This rant by a guard walking onto a range a few years ago at the defunct Toronto West Detention Centre is one variation of a mantra endemic in Canada’s prison industry. Only inmates, the source of this guard’s livelihood, and other staff members were within earshot, and this guard was intentionally threatening and intimidating, daring a challenge, and looking for any excuse to assault an inmate.

“Hate” and “beating” were words expected to incite contempt by inmates for a system that is mandated to positively redirect future decisions but instead is primarily correctional in name only. In the end, recidivism is a key component in maintaining a stable work environment for everyone employed in the business. Most job actions directed at sustainability in provincial and federal institutions are less obvious than that guard in Toronto West years ago, they’re frequently passive, and may even appear benign, but are equally effective, nonetheless.

Provincial jails house men and women convicted of an offence and sentenced for relatively short periods, but often a majority of inmates are held on remand, awaiting the disposition of charges. For these, the vegetative wait for technically innocent people can stretch into years, two, three or even four. An inadequate bail program, insufficient public resources, underfunded legal aid support, backlogged court dockets, and a lack of political will keeps many in custody who otherwise could benefit from opportunities in the community.

There is little work, few programs, a phone system allowing only collect calls, and no direct contact with family/community support. Worse, there’s a move away from visits where barriers separate inmates and people from the outside to ‘video visits’, where both parties see only the head and shoulders of one another on a monitor and communicate over a phone. To boot, there’s no dedicated resource for inmates to air concerns, and what little is available is of no consequence to provincial jail staff or management. How bad can it get?

“Toronto South…..again!”, posted April 21st examples how a lack of accountability enables contempt of both prisoners and their keepers for ministry policies, and even the law. Jails are laboratories developing the building blocks of an industry’s foundation. We followed up our March 15th letter to the Ontario minister with a May 6th request for comment. Bets?

More looks under the rock coming……




For prison guards, job security means having prisoners to guard. No prisoners, no guards. Reduce the number of prisoners, reduce the number of guards. Job security is a concern everywhere, and so it is with employees in federal and provincial institutions and the agencies that oversee them.

The federal Corrections and Conditional Release Act stipulates in Section 3.1 that, “The protection of society is the paramount consideration for the Service in the corrections process.” With the mandate and mission federal/provincial/territorial agencies have to return offenders safely to the community as contributing law-abiding citizens, Correctional Service of Canada and its provincial and territorial counterparts’ first responsibility is to make prisons redundant…..and every employee’s primary directive is to put themselves out of a job.

So why aren’t prison populations dropping in Canada? We’ve written earlier that the Dutch had closed prisons. The Washington Post reported in the summer of 2016 that the Netherlands shut 19 prisons in 2013 alone, with five more likely to close. The paper also referenced Sweden’s falling prison population, some prisons were shuttered, and an “expert who spoke to the Guardian in 2013 suggested that the humane and comfortable nature of Swedish prisons had led to a better chance of rehabilitation for prisoners.”

Again, why are there not fewer prisoners here? Federal and provincial institutions must accept who the courts send them. As a start, it is the courts and the judiciary who can best inform and educate the provincial and federal attorneys general to the benefits of alternatives to incarceration. In the meantime, our politicians seem content to allow interests with regressive agendas to lead them by the nose. No matter, the agencies that operate our prisons have both an obligation to reduce inmate numbers and the resources and authority to make that happen.

What our institutions do with men and women in their custody defines the difference between a prison industry and a correctional service. Progressive programming prioritizing the best of medical and social sciences supports positive outcomes. But, when a ‘prison population maintenance initiative’ becomes the go-to plan to satisfy employee interests for the future of their jobs, correctional services are sacrificed to corporate sustainability and stability.

A closer peek under this rock coming up next………

“Any system that allows us to turn a blind eye to hopelessness and despair, that’s not a justice system, it is an injustice system.” Barack Obama

Toronto South…..again!

About 200 Toronto South Detention Centre guards refused non-essential work at the jail on Monday, March 4, after an alleged assault by inmates injured eight staff members on the previous weekend.

OPSEU represents the jail employees and argues a staff shortage is a major cause of increased violence at the facility. The walkout lasted only one day but the issue the union raised has been ongoing since TSDC opened.

At the same time, a senior Toronto judge says it is “absolutely unacceptable” and “unfair” that inmates are frequently in full lockdown at the South, and he and other judges often award enhanced credits for time-served in pre-trial custody. One defence lawyer called the recurring lockdowns “horrific, it’s a human rights violation.” Daniel Brown, a Toronto lawyer and vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, references “deplorable conditions” at this jail and others around the province.

There’s more to this long-running standoff than simply a lack of guards, and we said so in a letter to Ontario’s current Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services:-

March 15, 2019

The Honourable Sylvia Jones,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,

Toronto South Detention Centre has been a challenge since the institution opened, and the recent “labour dispute” indicates operational issues persist.

Of course, no staff member should be targeted for assault. OPSEU members blame understaffing as the main culprit.

The “why” question also needs to be asked of criminal lawyers, social workers, and inmates most importantly. For example, no inmate who is not deranged awakes of a morning and decides to assault a guard that day. Are you aware of the consequences? Ask an inmate, or preferably, a former inmate. Apparently too, guards have a weaker constitution and are given respite after violent incidents.

Disrespect for inmates and their property, lock-downs, humiliation, intimidation, guard assaults on inmates, human rights’ abuses, Charter violations, and widespread indifference to MCCS policies factor into the stress and unrest so prevalent at TSDC.

Exacerbating this mess, management from the institutional level up through the ranks even to your office appear unconcerned, even in the face of adverse publicity.

Charles H. Klassen

Copied on this was Sam Erry, Ms Jones’ deputy minister, Warren Thomas, head of OSEU, Chris Jackel, head of OPSEU’s correctional division, and MPP Kevin Yarde, the NDP justice critic.

MCCS headquarters at 25 Grosvenor Street seems oblivious, and conditions can only get worse under the current Conservative government in Ontario.

Prison Industry health care

SCENE TWO – Correctional Service of Canada National Headquarters, Ottawa
……continued from March 3.

“The legislative mandate for CSC to provide health services to federal offenders comes from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). The CCRA indicates that CSC is responsible for providing ‘every inmate with essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care that will contribute to the inmate’s rehabilitation and successful reintegration in the community’.

CSC Health Services strives to improve offender health to contribute to the safety of Canadians. We provide offenders with efficient, effective health services that encourage individual responsibility, promote healthy reintegration, and contribute to safe communities.

The delivery of care is provided by health care professionals who are registered or licensed in Canada including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, dentists, and other relevant specialists.”

…..from ‘Health Services’ on the Correctional Service of Canada web site.

Public reaction to prison health care policy draws criticism from people in the community who feel they can’t get what care they need for themselves.

Chalk that up to a misreading of the health care protocol. “Essential” and “reasonable” are subjective. What’s more, people are unaware that policy and practice in our prison industry are often out of sync.

Experience, observation and research say, yes, there are dedicated CSC health care employees and contracted professionals who make policy their practice. Too often, that’s not the reality.

The final entry, scene three, will examine the thorny subject of dental care as a major issue.

So, how does an inmate access health care? Barring a violent/traumatic incident, a request form makes its way to medical staff. The wait for a response can be days, weeks, or………? Waiting is the only option.

Citing but two examples that make the wait for help in a prison stressful, note the inmate in a provincial institution from an earlier posting who was told by a nurse that health care was a privilege and not a right. This was an Ontario government employee, but the sentiment is common throughout our penal systems. Then there’s a federal inmate who used a long-awaited trip to his institution’s health care unit to ask a nurse how they handled requests marked “urgent.” They don’t pay attention to “urgent”, he was told.

Dear public. Envy prison health care? Be careful what you wish for.

The Canadian Bar Association comments……

……on Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.

Currently in third reading, Bill C-83 responds to the B.C. and Ontario legal actions against Ottawa over the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. But more, it’s intended to bring CSC operating policies in line with progressive recommendations Liberals touted in the 2015 campaign, and then mandated to the relevant ministries after taking office.

But, in “Solitary Confinement” posted on February 3, we noted that as it is now C-83’s purpose “is to mollify all stakeholders by yielding a little to everyone.” In other words, what may appear as meaningful changes are mostly more of the same using different language.

The Canadian Bar Association, “a national association of over 36,000 lawyers, notaries, law students and academics, with a mandate that includes seeking improvement in the law and the administration of justice,” sent a November 19, 2018 five-page letter to the government with its appraisal of the Act.

Whittled down to the barest skeletal basics, those five pages say:-

This Bill should be a big deal. Don’t rush. Talk to prison lawyers and specialist in criminal justice before finalizing the legislation.


There’s too much discretion for prison staff to deprive prisoners of basic rights, along with a lack of independent oversight.


“Some entire institutions are now administered similar to a segregation unit.” Cut that out! Bring back the principle of least restrictive measures, legislate protection for prisoners’ rights during lockdowns, and limit the use of lockdowns.


Different security levels within an institution means more higher security level beds and more restrictive measures on more prisoners. That’s “inconsistent with an evidence-based approach to corrections.” What’s up with that?


“Structured Intervention Units” in the Bill are a good move, but these sections are “too vague and do no provide the necessary procedural safeguards…” The CBA letter uses more than a page to outline its position on segregating inmates. In a few words, too much discretion in C-83 and little attention to currently recognized standards


Don’t turn someone inside out looking for contraband. Body scans are preferable, but not body scans and strip searches and dry cells.


Bill C-83 includes “several positive health care obligations”, and “recognizes the professional and clinical independence of health care professionals”, but the legislative requirements are again vague and don’t include enforceable standards. Health care providers should partner with federal and provincial Ministries of Health, without the influence or interference of prison administrators, and without any CSC staff supervision or oversight. And, add legislation to ensure confidentiality between health care providers and prisoner patients.


Reduce the number of Indigenous prisoners in custody and at higher security levels using stronger provisions as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “More should be done to support Indigenous communities’ self-determination by ensuring sufficient community and mental health resources to avoid Indigenous people becoming involved in the justice system in the first place.”


The CBA supports the provision to establish patient advocacy services but these advocates should be independent of the CSC. Also, there’s a need for legal aid services for prisoners across the country. Variations in the levels of legal aid for prisoners show that almost nothing is available in the Prairies and Maritimes for instance, but nowhere in the country is it adequate.


Bill C-83 makes no mention of “the urgent need to legislate fair pay rates for prisoners.” The scale established in 1981 has not increased and was in fact reduced in 2013 with deductions for additional room and board. Do something!


Now, putting the Canadian Bar Association aside, and challenging a different perspective, this is the body of a self-explanatory letter sent to Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus in Ottawa on February 20:-

Today, while researching the status of Bill C-83, Corrections and Conditional Release Act amendments, I came upon your comments in the House on October 23 of last year.

You referenced Jason Godin, President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who you quoted as saying there would be a blood bath in the penitentiaries if Bill C-83 were passed.

Citing Jason Godin as an authority on what is best practice in the operation of our federal prison industry is akin to taking Donald Trump’s tweets as gospel.

But then, I doubt there is a Conservative who supports progressive prison reform.

Forget the Canadian Bar Association comments. Wanna bet C-83 will be watered down even further?

Prison industry health care

SCENE ONE – Correctional Service of Canada National Headquarters, Ottawa

“CSC is the largest federal employer of psychologists in Canada.
As a CSC psychologist, you will have a significant impact in changing offender’s behaviours and helping them to adopt more positive lifestyles, assisting in their safe reintegration into the community.

CSC psychologists are primarily focused on the assessment and treatment of offenders with mental disorders and on the assessment of their risk to reoffend. Psychologists also develop and deliver programs that help offenders to better understand their behaviour and to develop new ways of coping.

Join a team of psychologists who are world renowned for their contribution to correctional research and for developing programs and interventions that work.”

…..from ‘Health Services’ employment opportunities on the Correctional Service of Canada web site.

Yes, CSC psychologists are primarily focused on the assessment of their (offenders) risk to reoffend.

As for the rest of the profile, put it in front of the men and women locked away in our prisons. Listen for the laughter coming from inside, breaching the high walls, Plexiglas, fences, bars and barbed wire.

Inmates have higher incidents of mental/emotional challenges than the community at large, and it may account for the criminality of many offenders. Despite the potential for positive outcomes, and the demand for help, psychiatric and psychological intervention is sparse, limited, and exclusive.

Again, an example of the difference between policy and practice.

God forbid that Correctional Service of Canada should do anything to reduce the size of the prison population.

Free Adam Capay!

If our provincial and federal governments won’t whip the prison industry into line, then the courts will.


So read the headline on the front page of the Tuesday, January 29 Globe and Mail. The ‘deck’ below went further, “Justice John Fregeau finds multiple Charter rights of 26-year-old were violated as he waited to stand trial for a first-degree murder charge.”

Adam Capay, a Lac Seul First Nation man, was sent to Thunder Bay Correctional Centre at age 19 on minor charges. In this decrepit jail long overdue for replacement, he got into a fight and another man died. He then spent 4 ½ years in solitary confinement awaiting trial for murder, much of that time in a small cell covered with Plexiglas and lit 24 hours a day.

Mr. Capay came to the public’s attention in 2016 when Renu Mandhane, Ontario’s chief human rights commissioner, brought in the media after a guard at the jail notified her of Mr. Capay’s declining mental state in solitary confinement. The superintendent of the Thunder Bay facility, senior civil servants and even government members were or should have been aware of his lengthy segregation, but did nothing to correct what was patently wrong and illegal.

There’s a publication ban on evidence in the case pending a possible appeal of the stay by the province. Scant information not covered by the ban says the stay was granted as recourse for a breach of four Charter sections….multiple violations of Adam Capay’s rights. The harm caused by the state outweighed the seriousness of the alleged crime – first degree murder.

As things stand, we won’t know if Mr. Capay is guilty of killing 35-year-old Sherman Quisses, another indigenous inmate. “The state has not only deprived Adam Capay of his rights but also deprived the Quisses family of an opportunity for justice,” said one of his lawyers.

“If this happened in a country that is notorious for violating human rights, like Saudi Arabia, we would be outraged. Discovering this is occurring in Canada is so shocking it is difficult to process,” wrote Scott Gilmore in MacLean’s in October of 2016. Then too, Canada is today condemning China for the arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens.

Adam Capay is not the first or only victim of government sanctioned mistreatment. Canada’s provincial and federal prison industries have a long history of rights’ violations. Even today, other Adam’s are under wraps in every part of this country.