COPCAT Shorts – Indigenous Canada Featured in Global Prison Trends 2019

“Indigenous peoples are heavily overrepresented in prison populations – particularly in Australia, Canada and New Zealand – and this is a persistent and growing problem, especially for women.” (21)

“Women from Indigenous communities and ethnic minorities face significant disadvantages in the criminal justice system, due to the double discrimination of gender and race – which is usually coupled with poor socio-economic status and education. The rate of criminalisation and imprisonment of Indigenous women is particularly concerning in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.” (20)

“Nearly half of all youth who were in custody in Canada in 2016–17 were Indigenous, despite making up only eight per cent of the youth population.” (24)

Excerpts from Penal Reform International’s Global Prison Trends 2019.

Indigenous Canadians in PRI's report, Global Prison Trends

Global Prison Trends is Penal Reform International’s annual flagship publication series which identifies topical developments and challenges in criminal justice, and prison policy and practice at the global level. 

PRI sets out a raft of key recommendations in the report. These include:

  • States should closely monitor the representation of foreign nationals and people from ethnic and racial minority or Indigenous backgrounds in criminal justice systems. They should review sentencing policies or practices to determine if they are discriminatory, and develop specific measures to meet the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of these prisoners;
  • Countries that have not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture should do so. (42-42)

Global Prison Trends 2019 can be downloaded here in English.

Read the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) policy backgrounder, Indigenous Women in Solitary Confinement.

Explore NWAC’s factsheet on Prison Issues.

The ICPA’s March 2019 newsletter on solitary confinement can be read here.

Examine the ICPA’s focus on independent oversight of prisons in Canada.

Posted by mp in Indigenous people, Prisons, Solitary confinement

Aging and Dying in Canadian Prisons

In a new report titled Aging and Dying in Prison: An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission address the key issue of how to ensure public safety while respecting and protecting the unique needs, dignity and rights of older persons in the country’s federal prisons.  

The investigation behind the Aging and Dying report was motivated by the concern that the health, safety and dignity-related needs of older persons are not adequately protected in prison and that the Canadian prison service has made little progress in addressing such issues despite the constant and continued growth in the aged prison population as well as the numerous related recommendations issued by the OCI over more than a decade. 

At the present time Canada’s federal prison estate comprises some 43 federally-run prisons and 15 federally-run community correctional centres. According to the new Aging and Dying in Prison report, around 25% of persons currently held in federal prisons are aged 50 and over.

As per the joint press release accompanying the report, Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry commented:

“Every person in Canada, including those in federal custody, has a right to live their final moments with dignity and safety. Prisons are not equipped to provide end of life care. Correctional Service Canada must do more to ensure inmates can return to the community and so that end-of-life care is humane and dignified. This starts with encouraging and facilitating inmates to maintain meaningful connections within their community.”

Aging and Dying

Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger is also quoted in the press release of the Aging and Dying in Prison report as stating:

“Conditions of confinement of older individuals in federal custody are lacking in terms of personal safety and dignity. Some older, long-serving inmates are being warehoused behind bars. Their prospects for release are often overlooked or neglected … Older offenders are one of the most costly cohorts to incarcerate, yet they pose the least risk. More responsive and humane models of care exist in the community that would better support the reintegration needs of older offenders at a significantly lower cost. These alternatives could be funded through savings generated by unnecessary incarceration.”

The report makes 16 joint recommendations, several of which are aimed at the de-institutionalization and release of older prisoners (who do not pose an undue risk to the public) and their placement in a community-care focused environment.

The creation of an immediate prison service-led comprehensive National Older Offender Strategy to address the care and needs of older individuals in federal custody (as reflected in the recommendations of the report), was also highlighted as a key recommendation.

Other recommendations encompassed the additional training needs for federal prison staff in addressing age-related needs (physical, social and psychological) as well as the allocation of tailored age- and disability-appropriate space and services for such categories of persons.  

As the report itself underlines in its conclusion:

“It seems surprising to have to actually say or note, but a few modest measures would go a long way to recognizing and addressing the needs of older individuals in federal custody and improving the quality, purpose and meaning of their lives behind bars. Rules, routines, conditions of confinement and environments that were originally put in place to manage more active, healthier and younger people are not necessarily responsive to the life trajectories, circumstances or needs of aging persons.”

Read the new Aging and Dying report in English.

Read the backgrounder on the report.

Lire le nouveau rapport en français.

Lire le document d’information.

Read what the Canadian Human Rights Commission has to say about prisoners’ rights and follow the institution on Twitter.

Visit and explore the OCI website. Examine the Correctional Investigator’s recently expressed views on the importance of Canada ratifying the OPCAT in English and French.

Posted by mp in Oversight bodies, Prisons

COPCAT en bref: Focus du Protecteur du citoyen sur les conditions de détention

Les conditions de détention dans les prisons provinciales sont examinées dans le Rapport annuel 2017-2018 du Protecteur du citoyen du Québec. Au cours de cette période, l’institution a traité près de 5 000 plaintes concernant des prisons.

Protecteur du citoyen

Le Protecteur du citoyen, Marie Rinfret, a présenté son rapport à l’Assemblée nationale du Québec le 29 novembre 2018, soulignant diverses préoccupations à cet égard:

  • En raison de la surpopulation carcérale, des établissements de détention en viennent à placer jusqu’à trois personnes dans une cellule prévue pour une seule. La situation perdure, notamment en raison d’un manque de planification au regard des opérations entourant l’ouverture de nouveaux établissements.
  • Alors que l’isolement cellulaire, soit le confinement en cellule 22 heures ou plus par jour, doit être utilisé de façon exceptionnelle et selon des balises bien définies, il arrive qu’il soit pratiqué pour des périodes pouvant atteindre plusieurs semaines, voire des mois.
  • Dans un rapport paru en mars 2018, le Protecteur du citoyen fait la lumière sur les conséquences de l’augmentation des peines discontinues dans les établissements de détention.
  • Les mesures à mettre en place pour contrer le survol des établissements par les drones ne doivent pas porter atteinte aux droits résiduels des personnes incarcérées.
  • Les personnes incarcérées ne peuvent exercer leur droit de vote lors des élections municipales et scolaires. Le Protecteur du citoyen fait des recommandations pour changer cette situation.
  • Des recommandations du Protecteur du citoyen concernant les conditions de détention, l’administration de la justice et la prévention de la criminalité au Nunavik tardent à être implantées.

Le Rapport annuel 2017-2018 du Protecteur du citoyen peut être téléchargé en français.

Posted by mp in Oversight bodies, Prisons

COPCAT Shorts: Québec Ombudsperson Prisons Focus

Conditions of detention in Québec’s provincial prisons have once again come under close scrutiny in the Annual Report 2017-2018 of the Québec Ombudsperson. During this period nearly 5000 complaints concerning prisons were processed by the institution.

Quebec Ombudsperson

Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret presented her report to the National Assembly on 29 November 2018, highlighting various concerns in this respect. These included the following (taken from the report):

  • Due to prison overcrowding, some correctional facilities end up putting as many as three detainees in cells meant to hold one inmate. The situation persists, notably because of a lack of planning regarding the operations surrounding the opening of new facilities.
  • Even though solitary confinement (isolation in a cell for 22 hours or more a day) must be an exception and carried out according to clear-cut guidelines, it may last for periods of up to several weeks if not months.
  • In a report released in March 2018, the Québec Ombudsperson shed light on the consequences of the increase in intermittent sentences in correctional facilities.
  • The measures introduced to curb drone activity over correctional facilities must not infringe on detainees’ residual rights.
  • Detainees cannot exercise their right to vote in municipal and school elections. The Québec Ombudsperson made recommendations aimed at changing this situation.
  • The Québec Ombudsperson’s recommendations concerning detention conditions, the administration of justice and crime prevention in Nunavik are slow to be implemented.

The Québec Ombudsperson’s Annual Report 2017-2018 can be downloaded in full in English.

Posted by mp in Oversight bodies, Prisons

Guidance Document on the Nelson Mandela Rules Now Published!

This past week Penal Reform International and the Organization’s for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights published their Guidance Document on the Nelson Mandela Rules. The document offers invaluable advice on the implementation of the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015.

According to the authors: “The Guidance Document is the result of a joint project by ODIHR and PRI that is designed to assist states in implementing the new Rules, so as to protect the right of people deprived of their liberty to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.” The Guidance Document, which is presently only available in English, can be downloaded by clicking on the image below.

Mandella Rules Guidance DocumentPRI’s other key documents on torture prevention can be located under Other Resources in this website’s menu.


Posted by mp in Prisons, Publication, Torture prevention

New Publication on Mental Health in Prisons

Mental Health in PrisonsPenal Reform International has issued a new publication, Mental health in prisons: A short guide for prison staff. The guide seeks to help prison staff understand and respond appropriately to the mental health needs of adult prisoners. It focuses on how prison staff can promote and protect mental health and well-being and enable those with existing conditions to function better in the prison environment.

The guide will also prove to be a useful tool for independent detention monitors in different national contexts, including Canada.

The publication is currently available in English and Georgian.

Posted by mp