On Tuesday, the Office of the Correctional Investigator tabled its most recent annual report
The Correctional Investigator, Howard Sapers, acts as an ombudsman for federal offenders, investigating and solving individual offender complaints.
Among the highlights of the report:
- Close to one-in-five (18%) federal offenders (community and incarcerated) is a visible minority. This segment of the offender population has increased by 75% over the past 10 years.
Since 2006-07, the total offender population (community and incarcerated) increased by 1,539 offenders or 7.1%. All new net growth in the offender population over this period can be accounted for by increases in Aboriginal (+793), Black (+585), Asian (+337) and other visible minority groups. During this same time period, the total Caucasian offender population actually decreased (-466).
Though slowly declining, Caucasians make up the largest proportion of the offender population (62.3%), followed by Aboriginals (19.3%), Blacks (8.6%), Asians (5.4%), Hispanics (0.9%) and other visible minority groups (3.4%).
When combined, the number of Aboriginal and visible minority inmates now exceeds 6,000 of a total incarcerated population of approximately 15,000. In other words, 40% of the inmate count on any given day now comes from a non-Caucasian background
The growing proportion of visible minority offenders reflects an increasingly diverse, multi-ethnic and pluralistic Canadian society. Nearly one in four visible minority offenders are foreign-born, many practice religious faiths other than Christianity and a number speak languages other than English or French in their home. Facilitating institutional adjustment, meaningful participation in correctional programs and community reintegration for these offenders poses considerable challenges.
- On many indicators of correctional performance, visible minority offenders appear to fare better compared to the total offender population. Over the last 7 years, on average, less than 5% of visible minority inmates have been readmitted within two years of their warrant expiry date. There are however, important differences in these very distinct and diverse groups.
•As the case study on Black inmates demonstrates, Black inmates are over-represented in maximum security and segregation, incur a disproportionate number of institutional charges, and are more likely to be involved in use of force incidents.
- Discriminatory behaviour and prejudicial attitudes by some federal correctional staff are reported as common experiences for many visible minority inmates. For example, Black inmates report stereotyping by personnel that often labels them as gang members. Black inmates report that their behaviours, actions or spoken communication appear to be assessed through a ‘gang lens’.
- Diversity training that is integrated within the overall training framework and rooted in practical and operational experience and support is key to building awareness, sensitivity and cultural competency.
Sapers recommends that correctional service develop a national Diversity Awareness Training Plan to provide practical and operational training in the areas of diversity, sensitivity and cultural competency.
He also recommends the establishment of an Ethnicity Liaison Officer responsible for building and maintaining linkages with culturally diverse community groups and organizations which at present are very limited.
Other sections of the report deal with issues such as mental health care, prevention of deaths in custody, conditions of confinement, issues affecting Aboriginal and women offenders and access to correctional programs.
Labels: annual reports, correctional services