Correctional Investigator’s 2017-18 Annual Report calls for more openness, transparency, and accountability in Federal Corrections

For Immediate Release

OTTAWA, October 30, 2018 – The 45th Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) was tabled in Parliament today.  In remarks accompanying the release of his report, the Correctional Investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, referred to the recent appointment of Ms. Anne Kelly as the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), as well as the mandate letter issued to her by the Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Ralph Goodale.

“I applaud the Government’s initiative in issuing a public mandate letter for Commissioner Kelly,” stated Dr. Zinger. “For the first time, government direction, corporate priorities, and expectations for the Correctional Service of Canada have been laid out in a clear public statement.  Renewed leadership and greater openness, transparency, and accountability in corrections are welcomed developments. I urge the new Commissioner to restore focus on CSC’s purpose to assist and prepare offenders for safe and timely reintegration.”

The Correctional Investigator pointed out that many measures in the Commissioner’s mandate letter align with recommendations made in his report:

  • Enhancing education behind bars, including post-secondary opportunities.
  • Providing inmate access to supervised use of information technology (e.g., monitored email and internet, on-line learning, and in-cell tablets).
  • Re-examining CSC’s governance structure in order to ensure greater integration of Indigenous needs and perspectives into CSC decisions at the senior level (e.g., appointing a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections);
  • Reallocating significant resources to fund Healing Lodges and community alternatives managed by Indigenous communities;
  • Ensuring that use-of-force incidents are fully and transparently investigated, and that lessons learned are implemented.

This year’s report also contains a comprehensive review of the December 2016 deadly riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. The Office’s focus on identifying the causes and catalysts of the riot raises significant concerns about the adequacy and appropriateness of the Correctional Service investigating itself, and how it accounts for and reports on serious incidents and deaths in federal penitentiaries.

Though CSC’s internal National Board of Investigation concluded that the riot was a spontaneous and random event that could not have been predicted or prevented, the Office’s review of these events found otherwise. For example, the Office concluded that food quantity and quality issues were contributing factors to this riot, contradicting the Service’s claim that the riot was unrelated to food services. Moreover, CSC’s public account of the riot (Case Summary) did not reflect the findings of its internal investigation. The Office found CSC’s investigation to be superficial, self-serving, and not credible.

In the interest of public accountability, openness, and transparency, the Correctional Investigator stated: “I have recommended to the Minister of Public Safety that CSC should not investigate itself in rare circumstances involving a riot, death or suicide in solitary confinement, or death following a use of force intervention.”

In sum, this year’s Annual Report makes 21 recommendations touching on a variety of issues and concerns in federal corrections, including:

  1. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) guidelines for federal corrections.
  2. Use of compassionate release provisions for terminally ill offenders.
  3. Clinical independence and prison health care governance.
  4. Transfer of self-injurious, suicidal, and severely mentally ill inmates to external psychiatric hospitals.
  5. Movement levels in the Secure Units (maximum security) at the regional women’s facilities.

As the ombudsman for federally sentenced offenders, the Office of the Correctional Investigator serves Canadians and contributes to safe, lawful and humane corrections through independent oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada by providing accessible, impartial and timely investigation of individual and systemic concerns. The report cited in this release is available at: www.oci-bec.gc.ca. 

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For more information, please contact:
Marie-France Kingsley, Executive Director
(613) 990-2690
Marie-France.Kingsley@oci-bec.gc.ca