In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Correctional Investigator's Annual Report Critical of CSC

Stark Raven News
November 19, 2004

The Office of the Correctional Investigator released its Annual 2003-2004 Report on November 18, 2004. The report continues to criticize the CSC for not taking action on a number of issues. These include issues facing Aboriginal prisoners and women prisoners. The report also calls for needle exchanges to be set up inside prisons and the repeal of the automatic minimum 2 year maximum security classification for people serving life sentences.

The Correctional Investigator usually directs the report to the Commissioner of Corrections. This year there are four recommendations directed to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.

The Correctional Investigator points out that many of the recommendations from this year’s report, have been made in year’s past, and the continue to remain unaddressed.

In terms of Aboriginal prisoners, the report recommends ensuring an Aboriginal presence and perspective at the Senior Management level. It also calls for an independent review of policies and procedures related to discriminatory barriers to timely reintegration of Aboriginal prisoners into the community.

The report notes that:
“While 41% of non-Aboriginal male offenders are on conditional release only 31% of Aboriginal offenders are serving their time in the community. For women offenders 57% of non-Aboriginals are on conditional release while only 38% of Aboriginal women are serving their sentence in the community. This gap has not significantly changed over the past decade.”

The Report also makes a number of recommendation in terms of women in prison.

The Correctional Investigator continues to call for a "final response plan”, based on a number of recommendations that required further study, as mandated in Madame Justice Arbour's 1996 report. (based on Madame Justice Arbour's Commission of Inquiry into the events at the Prison for Women) There are also 4 recommendations that were referred to Justice Canada in 1996 for review that remain unaddressed.

The Correctional Investigator also demands the Department provide a public response to the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommendations by October 31, 2004. [The Canadian Human Rights Commission released a report in January 2004 entitled Protecting Their Rights – A Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for Federally Sentenced Women. It details a number of areas where the federal prison system discriminates against women in prison.]

The annual report continues by calling for “decisive action” in the implementation of a safe needle exhange program inside prisons. The Correctional Investigator says that if the CSC does not implement the program by March 31, 2005, then the Minister of Public Safety must direct the introduction of the program.

Needle exchange programs have been recommended inside prisons for more than a decade. A recent report, Prison Needle Exchange: Lessons From a Comprehensive Review of International Evidence and Experience, released by Canadian HIV – AIDS Legal Network continues the demand for needle exchange programs inside prisons. According to the latest report, the prevalence of HIV rates in prison are at least 10 times higher than in the general population and between 20% to 40% of prisoners are living with Hepatitis C.

It is CSC policy that for prisoners serving life sentences their classification be maximum security for (at least) the first 2 years of their sentence. The Correctional Investigator demands the repeal of this policy. The reports states the Minister of Public Safety needs to initiate a review on both the legality of the policy and its impact on individual prisoners over the next three years. In the interim, CSC needs to ensure that a revised review procedure for exemptions to maximum security classifications is implemented by August 31, 2004.

This 2 year minimum policy was implemented in February of 2001. The position of the Office of the Correctional Investigator continues to be that the policy is unreasonable, contrary to law, and improperly discriminatory.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission Report of January 2004 also recommended that the policy "be rescinded immediately in favour of a fair and balanced individual assessment".

For the full Report of the Correctional Investigator:

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Human Rights Commission Criticizes Situation for Women in Prison
Press Release From Elizabeth Fry Society on Human Rights Commission Report
Annual Report of Correctional Investigator Critical of CSC (2002-2003)
Interviews (audio) on Human Rights Commission Investigation into Women in Prison