For Immediate Release

Correctional Investigator welcomes recent progress in the Correctional Service of Canada's response to prevent deaths in custody

More options are immediately required to address the use of segregation to manage mentally disordered offenders

OTTAWA, March 25, 2010 – Today the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Mr. Howard Sapers, issued his third quarterly assessment of the Correctional Service of Canada's progress in preventing deaths in custody.

In issuing his assessment, the Correctional Investigator noted that he was encouraged by a series of initiatives and commitments that have been launched since his last review in December 2009. "I welcome and endorse commitments that incorporate elements of independent and external review, as well as public reporting in the Service's latest response to prevent deaths in custody," said Mr. Sapers. "The commitment to develop an accountability framework for monitoring progress in this area of corrections is an especially encouraging and important development" added Mr. Sapers.

In response to its recommendations, the Office looks forward to receiving the external report on the offender complaints and grievance system, as well the independent clinical review of the use of long-term segregation of offenders with mental health disorders. Along with ongoing internal audit and verification work, external reviews are important pieces in establishing clear benchmarks for reform and measurable indicators of progress in the Service's accountability framework.

The Service's commitment to more closely monitor offenders with mental health problems placed in segregation for risk of suicide, self-harm or self-protection is cautiously welcomed by the Office. By the Service's admission, there are not enough options or capacity in the current system to manage the needs of an increasing number of offenders requiring mental health services and supports. The Office is concerned by the fact that segregation is currently a default option in the Correctional Service's strategy to manage behaviours and responses associated with mental illness. Mentally disordered offenders, and especially those at risk of suicide and serious bodily injury, should not be held in segregated and isolated confinement.

The overall lack of capacity and alternative options to manage offenders with mental health problems, up to and including physical infrastructure deficiencies at three of the Service's five regional psychiatric hospitals, makes an even more compelling case to move forward on the implementation of intermediate care units on an urgent basis. As a bridge between acute care offered in the regional hospitals and primary care once returned to the penitentiary environment, intermediate care is the missing link in the Service's "continuum of care" mental health model. There is no justification to support the continuing use of segregation as a substitute for intermediate care.

Put simply, by not providing the "least restrictive" option, the Service is falling short of its policy and legislative requirements. The practice of confining mentally ill offenders to prolonged periods of isolation in austere conditions with limited meaningful social interaction must end. It is not humane or safe corrections and is contrary to principles of rehabilitation and reintegration; and it also disregards elements of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator functions as an independent ombudsman for federal offenders. Its work includes ensuring that systemic areas of concern are identified and addressed. The previous quarterly assessments cited in this release are available at www.oci-bec.gc.ca.

-30-

For further information contact:

Ivan Zinger, LL.B., Ph.D.
Executive Director and General Counsel
Office of the Correctional Investigator
(613) 990-2690 or Ivan.Zinger@oci-bec.gc.ca