ARCHIVED - Office of the Correctional Investigator - Annual Report 2002-03

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October 24, 2003 PRESS BRIEFING

Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada 2002-2003

Significant progress made yet key recommendations on Aboriginal and Women offenders rejected

The Correctional Investigator's 2002-2003 Annual Report was released today.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator is an independent agency mandated as an Ombudsman for Federal Offenders. Mr. Stewart's Report indicated that significant progress has been made with the Correctional Service in addressing a number of longstanding concerns.

  • new guidelines and an automated information system are being developed by the Service to ensure that accurate data is available and analysed in the areas of inmate injuries, institutional violence and use of force,
  • policy and procedural changes have been undertaken by the Service to enhance the thoroughness and timeliness of their internal investigative processes,
  • a review has been initiated with the Correctional Service and National Parole Board into the issues associated with program access and timely conditional release, and
  • an action plan is being developed by the Service to eliminate the current backlog in the offender grievance process.

Despite the progress in these areas the Correctional Service has again rejected all recommendations calling for increased independence in their investigative and review processes. Mr. Stewart notes that "while the Service, in recent years, has made efforts to enhance its own internal mechanisms for promoting human rights and legal entitlements it continues to show an absence of willingness to be scrutinized by others".

This absence of will is most evident in the Correctional Service's response to the recommendations on Aboriginal and Women Offenders.

The Report again this year recommends, given the continuation of discriminatory barriers to timely release of Aboriginal Offenders, that

"The Correctional Service's current policies and operational procedures be immediately reviewed to ensure that discriminatory barriers to reintegration are identified and addressed. This review should be independent of the Correctional Service of Canada and under taken with the full support and involvement of Aboriginal Organizations".

Mr. Stewart in commenting on the Service's further rejection of this recommendation stated, "I am not convinced at this time that the Service's efforts will have either the required focus or independence of review needed to begin addressing the current discriminatory situation".

The Correctional Investigator, with respect to Women Offenders, identifies an urgent need for a refocusing by the Service on "both the potential for Women's Corrections and the requirement for openness, fairness and accountability within correctional operations".

The Report recommended that the refocusing begin with "the Correctional Service's production and distribution of a "final response plan" addressing the recommendations of Madame Justice Arbour's 1996 Report1".

The Correctional Service, while acknowledging the Arbour Report as an "important record of correctional practice that must be continuously monitored" has rejected the recommendation. There has to date not been a detailed public response on the specifics of the Report's recommendations.

Mr. Stewart concludes this year's Annual Report with a Proposal for Resolution on Judicial Intervention, External Review and Accountability in Corrections. The Report notes that the issues surrounding this matter, despite decades of reports and commissions, for the most part remain unaddressed.

A discussion paper will be produced later this fall and given wide distribution within the Corrections and Human Rights field. It is hoped that by broadening the discussion base on the issues associated with Judicial Intervention, External Review and Accountability that we collectively can begin addressing these important issues.

Mr. Stewart is encouraged by the progress made this year and looks forward to continuing his work with the Commissioner to ensure that the concerns of offenders are addressed in a thorough and timely manner.

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The Correctional Investigator's Annual Report is available on the Web site
(www.oci-bec.gc.ca). The Correctional Service of Canada's response is appended to the Report.

Information:

Mr. Ed McIsaac
Executive Director
(613) 990-2691

Mr. Todd Sloan
Senior Policy Advisor/Counsel
(613) 990-2690

Ms. Nathalie Neault
Director of Investigations
(613) 998-6960

Mr. Bruno Meilleur
Coordinator Aboriginal Offenders
(613) 991-1823

Ms. Carla Di Censo Dionne
Coordinator Women Offenders
(613) 990-9484


1Commission of Inquiry Into Certain Events at The Prison For Women
The Honourable Louise Arbour Commissioner