Transforming Ontario's Correctional System
Today the Legislative Assembly of Ontario passed the Correctional Services and Reintegration Act, 2018 that, once proclaimed, will repeal and replace the Ministry of Correctional Services Act. The new legislation is the foundation of the province's plan for the future of adult correctional services in Ontario.
The 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 definition is consistent with several comprehensive expert reports, and with stakeholder feedback. This definition also complies with the United Nation's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).
Prohibitions on segregating vulnerable inmates will be phased in for those who:
- Are pregnant or have recently given birth
- Are chronically self-harming or suicidal
- Have a mental disorder or intellectual disability that meets the conditions set out in regulation
- Need medical observation
- Have a mobility impairment that meets the conditions set out in regulation.
The legislation also prohibits 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 will review and make decisions on segregation cases at five and 10 consecutive days and after 30 and 55 aggregate days of segregation in a 365-day period. The Independent Review Panel can decide to exceed the 60-day limit. 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 sets minimum standards for living conditions that will apply to all inmates. This includes reasonable access to natural light, fresh air, adequate bedding, and a clean environment, and the right to at least two in-person visits per week.
- Requires that all inmates, including those on remand, be classified for security level and be placed in the appropriate institutional location.
- Defines different types of searches and outlines the circumstances for when each type of search can take place. All searches, including strip searches, will follow a prescribed process.
- Establishes an enhanced formal complaints process for inmates, including timelines, procedures, and reporting requirements. This process will be prescribed in regulation.
- Sets limits on use of force that can be used against an inmate, and on the instruments of restraint.
Oversight and Transparency
The legislation establishes:
- 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 will enforce compliance with the legislation, regulation, policies and procedures, and will be able to issue direction to the ministry.
- Independent review panels to review segregation cases with the ability to, as necessary, vary or maintain the conditions of confinement.
- Disciplinary hearings officers to conduct hearings and make decisions about sanctions for serious acts of misconduct by inmates.
Evidence-based Programs and Services
Access to evidence-based and culturally responsive programs and services is essential for the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals in custody. Initial assessments will be conducted on every newly admitted inmate to identify and better respond to their needs both while in custody, and upon their release.
An individualized case management plan will be required, within a prescribed period of time after admission, for inmates. Each plan will address an inmate's unique needs, and will establish a path to successful reintegration into the community.
Supports for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Individuals, Over-represented Groups and those with Diverse and Unique Needs
The legislation increases support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals, for racialized groups that are over represented in the correctional system, and for those with diverse and unique needs by:
- Establishing an advisory committee made up of Indigenous justice system experts to advise on the delivery of services to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals
- Affirming that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Elders and spiritual advisors have the same status as other religious and spiritual care providers in correctional facilities
- Requiring that staff and oversight bodies - including community advisory boards - receive enhanced training on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis rights and culture, as well as cultural competency training to promote the recognition, understanding, 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 diverse and over-represented groups.
To improve access to health care services, the legislation:
- Affirms the government's obligation to provide patient-centered, equitable health care services that respect clinical independence, with a focus on providing continuity of care with services provided in the community.
- Clearly sets out the health care services to which incarcerated individuals should have access, including treatment of disease or injury, health promotion, disease prevention, dental care, vision care, hearing care, mental health and addictions care,medication prescribed by a health professional, and traditional First Nations, Inuit, and Métis healing and medicines.
Inmates in segregation will receive daily visits from at least one member of a health care service team, and will be seen by a member of the mental health care service team as required - and at least once every five days.
Enhancing a Culture of Professionalism and Continuous Learning
The legislation requires correctional employees to comply with a prescribed code of conduct. Enhanced training, standards, and performance expectations will be set out in regulation to support a culture of professionalism and continuous development.