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Transforming Ontario's Corrections System

Backgrounder

Transforming Ontario's Corrections System

Today the government introduced the Correctional Services Transformation Act, 2018 that, if passed, would repeal and replace the Ministry of Correctional Services Act. The proposed new legislation is the foundation of the province's plan for the future of correctional services in Ontario.

This proposed legislation will be implemented in phases, as soon as possible based on system readiness and the appropriate supports being in place. It will mandate and enable the transformation of the province's corrections system in the following areas:

Segregation

The proposed legislation clearly defines segregation as any type of custody where an inmate is highly restricted in movement and in association with others for 22 hours or more a day. The proposed definition is consistent with several comprehensive expert reports, and with stakeholder feedback. This definition complies with the United Nation's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).

Prohibitions on segregating vulnerable inmates would be phased in for those who:

  • Are pregnant or have recently given birth
  • Are chronically self-harming or suicidal
  • Have a significant mental illness or significant developmental disability, which will be defined in regulation
  • Need medical observation
  • Have a significant mobility impairment.

The proposed bill would also prohibit an inmate from being held in conditions that constitute segregation for more than 15 consecutive days or for more than 60 aggregate days in the most recent 365-day period.

Independent Review Panels would review and make decisions on segregation cases every five consecutive days and after 30 and 55 aggregate days of segregation in a 365-day period.  The Chair of the Independent Review Panel can decide to exceed the 60-day limit only in exceptional cases. If this occurs, the Minister will be informed and may request a second review by a different Independent Regional Chair. 

Inmate Living Conditions and Standards

The legislation would set minimum standards for living conditions applicable to all inmates. This includes reasonable access to natural light, fresh air, adequate bedding and a clean environment, and at least two in-person visits per week.

The proposed act would also:

  • Require that all inmates, including those on remand, be classified for security level and for appropriate institutional placement.
  • Define different types of searches and outline the circumstances for when each type of search can take place. All searches, including strip searches, would follow a prescribed process.
  • Establish an enhanced formal complaints process for inmates, including timelines, procedures, and reporting requirements. This process will be prescribed in regulation.

Oversight and Transparency

The act would establish:

  • A Chief of Investigations to investigate employee code of conduct matters and security-related issues.
  • An independent Inspector General to review, report, and issue direction on the treatment of inmates and on conditions of confinement. The Inspector General would ensure compliance with the legislation and all policies, and would be able to issue direction to the ministry.
  • Independent review panels to review and make decisions on cases where inmates are held in non-disciplinary segregation. The panels would ensure that inmates are held in the least restrictive conditions possible.
  • Disciplinary hearings officers to conduct hearings and make decisions about sanctions for serious acts of misconduct by inmates.

Evidence-based Programs and Services

Improved access to evidence-based programs and services is intrinsic to the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates. To better respond to inmates' individual needs, an initial assessment would be conducted on all newly admitted inmates to identify their needs while in custody and upon release.

An individualized case management plan would be required for every inmate, which would address their unique needs and establish a plan for successful reintegration into the community.

Supports for Indigenous Individuals, Over-represented Groups and Those with Unique Needs

The proposed act would increase support for Indigenous individuals, racialized groups that are over represented in the correctional system and those with unique needs by:

  • Establishing an advisory committee made up of Indigenous justice system experts to provide advice on the delivery of services to Indigenous individuals
  • Affirming that Elders and Indigenous Spiritual Advisors have the same status as other religious leaders in correctional facilities
  • Requiring that staff and oversight bodies--including Community Advisory Boards--receive enhanced training on Indigenous rights and culture, as well as cultural competency training to promote the recognition of, and respect for, Ontario's diverse society
  • Requiring that all rehabilitative programming accounts for the diverse and unique needs of the inmate population, with a focus on the needs of over-represented groups.

Heath Care

To improve health care services, the proposed act would:

  • Affirm the government's obligation to provide patient-centered, equitable health care services that respect clinical independence, with a focus on maintaining a greater continuity of care for inmates.
  • Clearly define in legislation the health care services that incarcerated individuals should have access to, including treatment of disease or injury, health promotion, disease prevention, dental care, vision care, mental health and addictions care and traditional Indigenous healing and medicines. 

Inmates in segregation would receive daily visits from at least one member of a health care service team and would be seen by a member of the mental health care service team at least once every five days.

Enhancing a Culture of Professionalism and Continuous Learning

The proposed act would, for the first time, legislate a requirement for correctional employees to comply with a prescribed code of conduct and enhanced training, standards, and performance expectations to support a culture of professionalism and continuous development.

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