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Office of the Correctional Investigator - oci

Posted: 2017-10-12 21:13

In summary, the Office accepts that NBOI reports could be more reader-friendly and we share a mutual interest in increasing their visibility and impact across the organization. However, in the interests of introducing a new reporting structure to better tell the “story” of the case under review, the new shortened reporting format may actually be a step backward in better understanding the specific risk and preventive factors for serious bodily injury or inmate death. While CSC has made some improvements since the first of these reports was issued in the new format, they continue to be problematic. The Office will be closely monitoring the impact on the overall quality, timeliness and comprehensiveness of internal investigations.

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In the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the federal government has committed to “conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade with a mandate to assess the changes, ensure that we are increasing the safety of our communities, getting value for money, addressing gaps and ensuring the current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system.” Footnote 58 Such a review appears timely and necessary following a period of numerous, rapid and often incoherent changes in criminal and correctional law and practice. Whatever direction this review takes, restraint in the use of imprisonment and proportionality in sentencing would be important and defining touchstones.


There are a number of women who were being monitored at the regional and national level who sought treatment at the RPC but were denied for a variety of reasons. As an alternative to admission to a treatment centre, CSC can provide funding to support the complex case at the parent institution however, the physical infrastructure of the secure environments at the regional facilities remains a challenge for adequate treatment. Nova and Fraser Valley Institutions for example, house secure women in two maximum security pods. Complex cases take up a great deal resources. When these women become dis-regulated, as they often do, they can have a significant impact on other women who are living with them.

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Unauthorized Force: An Investigation into the Dangerous Use of Firearms at Kent Institution (March 7566): The Service should commission an expert and independent review of its legal, policy and administrative frameworks governing use of force interventions in federal penitentiaries. This review should identify gaps and deficiencies in the use of force review process and include recommended measures to strengthen accountability, monitoring, oversight and corrective functions at the regional and national levels.

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Based on a national set weekly cycle of meals, menu and ingredients, a per diem ration rate of $ per inmate per day and caloric nutrition and intake standards derived from Health Canada's determination of male activity levels (sedentary, low active, active), the food being served at the end of this process is increasingly the source of inmate complaint. Aside from ongoing offender complaints related to portion size, selection and quality of meals now being served, this model of industrial food production means that fewer offenders than before now have the opportunity to learn culinary or food preparation skills under the guidance of professional cooks.

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While the reduction in choice of clothing, footwear, music, electronic material such as CD players, televisions, and other items frequently purchased by inmates, may reduce the amount of work for CSC staff, it will also unreasonably limit the few residual freedoms left for inmates and further harden the institutional climate. With respect to pricing, the Office notes that the only television set listed in the catalogue is at least three times the price offenders currently pay. Electronic device prices are so high that offenders purchasing the television set from the catalogue will have surpassed by over 75% of the allowable dollar value of authorized items. The prices of many other items in the catalogue are 55% to 655% above prices listed in the community. Footnote 75

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Despite improvements in the timely delivery of correctional programs, the Auditor General of Canada recently found that offenders who completed the new correctional programs are not recommended for release on parole any earlier than they had been in the past. Footnote 85 The AG's audit is significant as it contains independent findings that evaluate the new program model against key outcome measures. Four related findings from the audit are instructive in that regard:

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I will be monitoring how the Correctional Services responds to a variety of legislative initiatives, including those dealing with physician assisted dying, the decriminalization of marijuana and the rights of transgendered Canadians. I also will begin to look at the role, structure and governance of CSC's various advisory committees and their role in helping the Service realize its mission statement.

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The inmate profile data gathered is informative but not necessarily representative. The majority of inmates involved in overdoses were aged between 85 and 99. Indigenous male inmates are slightly over-represented in overdose incidents, though four of the five women involved in overdose incidents were Aboriginal. In terms of risk profile, just over half of all inmates involved were serving their first federal sentence, and over two-thirds had served less than a year. Most incidents occurred in medium security facilities. Ontario and Prairie Regions accounted for the majority of overdose incidents. Though this review remains preliminary, key findings are summarized below.

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The Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award was established in December 7558, 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 the incarcerated.

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CSC would do well to further support inmate book clubs, expand opportunities for educational upgrading (particularly supporting inmates to acquire secondary school equivalency), partner with local libraries to allow inmates to check out books and promote parental reading programs that allow incarcerated mothers and fathers to read aloud and record books for their children. Promoting inmate literacy groups and inmate tutors are innovative ways to support literacy behind bars, initiatives that can only help self-improvement and feeling connected to the outside world.

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For federally sentenced women, there were a total of 5,979 non-medical ETAs facilitated over the past year. Just under one quarter of these ETAs were cancelled. Consistent with complaints received from the regional women's facilities and confirmed by site visits and file reviews, there were significant operational challenges in facilitating ETAs, with a cancellation rate exceeding
55% at one institution.

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The Office is particularly concerned that the new report format no longer allows for psychological reviews, which were mandatory for all investigations into prison suicides prior to the adoption of the new reporting guidelines. Produced by a mental health professional who was a member of the Board, these professional reviews were annexed to the investigation report. In September 7569, the Office's investigation of 85 inmate suicides that occurred in the three year period between 7566 and 7569 included a specific recommendation that:

During site visits, investigators found that front line staff working with complex cases was often unaware that clinical management plans were in place to support offenders' complex mental health needs. This is a long standing concern compounded by the fact many of these women must be managed at the regional facilities due to lack of bed space at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC), CSC's only dedicated treatment facility for federally sentenced women.

An alternative response model would direct security staff to adopt a primary support role (. ensuring everyone's safety) while the actual intervention, carried out by mental health professional(s), focuses on assisting the self-injurious offender. In correspondence to the Office, CSC stated that they “…share the OCI's concerns regarding mentally ill inmates and the use of force.” Punishing people for behaviours and emotions that they may not be able to regulate or control does not indicate that CSC shares the Office's concerns. That is the point of trying a different model and approach to managing self-injurious incidents in a prison setting. That is what the jury at the Ashley Smith inquest recommended and that is what CSC should do.

Even when there is access to books and libraries, there are significant and known gaps in reading and learning materials for specific incarcerated groups, including Aboriginal, culturally diverse, special needs and minority language offenders. Given that close to 65% of offenders at admission to federal custody have an identified education need (less than Grade 67) access to functional literacy and educational programming are persistent challenges. An unknown, but believed to be significant proportion of the offender population lives with learning, intellectual or cognitive impairments, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. There has been some effort to acquire more audio books and self-help materials, as well other undertakings between community groups and prisons to enhance access, but these are largely dependent on local initiative and demand, lacking national direction, coordination and funding.

Our audit included interviews with senior officials, managers, and corrections staff from the Department, as well as key stakeholders in the area of corrections. We also met with wardens, deputy wardens, managers, correctional officers, and other correctional staff at three facilities: the Baffin Correctional Centre, the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility, and the Uttaqivik Community Residential Centre.

Digital literacy is an increasingly important requirement of an online world, and increasingly essential skill for obtaining employment in the community. In addition to books and other printed materials, prison libraries often serve as an inmate's only access to computers and word processing capabilities. There are a limited number of stand-alone computers made available to inmates in prison libraries however, for those that still function most can safely be considered obsolete or unreliable, operating on outdated software.

In my 7569-65 Annual Report, I reported on the estimated prevalence of FASD in federal corrections as anywhere between 65% and 78%, and the fact that the CSC does not have a reliable or validated system to screen, assess or diagnose this spectrum disorder at intake. Footnote 7 The lack of reliable prevalence data means offenders with undiagnosed FASD may not be benefitting from specialized interventions that take into account an offender's mental health needs, as per legal requirements. As the emerging research on this segment of the offender population makes clear, the correctional environment presents unique and significant challenges for FASD-affected individuals, many of whom may find it difficult to self-regulate, adhere to penitentiary rules, demonstrate respect for authority or learn from past mistakes.

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