May 31, 2022
2022 Auditor-General report finds systemic barriers still exist in Correctional Services
Auditor-General Canada: A report from Auditor General, Karen Hogan, tabled today in the House of Commons, concludes that Correctional Service Canada has not adjusted its programs and interventions to respond to the diversity of the offender population. This has resulted in systemic barriers that have persistently disadvantaged certain groups of offenders in custody, consistent with issues reported in previous audits in 2015, 2016, and 2017. In addition, Correctional Service Canada had not met its own commitment to better reflect the diversity of the offender population in its workforce.
“We raised similar issues in our audits in 2015, 2016 and 2017 yet Correctional Service Canada has done little to change the policies, practices, tools and approaches that produce these differing outcomes”, said Ms. Hogan.
The audit found that Black and Indigenous offenders experienced poorer outcomes than any other groups in the federal correctional system and faced greater barriers to a safe and gradual reintegration into society. Disparities were present from the moment offenders entered federal institutions. The process for assigning security classifications—including the use of the Custody Rating Scale and frequent overrides of the scale by corrections staff—resulted in Indigenous and Black offenders being assigned to maximum-security institutions at twice the rate of other groups of offenders. They also remained in custody longer and at higher levels of security before their release.
The audit also found that timely access to correctional programs—an issue raised in past audits—had continued to decline across all groups of offenders, and further worsened during the COVID‑19 pandemic. By December 2021, only 6% of men offenders had accessed the programs they needed before they were first eligible to apply for parole.
“Different outcomes for certain groups of racialized and Indigenous offenders have persisted for too long”, stated Ms. Hogan. “Correctional Service Canada must identify and remove systemic barriers to eliminate systemic racism in corrections, including meeting its own commitment to better reflect the diversity of the offender population in its workforce.”
Systemic barriers to offenders in custody
- Indigenous and Black offenders were placed in higher security institutions
- Timely access to correctional programs continued to decline
- Indigenous offenders remained in custody longer than other offenders
- There was no plan or timeline in place to better reflect the diversity of the offender population in corrections staff
For full details as well as recommendations, click on the following link:
March 10, 2016
Annual Report 2014 – 2015
As of March 2015, Aboriginal inmates represented 24.4% of the total federal custody population while comprising just 4.3% of the Canadian population. In the ten-year period between March 2005 and March 2015, the Aboriginal inmate population increased by more than 50% compared to a 10% overall population growth during the same period. As a group, Aboriginal people accounted for half of the total growth in the federal inmate population over this time period. The situation is even more distressing for federally sentenced Aboriginal women. Over the last ten years, the number of Aboriginal women inmates doubled. At the end of the reporting period, 35.5% of incarcerated women were of Aboriginal ancestry I recommend that CSC publicly release its study of the impact of Aboriginal social history (Gladue factors) on case management and its influence on correctional decision outcomes for Aboriginal offenders. This study should be accompanied by a Management Action Plan.
October 31, 2016
Annual Report 2015 – 2016
In January 2016, the Office reported that the federal correctional system reached a sad milestone – 25% of the inmate population in federal penitentiaries is now comprised of Indigenous people. That percentage rises to more than 35% for federally incarcerated women. Over the last decade, the Prairie Region (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the North West Territories) has led growth in the incarcerated population in federal corrections. It is now the largest of CSC’s regions, both in geographical size and offender population. It also has the largest concentration of the Aboriginal inmate population in federal corrections. Today, 47% of the inmates in the Prairies are Indigenous. Some institutions in the Prairie Provinces can be considered “Indigenous prisons:”
- I again recommend that CSC appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.
- I recommend that the Service develop new culturally appropriate and gender specific assessment tools, founded on Gladue principles, to be used with male and female Indigenous offenders.
- I recommend that CSC’s National Aboriginal Advisory Council (NAAC) review gaps and barriers to increased participation of Elders in federal corrections and publicly release its recommendations by the end of the fiscal year.
October 31, 2017
Annual Report 2016 – 2017
Between 2007 and 2016, while the overall federal prison population increased by less than 5%, the Indigenous prison population increased by 39%. For the last three decades, there has been an increase every single year in the federal incarceration rate for Indigenous people. Today, while Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the Canadian population, as a group they comprise 26.4% of the total federal inmate population. 37.6% of the federal women inmate population is Indigenous. I cannot help but think that the over-incarceration of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in corrections is among the most pressing social justice and human rights issues in Canada today.
I recommend that CSC review its community release strategy for Indigenous offenders with a view to:
- increase the number of Section 81 agreements to include community accommodation options for the care and custody of medium security inmates;
- address discrepancies in funding arrangements between CSC and Aboriginal-managed Healing Lodge facilities, and;
- maximize community interest and engagement in release planning for Indigenous offenders at the earliest opportunity.
June 29, 2018
Annual Report 2017 – 2018
It has been nearly three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (December 18, 2015), to which the Government of Canada committed to implementing all of the recommendations. Little practical progress has been made on the TRC’s ‘Calls to Action’ impacting federal corrections:
- Eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal people and youth in custody over the next decade.
- Implement community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.
- Eliminate barriers to the creation of additional Aboriginal healing lodges within the federal correctional system.
- Enact statutory exemptions from mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for offenders affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
- Reduce the rate of criminal victimization of Aboriginal people.
The Correctional Services Investigator recommendations include the following specific to Indigenous populations:
- I recommend that CSC creates and appoints a Deputy Commissioner level position for Indigenous Affairs to ensure that corporate attention and accountability remains focused on Indigenous issues in federal corrections.
- I recommend that CSC re-allocate very significant resources to negotiate new funding arrangements and agreements with appropriate partners and service providers to transfer care, custody and supervision of Indigenous people from prison to the community. This would include creation of new section 81 capacity in urban areas and section 84 placements in private residences. These new arrangements should return to the original vision of the Healing Lodges and include consultation with Elders.
- To honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ‘calls to action,’ I recommend that CSC spending, budget and resource allocation should better reflect the proportion of Indigenous people serving a federal sentence. Over the next decade, re-allocation of resources and delegation of control to Indigenous communities should be the stated goals of CSC’s contribution to reaching the TRC’s ‘calls to action.’
- I recommend that the CSC develop a National Gang and Dis-Affiliation Strategy and ensure sufficient resources are allocated for its implementation, inclusive of (core and cultural) programs, employment and services. Special attention should be paid to Indigenous-based street gangs. This strategy should:
- be responsive to the unique needs of young Indigenous men and women offenders, including education and meaningful vocational opportunities;
- ensure that non-gang affiliated young adult offenders are not placed where there are gang members who may attempt to recruit or intimidate them;
- facilitate opportunities (e.g. workshops, seminars, public speakers, etc.) where young adults can engage with their culture and/or spirituality, and age-specific activities;
- incorporate best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions and other public safety domains.
February 18, 2020
Annual Report 2018 – 2019
Feb. 18, 2020 – Annual report tabled in House of Commons. The following are ten key recommendations common between two parliamentary committees (the House of Commons Standing Committees on Public Safety and National Security [SECU] and Status of Women [FEWO]) as well as recommendations my Office has made, and continues to call on federal corrections to implement:
- Increasing the number of Section 81 and 84 agreements and the ability of Indigenous inmates to access Healing Lodges.
- Validating existing risk assessment and classification tools and/or developing new tools that are more relevant to the realities of Indigenous peoples in the correctional system.
- Increasing access and availability of culturally-relevant correctional programming for Indigenous peoples.
- Increasing the number of Indigenous staff and providing training on Gladue and Aboriginal Social History to all staff to increase cultural competence, as well as enhance the relevance and effectiveness of services for Indigenous inmates.
- Improving and increasing engagement with Indigenous communities to provide reintegration services for Indigenous offenders being released back to the community.
- Increasing the availability of appropriate and relevant employment and educational programming and training that is informed by labour market needs.
- Improving screening, assessment and diagnosis of mental health issues, specifically Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
- Providing trauma-informed therapeutic approaches to programming and interventions, particularly for Indigenous women.
- Facilitating access to appropriate identification and health cards to all Indigenous offenders prior to their release.
- Appointing a deputy commissioner for Indigenous affairs within federal corrections.
Investigator Comments on CSC Response
Given the overall lack of details and commitments in the Government’s response to the above, it leaves me questioning how the Government (particularly, CSC as it relates to federal corrections) intends to address the specific recommendations made by the Committees. Furthermore, if the government intends to make good on the FEWO Committee’s recommendation of “eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people [and youth] in custody by 2025,” there will need to be coordinated and intentional strategies put in place. The focus needs to shift towards creating and utilizing alternatives to incarceration, increasing access to effective and culturally relevant services for incarcerated Indigenous inmates, and a considerable reallocation of resources to effective community reintegration efforts.
Incorporating Indigenous Specific Risk-factors
- I recommend that in 2019-2020, CSC should:
- publicly respond to how it intends to address the gaps identified in the Ewert v. Canada decision and ensure that more culturally-responsive indicators (i.e., Indigenous social history factors) of risk/need are incorporated into assessments of risk and need; and,
- acquire external, independent expertise to conduct empirical research to assess the validity and reliability of all existing risk assessment tools used by CSC to inform decision-making with Indigenous offenders.
For Indigenous offenders, CSC has developed an Aboriginal Social History (ASH) tool that provides guidance on how to consider ASH in case management practices, recommendations and decisions for Indigenous offenders.
As part of CSC’s Research Plan for 2019-2020, we will also be further considering the design of a case management assessment tool specifically for use with Indigenous offenders.
National Aboriginal Advisory Group
- I recommend that CSC, in consultation with the National Aboriginal Advisory Committee and the National Elders Working Group, implement an action plan with deliverables for clarifying the role of Elders and reducing Elder vulnerability within CSC and report publicly on these plans by the end of 2019-2020.
CSC has been addressing the topic of Elder vulnerability on an ongoing basis and in 2017 published Elder Vulnerability within CSC: A Summary of Discussions with Elders, Recommendations and Action Plans. https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/aboriginal/002003-1012-en.shtml. CSC will continue to facilitate ongoing extensive collective discussions and consultations with the NEWG on improvements for CSC Elders and Elder vulnerability at the upcoming NAAC and NEWG meetings. Additionally, as part of CSC’s ongoing commitment to improving results for Indigenous offenders, Elder Orientation was developed in consultation with the NAAC and the NEWG, and was implemented across the regions as Elders commence their contract with CSC. The Elder Orientation is now integrated into the onboarding process for newly contracted Elders. The Orientation provides information on working within CSC, key expectations and avenues for support. The Elder Orientation was rolled out early in fiscal year 2018-19. All Elders currently under contract with CSC have received Elder Orientation.
October 27, 2020
Annual Report 2019-2020
I recognize that many of the causes of Indigenous over-representation reside in factors beyond the criminal justice system. However, when I issued the statement, I noted that consistently poorer correctional outcomes for Indigenous offenders (e.g.)
- more likely to be placed or classified as maximum security
- more likely to be involved in use of force and self-injury incidents,
- less likely to be granted conditional release
suggests that federal corrections makes its own contribution to the problem of over-representation. For example, a recent national recidivism study shows that Indigenous people reoffend or are returned to custody at much higher levels, as high as 65% for Indigenous men in the Prairie region within five years of release. A higher rate of readmission to custody (revocations or reoffending) suggests shortcomings in the system’s capacity to prepare and assist Indigenous offenders to live a law- abiding life after release from custody.
In the coming year, my Office will be launching a series of in-depth investigations examining
a selection of programs and services in CSC’s Indigenous Continuum of Care. The Office’s review of Indigenous Corrections will also include a deeper probe of the over-involvement of Indigenous offenders in use of force incidents including comparative data and findings on the causes, frequency, type and severity of force used. Preliminary and previous work in this area (e.g. An Investigation of the Treatment and Management of Chronic Self-Injury among Federally Sentenced Women, September 2013) suggests that specific attention needs to be paid to the circumstances and social histories of Indigenous women, particularly those who present with serious mental health issues, as they appear to be vastly over-represented in use of force incidents among federally sentenced women.
February 10, 2022
Annual Report 2020-2021
- I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety 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. # 1
(Indigenous individuals accounted for close to 60% of all positive COVID-19 cases in federal prisons in period November 2020 through Feb. 2021)
- I recommend that CSC promptly develop an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between use-of-force and systemic 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. # 7
- I recommend that CSC 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. # 9
- I recommend that CSC 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. # 11
Recommendations based on suicide of an Indigenous inmate:
- I recommend that CSC’s team of national investigators within the Incident Investigations Branch (IIB) 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. (#16)
- I recommend that a Gladue-informed summary of M’s case 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. (#17)
- I recommend that CSC 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. (#18)
- I recommend that the Commissioner proactively issue a formal apology to M’s family for the systemic failures of Correctional Service Canada. (#19)
January 21, 2020
Office of Correctional Investigator 2020 report
Toronto Star – The same urgent calls to action are raised in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), as well as two recent parliamentary committee studies on Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system. These bodies have called upon the federal government to implement measures recommended by the Office including:
- Transfer resources and responsibility to Indigenous groups and communities for the care, custody and supervision of Indigenous offenders.
- Appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.
- Increase access and availability of culturally relevant correctional programming.
- Clarify and enhance the role of Indigenous elders.
- Improve engagement with Indigenous communities and enhance their capacity to provide reintegration services.
- Enhance access to screening, diagnosis and treatment of Indigenous offenders affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
- Develop assessment and classification tools responsive to the needs and realities of Indigenous people caught up in the criminal justice system.
As Dr. Zinger concluded: “It is not acceptable that Indigenous people in this country experience incarceration rates that are six to seven times higher than the national average. Bold and urgent action is required to address one of Canada’s most persistent and pressing human rights issues.”