Office of the Correctional Investigator
48th Annual Report to Parliament
2020 – 2021
Presentation Deck

February 2022


Overview and Contents

  • Correctional Investigator’s Message, summarizing the impact of COVID-19 on federal corrections.

  • Review of significant cases and updates on major files, including sexual coercion and violence behind bars.

  • Six national investigations – use of force, women’s corrections, Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), medical isolation, prison suicide and Canadian ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

  • Assessment of the mandatory reporting burden imposed on small and micro-agencies, like the OCI.

  • Twenty recommendations – including four outside the direct responsibility of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

  • Correctional Investigator’s Outlook for federal corrections in 2021-22.


2020-21 OCI Annual Statistics

  • $5.4 M budget

  • 38 FTEs

  • 10 days spent in facilities + 43 virtual visits

  • 4,509 offender complaints

  • 481 interviews with offenders and staff

  • 1,471 use of force reviews

  • 136 deaths in custody and serious bodily injury reviews

  • 19,143 contacts (including toll-free phone)

  • 3.7M website page views (112,405 unique visitors)


National Investigations


1. Use of Force

Purpose: This investigation examines the intersection of racial representation and involvement of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Colour (BIPOC), and other vulnerable persons in use of force incidents.

General Findings

  • Use of force incidents have risen steadily over the last five years, despite an overall decline in the prison population.

  • Inflammatory spray (pepper spray) continues to be over-utilized and remains the most common type of force used in federal prisons.

  • A significant proportion of persons involved in use of force incidents had a history of suicide, self-injury, and/or other mental health need.


Use of Force

Specific Findings

  • Race was found to be uniquely associated with over-representation of Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Colour (BIPOC) in use of force incidents in federal prisons.

  • On average, Black and Indigenous individuals experience proportionately more use of force incidents than any other racial group.

  • Use of force in federal corrections appears vulnerable to the influence of racial bias.


Use of Force: Recommendations

  1. CSC should conduct an in-depth evaluation of the Engagement and Intervention Model (EIM) with a view to implementing changes that will reduce the over-reliance on force options overall, particularly inflammatory sprays, and provide concrete strategies for adopting evidence-based, non-force options for resolving incidents.

  2. CSC should review and revise its policy and practice regarding use of inflammatory sprays when responding to incidents involving individuals who are self-harming or suicidal, with a view to reducing their use when responding to individuals who are experiencing mental health crises.

  3. CSC should develop a reliable method for administratively tracking individuals with mental health concerns in order to identify how policies and practices, such as use-of-force, impact this particularly vulnerable population.

  4. CSC should promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic racism against Indigenous and Black individuals and publicly report on actionable changes to policy and practice that will effectively reduce the over-representation of these groups among those exposed to uses of force.


2. Women’s Corrections

Purpose: This investigation examines progress made in women’s corrections over the last 30 years against the principles and problems identified in Creating Choices, the 1990 Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women.

General Findings

  • Admissions and counts in women’s federal correctional facilities have more than tripled since 1990.

  • Today, Indigenous women comprise 43% of the federally sentenced women population, up from 23% in 1990.


Women’s Corrections

Specific Findings

  • Many of the progressive principles and ideas of Creating Choices – presumption of minimum-security classification at admission; no perimeter fencing; no maximum-security units; no segregation for incarcerated women; use of strip-searching – have been abandoned in favour of a framework that puts security and control at the forefront.

  • Access to programs, services, and interventions for women remain problematic:

    • Indigenous women have limited access to specialized programming, Elders, and Indigenous Liaison Officers.

    • Job training for women is often grounded in gendered roles and expectations, offering few marketable skills.


Women’s Corrections: Recommendations

  1. CSC should conduct an external review to evaluate all security practices within women’s facilities with a view to eliminating or reducing overly secure procedures that move women’s corrections further away from the objectives identified in Creating Choices.

  2. CSC should conduct an independent in-depth study of its Women Offender Correctional Program (WOCP) and Indigenous Women Offender Correctional Program (IWOCP) to better understand why the programs have been deficient in producing improved correctional outcomes for participants, particularly for Indigenous women.

  3. CSC should significantly increase the use of temporary absences and work releases for women, particularly those in minimum security, to ensure they can regularly access the community to provide more options and enhance their opportunities for successful reintegration.

  4. CSC should return to the basic principles identified in Creating Choices and develop a long-term strategy to ensure that all women are prepared at their earliest date possible to return to the community and that significant resources be reallocated to the community supervision program and community correctional programming to support women back in the community.

  5. Alternative accommodations for women housed in secure units should be pursued along with the eventual closure of all secure units. If secure units remain open, they should only be used for temporary removal and separation of women after a serious incident until a proper alternative placement is found.


3. Structured Intervention Units (SIUs)

Purpose: This investigation looks at the introduction of SIUs in penitentiaries, which replaced solitary confinement (administrative segregation) in November 2019.

Preliminary Observations

  • Problems with data collection, accountability and transparency limit assessment of SIU compliance with mandated measures, e.g., out of cell time, “meaningful” human contact, reason for placement.

  • No public records regarding compliance with Independent External Decision Maker (IEDM) removal orders from SIUs.

  • SIUs purportedly have more favourable conditions of confinement and better access to services compared to other areas of maximum-security facilities. As a result, prisoners often refuse to voluntarily leave these units.


SIUs: Recommendations

  1. CSC should publish forthwith a quarterly record of SIU placement authorizations under section 34 (2) of the CCRA, including the reasons cited for granting authorization. This record should also include the number of instances where individuals were subjected to Restricted Movement under section 37.91 (1) of the CCRA.

  2. CSC should finalize and publish a timeline indicating how it plans to meet its legislated reporting requirements under section 37 (2) (Obligations of the Service) and section 32 (3) (Physical Barriers), as well as under section 37.2 (Health care recommendations).


4. Use of Medical Isolation

Purpose: This investigation examines the use of medical isolation (quarantine periods) in context of reducing COVID-19 transmission in federal prisons.

Major Findings

  • CSC’s approach to medical isolation has the potential to violate or degrade residual liberties and minimum standards guaranteed in law (e.g. access to fresh air exercise, out of cell time, access to programs and services).

  • Use of medical isolation in CSC facilities appears to far exceed the need, potentially extending beyond quarantine periods and cases recommended by public health authorities.


Medical Isolation: Recommendations

  1. Commissioner’s Directive 822 (Medical Isolation and Modified Routine for COVID-19) should be immediately revised to include:

    1. Definitions that clearly distinguish between the practice of medical isolation and quarantine, including clinically relevant criteria where appropriate.

    2. Service standards (time restrictions, response times) for medical clearance and the institutional head’s authorization to discontinue medical isolation and quarantine.

    3. Time restrictions for quarantine and medical isolation, with clear guidelines to allow for the extension of restrictions as per the advice of health care.

    4. A requirement that any stays in medical isolation beyond 14-days be flagged in the offender management system (OMS), and be subject to the same level of review and oversight as those in place for Structured Intervention Units.

    5. Basic expectations for conditions of confinement including out-of-cell, yard, and shower time, access to video visitation, and health care visits.


5. Prison Suicide

Purpose and Context: This investigation examines a series of systemic failures that contributed to the suicide of a young Indigenous man (M) in a maximum-security facility. After an assault on his life and fearful for his safety, M was maintained in segregation or other restrictive confinement until his suicide six months later.

Systemic Failures

  • M was subject to involuntary transfers to alleviate his segregation status. Solitary confinement was often used to manage his disruptive, assaultive, and self-injurious behaviours. With each transfer, M became increasingly disengaged and withdrawn.

  • A comprehensive assessment of M’s suicidal risk was never completed.

  • Acts of self-injury were considered instrumental or wilful in nature, and were often met with force.

  • No coordinated mental health continuum of care was present among the various transfer sites.

  • M’s Indigenous status, which should have informed his care and treatment plans, was not taken into account in sentence administration.


Prison Suicide: Recommendations

  1. CSC’s team of national investigators within the Incident Investigations Branch (IIB) should be comprehensively trained in the principles and practices of Gladue analysis and Gladue report writing (Indigenous social history). Further, National Boards of Investigation into a person of Indigenous ancestry should be principally led, investigated, and written from an Indigenous social history perspective.

  2. A Gladue-informed summary of M’s case should be prepared and used as a national training and learning tool for all CSC staff. In the interests of transparency and accountability, any documentation prepared to meet my recommendations in this case should be made public.

  3. CSC should discontinue the practice of labeling non-suicidal self-injurious behaviour in prison settings as “instrumental,” “willful,” or “deliberate” in nature or intent. A comprehensive mental health assessment of self-injurious and suicidal persons should be completed, and clear guidance provided to front line staff in how to manage and de-escalate incidents of self-injurious and suicidal behaviour.

  4. The Commissioner should proactively issue a formal apology to M’s family for the systemic failures of Correctional Service Canada.


6. Canada’s Ratification of OPCAT

Concern: Canada has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. The OPCAT would create a framework for independent national and international inspection of all places of detention in Canada.

  • Canada lacks a coordinated and proactive framework of monitoring and inspection of places where citizens are deprived of their liberty.

  • Federally, the OPCAT would create a single mechanism for inspection of detention facilities under federal authority (penitentiaries, immigration holding centres, Canadian Forces Service Prisons and Detention Barracks, and RCMP holding cells).

  • More broadly, the OPCAT would extend to all places and persons deprived of liberty regardless of cause, circumstance, or context.


Reporting Burden of Micro Agencies

  • As a micro-agency, the OCI has the same mandatory reporting requirements as the Correctional Service of Canada (19,000 employees).

  • The Office is required to issue 40 corporate reports each year, many of which are redundant, bureaucratic or duplicative.

  • The burden to produce these reports detracts from the delivery of the Office’s core mandate.

  • Essential elements of public reporting (transparency, results for Canadians, performance, accountability, value for money) can be condensed into a single 12-page report, which is appended to this year’s Annual Report.


Other Recommendations

  1. The Minister of Public Safety should engage the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct an independent epidemiological study of the differential rates of COVID-19 infection and spread in Canadian federal prisons and report results and recommendations publicly.

  2. The Minister of Public Safety should promptly conduct an in-depth review of the community corrections sector with a view to considerably enhancing financial, technical and infrastructure supports. Funding for a reinvigorated community corrections model could be re-profiled from institutional corrections in direct proportion to declining warrants of committal and returning admissions, and the planned and gradual closures of redundant or archaic penitentiaries.

  3. The President of Treasury Board should recognize the reporting burden of small and micro agencies, and play a leadership role by developing a whole-of-government approach to alleviate this burden. Before full legal and regulatory reforms can be introduced, Treasury Board Secretariat should consider legal exemptions for eligible small and micro agencies to start reporting differently.

  4. The Prime Minister of Canada should fulfill this Government’s commitment by signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and taking concrete steps within the next four years to ensure this important human rights instrument is ratified.


Correctional Investigator’s Outlook

Areas of OCI Focus for 2021-2022

  • Review Office’s response and effectiveness through COVID-19 and implement lessons learned.

  • Formalize our approach to systemic investigations and prison inspections.

  • Launch an external stakeholder engagement strategy.

Thematic Investigations in 2021-2022

  • Indigenous programs.

  • Update of the Black inmate experience.

  • Restrictive confinement in maximum-security facilities.