Prison & the media. Progress?

SEE “The House is back in session….” published on February 5 of this year.  That January 30 letter to Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly about a long-delayed revision to a media relations policy was copied to a member of her staff, plus six politicians, two senators, two public servants working with the public safety ministry, the correctional investigator, and one of his deputies.  No partridge in a pear tree.

Three years in the making, so far, this revised Commissioner’s Directive first promised for June of 2020 is still not on the books.  The tardiness in updating a delinquent internal regulation should have been a straightforward exercise to comply with the law and the Charter.  Instead, it meandered through a bureaucratic labyrinth on its way to God knows where.

Could the shame of being called out for typical government excessive procrastination explain why not one of those elected, appointed, and employed civil servants even acknowledged a concern for the human rights of one group of Canadians?

What was more or less a footnote to that February 5 posting noted that an access to information request was sent to Correctional Service of Canada asking for a copy of the new directive.  It was meant to be cheeky.  Impudent as it was, an 18-page draft copy of the revised media relations policy showed up on email.  It’s a “controlled version 2023-02-98” and it’s still due to review according to the title page, but also indicates it’ll be in effect in 2023.

A letter to CSC Commissioner Kelly is self-explanatory:

March 15, 2023

Anne Kelly, Commissioner,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

By way of an information request to CSC, I received a copy of an otherwise undated 2022 revision to Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations.  The draft is dated February 8, 2023, and labelled “Controlled Version 2023-02-08.”  A notation on the title page suggests this will come into effect in 2023 although there’s no specific date.

I cannot offer an opinion on the degree to which the revisions to the media relations policy meet the recommendations in Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger’s December 19, 2019, letter to you.  I am not a lawyer and cannot make a judgement on the policy’s compliance with the word and spirit of the Acts and Regulations that govern CSC, and the relevant Charter provisions.  No doubt, Dr. Zinger was once encouraged when your February 24, 2020, letter to him expected the revised CD 22 to be available by the end of June 2020.  I can say that, like him, many in the community are relieved to finally see this project come to fruition.

Three years have passed since this process began.  An old cliché is appropriate here.  “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it.”  You’ve got to publish sometime, don’t you?

Yours truly,

The other 15 named on February 5th in “The House is back in session….” were copied.   A note was added for the six politicians and the two public safety ministry public servants as a reminder that doing the right thing is more important than playing politics.

The message to Marco Mendicino samples the body of that memo to the other seven:

March 15, 2023

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A2

Minister Mendicino:

This covers a copy of today’s letter to Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly, a follow-up to my January 30 letter, also copied to you.  Through an access to information request, I did receive a draft copy of the revised Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations.

Noteworthy is that none of the six MPs and two public safety ministry civil servants who were copied on that January 30th letter acknowledged the concern it raised about the human rights of inmates incarcerated in Canada’s federal prison industry.

Doing the right thing is eclipsed by politics, isn’t it.  It seems the Canadian government’s attitude to Correctional Service of Canada has a Victorian perspective.  You know, the one that says, “I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

It’s a pity covering one’s butt takes top billing.

Progress?  We’ll see.


Prisons – The “why” question

This writer lived a year in Vancouver in the late 60s, and at one point spent a spring weekend visiting a friend in the town of Duncan on Vancouver Island, travelling by ferry to Nanaimo and then a bus south to Duncan, about half-way to Victoria.  The routing along Trans-Canada Highway 1 passed down the main street of picturesque and colourful Ladysmith where some of the town’s buildings appeared to have façades larger than the structures behind them, reminiscence of early Western settlements.

That begged the question of how and why those false fronts were an architectural feature in frontier towns.  Possibilities come easily, but more important for this purpose here and now is how Correctional Service of Canada is a constant reminder of those long-ago buildings in Ladysmith.  What one sees, what one hears, what one is expected to assume, accept, and believe about our prison agency and its operations is too often a false front masking a reality that is purposely and aggressively shrouded to protect the status quo.

There have been frequent references in this space, including the lead-in for the last posting, to a relevant quote from the Senate of Canada’s 2019 interim report on prison human rights, references such as, “The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out.”  Why is that?  What is it that Canada’s prison industry so intent on keeping from the public eye?

Why that is has been on turnoverarocktoday’s front burner since the site’s inception in the fall of 2014, and before that with Klassen’s Mailing List and earlier with Klassen’s Korner.  More importantly, so it is too with the Office of the Correctional Investigator, established in 1973 as an ombudsman for prisoners and which has recently published its 49th Annual Report.

The OCI is government funded, with several investigators and support staff.  Copied from its site:- “In any given year, the Office receives and responds to 5,000-6000 offender complaints….the Office meets regularly with inmate committees and other offender organizations and makes regularly scheduled announced visits at each institution….will meet with any inmate, or group of inmates, upon request….over the course of reporting year 2021-2022, in excess of three hundred meetings with various offender organizations, including inmate committees, lifer groups, black inmate associations, native brotherhoods and sisterhoods.”

The correctional investigator and his staff annually make several recommendations to accompany its annual reports (there were 18 in 2021-2022).  Many are repeated from previous years, and some have been on the list for up to a decade or more.  To the discredit of the Ministry of Public Safety which oversees Correction Service of Canada and, in an earlier incarnation, created the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the ombudsman was made a paper tiger, unable to do more than consult, recommend, and advise.

Why did CSC wait through years of OCI recommendations to agree to establish an office of an assistant commissioner for Indigenous affairs?  And as is the case when it announced last year an intent to do that, the order came from the boss, Minister Mendicino of Public Safety, and not because of OCI multiple requests.  Is there a timeline for getting the office up and running?  Why has turnovrarocktoday published numerous entries about an agreed-on revision between CSC and OCI for prison policy regarding inmate contact with the media when three years have passed since the commissioner of prisons undertook to have it on the books by June of 2020?  That has still to materialize.

Why is it that there are so many complaints from prisoners?  Why so many recommendations from the OCI?  Correctional Service of Canada has a mandate to rehabilitate and safely return inmates to the community, it operates with a considerable number of policy directives to meet those outcomes and has its own self-monitoring process.  What’s more, CSC says it’s doing what is should be doing, admitting to challenges along the way, but messaging that all’s well to the OCI, its political and bureaucratic masters, the public, and of course the offenders in its charge, and the families, supporters and organizations that advocate for their welfare.

Lawsuits are an option when complaints and grievances don’t get results.  (Grievances are a subject for another time.)  Lawyers employed by or under the direction of the Ministry of the Attorney General respond to actions against the government, and given the ministry’s workload, the process is grueling and drawn out.  Actions against the prison system are filed by inmates as individuals or in groups as class actions.  There are millions in costs, settlements and awards every year, all financed by tax dollars.

We submitted an access to information request to the Attorney General a year ago asking for the total amount paid to satisfy court awards and settlements during the latest fiscal year with respect to claims against CSC.   It took time to answer the ministry’s requests for clarification.  The response came in late summer.  Apparently, money is a matter of solicitor client privilege and exempt from disclosure.  We passed on an opportunity to appeal on the grounds that we wanted a single total amount, rather than a breakdown by case.

What was sent instead was thirty-two pages listing current cases involving our prison system.  Many entries involved the same complaint, but the total still numbered in the 100s.

Why wouldn’t we be asking “why”?

Prisons vs the dreaded media

“The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out.  As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny.  Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
THE SENATE OF CANADA, HUMAN RIGHTS IN PRISON, FEBRUARY, 2019 (Reprinted last in November of 2022)

That’s how Correctional Service of Canada wants it.  Accountability and transparency are what it says they are.  So, when CSC jurisdiction over media scrutiny through contact with inmates came into question in 2019, damage control ramped up.

The revision to Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations has been under observation here since late 2021, when it seemed apparent changes promised by CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly in February, 2020, hadn’t materialized.  Numerous entries in this space catalog the process from Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger’s introduction of the subject to CSC late in 2019, to the present, where we are still waiting to see the fruit of this policy reshaping.

Through an access to information request almost a year ago, we received a copy of Commissioner Kelly’s February 24, 2020, letter to Correctional Investigator Zinger, acknowledging his December 18, 2019, letter to her on the subject, writing that “the revised CD 022 will be available by the end of June 2020.”  What we had not done until very recently was to make an access to information request to the correctional investigator’s office for a copy of Dr. Zinger’s December 18, 2019, letter to Ms. Kelly.  The response with a copy of that two-and-a-half-page letter arrived quickly and it underscored our oversight in not asking for it earlier.

Quotes rather than a reprint of Dr. Zinger’s entire letter will avoid wading through details that, while important, do not address the bottom line.

To note a point on familiarity, the OCI acts as an ombudsman for prison inmates.  Its relationship with CSC need not be confrontational, even though the OCI Annual Reports takes CSC to task, and often with a hard edge.  All the same, there must be a distance between the two agencies to allow for critical engagement.  The copy of Dr. Zinger’s December 18, 2019, letter arrived with a Correctional Service of Canada date stamp, acknowledging receipt in the commissioner’s office on December 19.  Further, Dr. Zinger crossed out “Ms. Kelly” on the typed “Dear Ms. Kelly” salutation and wrote “Anne” instead.  Too collegial?

We learn that the CSC policy regarding media relations has been due for revision since January of 2016.  We learn that Dr. Zinger and Ms. Kelly met on November 26, 2019, to “share concerns” about “certain aspects” of CD 022.  We learn that those certain aspects “appear to overstep the law and authority conferred by the Corrections and Conditional Release Ace (CCRA) and Regulations (CCRR).”

What brought this to the forefront was a woman journalist (all names, dates, and identifying information is redacted) who contacted the OCI office regarding a request to interview an inmate, a request that was initially rejected by CSC, and then followed by lengthy delays with a reconsideration of the decision.  We don’t learn if that interview with the inmate took place, but “the legality and unreasonableness” of the section of the policy that led to her contacting the OCI is where the current circumstance began.

Dr. Zinger points out as an example that a CSC policy criterion that includes how a media interview might influence how inmates conduct themselves and demonstrate respect for others cannot reasonably be considered relevant.  Further, section 4 of the CCRA provides that “CSC must facilitate the involvement of members of the public in matters relating to the operations of the Service, and, offenders retain the right of all members of society except those that are, as a consequence of the sentence, lawfully and necessarily removed or restricted.  These authorities govern inmate access to the median, not behavioural expectations.”

“There is a more pressing point to be considered here, namely, access to the media in a free and democratic society.  Media access is a recognized democratic principle, a constitutionally guaranteed right of all citizens, including those deprived of liberty.  An incarcerated person does not forfeit the right to freedom of expression, and the wider public has a right to be informed of what goes on behind prison walls.”

Okay, so these are brief excerpts from this much more detailed letter, but the bottom line is front and centre.
Why are we still waiting?  Why are we waiting for an explanation for why we’re still waiting?

The House is back in session….


Correctional Service of Canada, Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations

Three letters posted on January 30th addressed the delay in releasing the new prison policy on inmate contact with the media, a focus of this space many times over the last two years.

First, to the commissioner….

Anne Kelly, Commissioner,
National Headquarters, Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

I ask you to review your February 24, 2020, letter to Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger concerning the revision of Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations.

As you recall, Dr. Zinger pointed out that this CD may not follow the Charter and “recognized democratic principles” with respect to offender media contacts, as the OCI 2019-2020 Annual Report detailed.  To quote from your February 24 letter, “We have reviewed the comments that you and your organization provided when CD 022 was distributed for external consultation on February 4, 2020.  I am confident that you will find the revise version reflects the elements you raised in both your letter and during the consultation.  We expect that the revised CD 022 will be available by the end of June 2020.”

Associate Assistant Commissioner Colette Cibula from the CSC Communications & Engagement office wrote me on February 8 of 2022 that the renewal of the directive “is now nearly complete……and are finalizing internal reviews before publishing it.”  On June 27, Ms. Cibula wrote, “CD-022 is in the final stages of approval before being published.”  Lastly, Ms. Cibula wrote again on July 28 to say, “I am happy to commit to you, Mr. Klassen, to share with you the CD directly once it is promulgated.  In short order.”

Three years?  That models a test of patience.  When will we see a compliant media relations directive?

cc         Colette Cibula. Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement

Copied also:-

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety,
MP, Eglinton – Lawrence

The Honourable Marci Ien, Minister of Women & Gender Equality & Youth,
MP, Toronto Centre

The Honourable Senator Salma Ataullahjan, Chair,
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights

The Honourable Senator Kim Pate
The Senate of Canada

Mr. Ron McKinnon, MP, Chair,
Standing Committee on Public Safety & National Security

Ms. Raquel Dancho, MP, Vice-Chair,
Standing Committee on Public Safety & National Security

Ms. Kristina Michaud, MP, Vice-Chair,
Standing Committee on Public Safety & National Security

Ms. Pam Damoff, MP, Parliamentary Secretary,
Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Shawn Tupper, Deputy Minister of Public Safety,
Public Safety Canada

Ms. Tricia Geddes, Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety,
Public Safety Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator

Ms. Stacie Ogg, Deputy Director,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator

Catherine Latimer, Executive Director,
The John Howard Society of Canada

Mr. Patrick White,
The Globe and Mail, Toronto

Secondly, a cover letter went with Minister Mendicino’s copy:-

The Honourable Marco Mendicino,
Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re:      Correctional Service of Canada
Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations

Dear Minister Mendicino:

I am a Liberal Party supporter, albeit an unhappy Liberal Party supporter.  One leading irritation is my government’s minister’s readiness to sidestep accountability.

You or one of your senior staff would do well to remind CSC Commissioner Kelly that her prolonged delay in publishing the revised CD 022 while touting the importance of accountability and transparency within her Agency is a cloud over your ministry.  This alone is my fourth prompt that the delay is untenable.

Minister, this begs the question that if doing the right thing here seems so easily dismissed, one might ask just how widespread this practice is?

Copied to:-

cc         MPs Marci Ien/Ron McKinnon/Raquel Dancho/Kristina Michaud/Pam Damoff
Senators Salma Ataullahjan/Kim Pate
Public Safety Canada Shawn Tupper/Tricia Geddes

Thirdly was a cover letter added to the Correctional Investigator’s copy:-

January 30, 2023

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Re:      Correctional Service of Canada,
Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations

Dear Dr. Zinger:

No doubt your resources are stretched, and your patience constantly tested.

The delay in seeing the publication of the revised CD 022 must be among the many items on your follow-up list.

Is Commissioner Kelly unaware that refusing to release this update, three years after initiating the process, makes a lie of the Agency’s commitment to accountability and transparency?

I assume you message her often to that point.

cc         Stacie Ogg, Deputy Director

To finish this with some whipped cream topped by a maraschino cherry, an access to information request asking for a copy of the new directive went to Correctional Service of Canada in Ottawa.

You’ve read it here before…..this isn’t going away.


Why are we still talking about…..


“I can only say that I do not think it is absurd to suggest that a person should not be kept locked up in a small cell 24 hours a day, and that if there were security concerns , they should be dealt with otherwise than by simply denying an inmate an opportunity to step out of her cell…..However, once again it seems that even if the law is known, there is a general perception that it can always be departed from for a valid reason, and that, in any event compliance with prisoners’ rights is not a priority… was part of a general punitive attitude which required inmates to earn entitlements to everything perceived as a privilege rather than a right.”
The Honourable Louise Arbour, Arbour Report 1996, Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston.


Canada’s Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger submitted the 49th Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator to Parliament on June 30, 2022.  As a part of the report’s National Level Investigations section, “Restrictive forms of Confinement in Federal Corrections” focused specifically on the six standalone maximum-security institutions for men, Atlantic in New Brunswick, Donnacona and Port-Cartier in Quebec, Millhaven in Ontario, Edmonton in Alberta, and Kent in British Columbia.

The extract from Madam Arbour’s 1996 report was the foreword to this investigative segment into the continued uses and forms of administrative segregation (solitary confinement) in Canada’s prisons.  Maximum-security prisons are a restrictive form of confinement by design, and while the report identified and described how this environment can negatively impact inmates in general, we will limit ourselves here to how old practices of segregation persist.

Ontario and British Columbia courts determined that solitary confinement violated fundamental rights protected by the Charter.  The federal government responded with Bill C-83 in 2019 to eliminate the practice and replace it with Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) which put minimum standards into law and required external oversight and external review.

The correctional investigator determined these standards are vulnerable to interpretation on the one hand, while the legislation that governs SIUs does not require Correctional Service of Canada to apply it provisions to other areas in federal prisons.  As the Annual Report put it, “a wide range of restrictive confinement conditions and practices exist outside of SIUs that are subject to little or no external oversight or independent monitoring.”

The OCI resolved that a reasonable definition for a restrictive confinement is anything less than four hours a day out-of-cell time.  Its investigation uncovered a number of areas, outside of SIUs and temporary lockdowns in place for COVID-19, where prisoners were given less than four hours of out-of-cell time.

In one institution (the report does not identify specific prisons), and aside from the prevailing standards in the SIU unit, the rest of the prison operated like a former administrative segregation range, allowing inmates less than three hours of out-of-cell time.  At another institution, what staff at the facility often referred to as “hidden cells” were used to keep prisoners in solitary confinement-like conditions for weeks at a time.  As a contrast, staff at a third institution were using their discretion to allow for more out-of-cell time than was standard.  As a result, none of the inmates interviewed complained about out-of-cell time and they all reported having more than four hours a day.  They did complain about having nothing to do with the time, but that is another maximum-security prison issue to be addressed in the future.

The Annual Report noted too that while the investigation focused on maximum-security institutions, their findings applied equally to some medium-security institutions as well.

What we have here is an instance of the disparity between policy and practice in our federal prisons which may include a disregard for the law.  Not only is there no uniform exercise of all prescribed standards across the system, but the CSC national headquarters in Ottawa will face down calls for accountability.  Not even parliament and the courts are spared.

Thus it has ever been, as Madam Arbour would find if she were to revisit operations in our federal prison system today.


Prisons don’t care….


The simple answer is that, with few exceptions, every man and woman in our federal prisons will one day be released back into the community.

Canadians take for granted and are encouraged to believe that our prison agency which oversees the rehabilitation process of offenders, and parole board members who decide the prospects for early release, meet their obligation to ensure a safe reintegration into society.  But frequent criticisms point to lawlessness by former offenders, accusing the system of failing its mandate to protect our neighbourhoods and for not supporting services to reduce recidivism.

We should care because we’re entitled to feel safe, and we want to be safe.

We should care because we want offenders to leave a life of criminality behind and contribute to the common good, even to mentoring children and youth in conflict with the law.

We should care because we want to trust that some very few offenders will never be released.

We should care because we own the shortcomings in the system.  They belong to us.  Apathy and indifference only serve to perpetuate our prison industry’s revolving door.

Releasing a prisoner on parole prior to their warrant expiry; that is, before the end of their sentence, allows for a strategically controlled release into the community.  It’s a good model.  Technically, ex-offenders are monitored as they move toward freedom, and constructive interventions can be deployed when and if necessary.  In theory, this is the preferred option, but in practice, there is a tendency more often to look for ways to return parolees to prison as an easy recourse rather than working with them to reverse missteps.

Before reaching the point in their sentence where applying for parole is possible though, prisoners must navigate the complexities in a carceral agency that is not always pro-rehabilitative.  The challenge for activists, lawyers, researchers, and family members working on behalf of our prison population is to find ways to make people care.  Prisoners are an easy political target and without public interest there is little political incentive for reforms.

Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for the incarceration and successful reintegration of federal prisoners and is mandated to manage their rehabilitation and potential risks.  In 2014, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, CSC experienced deep cuts in funding, affecting staffing levels and programming in both penitentiaries and in the community.

That left community partners, funded by other government levels or non-profits, to absorb ex-offenders into support programs for addictions, mental health, and indigenous and cultural healing that are already oversubscribed.  In the meantime, there’s been no compensating federal government funding for beds and spaces on which these programs rely for positive reintegration outcomes.

Further, Karen Hogan, Canada’s auditor general, writes in her 2022 report that our ‘prison service’ has not given offenders timely access to programs to help ease them back into society, including courses specific to women, Indigenous people, and visible minorities.  What’s more, Ms. Hogan’s office raised similar concerns in audits in 2015, 2016, and 2017, but little has been done to change policies, practices, tools and approaches that produce differing outcomes.  CSC agreed again to act on her recommendations, but then we’ve seen these assurances from Correctional Service of Canada on many issues over a lot of years, only to learn the agency is a lip service specialist.

(Sourced in part from Robyn Urback/Globe and Mail, February, 2021, Canadian Press, May, 2022, and David Neufeld/Globe and Mail, September, 2022)

As a postscript, the chase for the revision to Commissioner’s Directive C-022 Media Relations, promised three years ago by Correctional Service of Canada, is not abandoned.  More will come.


Lost in prison.


Troubled kids become angry teenagers and that can make for violent adults.  Just so, our prison industry is the dumping ground for what we allow our criminal justice system to see as society’s detritus.  And to salve our collective conscience in the face of failed interventions to right the wrongs we see around us, we charge our prisons to rehabilitate the lost and damaged and send them back to us ‘fixed.’

We could wish that’s the way it is.


Global News released the findings of a study in November of this year into an Ontario group home chain and the overmedicating of the teens and pre-teens in its care.  Investigators Andrew Russell, Carolyn Jarvis and Michael Wrobel scrutinized the practices of for-profit Hatts Off, the second largest operator of group homes for youth in Ontario.  Former clients claim drugs and lots of them was the help they got in response to the problems that brought them into Ontario’s child welfare system. 

“Experts say intensive therapy is needed for kids to heal from the trauma and abuse, or to live with mental health disorders,” the Global report says.  Drugs have a role but the counselling and treatment that should be the primary counter was in short supply if available at all.  About 20 former staff and youth confirmed the use of psychotropics was “widespread” and melatonin supplements was also on the menu as a sleep aid. 

Further, this report tells us that overall, 75% of kids in care in the province’s foster and group homes take behaviour-altering drugs.  We’re allowing our government to mask the problems these children and youth face rather than budgeting for the mental health care that can give them the opportunities to live productively and positively in the community with on-going access to mental health resources as needed.

Drugged, untreated teenagers who age-out of child welfare can easily become fodder for our criminal justice system and the prison industry.  And they do, in large numbers.  That’s costly to us all, but is there a method to this madness?


The August 28 posting, “One prison……One health care follow-up”, continued inmate Brennan Guigue’s quest for health care in as many as nine Canadian prisons.

“Inmate requests for mental health care are triaged, Brennan learned, and with limited staff in high-needs prison populations, access can be worse than in the community.  Brennan has been waiting for years.  Except for CSC’s five or six treatment centres, these conditions are the norm in the system.  Port Cartier, for instance, has one psychiatrist who is in-house one day every month or two, plus two staff psychologists.”

Correctional Service of Canada’s treatment centres house offenders diagnosed with serious mental health disorders, often with serious impairments.  Given the high rate of mental/emotional health conditions in the general prison population, the system is not designed to provide even basic counselling services to the many inmates who are looking for help.


So, we put “sick” kids under government care where they’re frequently looked on as “bad” kids, use drugs as a control, pay lip service to healing, and then release them to a world in which they too often cannot cope.  Many end up in our prisons where they are warehoused, prescribed drugs, if they are even able to access mental health care resources, and then released back into a community that worries about crime.

Should we expect otherwise?

What would happen if Correctional Service of Canada, (1) met its mandates under the Corrections & Conditional Release Act in the trenches as its Ottawa headquarters claims it is, (2) enforced its Commissioner’s Directives, and (3) required the members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers to work in concert with CSC to meet those mandates?

The method in the madness is in the answer.

The next posting is January 8.



Prisons versus media access

While waiting for public service chutzpah to show up…if there is such a thing in a public servant….the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights was brought on-line with the folly that is the forever pending revision to Correctional Service of Canada’s media relation policy. 

This Senate committee has studied the Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons for a few years.  It’s made plain-spoken and frank observations about Canada’s prison operations, findings that for the most part cause elected members of the House to feign blindness.  All the same, our Senate continues to observe, investigate, and make recommendations.

 November 30, 2022,

The Honourable Salma Ataullahjan, Chair,
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights,
The Senate of Canada Building,
2 Rideau Street,
Ottawa, ON  K1N 8X5

Re:      Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons

Dear Senator Ataullahjan:

The committee you currently chair has studied the human rights concerns of offenders in our federal prison system for some years.  The comprehensive 326-page 4th Report tabled on June 16, 2021, is wide-ranging and justly critical.  Many are awaiting the final report.

I bring to your attention an on-going issue with the revision of CSC Commissioner’s Directive 022–Media Relations.  This has been underway since Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger laid down the need for change on page 18 of his 2019-2020 Annual Report, submitted on June 26, 2020.  CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly committed to revisions prior to the release of the OCI report and later confirmed her intent in a February 24, 2020, letter to Dr. Zinger, copy enclosed.

As of now, no revision to CD-022 is in evidence.  Not only that, but the lengthy delay suggests a CSC distaste for media scrutiny.  I’ve enclosed here too a reprint of my October 9, 2022, post that chronicles a tracking of the sluggish progress towards a resolution.  With it is the October 23rd post publishing letters to Minister Mendicino and Dr. Zinger on this continued delay and includes a list of copied parties.  There are no responses to date.

One wonders where courage lives!

Senator Kim Pate is not a current member of the committee, but her interest in the prison system prompts copies to her.

Yours truly,

We’re in the pre-holiday period of the legislative year, and governments are clearing away the business it can resolve before recess and shelving all else for the Christmas break.  No more can be expected this year.

Bets that when we pick this up again in 2023, it’ll be as if we’re staring all over?  It’s like a Trumpian thing.


Prison industry screws George

So, an offender we’ll call George (we’ll keep him anonymous) spends about two years in Warkworth, a federal prison near Campbellford in Ontario.  He is released on parole to a half-way house operated by Correctional Service of Canada in Kingston while he waits for a bed in another CSC half-way house in his hometown.

George has every reason to expect his daily medication will be continued at the half-way house without interruption, but is told he must first see the doctor, a contracted doctor who is available perhaps once in a month.  George is stumped by this circumstance, given that he’s offered no recourse, feels he’d been left in limbo, typical of Correctional Service of Canada protocols, and knows he must somehow fend for himself.

He can leave the house during the day, and legally purchases cannabis which will substitute ‘til the doctor sees him.  But he doesn’t know he needs a permit to have this in his possession as an ex-offender still under CSC supervision.  His parole officer suspends his parole, he is arrested by local police, and sent to the Ontario provincial Central East Detention Centre in Lindsay awaiting a decision by his P.O. to either return him to the house or send him back to prison pending a review by the Parole Board of Canada.

The health-care unit in Lindsay is told by the Kingston half-way house that he is not on any medications.  He calls us for help. We call his parole officer in Kingston, reaching only a voice mail, and ask that the P.O. intervene to get the correct information to Lindsay.  Nothing happens.  George calls again, and again we make the call to Kingston, and leave another message.  Nothing happens.

George is returned to Warkworth.  His daily medication is resumed of course, and he’s waiting for a Parole Board hearing which could take up to three months or more.  He will most likely be sent back to the half-way house in Kingston, or to another where a bed is available.  And yes, he will have to wait to get his meds.


Does George’s experience seem familiar?

Refer to Brennan Guigue’s first-person narrative, “They don’t care.” PART II – An illustration, published on June 5th of this year under ‘Wars of my world.’

Edited quotations:-

“I was released from a prison in Quebec while in the middle of treatment for Hep C.  This was way back when the regimen consisted of a combination of injections along with oral medications (Ribavirin and Interferon).  Before leaving the prison, I asked about continuing the treatment in the community and was given assurances that it was “all taken care of.”  I was handed a parcel of documents and appointment slips for a clinic in Montreal, l’Actuel.

However, when I reached the half-way house and went to what I had thought was an arranged appointment at l’Actuel to resume that treatment, I found there was in fact no appointment listed, and that they had no idea who I was.  But, if I wanted a consultation with an infectious disease specialist, they would be happy to oblige, provided I paid the $62.00 consultation fee.

In my frustration and disappointment, I returned to the half-way house to ask my then Parole Officer to simply explain why, after showing the clinic all the paperwork given to me by the prison, I was having so much difficulty in obtaining adequate health services in the community?  Why would the prison health department go through the motions of providing me with all this meaningless paperwork if in fact they had no intention of helping me once I was released.  Basically, she told me that providing me with adequate health care services was not her problem.

This exchange with my Parole Officer was recorded as a “negative interaction”, and later listed as one of the deciding factors…a deteriorating attitude and arrogance…when the ‘house’ sent me back to prison……
… it turned out, I was returned to the community and to that same half-way house after about 98 days in Donaconna Institution because once I was before the Parole Board for my hearing, it could not find a reason NOT to revoke my suspension.”


Health-care information does not travel with an inmate transferred from one institution to another, including half-way houses.  Only doctors can request an inmate’s medical files, which will take time, and in community settings that can be a matter of weeks.

Isn’t it interesting that while our health care providers would not generally recommend suspending a treatment program, and in many cases strongly advise against it, this doesn’t apply to prison inmates?
Let’s suggest this has more to do with Correctional Service of Canada practice than it does with a medical professional’s best advice.

Have we said before that “they don’t care.”

Prison & the press – we’re waiting……

…..ON THOSE POWERS IN CHARGE, those powers we petitioned on October 17 and posted on October 23, those powers who can make the necessary happen if they choose, those powers who must find the heart to act.

We’ll wait and keep watch….for now.

A commissioner’s directive for media relations is a reasonable and prudent guide for managing Correctional Service of Canada staff contacts with print and broadcast media.  CSC employees are fertile ground for tabloid-like sensationalism.

But inmates are not CSC employees.  David Jolivet, a paralegal who was for some long years a federal inmate in British Columbia, began a movement in 2007 to unionize prisoners, arguing prison inmates were government employees.  By early 2014 however, and despite a broad range of support amidst his court and committee appearances, a Federal Court of Appeal denied relief from a lower court ruling which said that prisoners were not government employees.  A further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada out of Quebec was either denied or abandoned.

At the same time, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that prisoners do not, by virtue of their imprisonment, lose the guarantee of basic human rights, including freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of expression, nor does their imprisonment remove their protection from unreasonable search and seizure and cruel and unusual punishment.

Correctional Service of Canada operates under the provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and must comply with the Charter and legislation relative to the care and treatment of citizens in carceral environments.  Given this, CSC should have no concerns about prisoners’ contacts with the Fourth Estate.  Journalists, editors, publishers, and broadcasters are well-versed in privacy and security issues.  If we accept that CSC adheres to its mandate, what objections could CSC have with inmate/media relations?

But CSC does have issues and we can only speculate on why that is.  We can refer, as we often have, to the Senate’s interim report on prison human rights, the second paragraph of the Executive Summary from February of 2019:-
“The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out.  As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny.  Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”

That’s from the interim report.  The final version has yet to be published, if ever, and that’s not due to a tardy senate committee.

Too often when matters arise between the people and their governments and government agencies, we are made to feel like Diogenes, holding high his lantern in the search for an honest man.

The delay in publishing this revised C-022 Media Relations directive has taken on a life of its own, inviting more questions of Correctional Service of Canada than the concerns first raised three years ago for the need of any change at all.

This isn’t going away.