Ottawa, March 10, 2016 – The 42nd Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator was tabled today in Parliament. The Correctional Investigator, Mr. Howard Sapers, used this opportunity to take stock of the current state of corrections in Canada and highlight some important challenges.
“For over ten years, my Office has pursued some important public policy issues, from the prevention of deaths in custody to concerns involving the treatment of mentally ill people behind bars and ensuring better outcomes for Aboriginal offenders. These areas of correctional practice require ongoing vigilance and reform,” said Sapers. “I look forward to working with the Correctional Service of Canada in addressing these challenges and priorities, inclusive of implementing outstanding recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, meeting the needs of Indigenous offenders, and introducing limits on the use of segregation to manage mentally disordered, suicidal and self-injurious offenders.”
As a special focus of this year’s Annual Report, Sapers calls on the Correctional Service to prohibit the use of segregation for inmates who are mentally ill, to impose limits on segregation stays of no more than 30 days and to stop using administrative segregation as an alternative to the disciplinary process. “Locking a person up, 23 hours a day, for prolonged periods of time, in a space about the size of an average bathroom with limited human interaction is a risky and damaging practice,” said Sapers. “The law is clear – segregation should be used sparingly, only when all other alternatives have been exhausted and for the least time necessary. The administrative segregation framework needs to be significantly reformed, not just tweaked.”
The situation facing Indigenous peoples of Canada in conflict with the law remains troubling. Between 2005 and 2015, the Indigenous inmate population grew by 50% compared to an overall offender growth rate of 10%. First Nations, Inuit and Métis inmates now represent just over 25% of the in-custody population despite comprising just 4.3% of the Canadian population. Indigenous women, the fastest growing sub-population in federal custody, now comprise 37% of all women serving a sentence of over two years.
Aboriginal inmates are more likely to be classified as maximum security, spend more time in segregation and serve more of their sentence behind bars compared to non-Aboriginal inmates. “A history of disadvantage follows Indigenous people into prison and often defines their differential outcomes and experiences there. The issues that give rise to their disproportionate rates of incarceration require far more attention from our federal correctional service as it manages the sentences of Indigenous men and women,” stated Sapers.
The 2014-15 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator makes 18 recommendations addressing system level challenges in areas such as prison health care, offender employment, conditions of detention and resolution of offender complaints and grievances.
As the ombudsman for federally sentenced offenders, the Office of the Correctional Investigator serves Canadians and contributes to safe, lawful and humane corrections through independent oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada by providing accessible, impartial and timely investigation of individual and systemic concerns. The report cited in this release is available at: http://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/.
For more information, please contact:
Ivan Zinger, J.D., Ph.D.
Executive Director and General Counsel