Prison is no place….to die

On April 2, 2022. Quinn Borde, an inmate from Collins Bay Institution died while in our custody.
At the time of his death, the inmate had been serving a sentence of 23 years for offences relating to attempted murder, firearms, robbery, aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, and failure to comply, since May 9, 2008.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

On April 8, 2022, Dany Bernatchez, an inmate from Atlantic Institution died while in our custody.
At the time of death, the inmate had been serving a sentence of 13 years and one month since January 19, 2017, for pointing a firearm, disguise with intent, robbery, uttering threats to cause death/harm, assault causing bodily harm, riot, hostage taking, prison breach with violence, break enter and commit, possession of a schedule II substance, prohibited weapon in vehicle, discharge of restricted/prohibited firearm with intent, intimidation of a justice system participant/journalist, failure to comply with probation order, mischief in relation to other property, conspire to commit indictable offence.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

On April 14, 2022, Roger Mathurin, an inmate from Mission Institution died while in our custody.
At the time of death, the inmate had been serving an indeterminate sentence, which commenced on January 9, 1973, for second degree murder, manslaughter, and other offences.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

On April 19, 2022, William Gordon Fell, an inmate from Bath Institution’s Regional Treatment Centre, died while in our custody of apparent natural causes.
At the time of death, the inmate had been serving an indeterminate sentence, which commenced on June 23, 2003, for second degree murder.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

These reports of the deaths of 4 men in the custody of Correctional Service of Canada are from its web site’s home page, in a space allocated to also record newsworthy large seizures of   contraband entering its prisons.  Some time ago, CSC often and usually included the age of the deceased and a cause of death.  That is rarely the case now, but it continues to always label the person as “an inmate” along with the offences for which the inmate was convicted, the length of sentence and the date it began.  The notice always ends with “the inmates next of kin have been notified.”

There is no acknowledgement that the deceased was a person, perhaps with a partner or parents or siblings, was maybe a parent themselves.  CSC can claim privacy prevents some disclosures, although that information is as much a part of the record as what is published.  Or, perhaps CSC just sees inmates as objects warehoused in a cage, rather than clients of its correctional facilities.  No, one should not need convincing that we have a prison industry in Canada and not a correctional service.

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Correctional Service of Canada averages about 58 deaths in custody every year.  There were 53 in the 2021 fiscal year, categorized as 5 murders, 9 suicides, 1 from unnatural (non-natural) causes, and 38 from natural causes.  Just what are natural causes?  A death by natural causes rules out everything external.  The deceased did not take their own life, they were not murdered, and they didn’t die in an accident or from a drug overdose. Death is due to a natural disease process like an infection, cancer, heart disease or all things that take a life.

According to Dr. David Fowler, president of the American National Association of Medical Examiners, “if I’m playing a sport and have a heart attack, or shovel snow and have a heart attack because I stressed myself, that’s natural.”  On the other hand, he added, if shovelling snow caused hypothermia, that could be considered an accident.

The average age of inmates whose death is attributed to natural causes is 60.  The Office of the Correctional Investigator wonders why CSC hasn’t learned from the statistics and developed strategies to prevent premature deaths.  One remedy of course is to treat sick inmates rather than neglecting sound medical practice in favour of putting budget and security interests ahead of lives.

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Adelina Iftene, in her article, “Life and death in Canadian penitentiaries,” published in the October 2020 edition of Canadian Family Physician, points out that inmates over 50 (which is considered geriatric in our prisons) have higher rates of mortality and morbidity for most illnesses.  They experience a process of accelerated aging, have health problems of people 10 to 15 years older in the community, and a life expectancy of around 62 years, compared with the average of 82 years in Canada.

Prisons were never meant to be nursing homes, she says, and yet they are increasingly in that position, a situation that is inhumane, unethical, and legally problematic in her opinion.  This despite the obligation that Correctional Service of Canada must look for alternatives to prison infirmaries when someone becomes terminally ill.  Parole by exception is the only compassionate alternative and is a bureaucratic and lengthy process of little use to the dying.

Acetaminophen with codeine, and morphine are the only pain medications available, according to the CSC National Drug Formulary.  Dr. Iftene cites the example of an inmate with a stage 4 cancer who was transferred to a minimum security from a medium security institution for better care.  Because CSC policy demands new arrivals wait for assessments before meds are prescribed, this inmate was left in his cell for a week, screaming and sweating, with no pain medications at all.  Other inmates collected money to buy regular acetaminophen from the canteen in an attempt to give him relief.

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As for suicides, the numbers in our federal prisons represents only a portion of inmates who are suicidal or ideate suicidal behaviour.   An inmate in distress who looks for help from CSC health care is more than likely to end up in a bare cell, wearing a “baby doll” that can’t be torn, and sleeping on a bare concrete slab until health care staff can be convinced that the urge has passed.  That’s constitute “treatment.”  Yet, CSC rightly claims its phycologists and psychiatrists take up a chunk of its health care budget, but exactly what they are doing and for how many offenders they are doing it is a question looking for an answer.

“They don’t care.”
Seasoned inmates know that underpins the who’s, why’s. where’s, what’s, and when’s of Correctional Service of Canada.
“They don’t care.”

Prison is no place #3…….

……TO EXPECT ANYONE TO CARE

The College of Family Physicians of Canada’s 2016 overview of health care in jails/prisons had three key points.
1)  The health of persons who experience detention or incarceration in provincial, territorial and federal facilities is poor compared with the general Canadian population.
2)  Health status data can be used to improve health care services and health for this population, with potential benefits for all Canadians……The time in custody provides an opportunity to intervene.  (Emphasis is ours.)
3)  Information on health status is also important for defining areas of focus for improving health and health care…..the lack of data on some key indicators of health is striking.

The College recommended that provinces and territories transfer responsibility for inmate medical and mental health care from their ministries of justice to the ministries of health.  Similarly, delivery of medical and mental health care services in federal prisons be “separated completely from the Department of Justice Canada.”

Today, the CFPC continues to speak out on the care prisoners receive.

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The Corrections and Conditional Release Act requires Correctional Service of Canada to provide health care to federal prisoners.  This was confirmed in law by Harnois v Canada (Attorney General) in 2010 when an inmate with multiple medical conditions went before the Federal Court to compel CSC to allow him to receive treatment from the same physician who looked after him in the community.

In part, the prisoner claimed a right to a doctor of his choice because the CCRA does not limit this right.  The Court decided that if legislators wanted prisoners to have a right to a doctor of choice, it would have been clearly indicated in the Act.  Further, the Court confirmed the Act makes an institution’s doctor the arbiter of an inmate’s health care.  The Court wasn’t asked to rule on limitations in CSC’s formulary but did find that available treatments met medical standards.

One last point to be taken from this decision is the Court noted the absence of a complaint or grievance from the inmate.  The inmate didn’t file a grievance against CSC over the treatment and care he received.  The grievance process is primarily a sop, of little importance or value offered to stop complaints or unhappiness, as one dictionary defines it.  Inmates should be warned though that this is a necessary step for the record, regardless of how little import it has.

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Legal actions against Correctional Service of Canada citing health care deficiencies are ongoing and will persist, given that advocacy groups will join the lawsuits.  One that has attracted media attention began with 39-year-old federal inmate Michael Devlin, in custody since he was 17, who claims his care for a bad back was not up to medical standards while in custody at Atlantic Institution in New Brunswick, or Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia, or in Millhaven Institution in Ontario.  The John Howard Society has joined in the action because Devlin’s experience is shared by many prisoners helped by the organization.

Catherine Latimer, the Society’s executive director, said the statement of claim, filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, “indicates that he’s experienced the deterioration of his health and considerable amount of pain and suffering, as a result of the delays in his treatment, and the inadequacy of the treatment that he received.  We will be introducing evidence from prisoners from across the country who have experienced similar issues to Mr. Devlin.”

Latimer remembers the case of a prisoner who was in pain due to deteriorating hip joints and required hip replacements.  CSC told him the surgery was expensive and he would have to wait until he was paroled, even though he was not parole eligible for another 30 years.  Treatments are often delayed because health care for paroled inmates becomes a provincial responsibility.

Leandra Keren’s summation from her December 1st Toronto Star column:  “Prisoners are denied their liberty, not their right to health care.  The inhumanity and injustice of excluding them from our universal health care protections and allowing them to suffer needlessly with inadequate medical services must end.”

Right?  Right!

Next:  Poor health care can lead to poor outcomes….including death.

 

Prison is no place #2……

……TO NEED HELP

When Kingston Penitentiary was still a prison years ago and not the tourist attraction it’s become, an inmate with a toothache followed procedure and filled out a request to see the dentist.  And then he waited, as is also a part of procedure with health-care in the prison industry.  And he waited.  By the time two other inmates were hospitalized and put on intravenous antibiotics because of delays in dental care, this inmate was in pain constantly.

His family had had enough, stepped up and wrote to the Assistant Commissioner, Health Services at the Correctional Service of Canada national headquarters in Ottawa.  She acknowledged the family’s concern, passed the information to the Deputy Commissioner at the regional headquarters in Kingston, who called the family with assurances that something would be done.  That’s not usual.  Does it pay to go to the top?

And something was done.  This prisoner was escorted to a dentist in the community, where an examination had the dentist concerned and distressed.  He told this man that he had been asked to only do an assessment, but he couldn’t believe that the prison had left him in the state he was in, and he would help him if he wanted.  Three teeth were removed, possibly four, and they were extracted in blackened pieces.  The inmate didn’t care; he only wanted relief.

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This dentist knew the fault did not lie with dentistry.  He knew CSC contracted for a dentist to service inmates in the institution for a specified number of hours/visits per week, or month.  What couldn’t be done within those parameters was left undone.  And this community dentist couldn’t complain after seeing this patient.  CSC is a major employer in Kingston and his practice would easily be negatively affected if he spoke up.

“We believe that that’s really the crux of the issue.  When your jailor is your health-care provider, it creates an irreconcilable set of conflicts,” said Catherin Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada.  “As the jailor, you’re preoccupied with security issues and fiscal issues, and those often trump the medical needs of the individual prisoner.”

The John Howard Society wants to see CSC out of the health-care business and care for federal prisoners delivered by those who provide health-care in the community under the Canada Health Care Act.  Having jailors deliver health-care inevitably leads to substandard and unaccountable care.  JHS is not the first to make this recommendation; the Office of the Correctional Investigator has chimed in over the years more than once.

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An active inmate in his mid-40s suffers a knee injury in the gym.  He thinks a few days rest is the solution.  The discomfort continues, he asks for help and is diagnosed with either a tear in a tendon or a meniscus by the institution’s doctor.  Surgery is the remedy.  That was almost three years ago.  COVID has negatively impacted hospital services, but restrictions are being lifted and hospital procedures have resumed.  This inmate recently had a virtual doctor’s appointment to revisit his untreated injury.  The doctor’s response was, “We’ll have to see what can be done about that.”

Leandra Keren, an articling fellow with the John Howard Society of Canada who was quoted in the previous entry, “Prison is no place to be unhealthy, sick or injured,” went on to write in her December 1 Toronto Star contribution from last year, “The fox is providing the hens with health-card…..In the eyes of CSC, medical staff, prescription drugs, and specialist consultations, all constitute major costs which detract from CSC’s budget…..This, along with the punitive culture of prisons, results in the mistreatment of prisoners through the denial of their health-care.”

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Did you know…..?
Offenders transferred to a federal prison are assessed by a nurse at reception.  Prescription and over the counter meds are discontinued pending a review by the institution’s doctor.  An inmate does without while waiting. 
Correctional Service of Canada has its own formulary, a list detailing the medicines that may be prescribed.  A doctor cannot prescribe meds the list doesn’t cover which can have a negative impact on treatment options.  As one example, consider the range of drugs available for bi-polar disorder.  Patients may not respond well to one drug, or may get relief for a time, and alternatives are a necessity.  At CSC, only limited meds may be authorized.

Did you know…..?
An inmate who has a complaint against the health-care received from a doctor or a nurse in a federal institution cannot file a complaint with the regulatory colleges for either profession. By doing so, that nurse or doctor against whom the complaint is made cannot continue to treat a patient filing the grievance.  That inmate then has no health-care at all until the matter is resolved.

Next….there’s always a next with prison health-care.

Prison is no place……

……TO BE UNHEALTHY, SICK, OR INJURED.

Health care services in our federal prisons have been skewered here before, just as what Correctional Service of Canada passes off as essential care for offenders has and is also harpooned by its many critics.  And while health care consistently invites the greatest number of complaints from inmates, the Service continues to follow the beat of its own drummer in the face of recommendations that would improve outcomes and reduce costs.

One can wonder why.  Well, perhaps not.  Speculation infers troublesome scenarios suggesting CSC has interests that trump its mandate to work for a successful reintegration of prisoners back into the community.  No matter.  Voices of concern will persist, knowing a day of reckoning will come.  Hell will freeze over.

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The Canada Health Act specifically excludes federal prisoners from its definition of “insured person.”  The Corrections and Conditional Release Act assign Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) the obligation to ensure prisoners receive essential health services and care contributing to rehabilitation and social reintegration.  CSC is self-insured for health care services.  It’s both insurer and hospital.  Funding comes from its budget.  As Leandra Keren wrote in a Toronto Star contribution last December, this “result(s) in a health-care standard that is woefully inadequate inside our federal prisons.”

She went on to note that prison populations have more severe needs….high rates of addiction and other mental illnesses, high HPV rates, chronic diseases, and conditions connected to aging.  “….federal prisoners wait months to see a physician who may not believe in employing a harm reduction approach to treating addiction, or who denies you a prescription that you’ve been taking for decades before arriving at prison due to pressure from CSC surrounding cost and security.”  In practice, this means the prisoner is at the mercy of the health services CSC provides.

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An inmate fills out a request form asking to see a doctor, dentist, nurse.  Then the wait.  The wait may generate a second request.  Hopefully, the inmate is taken to health services before either their release date or death, whichever is first.  In one instance a few years ago, an inmate asked a nurse what they do with an urgent or emergency request.  “We don’t pay attention to that,” she told him.

A report released last year authored by academics Jane B. Sprott, Anthony N. Doob, and Adelina Iftene on prison solitary confinement practices included a comment that applies to the whole prison arena.  “Many Canadians do not care how our prisoners are treated.  They are seen simply as people who committed offences.  But Canadians should care if they care about human rights; or if they care that a government organization is being allowed to operate outside of the law.”

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Prison health care earns severe scrutiny.  There’s more to come next time.

A POSTSCRIPT to “Prisons & Racism” from October 10, 2021:-

“CSC management and staff treat racialized staff as though they are inmates, and not like equals.”

Well, that’s a mouthful.  It’s from the statement of claim supporting a proposed class-action lawsuit against Correctional Service of Canada by its own employees, filed on January 11 of this year.  According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Aden Klein, his firm has been contacted by many potential class members.  “It seems that the racism is so widespread that there are a countless number of people that are affected,” he said to Global News on January 28.

Correctional Service of Canada’s response included, “racism and discrimination have absolutely no place in our society,” and, “CSC does not tolerate these behaviours and is committed to providing a workplace that is healthy, supportive and free of harassment and discrimination.”

The lawsuit must be certified by the court if it can proceed, and that can often take from one to three years.

Imagine.  If CSC’s staff feel compelled to act against their employer, what does that say about how CSC treats inmates, and racialized inmates particularly?

Prisons – Stay out. Get out.

Nova Scotian social worker Robert Wright was asked by the defence back in 2014 to testify at the sentencing of a 16-year-old Black offender for attempted murder after he shot his 15-year-old cousin in the belly.  The prosecutor argued against allowing the testimony, claiming Mr. Wright wasn’t qualified as an expert.

Justice Anne Derrick, then of the Nova Scotia Provincial Court allowed him to speak. She cited his qualifications as a past executive director of the province’s child and youth strategy, as a PhD candidate in social work and as an instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University.

He is also coincidentally a seventh- or eighth-generation Black Nova Scotian and knew from his life’s experience that he was qualified to speak on behalf of the convicted offender.  One of six children raised by a single mother, a mostly absent father, witness to domestic violence and alcoholism, a celebrated athlete sister murdered in her mid-20s and a brother who did time for robbery made him ‘expert’ on the topic he addressed.

What Robert Wright wrote in an assessment and said in court was that the prosecution’s depiction of the 16-year-old as a hardened and remorseless criminal, a conclusion supported by several psychological assessments as an unsalvageable youth necessitating a long adult prison sentence, missed one pertinent point:  what it means to grow up Black in Nova Scotia.  After considering the family history, the “racial trauma” pervasive in the African-Canadian community because of mistrust, rivalries and violence, the judge sentenced him as a youth, noting an adult sentence would most probably give him little chance at rehabilitation.

Mr. Wright’s testimony was the first of its kind for Black offenders in the province and it led to more race-based reports, by him and other clinicians, triggering changes in the sentencing of Black offenders.  By the summer of 2021, Nova Scotia’s top court issued a 5-0 ruling written by that same Justice Derrick, telling judges in the province to consider the race-based issues of Black offenders at sentencing, or risk having their sentences thrown out on appeal.

With federal government funding, what are known now as Impact of Race and Culture Assessments are about to spread across the country.  Provincial courts aren’t required to give special consideration to Black offenders, and while accepted as important and helpful, Ontario courts for instance underscore that offenders do exercise free will.

Just as Gladue Reports offer some guidance when determining the fate of indigenous offenders, Impact of Race and Culture Assessments will do much the same for Blacks caught up in the criminal justice system.

Keeping people with a potential for redemption out of the hands of the prison industry benefits us all.

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“Stymied, Stigmatized and Socially Excluded”, a 2020 report released by the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre located in Belleville in eastern Ontario, is a study conducted on the civil legal issues confronting people released from the Quinte Detention Centre.

The challenges there for people released from that provincial institution are mirrored across the provincial/federal prison industry spectrum from coast to coast.  How does a person with a criminal record steer a path through a labyrinth of social and civil legal issues from housing to employment to income assistance to counselling to potent and timely mental health/addiction programs to discrimination and harassment?  How does a person avoid the ripple effect of a criminal record, stuck in a cycle of recidivism and poverty, one door after another shut in their faces?

The John Howard Society of Ontario, prompted in part by the Belleville study, developed a resource for use by front-line workers assisting people released back into the community who almost always also need help dealing with multiple problems related to their criminality and for which they didn’t know help was available.  “Knowing your rights is very important,” said a peer counsellor with the JHS Ontario’s York Region office.

jhslearninghub.ca is accessible by anyone, and though intended for front-line workers at the John Howard Society and other community service agencies, it’s designed to be easily understandable and useful to family, friends, and supporters of offenders before, during and after incarceration.  Yes, this is on Ontario initiative, but is or will be replicated across the country.

Next – Oh no, it’s still not safe to get sick or get hurt in prison!

Justice & Prisons….in the news #3

We could bankroll a criminal’s education in Harvard for the cost of keeping an inmate in prison.  You heard that before? 

The perpetrators of the most heinous of crimes cannot avoid prison, but we are missing opportunities to divert many offenders away from institutions that do not rehabilitate, are not correctional, and cannot best serve the public interest.  That is, of course, until or unless we elect or appoint courageous leaders to initiate radical reforms.  While we wait, let’s do something better than just tossing people in jails.

“For years, the U.S. justice system has been accused of deep bias and a judicial vindictiveness that has put roughly 2.3 million people behind bars,” so says Nathan Vanderklippe in a contribution to the Globe and Mail in late December.  Yes, the Americans love incarcerating people who break the law, particularly non-whites. 

But in a small corner of California, as it’s described, Yolo County, population 220,500, “a mix of agricultural areas and university campuses, has sought new ways to erase the role of race in the system, undo past injustices and, where possible, keep people out of prison.”  It has initiated an addiction court and a parallel mental health court that works “to heal and rehabilitate rather than merely incarcerate.”

Prosecutor offices use software that redacts racial indicators from police reports.  Judges can put defendants, some facing serious criminal charges, into community programming where judges themselves often moderate.  This project provides encouragement to both those that are doing well and those who are not but want to do better.

Now, that’s a start.

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Some people who plan to solve an imaginary problem to suit their own purposes end up creating a real one in the process.

Stephen Harper did that, and in particular with his so-called tough-on-crime crackdown, even as crime rates continued a slow years-long decline.  The work he and his fellow Conservatives did increased the cost of the criminal justice system by billions and ballooned the prison population by 25 per cent.  The mostly invented non-issue would have attracted like-minded voters, but the dire financial and human costs are still with us today.

One Conservative policy increased the cost of a pardon from $150 to about $650 which effectively denied most ex-offenders from even beginning the unwieldly process of applying.  The waiting period was also extended to ten years, putting prospects of a lawful re-entry into the community at extreme risk.  Now, after committing to review the Harper-years crime/justice/prison impositions six or seven years ago, the current Liberal government has finally cut the fee to $50.

There is a snag though.  The fee for a pardon, or record suspension, leaves the applicant still responsible for any additional fees to get the required processing information, like fingerprints, court documents and police checks.  The government has also allocated $22 million over five years to community-based organizations for support services in helping people complete the applications. 

A good beginning says Fresh Start, a coalition of more than 60 wide-ranging academic, civil rights, and racially marginalized groups, that applauds the long-awaited changes.  All the same, Moya Teklu of the Black Legal Action Centre said, “Reducing the application to $50 will not make the process any less long, any less cumbersome, or any less complex.” 

Is there something better?  Fresh Start would prefer the “spent regime” system, already used in Australia, England, and Spain as examples, where records are automatically sealed after a specified amount of time, with a few exceptions.  Canada already seals the records of offences by underage youth, but the government has yet to express support for expanding the practice.

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And finally…….

February 21, 2022

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Community Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re:      What do you fear?     

Dear Minister Mendicino:

Your staff chose not to respond to my November 29, 2021, letter questioning the delay in revising Correctional Service of Canada’s Commissioner Directive 022 – Media Relations.

I did hear from Colette Cibula, Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement at CSC on February 8, answering my May 6, 2021, letter to Commissioner Kelly.  Referring to the needed revisions to make the policy around inmate access to media Charter compliant, Ms. Cibula wrote, “I can assure you that it is now nearly complete.”

It is now approaching two years since the Service undertook to rewrite this directive.  It leads one to wonder just what it is that you all fear from inmate access to media?

Yours truly,

 

NEXT:  Not Prison News #4…….just More…..

The Prison Industry in the news #2.

THE LETTER……

Tuesday, February 8, 2022**

Dear Mr. Klassen,

Thank you for your letter dated May 6, 2021**, and for your interest in how the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) communicates with the media. I am happy to provide you an update on our work to renew the Service’s policy on Media Relations. I do apologize for the lateness of the reply.

CSC makes a great effort to be transparent and open about our work. We respond to about 100 media queries a month on a wide variety of topics and we issue regular news releases on our operations. As you stated, it is true that we facilitate all requests by media to interview inmates. It is extremely rare that CSC will deny or delay an interview. We take into consideration the security of the individual, others, and the facility as well as the impact on victims. For example, in 2021, CSC denied only 1 of 23 interviews, and this was based on a publication ban in place to protect the victims.

The renewal of the directive of media relations, where this is spelled out, is still underway. It was delayed as the tempo of media relations as well as the need for communications with inmates, staff, stakeholders increased significantly during the pandemic. I can assure you that it is now nearly complete. We have conducted external consultations and are finalizing internal reviews before publishing it.

I thank you again for your interest, and I wish you good health in 2022.

Colette

Colette Cibula

Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement
Correctional Service of Canada

**Highlights the 9 months between the letter to CSC Commissioner Kelly and the reply from Ms. Cibula.

THE RESPONSE……

February 10, 2022

Dear Ms. Cibula:

I thank you for your February 8, 2022, email responding to my May 6, 2021, letter to Commissioner Kelly.  You must be facing a considerable communications backlog for my letter to come before you for attention after so long in limbo.

The information you’ve provided is of great import as it underscores the need for a revision of Commissioner’s Directive 022 Media Relations.  You note CSC responds to about 100 media requests a month on the one hand, but that there were only 23 media interviews with inmates in all of 2021.  One was denied for cause, as you wrote, but my interest in a CD-022 revision suggests that just as the Service accommodates about 100 media contacts every month, so should inmate interactions with media number at least that as well.

CSC has made a point of headlining transparency as you referenced and having Charter compliant policies is paramount to meeting that objective.  True accountability and transparency are only possible however if the offenders in your care have an equal opportunity to lawfully communicate with the world outside the walls.

I look forward to reviewing the new directive in the near future.

Thank you again.

Charles

Charles H. Klassen
908-31 Alexander Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1B2
http://www.turnoverarocktoday.com

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The revision to Correctional Service of Canada’s Commissioner’s Directive – 022 Media Relations was first featured back on May 9, 2021, in “Inmates have no rights!”, calling proposed changes, “One first step to letting in the light on the CSC prison environment…”  At that point it had been about a year since Commissioner Kelly committed to bringing the directive in line with the Charter.

May 23rd’s “Prison Security.  How much?  Too much?” included the May 6 letter to the commissioner, wondering in the nicest possible means, if CSC might be dogging it in getting the changes on the books.  Ms. Cibula’s February 8 letter above is an answer to that query to Commissioner Kelly.

“Prison – Media Relations revisited” posted September 12 last fall included a June 22nd letter to Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger noting the delay with the revision of the directive.  There’s also an excerpt from his office’s August 27 answer.
“What’s the big deal,” we asked in the entry, “about inmate access to the media?  Think about ‘the wider public has a right to be informed of what goes on behind prison walls.’”  “The wider public is ill-informed now and doesn’t grasp the impact prison environments have on the community.”

Finally, “Prisons – IS MEDIA RELATIONS AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?” from December 19 posted a November 29th letter to Marco Mendicino, Minister of Community Safety.  In part it read, “A year on from this undertaking, and in the absence of a CD-022 update, I wrote Commissioner Kelly on May 6 encouraging her to avoid any suspicion that ‘the Service is trying to prevent inmate contact with the media.’”  “It is now the end of November.  ‘Nuff said.”

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A copy of the February 8 letter from CSC and the February 10 reply was sent to the correctional investigator’s office.  It appreciated having the information.  “It is quite helpful,” its note said.

Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement, Colette Cibula hits all the right notes in commenting on the letter sent to the commissioner nine months earlier.  But she was writing for members of the public who know nothing about our prison industry.  For any conversant Canadian, Ms. Cibula seems a Correctional Service of Canada ambassador who has never been inside a prison in this country, has never toured the ranges, and has never spoken to the inmates housed there.

Next:  What is an Impact of Race and Culture Assessment?

 

Criminal justice & the prison industry……

……IN THE NEWS #1.

Kitten Keyes, an Indigenous woman, was forced to sleep on a floor for 21 straight days.  And this while she was in the care of Canada’s federal government. 

Kitten Keyes uses a wheelchair and was an inmate at the Grand Valley Institution.  Her wheelchair wouldn’t fit through the door into her cell. She couldn’t reach her bed and she couldn’t get to her toilet. 

What did that federal prison institution’s staff do to help her, to accommodate her disability?  Nothing.  Canada is the only country in the world whose constitution explicitly protects people with disabilities from discrimination.  More recently, our government passed the Accessible Canada Act which prohibits discrimination based on disability in all federally regulated organizations.  This Act provides the means and enforcement parameters to accomplish that purpose.

What has Correctional Service of Canada done to meet this mandate?  Well, it more often ignores the needs and human rights of inmates with physical/mental disabilities, more than half of prison populations, while spending about $5 billion a year for operations.  So, what have the powers-that-be in Ottawa who oversee the prison industry done to remedy the neglect?  You guessed it.  Nothing.

That’s one strong argument for defunding prisons.

Thankfully, Kitten Keyes has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada for the discrimination and suffering she faced as a prisoner, contrary to the government’s obligation to accommodate her disability. 

Extracted from University of Toronto law student Matthew Tran’s contribution to the Toronto Star, published on December 9, 2021.  Matthew is also a member of the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project.

How many of your tax dollars do you think our government spends each year to pay off complainants because of irresponsible conduct?

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Journalist Kristy Kirkup, writing for the Globe and Mail from Ottawa on December 18 of last year, reported that Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger deplored the “sad milestone” Canada will reach soon, where half of federally sentenced women will be Indigenous, while representing only 5% of the women in the country.  This is a human rights issue, evidence of “public policy failures over successive decades, as no government has been able to stop or reverse the trend.”

Dr. Zinger’s office reported in January of 2021 that the proportion of Indigenous men and women in prisons reached 30 per cent, an historic high, and numbers were continuing to climb.

Senator Kim Pate argues high incarceration rates for women contribute to the issues around murdered and missing Indigenous women.  Senator Yvonne Boyer notes the number “has skyrocketed” because the current approaches to reform are failing.  Senator Mobina Jaffer has drafted legislation to allow judges to exercise discretion in not imposing mandatory minimum sentences when that would result in injustices and perpetuate systemic racism.

The Toronto Star editorial on Monday, January 3 of this year, “The shame of our prisons,” was authored by Dyanoosh Youssefi, law professor and former criminal defense lawyer.

25 years ago, he wrote, the Criminal Code was amended to lower Canada’s high incarceration rate by requiring judges to consider alternatives, particularly for Indigenous offenders.  22 years ago, in R. v. Gladue, the Supreme Court called the number of Indigenous people in prison a “crisis”, and 9 years ago, the Court declared the Canadian government complicit in creating environments that lead to crime among the Indigenous population.

8 years ago, then Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers warned the rates at which Indigenous and non-Indigenous were imprisoned was widening.  7 years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked governments at all levels to “provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.”  But, 2 years ago, current Correctional Investigator Dr. Zinger told us incarceration rates reached a new high.

This despite the current government’s assurances that they are committed to reducing the number of Indigenous persons in prison.  “It’s almost as if there is zero political will to end this reprehensible injustice,” wrote Professor Youssefi.  “Most importantly, we must take proactive steps:  bolster education, child welfare, housing, health care, employment opportunities and cultural connections in Indigenous communities.”

What’s going on?  Whose special interests are blocking the way forward?

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The Department of Justice will say its concern for the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the system is a priority (as it is for the numbers of Black offenders in custody).  Correctional Service of Canada argues it has no jurisdiction over who is put into its care, and that it spends millions a year to accommodate its responsibility to the mandates around accessibility and the care of all offenders.

How would you measure their success?

 

 

Police & racism

…..STILL?  HOW CAN THIS BE?

Wouldn’t you think, wouldn’t we all think, that when countless people accuse public servants of wrongdoing, and substantiate those complaints with the support of the Courts and the media, wouldn’t you think there would be a non-negotiable compulsion to act?

Apparently not.

Wouldn’t you think that our elected office holders, responsible for ensuring the men and women who work under them are meeting their mandate, wouldn’t you think they would not tolerate a dilly-dally response or a flurry of window dressing from wayward public employees?

Apparently not.

There isn’t a police force in North America that hasn’t at least paid lip service in the last couple of years to demands for a review and study of race relations.  Many in policing are sincere in their intentions to find solutions to what one American pundit describes as structural racism.  The reference was to the U.S. as a whole, including law enforcement.  What persists there is jaw-dropping, but we are not dancing in a field of clover here in Canada either.

The RCMP’s reputation is far from admirable.  Police services in Quebec City and in Montreal are notorious for their treatment of minorities.  Police practices in Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Halifax are questioned.  Nowhere in this country is any sizeable police organization free of criticism in its relationship with the community.  Sir Robert Peel’s nine principles of law enforcement seem to have been abandoned in the field of operations.

A recent case in point attracting media attention is the conduct of Constable Darrell Corona, a member of the Peel Region Police Service, the third largest in Canada after Toronto and Montreal.  The Regional Municipality of Peel, about 1,250 square km in area with a population of near 1.5 million residents borders the west and northwest boundaries of Toronto and includes the cities of Mississauga and Brampton and the town of Caledon.  The population is highly diverse.  The police chief himself was born in Sri Lanka.

The Toronto Star’s “Peel cop’s gun case tossed” from last December 5 began, “For the fourth time in four years, Peel Regional Police Const. Darrell Corona has been rebuked by a judge in a case where criminal charges have been thrown out due to his interactions with a black man.”  The judge found this officer racially profiled an 18-year-old Black man, breached his “human dignity” and violated his charter rights, whereby evidence of a revolver Corona seized from the accused was tossed and the charges dismissed.  There had been three previous similar incidents where Black men were freed of charges brought by this same officer.

Peel police recently partnered with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to deal with systemic racism and discrimination in the force.  Further, the service is about to introduce a pilot project where officers will collect race-based data during traffic stops.  Will this make for change?  In any case, Constable Corona is still in uniform and that warrants comment.

December 27, 2021

Nishan Duraiappah, Chief,
Peel Regional Police Service,
Mississauga, Ontario

Re:       Constable Darrell Corona

Dear Chief Duraiappah:

For a time in the late 1980s, American media highlighted the number of charges that were dismissed by U.S. courts due to infringements or violations of a defendant’s rights and/or constitutional protections.  Press attention was drawn by the very serious nature of some of these crimes, and the apparent culpability of the accused.  A retired judge whose name I did not record at the time suggested that if all involved in bringing an accused before the courts did their jobs properly then justice would be better served.

You head one of the largest police operations in Canada, servicing among the most diverse communities in the country.  I don’t doubt you and your management team work to reflect the background of its members in the faces of families in Peel neighbourhoods.

Given that, why is Constable Darrell Corona still a member of your force?  Perhaps, as lawyer Alex Mamo told the Toronto Star; “Anti-black racism is so deeply embedded in our society, so when we see these cases of racial profiling by police officers, I think it’s just a reflection of that.”  Just as importantly, he added; “…how many times are these officers breaching peoples Charter rights, racially profiling an individual and illegally searching him and not finding anything, and nothing comes of it.”

I’ve been observing police interactions with the public since the early 1960s.

You can do better.

Where is management in all this?  Where are our elected officials in this?  Where is the executive of the police unions?  Does nobody know how to give an order?  Does nobody know what to do when orders are disobeyed?

Apparently not.

When praise is due……

…..THEN GIVE IT.

“The Liberal government tabled Bill C-22 in mid-February to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black people in the justice system.  It would repeal mandatory minimum penalties for all drug offences and some firearm offences, expand the use of conditional sentences (i.e. house arrest) for a number of crimes and allow police and prosecutors to divert drug possession charges away from the courts.”

That began “Prisons & Bill C-22” from August 1 of last year.  The government had taken years to get this before the House, only to have it die when the election was called last fall.  Advocates had much to admire and much to criticize in this proposed legislation, but it was a important first step as Justice Minister David Lametti underscored.  We joined the chorus to chastise the government and Mr. Lametti for not moving the bill through Parliament much earlier.  As Vice President Daniel Brown of Ontario’s Criminal Lawyers’ Association said at the time, “anyone watching would wonder whether or not (C-22) was a hollow promise…..”

On Tuesday, December 7 last month, Bill C-22 was revived as Bill C-5 and without any changes to add stronger or additional reforms.  Voices echoed earlier complaints that as good as this was, there was still much more that could have been done.  What’s true as well is Mr. Lametti’s “important first step” took so many years to materialize, one can only imagine when an important second step might come along. 

Kudos to all who stepped up to call out the government.  The need for noise isn’t going away any time in the foreseeable future.  But compliments are due to Mr. Lametti for doing as he said he intended to do when the election was called.

December 9, 2021

The Honourable David Lametti,
Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re:      Bill C-22 reincarnated

Dear Minister Lametti:

Thank you for bringing Bill C-5 to the House.

As you’ve said previously, this is an “important first step”, and once C-5 becomes law, your office can look to make even greater headway with reforms to our justice system. 

I encourage you to look past the medievalists among the Conservative Members who may never learn that the prison industry they champion when given the opportunity is not a correctional system that benefits the community.  Their vision is quite simply regressive and punitive.

Best wishes in the work you have ahead.

Be grateful for progress….any progress.