Letter to the Commissioner

January 10, 2014

 

Don Head
Commissioner of Corrections
Correctional Service Canada
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P9

Dear Mr. Head:

As you know, my Office retained an external consultant to provide an outside perspective on a series of ongoing challenges at Kent Institution.  I have previously discussed his preliminary findings with you.  The major findings of this review are consistent with themes identified in my earlier investigative report Unauthorized Force:  An Investigation into the Dangerous Use of Firearms at Kent Institution between January 8 – 18, 2010, which was publicly released on March 21, 2011.

It is clear from my follow-up review of Kent Institution that the failure to adequately and consistently discipline a few front-line officers who were known to engage in reprehensible conduct led to a negative and disruptive living and working environment for staff and inmates.  Not surprisingly, during the time frame under review, there had been a steady and continued deterioration in the quality of staff-inmate interactions (dynamic security) at Kent Institution.  For a maximum security facility the experience level of Kent’s front-line staff continues to be low, which no doubt contributes to the challenging behaviours and cultures that prevail at Kent.  Finally, successive changes in the command and leadership of Kent Institution have made it difficult to establish a predictable and accountable management structure capable of turning the corner for good on problems that have plagued Kent for over thirty years.

Investigating workplace culture and labour-management issues as they impact on staff-inmate relations, institutional routines, retained inmate rights and conditions of confinement takes my Office into some previously unchartered investigative territory.  I have appreciated the opportunity to frankly raise and discuss these concerns with you. In the course of this exchange you and your staff have provided some positive feedback, which has helped to clarify the substantive issues arising from this follow-up review. I further note that in the course of the Office’s review that some positive and responsive progress was observed at Kent by the investigative team assigned to this file.

I have now concluded the final phases of my review and consistent with the issues noted above I make the following recommendations which, for convenience and reference purposes, are grouped into three systemic areas of concern:

A. Human Resource Management at Kent Institution

  1. The training, selection, promotion and retention of front-line officers at Kent Institution should be based on clearly identified behavioural and competency profiles.
  2. Kent Institution should implement a mandatory mentoring and coaching program for all new front-line recruits to be delivered by experienced and respected personnel.

B. Selection and Training of New Front-Line Recruits within CSC

  1. Psychological screening, integrity testing and behavioural interviewing should become a mandatory part of CSC’s selection and recruitment process for all front-line positions.
  2. CSC’s core training, curriculum and deployment standards should be reviewed, updated and strengthened in the following areas: dynamic security, mental health in corrections, de-escalation principles and techniques, leadership and accountability (personal and organizational).

C. Health and Wellness at Kent Institution

  1. A management action plan should be developed and implemented to address documented workplace stressors and mental health needs of Kent personnel.
  2. The mental health requirements of Kent inmates should become a matter of focused management concern and priority.
  3. The well-known bullying, harassment and abuse of power by a minority of front-line officers at Kent Institution should be promptly and effectively remedied. 

I look forward to receiving, by the end of February 2014, an action plan that will address the findings and recommendations documented in this correspondence. For the purpose of transparency and accountability, I intend to post the Service’s response on my Office’s website which will serve as an update to my earlier investigation of the unauthorized and dangerous use of force at Kent Institution in January 2010.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation in these matters.

Sincerely,

 

Howard Sapers
Correctional Investigator of Canada