, the Government of Canada reported that 4.1% of COVID-19 tests performed in Canada resulted in a positive diagnosis.

Return to footnote 1 referrer 

Footnote 2

These numbers are based on the total year-end in-custody counts for 2020-21 (N=12,399; female = 618). Obtained from CSC’s Corporate Reporting System (CRS-M) Dashboard.

Return to footnote 2 referrer 

Footnote 3

During the errors and omissions review, CSC indicated that they are currently developing a new Commissioner’s Directive on Sexual Coercion and Violence that is to be promulgated in summer 2022. The CD will focus on the prevention, reporting, and tracking of SCV by providing tools for staff and prisoners, including addressing the reluctance of victims to come forward.

Return to footnote 3 referrer 

Footnote 4

Office of the Correctional Investigator (2008). A Preventable Death ; (2013) Risky Business: An Investigation of the Treatment and Management of Chronic Self-Injury Among Federally Sentenced Women ; and (2017) Fatal Response: An Investigation into the Preventable Death of Matthew Ryan Hines .

Return to footnote 4 referrer 

Footnote 5

Office of the Correctional Investigator (2017). Fatal Response: An Investigation into the Preventable Death of Matthew Ryan Hines. 

Return to footnote 5 referrer 

Footnote 6

Analyses of incidents and individuals include data spanning April 2015 to October 2020.

Return to footnote 6 referrer 

Footnote 7

Some types of force, such as inflammatory sprays, can be used in different ways (only aimed, or aimed and dispensed). It was not possible to determine how the types of force were used, simply that the method was used in some way.

Return to footnote 7 referrer 

Footnote 8

Data for these analyses includes all individuals involved in use-of-force incidents between April 2015 and October 2020.

Return to footnote 8 referrer 

Footnote 9

Self-identified race is based on categories defined and collected by CSC for each individual upon admission to its custody. The category of Peoples of Colour includes 14 self-identified visible minority groups (excluding Indigenous and Black) based on race categories in CSC’s Offender Management System (OMS).

Return to footnote 9 referrer 

Footnote 10

A use-of-force event is defined as each unique person-by-incident combination; therefore, each unique person involved in each unique use-of-force incident is counted separately and reported by race for each fiscal year.

Return to footnote 10 referrer 

Footnote 11

Just over one-third of individuals had missing data for security level (identified as “null” in the data).

Return to footnote 11 referrer 

Footnote 12

Indigenous includes the following race categories: First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Black includes individuals who self-identified as Black, Caribbean, or Sub-Saharan African.

Return to footnote 12 referrer 

Footnote 13

Chi-square and t-tests revealed a significant association or differences across each factor.

Return to footnote 13 referrer 

Footnote 14

The statistical analyses used logistic regression to model the relationship between race and involvement in a use-of-force.

Return to footnote 14 referrer 

Footnote 15

Correctional Service of Canada (1990). Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. 

Return to footnote 15 referrer 

Footnote 16

Arbour (1996). Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston. 

Return to footnote 16 referrer 

Footnote 17

In the Errors and Omissions review of the Annual Report, CSC clarified that “changes and improvements were previously observed but that there appears to be a regression as similar issues have once again been identified.”

Return to footnote 17 referrer 

Footnote 18

In the Errors and Omissions review of the Annual Report, CSC clarified that a security-driven approach has re-emerged in women’s corrections because overall, the approach to women’s corrections has fluctuated over the years.

Return to footnote 18 referrer 

Footnote 19

Wardrop, Sheahan, and Stewart (2019). A Quantitative Examination of Factors Available in the Offender Management System Associated with Successful Release. Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada.

Return to footnote 19 referrer 

Footnote 20

CSC RADAR (April 28, 2021)

Return to footnote 20 referrer 

Footnote 21

Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (2019). Aging and Dying in Prison: An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody. 

Return to footnote 21 referrer 

Footnote 22

See Section 86 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. 

Return to footnote 22 referrer 

Footnote 23

CSC gained the authority to use body scanners in 2019 when Parliament passed An Act to Amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act . CSC has informed my Office that it will begin the pilot project by asking prisoners to volunteer for body scans.

Return to footnote 23 referrer 

Footnote 24

See for example: Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights (2019). Interim Report - Study on the Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons: The Most Basic Human Right is to be Treated as a Human Being (February 2017 - March 2018) ; also Standing Committee on the Status of Women (2018) , A Call to Action: Reconciliation with Indigenous Women in the Federal Justice and Correctional Systems ; and Office of the Auditor General (2017), Preparing Women Offenders for Release—Correctional Service Canada .

Return to footnote 24 referrer 

Footnote 25

CSC’s evaluation of correctional programs did not provide survey results disaggregated for staff delivering programs at men’s and women’s institutions separately.

Return to footnote 25 referrer 

Footnote 26

King (2017). Outcomes of Trauma-Informed Interventions for Incarcerated Women: A Review . International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 61(6), p. 667-688.

Return to footnote 26 referrer 

Footnote 27

Ewert v. Canada, [2018] 2 SCR 165. 

Return to footnote 27 referrer 

Footnote 28

Gutierrez, Chadwick, and Wanamaker (2018). Culturally Relevant Programming versus the Status Quo: A Meta-analytic Review of the Effectiveness of Treatment of Indigenous Offenders . Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 60(3), p. 321-353.

Return to footnote 28 referrer 

Footnote 29

There is currently one CSC operated Healing Lodge (Okimaw Ohci) and two s.81 Healing Lodges for federally-sentenced women (Eagle Women’s Lodge and Buffalo Sage Wellness House).

Return to footnote 29 referrer 

Footnote 30

Correctional Service of Canada (1990). Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. p. 29.

Return to footnote 30 referrer 

Footnote 31

Corrections and Conditional Release Act , section 17 1(b). For individuals serving a life sentence, the Parole Board of Canada may have to approve or authorize ETAs (except ETAs for medical purposes or court attendances). Similarly, if an ETA approved by a Warden was cancelled because the individual breached a condition, then subsequent ETAs (except ETAs for medical purposes or court attendances) may be authorized by the Board.

Return to footnote 31 referrer 

Footnote 32

Helmus and Ternes (June 2015). Temporary Absences Reduce Unemployment and Returns to Custody for Women Offenders . Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada.

Return to footnote 32 referrer 

Footnote 33

Helmus and Ternes (February 2015). The Impact of Temporary Absences and Work Releases on Community Outcomes . Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada.

Return to footnote 33 referrer 

Footnote 34

Correctional Service Canada (2017-18). Employment and Employability Results Report. 

Return to footnote 34 referrer 

Footnote 35

Office of the Correctional Investigator Canada (2020). 2019-20 Annual Report . See investigation, Learning Behind Bars: An Investigation of Educational Programming and Vocational Training in Federal Penitentiaries. 

Return to footnote 35 referrer 

Footnote 36

See Parole Board of Canada (PBC) statistics found in its Performance Monitoring Reports that highlight the importance of a period of gradual supervised release in terms of correctional outcomes.

Return to footnote 36 referrer 

Footnote 37

Brown, et al. (2018). Prevalence of Mental Disorder among Federally Sentenced Women Offenders: In-Custody and Intake Samples .

Return to footnote 37 referrer 

Footnote 38

Scott (2012). Women Gang Inmates: A Profile . Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada.

Return to footnote 38 referrer 

Footnote 39

Canada’s 2018 Fall Economic Statement allocated $300 million over six years and $71.7 million annually, towards resources, including staff, to run SIUs.

Return to footnote 39 referrer 

Footnote 40

SIUs are operating at 11 institutions for men and all five regional women’s prisons. Individuals at different security levels can reside in the same SIU.

Return to footnote 40 referrer 

Footnote 41

Public Safety Canada (September 2019). Government appoints expert Advisory Panel to monitor new correctional system. News Release .

Return to footnote 41 referrer 

Footnote 42

Public Safety Canada (2020). Transforming Federal Corrections (Bill C-83) . Retrieved on May 11, 2021 from: https://www.securitepublique.gc.ca/cnt/trnsprnc/brfng-mtrls/prlmntry-bndrs/20200621/021/index-en.aspx. 

Return to footnote 42 referrer 

Footnote 43

The advisory panel’s term of office ended before it received any data from CSC. However, two members, Anthony Doob and Jane Sprott, pursued CSC data even after the panel’s term had expired. See their reports: Doob and Sprott (October 26, 2020). Understanding the Operation of Correctional Service Canada’s Structured Intervention Units: Some Preliminary Findings ; Sprott and Doob (November 2020). Is there Clear Evidence that the Problems that have been Identified with the Operation of Correctional Service Canada’s “Structured Intervention Units” were Caused by the COVID-19 Outbreak? An Examination of Data from Correctional Service Canada ; Sprott and Doob (February 2021). Solitary Confinement, Torture, and Canada’s Structured Intervention Units; Sprott, Doob, and Iftene (May 2021). Do Independent External Decision Makers Ensure that “An Inmate’s Confinement in a Structured Intervention Unit is to End as Soon as Possible”? 

Return to footnote 43 referrer 

Footnote 44

Responses were received from fourteen staff at seven institutions, and nine SIU residents at five institutions.

Return to footnote 44 referrer 

Footnote 45

These include daily visits from registered healthcare professionals, recommendations to the Warden by registered healthcare professionals regarding SIU conditions, visits by the Warden, and decisions regarding the release of individuals from SIUs.

Return to footnote 45 referrer 

Footnote 46

CSC’s external memo seeking input from stakeholders on CD-822, stated, “Given the urgent need to implement measures to prevent the spread of the disease, the enclosed policy was provisionally promulgated on July 16, 2020, without formal consultation…Once all feedback has been received and considered, the policy will be revised.” As of June 17, 2021, no changes have been made to CD-822 and it is still date stamped July 16, 2020 (web page last modified on May 19, 2020).

Return to footnote 46 referrer 

Footnote 47

Cloud, Augustine, Ahalt, and Williams (2020). The Ethical Use of Medical Isolation – Not Solitary Confinement – to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission in Correctional Settings. University of California San Francisco: AMEND.

Return to footnote 47 referrer 

Footnote 48

The inherent problem with casting such a wide net is compounded by paragraph 3(a) of CD-822, which gives the Warden the authority to medically isolate individuals admitted on a new warrant of committal or returns to custody following a suspension or revocation. According to policy, all other cases require the recommendation of a registered healthcare professional before the institutional head can authorize medical isolation. I am aware that a number of individuals were placed in medical isolation without the prior recommendation of Health Services, even though they were not new admissions or returning after a suspension or revocation.

Return to footnote 48 referrer 

Footnote 49

For a more in depth review of this topic, the Expert Network on External Prison Oversight and Human Rights (a network, which I chair, under of the International Corrections and Prisons Association) published a newsletter on October 7, 2020, titled: Adapting to COVID-19: Medical Isolation and Quarantine in Prison during a Pandemic. 

Return to footnote 49 referrer 

Footnote 50

Given historical issues with CSC’s “flag” data, the Office obtained these numbers by first consulting CSC NHQ and then independently surveying the institutions. The large discrepancy in individuals medically isolated at the eight institutions is due to the fact that one institution was experiencing an outbreak during the data collection period.

Return to footnote 50 referrer 

Footnote 51

CSC has consistently denied the existence of the now-infamous “two-year rule” (an unwritten rule that means a life-sentenced individual must serve the first two years of a life sentence in a maximum-security facility). The Office’s review of casework records indicates that M was “expected” to spend the first two years of his sentence in maximum-security, ostensibly due to the nature and gravity of his offence and a prior assault on an officer. In this case, the operational effect of the two-year rule meant that M could be transferred only to or from a maximum-security facility, a point not raised in the NBOI report. Despite M’s known suicidal and self-injurious behaviours, there is little documentation to indicate that CSC considered an alternative or exceptional placement to a Treatment Centre (psychiatric hospital, or a medium-security penitentiary), that could have meant maintaining some semblance of cultural and familial supports. The real-life consequences of managing life-sentenced people according to the “two-year rule” can be deadly. The Office has long called on CSC to acknowledge and abolish this practice.

Return to footnote 51 referrer 

Footnote 52

Further details about M’s childhood, upbringing, Indigeneity, and the offence itself are withheld to protect M’s identity.

Return to footnote 52 referrer 

Footnote 53

See Office of the Correctional Investigator (2014). A Three Year Review of Federal Inmate Suicides (2011-2014) .

Return to footnote 53 referrer 

Footnote 54

United Nations General Assembly (August 14, 2006). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment . UN Document A/61/259.

Return to footnote 54 referrer 

Footnote 55

Official Records of the General Assembly (January 9, 2003). Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment . United Nations Document A/RES/57/199.

Return to footnote 55 referrer 

Footnote 56

Canada Border Services Agency. Annual Detention, Fiscal Year 2019 to 2020 . Retrieved on June 21, 2021 from https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/security-securite/detent/stat-2019-2020-eng.html. 

Return to footnote 56 referrer 

Footnote 57

Malakieh (December 21, 2020). Adult and Youth Correctional Statistics in Canada, 2018/2019 . Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

Return to footnote 57 referrer 

Footnote 58

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2018). Preventing Torture – The Role of National Preventative Mechanisms: A Practical Guide. UN Document HR/P/PT/21.

Return to footnote 58 referrer 

Footnote 59

Hsu, et al. (2020), Impact of COVID-19 on residents of Canada’s long-term care homes – ongoing challenges and policy responses . London: International Long Term Care Policy Network.

Return to footnote 59 referrer 

Footnote 60

Canadian Institute for Health Information (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on long-term care in Canada: Focus on the first 6 months

Return to footnote 60 referrer 

Footnote 61

See for example, Canada OPCAT Project (May 9, 2020). “The Canadian Seniors Care Home Scandal – A catalyst for Change?” .

Return to footnote 61 referrer 

Footnote 62

Grenfell (2019). Aged care, detention and OPCAT. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 25:2, p. 248-262.

Return to footnote 62 referrer 

Footnote 63

Pedersen, Mancini, and Common (September 25, 2020). “Comprehensive Nursing Home Inspections Caught up to 5 Times More Violations. Why did Ontario Cut Them?” CBC News.

Return to footnote 63 referrer 

Footnote 64

Pringle (2018). Instituting a National Preventive Mechanism in Canada - Lessons Based on Global OPCAT Implementation . PhD Dissertation, Aberystwyth University.

Return to footnote 64 referrer 

Footnote 65

The Northwest Territories has since established its first ombudsman office. 

Return to footnote 65 referrer 

Footnote 66

United Nations, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (September 13, 2016). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 19 of the Convention Pursuant to the Optional Reporting Procedure . UN document CAT/C/CAN/7.

Return to footnote 66 referrer 

Footnote 67

Holmes (2013). The Politics of Torture, Human rights, and Oversight: The Canadian Experience with the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) . Master’s Thesis, University of Ottawa.

Return to footnote 67 referrer 

Footnote 68

United Nations Treaty Collection (status as of: May 13, 2021). Status of Treaties: Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment .

Return to footnote 68 referrer 

Footnote 69

Human Rights Watch (July 24, 2009). United States Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties .

Return to footnote 69 referrer 

Footnote 70

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (April 23, 2018). End of Mission Statement by Dubravka Šimonović, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences - Official visit to Canada .

Return to footnote 70 referrer 

Footnote 71

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (April 12, 2019). End of Mission Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, on Her Visit to Canada .

Return to footnote 71 referrer 

Footnote 72

United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council (May 11, 2018). Universal Periodic Review – Canada . UN document A/HRC/WG.6/30/CAN/1.

Return to footnote 72 referrer 

Footnote 73

Buckland and Olivier-Muralt (2019). OPCAT in federal states: Towards a better understanding of NPM models and challenges . Australian Journal of Human Rights, 25:1, p. 23-43.

Return to footnote 73 referrer 

Footnote 74

Australia, Commonwealth Ombudsman (September 2019). Implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT): Baseline Assessment of Australia’s OPCAT Readiness

Return to footnote 74 referrer 

Footnote 75

McInerney (June 10, 2020). “How Political Game-Playing is Putting Prisoner Safety at Risk” . Croakey. See also Australian Human Rights Commission (2020). Implementing OPCAT in Australia. 

Return to footnote 75 referrer 

Footnote 76

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) – Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture . Retrieved on May 13, 2021 from: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/OPCAT/Pages/OPCATIndex.aspx 

Return to footnote 76 referrer 

Footnote 77

The OCI may commence an investigation on receipt of a complaint by or on behalf of a federally sentenced person, or on its own initiative. Complaints are received by telephone, letters, and during interviews with the OCI’s investigative staff at federal correctional facilities.

Return to footnote 77 referrer 

Footnote 78

These totals are a snapshot of the OCI’s internal data from the week of May 17, 2021. Future reporting may be different as cases are updated.

Return to footnote 78 referrer 

Footnote 79

Given the restrictions imposed on our office due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our investigators were able to visit only 10 Ontario and Québec institutions (one day at each institution) over the summer of 2020. Though more inspections were scheduled, the closing of prisons in the Québec region on September 26, 2020 interrupted Office plans. Starting in January 2021, the Office pivoted to a virtual visit model, which guided how investigators conducted business during the pandemic. Over the reporting period, 43 virtual visits were conducted (one to each institution and healing lodge). These virtual and in-person visits resulted in 481 interviews. Additional interviews were also completed for the two investigations featured in the body of this Annual Report: “A Review of Women’s Corrections: 30-Years since Creating Choices” and “Preliminary Observations on Structured Intervention Units.” These investigations involved a combination of virtual visits, telephone interviews, and written responses via email with both staff and prisoners. In light of the above complexities, readers should not compare the data in this table to those in previous Annual Reports.

Return to footnote 79 referrer 

Footnote 80

Includes Shepody Healing Centre.

Return to footnote 80 referrer 

Footnote 81

Includes Centre régional de santé mentale.

Return to footnote 81 referrer 

Footnote 82

Includes the Special Handling Unit.

Return to footnote 82 referrer 

Footnote 83

Includes Joyceville’s Assessment Unit and TD Unit.

Return to footnote 83 referrer 

Footnote 84

Includes the Regional Treatment Centre, Assessment Unit, and the TD Unit.

Return to footnote 84 referrer 

Footnote 85

Includes the Regional Treatment Centre.

Return to footnote 85 referrer 

Footnote 86

CCC – CRC: Community Correctional Centres and Community Residential Centres.

Return to footnote 86 referrer 

Footnote 87

Internal Resolution: When the investigator only reviews simple file information or notes, or speaks with the federally sentenced individual before closing the case.

Return to footnote 87 referrer 

Footnote 88

Inquiry: Same as Internal Resolution except that the investigator also completes one action in response to the complaint to acquire additional information before closing the case.

Return to footnote 88 referrer 

Footnote 89

Investigation: Same as Inquiry, but with two or more additional actions. Investigations differ in that they are more complex than Inquiries and require more significant analysis. Any case that results in a recommendation is also classified as an Investigation. An Investigation may also be a systemic case which requires that the situation be monitored.

Return to footnote 89 referrer 

Footnote 90

A case may be reopened and re-resolved more than once, each with its own reasons for why it is closed. This is the reason that the total in this table is larger than the actual number of complaints reported in Table A.

Return to footnote 90 referrer 

Footnote 91

The number of individuals who contacted our office to make a complaint (i.e., complainants). Fifty-nine cases were removed because the complainant(s) wished to remain anonymous.

Return to footnote 91 referrer 

Footnote 92

Year-end count of in-custody population broken down by region for fiscal year 2020-21, according to the Correctional Service Canada’s Corporate Reporting System (CRS-M).

Return to footnote 92 referrer 

Footnote 93

Does not include CCC-CRCs or Parolees in the community. There were 158 unique contacts from the community.

Return to footnote 93 referrer 

Footnote 94

Deaths due to “natural causes” are investigated under a separate Mortality Review process involving a file review conducted at National Headquarters.

Return to footnote 94 referrer 

Footnote 95

A use-of-force incident can involve more than one measure.

Return to footnote 95 referrer 

Footnote 96

Inflammatory Sprays commonly referred to as OC (oleoresin capsicum) or “pepper spray,” contain a natural active ingredient capsaicin derived from pepper plants. Chemical Agents contain an active chemical ingredient, and result in extreme irritation of the eye tissues, producing the involuntary closure of the eyes. The devices listed here are designed to deliver either inflammatory or chemical agents, or both.

Return to footnote 96 referrer 

Footnote 97

Totals are larger than the number of incidents reviewed by the OCI because each incident can involve more than one measure.

Return to footnote 97 referrer 

Footnote 98

To learn more about the Government of Canada’s COVID response and OCI’s expenditures towards implementing the government’s response visit GC InfoBase: Infographic for The Correctional Investigator Canada. 

Return to footnote 98 referrer 

Footnote 99

For more information on the organization’s mandate letter commitments, see the Prime Minister’s Mandate letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (December 13, 2019).

Return to footnote 99 referrer 

Footnote 100

Financial, human resources and performance information for the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s Program Inventory is available in the GC InfoBase. 

Return to footnote 100 referrer 

Footnote 101

These numbers represent unique complainants who reached out to our office from both federal prisons and community correctional settings.

Return to footnote 101 referrer 

Footnote 102

These totals include both the in-custody population and those under community supervision.

Return to footnote 102 referrer 

Footnote 103

Information on the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s organizational appropriations is available in the Government Expenditure Plan and Main Estimates. 

Return to footnote 103 referrer 

Footnote 104

Summaries of completed ATI requests by the Office of the Correctional Investigator is available on the Open Government Portal. The Annual Report to Parliament on the Access to Information Act can be found on the OCI website. 

Return to footnote 104 referrer 

Footnote 105

The complete annual report is available on the Open Government Portal. 

Return to footnote 105 referrer 

Footnote 106

The complete listing is available on the Open Government Portal. 

Return to footnote 106 referrer 

Footnote 107

The complete listing is available on the Open Government Portal. 

Return to footnote 107 referrer 


Date modified 

2022-07-25

Banner Image
Office of the Correctional Investigator - Report

Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2014-2015

PDF Copy

Body

June 26, 2015

The Honourable Steven Blaney 
Minister of Public Safety 
House of Commons 
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Minister,

In accordance with section 192 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act , it is my privilege and duty to submit to you the 42 nd Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator.

Yours respectfully,

Howard Sapers 
Correctional Investigator


Table of Contents

Correctional Investigator's Message 

Executive Director's Message 

1. Health Care in Federal Corrections 

Physical Health 

Mental Health 

2. Prevention of Deaths in Custody 

3. Conditions of Confinement 

4. Aboriginal Corrections 

5. Safe and Timely Reintegration 

6. Federally Sentenced Women 

Outlook for 2015-16 

Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award 

Annex A: Summary of Recommendations 

Annex B: Annual Statistics 

Annex C: Other Statistics 


Correctional Investigator's Message


It is a privilege to present my 11 th Annual Report as Correctional Investigator of Canada. Since my first appointment in April 2004, I have been witness to significant changes to the conditions of incarceration and composition of the federal inmate population in Canada. Prison has always shone a spotli