OTTAWA , November 5, 2010 – The 2009-10 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator was tabled in Parliament today. The report highlights concerns about the challenges facing the Correctional Service of Canada ( CSC ) in continuing to operate prisons that are safe and effective.
"A number of key factors are testing our idea of good correctional practice," said the Correctional Investigator, Mr. Howard Sapers. "Overcrowded prisons with inadequate and deteriorating physical infrastructures; offender populations that include a disturbingly large number of mentally ill and Aboriginal inmates; and a changing and more complex inmate profile that includes histories of gang membership, substance abuse and chronic illness in prisons are undermining key principles that have guided corrections."
Examples of how capacity challenges in federal corrections have moved the system toward more restrictive correctional measures are presented in the 2009-10 Annual Report. Twenty-four recommendations are made in the priority areas of offender access to physical and mental health services, deaths in custody, conditions of confinement, Aboriginal and federally sentenced women’s issues, and access to programs while in federal custody.
"I am particularly concerned about the erosion of the underlying principles that have defined good correctional practice and operations," said Sapers. "My Office supports holding offenders accountable for their criminal behaviour, but conditions that undermine rehabilitation efforts are counter to the Correctional Service’s mandate to actively encourage and assist offenders to reintegrate into the community as law-abiding citizens."
The report focuses particular concern on a trend toward conditions of confinement in federal prisons that result in a more punitive approach to incarceration. Specific examples include:
- A decline in dynamic security practices : As a correctional measure, dynamic security, a practice that encourages meaningful and constructive interactions between offenders and front-line staff, is on the decline. Increasingly, a reliance on weaponry and static security measures such as electronic barriers and remote surveillance is occurring. Increased use of physical restraints and segregation has also been noted. These changes are having a significant and negative impact on rehabilitative programming and safety in correctional institutions.
- Inappropriate use of force : Reported use of force incidents in federal prisons are on the rise, including the use of inflammatory and chemical agents, deployment of Emergency Response Teams, and the display and pointing of firearms. Inappropriate use of force is non-compliant with the legal requirement to use the "least restrictive measure consistent with the protection of the public."
- Increase in the practice of "double-bunking" : The growing number of offenders in federal prisons is quickly surpassing capacity. Overcrowding pressures have led to a 50% increase in double-bunking over the past five years where two inmates are living in a cell designed for one. This practice puts inmates and staff at risk.
- Proliferation of segregation-like units : Population management pressures are seeing increased numbers of offenders placed, for prolonged periods of time, in segregation-like units that operate outside the protections and procedural safeguards normally associated with this most isolated form of custody. Combined with a lack of access to programs, this practice suggests that offenders are simply being held with little opportunity for rehabilitation.
- Deteriorating and inadequate physical infrastructures :The average age of a federal correctional facility is 46 years. Several have served well beyond their expected service and more are operating beyond their physical capacities. In many cases, existing federal prison infrastructure is inadequate for the operation of a modern and humane correctional system.
Complete findings and recommendations of the 2009-10 Annual Report are available on the OCI website at www.oci-bec.gc.ca .
The Correctional Investigator is mandated by an Act of Parliament to be an independent ombudsman for federal offenders. This work includes ensuring that systemic areas of concern are identified and addressed.
For more information contact:
Ivan Zinger, Executive Director and General Counsel
(613) 990-2690; Ivan.Zinger@oci-bec.gc.ca