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ARCHIVED - Correctional Investigator Releases 36th Annual Report

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Recommendations address creating better and safer environment for offenders and Correctional Service staff alike

OTTAWA, November 2, 2009 – The 2008/09 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) was tabled today in Parliament. The Report contains 19 key recommendations addressing issues of concern regarding policies and procedures within Canada's federal prison system.

Highlighting the need to improve the care and treatment of inmates with mental illness, the Report recommends increased hiring of mental health professionals and the establishment of intermediate mental health care capacity in each region. It also recommends clinical management plans to treat offenders with mental disorders be developed and implemented on a priority basis and managed by interdisciplinary teams of mental health, security and case management personnel working together. It further calls on the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to conduct independent reviews of long-term segregation of offenders with mental illness on a priority basis, and submit the review process to an external validation and evaluation exercise. "I am pleased that the Correctional Service has seized upon the recommendation that calls for an external review of segregation practice," Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers said. "There is much to be done to ensure that segregation is not overused, is consistent with the principle of using the least restrictive correctional measures and is sensitive to the health requirements of mentally ill inmates." Noting that a safe environment for offenders is a safe environment for staff, Sapers reminded the Service that it must focus on finding the balance between security and care.

Another area of concern for the OCI is the need for the Service to improve management of self-injurious behaviour by offenders. The Report calls for the development of a national strategy for managing chronic self-harming behaviours and incidents including: prevention, intervention and treatment measures; the creation of an inventory of best practices in the treatment and prevention of self-harm for widespread distribution throughout the Service; and new specialized and dedicated units in each region as required, to manage chronically self-harming offenders.

To ensure the CSC provides offenders with essential health care to professionally accepted standards of practice, and that there is consistency in the delivery of health services from one institution to another, the Report recommends that CSC's implementation of its Health Services Framework be reviewed by an external panel of experts empowered to report annually, for the next three years.

Noting correctional programs that address an offender's risk to re-offend contribute to public safety and provide good value for money, the Report calls on the Service to increase access and the quality of programming, especially for older offenders, inmates with learning challenges, and those with mental health problems.

Once again, the OCI is recommending the immediate appointment of a Deputy Commissioner for Aboriginal Corrections. Additional recommendations in regard to Aboriginal offenders include:  improvements to close the gap between Aboriginal and other offenders in terms of timely and safe conditional release; the hiring of more Aboriginal staff; and increased Aboriginal programming.

Addressing women's corrections, the Report calls for the position of Deputy Commissioner for Women to be strengthened from one of "functional" authority to one of "substantive and line" authority. This repeats the OCI recommendation made in the aftermath of the death of Ashley Smith in October 2007. Other issues dealt with include a call to rescind the Management Protocol for Women Offenders and the need for clinical management plans for high-needs and high-risk women offenders.

Concerns regarding physical conditions of confinement, such as time in cell, limits on yard time and visits are also noted. In this regard, the Report recommends institutions emphasize custody and control in a safe, reasonable and humane manner. It notes the importance of ongoing training for new recruits and current staff alike in "dynamic security," an approach that relies on front-line staff being alert, engaged and interacting closely and constructively with inmates.

The Report concludes by underscoring the OCI's continued concerns with the excessive number of offenders on long-term segregation status (60 days and over). It calls on the Service to implement procedural safeguards and ensure compliance with legal rights, and access to programs for all forms of segregation, consistent with the law and policy requirements.

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. To access all of the findings and recommendations contained in this year's Annual Report, as well as other reports, including a recent series on deaths in custody, visit www.oci-bec.gc.ca.

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For more information contact:
Ivan Zinger, Executive Director and General Counsel
(613) 990-2690; Ivan.Zinger@oci-bec.gc.ca