Is the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) part of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)?
No. Given its mandate to act as an ombudsman for offenders in the care and control of CSC, the OCI is a completely independent and autonomous agency.
What is an "ombudsman"?
An ombudsman is a person with authority to conduct thorough, impartial, independent investigations and to make recommendations to government organizations with respect to the problems of citizens. Normally ombudsman agencies investigate in response to citizen complaints but they can also investigate at their own initiative. In most cases an ombudsman is appointed by the legislature and can issue reports and recommendations to government officials and ultimately to the legislature.
The Correctional Investigator is appointed by the Cabinet and may report on individual investigations up to the level of the Commissioner of Corrections or the Minister of Public Safety. Our investigations concern the problems of federal offenders related to the conduct and decisions of Correctional Service of Canada staff and agents.
The Correctional Investigator's Annual Reports or Special reports (on urgent topics) are provided to the Minister of Public Safety, who must by law table them in Parliament.
The notion of righting a wrong is central to the Ombudsman concept. This involves measurably more than simply responding to specific legal, policy or technical elements associated with the area of concern under review or investigation. It requires the provision of independent, informed and objective opinions on the fairness of the action taken so as to counter balance the relative strength of public institutions against the individual. It as well requires responsiveness on the part of public institutions which is seen to be fair, open and accountable.
Can the OCI compel CSC to take corrective action?
No. As is the case of ombudsman agencies in most jurisdictions, the OCI only has the power to make non-binding recommendations. Generally, the OCI strives to resolve issues with the Service at the lowest possible level.
In the event that a solution cannot be agreed upon, the OCI can ask the Minister of Public Safety to review the matter or/and bring the latter to the attention of Parliament through a special report or its annual report. Special interest reports may also be publicly released.
Does the OCI have access to all information held by the Correctional Service of Canada?
Yes, the Correctional Investigator may require any person to provide any information that relates to an investigation. Investigators may enter and inspect any Correctional Service premises. The Correctional Investigator may hold hearings and examine witnesses under oath.
Why do offenders need an ombudsman?
The Office of the Correctional Investigator was established on the recommendation of an Inquiry into the 1971 riot at Kingston Penitentiary. The Inquiry concluded that inmates need an independent and impartial vehicle to resolve their problems in a timely fashion. We have been fulfilling this function ever since.
Our investigations promote the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders in accordance with the law. As a partner in the criminal justice system we help to ensure the safe and effective reintegration of offenders into the community, contributing to public safety.
The safety of inmates and staff can be affected by disputes inside penitentiaries. Being able to conduct timely and relatively informal investigations, often on site in institutions, can allow us to resolve issues before they get more serious. Being independent and impartial enhances offenders' trust in our process and their willingness to raise problems with us.
We are not advocates for offenders or the prison system. We investigate from an impartial perspective and, if we decide a complaint has merit, we work toward achieving resolution of the problem.
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