Segregation in Canadian Federal Corrections
A Prison Ombudsman’s Perspective

Ending the Isolation:
An International Conference on Human Rights and Solitary Confinement

University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba
March 22-23, 2013

Ivan Zinger J.D., Ph.D.
Executive Director and General Counsel
Office of the Correctional Investigator

Outline of Presentation

  1. Federal Corrections by the Numbers
  2. Role of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI)
  3. Segregation in Federal Corrections
  4. Segregation Trends
  5. Segregation by any other Name
  6. OCI Concerns and Recommendations

Federal Corrections by the Numbers

  • Offenders serving sentences of two years or more.
  • 14,113 male and 580 women inmates*.
  • 8,445 offenders under community supervision.
  • Correctional Service Canada (CSC): in excess of 19,000 employees.
  • $2.6B budget. Average annual cost of maintaining a federal inmate:
    • $111,000 per male inmate.
    • $214,000 per woman.
  • CSC started adding 2,700 new cells in 30 different facilities.

*Total incarcerated population does not include temporary detainees (i.e., Offenders whose conditional releases were suspended)

Role and Mandate of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI)

  • The Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) acts as an Ombudsman for offenders under Canadian federal jurisdiction (serving a sentence of two years or more):
    • Independent monitoring and oversight of federal corrections.
    • Accessible and timely investigation of offender complaints.
    • Determines whether the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has acted fairly, reasonably and in compliance with law and policy.
    • Makes recommendations to ensure accountability in corrections.
  • The Office was established in 1973 and formally entrenched in legislation in November 1992 with the enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA).

OCI By the Numbers

  • The Office has 32 staff, the majority of which are directly involved in the day-to-day addressing of inmate complaints.
  • 2011-2012
    • Investigators spent 369 days in federal penitentiaries.
    • Responded to approximately 5,600 offender complaints.
    • Interviewed 1,600 offenders.
    • Conducted over 800 use of force reviews and over 140 reviews of deaths in custody and serious bodily injury cases.
    • Recorded over 18,000 toll-free contacts.

Total Offender Population

Table E: Areas of Concern Most Frequently Identified by Offenders




Health Care



Conditions of Confinement



Administrative Segregation






Cell Effects









Decisions (general) - Implementation



Parole Decisions



Private Family Visits



Segregation in Federal Corrections

Segregation Placements

  • Almost 6% of federal inmates are housed in segregation units (approximately on average 850 at any given time).
  • In 2011-2012, there were 8,700 placements in segregation (an increase of about 700 in last 5 years).
  • Aboriginal offenders are over-represented in segregation accounting for 31% of all cases.
  • Black offenders comprise over 10% of segregation cases.
  • Women comprise 5% of admissions to segregation.
  • The average age in segregation is 33 years old (40 general pop.).

Segregation Placements: Reasons

  • In 2011-12 of all admissions to segregation:
    • 16.5% were voluntary admissions.
    • 81.3% were involuntary admissions.
    • 2.2% were disciplinary.

Segregation Placements: Duration

  • 44% of segregated offenders have been in < 30 days.
  • 16.5% > 120 days.

Security Level: Segregation

Security Level: Segregation
  Maximum Medium Multi-Level Total
Segregation 396 424 35 855
Total 2,138 8,430 1,946 14,899
% 18.5% 5.0% 1.8% 5.7%

Offender Profile: Segregation

Offender Profile: Segregation
  Segregation General Population
Murderers 14.4% 19.3%
Violent Offenders 71.7% 52.3%
Serious Drug Offenders 13.6% 12.9%
Sex Offenders* 11.3% 15.3%
Gang Members 16.7% 9.5%

Source: Correctional Service of Canada Data Warehouse as of 2013-01-21
* Sex offenders are also shown in the other offence groups

Segregation Trends

During 2011-2012

  • 20,494 different offenders were incarcerated in a penitentiary at some point and 4,989 different offenders (24.3% of the entire flow-through population) spent some time in segregation.
  • 4,770 men were admitted to segregation on average1.7 times each.
  • 219 women were admitted an average of two times each.
  • The average length of stay was 35 days for a male offender and 7 days for a federally sentenced woman.
  • Aboriginal offenders stay in segregation longer than a non-Aboriginal offender, on average, 37 days compared to 32 days.

Segregation "lite"

  • Currently many institutions run separate units with movement and association restrictions.
  • Known as alternative housing arrangements, secure living environments, special needs units, mental health units, intensive support units or gang ranges.
  • These units operated outside the boundaries of the administrative segregation law, yet have many segregation-like conditions of confinement.
  • Segregation-like units do not have appropriate level of procedural safeguards/oversight.
  • CCRA (Bill C-10) amendments will now define sub-populations.

OCI Concerns

  1. Over-reliance on segregation to manage/observe mentally ill offenders, self-injurious offenders, those at risk of suicide.
    • In these cases, segregation may escalate behaviours associated with mental health illness.
  2. Disproportionate number of suicides and self-injury in segregation.
  3. Disproportionate number of Aboriginal males and females in segregation.
  4. Additional oversight and accountability measures required to monitor segregation placements, decisions and conditions of confinement.
  5. Alternatives to segregation.
  6. Due process required for sub-populations.

Way Forward

  1. An absolute prohibition on the practice of placing mentally ill offenders and those at risk of suicide or serious self-injury in prolonged segregation.
  2. Specialized units or ranges should have documented procedural safeguards in place to include admission and discharge criteria, as well as regular reviews.
  3. Independent adjudication of segregation placements.
  4. Ratification of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).