CAB Report 2015 - Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
Community Advisory Board Annual Report
Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
March 23, 2016
Ministry of Correctional Services Act, Section 14.1, 2000, c.40, s.4.
“The Minister may establish a local monitoring board for a correctional institution, composed of persons appointed by the Minister.”
Principal Duties of the Community Advisory Board
- To satisfy themselves as to the state of the institution premises, the administration of the institution, and the treatment of inmates;
- To develop effective relationships with the superintendent and share minutes from the Board meetings;
- To inquire into and report back on any matters requested by the minister;
- To direct to the attention of the superintendent any matter they consider expedient to report; and
- To report to the minister any matter which they consider expedient to report, normally achieved through the Annual Report or through exceptional situation reports.
Overview of the Annual Report
One of the required functions of the Community Advisory Board (CAB) is to develop and submit an annual report outlining and describing the Board’s activities of the previous year. The report will also contain observations and recommendations to the Minister, Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS), on aspects of the operation of the institution.
The annual report is submitted to the minister, with distribution to the institution superintendent. The annual report or excerpts may only be made public with the approval of the minister.
Objectives of the Annual Report
The purpose of the annual report is to highlight the work of the CAB and to identify any areas of concern and/or support for the operation of the institution. The annual report should include observations, findings and recommendations in the following areas:
- Advice to the minister on any aspect of the operation of the institution;
- Any observations communicated to the superintendent regarding the operation of the institution;
- Advice provided to the minister and superintendent regarding a community or citizens perspective on the operation of the institution;
- Observations communicated to the minister and superintendent, regarding the treatment of inmates in the care of the institution;
- Observations on the state of the institution and the administration of the facility; and
- The establishment of cooperative and supportive relationships with the superintendent, managers and staff of the institution.
Objectives and Goals
To make observations and recommendations to the Minister, Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS), on aspects of the operation, administration and treatment of inmates at OCDC.
Community Advisory Board Members
Chair: Meredith Porter, appointed Feb. 3, 2014, term Feb. 2, 2017
Jeff Anderson, appointed Feb. 13 2014, term Feb. 12 2017
Julianne Dunbar, appointed Feb. 3 2014, term Feb. 2 2017
Rebecca Jesseman, appointed Feb. 10, 2014, term Feb. 9, 2017
Genevieve Boudreau, appointed Oct. 22, 2015, term Oct. 21, 2018
Overview of CAB Activities for 2015
Number of CAB Meetings: 13
The OCDC CAB met at the institution on the following dates:
April 28, 2015
May 28, 2015
June 26, 2015
September 9, 2015
September 30, 2015
October 28, 2015
November 3, 2015
December 2, 2015
January 19, 2016
February 2, 2016
March 11, 2016
The CAB members also met twice off-site.
Number of Site Visits: The CAB members toured the facility on a monthly basis. In some months, visits were increased to two visits per month.
In addition to the monthly CAB meetings listed above, CAB members attended the following events in accordance with CAB’s mandate for community outreach and dialogue:
- April 15, 2015: Presentation at Ottawa City Hall (Hosted by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project [CPEP])
- April 20, 2015: CAB Chair Meeting with Minister Naqvi in Toronto
- May 25, 2015: Meeting with community groups (Mothers Offering Mutual Support [MOMS], CPEP)
- September 24, 2015: Meeting with community groups (MOMS, CPEP)
- October 28, 2015: All CAB Meeting, Ottawa
- December 3, 2015: Meeting to facilitate Muslim programming at OCDC
- December 23, 2015: OCDC CAB Chair met with Minister Naqvi in Ottawa
- January 25, 2016: Meeting with community groups (Elizabeth Fry, MOMs, CPEP)
- January 27, 2016: Meeting with the Ottawa John Howard Board of Directors
Monthly Reports provided to the CAB: The CAB did not quantify the number of reports provided during the 2015 year. However, superintendent reports were provided at each monthly CAB meeting.
Number of Reports/Concerns that Required Action: The CAB did not quantify the number of reports and/or concerns requiring action during the 2015 year. However, at each monthly meeting reports were provided by each CAB member following their tour of the institution that respective month (whether one or multiple tours were made). A number of key concerns were raised during meetings, several concerns were raised numerous times including: poor quality meals; overcrowding within the institution; the lack of access to the yard and programming; under-staffing; failure to meet the specific needs of Aboriginal inmates; processes through which inmates can be informed of and communicate with CAB members; and the appropriateness of the search procedures within the institution.
Number of Concerns Directed to the Superintendent: All concerns listed above were directed to the superintendent during monthly meetings.
The superintendent attended each monthly CAB meeting, or ensured that a suitable substitute staff member attended in her absence. CAB members raised concerns over the course of the monthly meetings, and time was spent discussing the details of CAB concerns and possible ways in which the particular issue could be remedied. CAB members also requested further information on a number of critical issues in order to determine the cause for concern. Requests for further details were made on the following issues: programs at OCDC and the schedule for programming; log-books recording inmate daily access to the yard and programming; OCDC policies regarding ‘Standing Orders’ and operational policies; incident reports.
Number of Concerns Directed to the Minister: In October of 2015, an all-CAB meeting was held in Ottawa. Deputy Minister Stephen Rhodes attended that meeting on behalf of Minister Naqvi as the minister’s representative. At the all-CAB meeting, concerns were raised including: expeditious appointment of CAB members to fill current vacancies; ongoing staffing shortages and impact on the institution; provision of sub-standard meals; the need for an improved communications strategy with the ministry to ensure that community and inmates are aware of CABs and their mandates.
Reiterating 2014 Recommendations
The CAB has seen little to no progress with respect to the recommendations made in the 2014 report. The CAB reiterates the observations and recommendations made previously, particularly with regard to staffing shortages, institutional infrastructure and upgrades, and addressing the needs of inmates with mental health concerns. The CAB has heard of the development of action plans to address some issues; for example the ministry’s review of segregation procedures; and welcomes these initiatives. However, significant change is still required in order to meet the significant system-level needs that have been identified.
In last year’s Annual Report, the CAB made 22 recommendations. Recommendation #7 which asked the ministry to facilitate contact between the various CABs across the province was fulfilled by holding an all CAB meeting on October 28, 2015. Recommendation #6 was partly fulfilled with the appointment of one additional CAB member this last year.In addition, it is understood that Recommendation #15 has been realized with the acceptance of the Red Bag Program to assist those inmates who are released into the community.Recommendation #4 was met by making a condensed version of the 2014 Annual Report public. In addition, Recommendation #2 which asked for the ministry to address issues of wage increases is understood to be a part of the collective bargaining process. The ministry has made some progress in relation to Recommendation #1 with recent hires; however, much more needs to be done to address the significant staff shortages at OCDC.
As such, 4 recommendations have been fulfilled and 2 partially met. Remaining are 17 recommendations outstanding from the 2014 Annual Report. The CAB will rely on the description of the various issues leading up to the recommendations as relayed in the 2014 report. A list of the outstanding recommendations (including 2 partially met recommendations) follows:
- It is recommended that the ministry addresses the serious issue of staff shortages. (Partially met: ongoing)
- It is recommended that a performance management system be instituted by OCDC to ensure annual performance assessments are completed for all staff.
- It is recommended that the ministry make this Annual Report public. (While this recommendation was met, it is repeated). It is further recommended that the ministry responds in a timely manner to the 2015 Report and makes its action towards addressing recommendations public as well.
- It is recommended that a communications strategy be established to ensure OCDC communicates effectively with the community to provide timely and factual information (ministry representatives at the all-CAB meeting in October indicated that action was being taken to address this, however no follow-up details have been received).
- It is recommended that the ministry fill the two vacant positions on the OCDC CAB (Partially met: one further CAB member is needed).
- It is recommended that OCDC ensure discussions take place with the telephone provider to explore improved phone service for inmates and families, friends and professional services such as lawyers.
- It is recommended that a specific training program be provided on how to deal with mentally ill inmates.
- It is recommended that the ministry develop an action plan to deal with mentally ill inmates that would include more appropriate accommodation within the institution or a more appropriate facility as well as follow up procedures to ensure mentally ill inmates have a proper release plan (community referrals).
- The ministry should undertake a review of its current Cook/Chill program to determine how best to improve or replace it as soon as possible so as to ensure that inmates are served at minimum, palatable, unspoiled, nutritious meals that they will generally consume on a regular basis.
- Ministry officials should find ways to require the Cook/Chill provider to meet its basic contractual obligations.
- OCDC could and should mitigate some of the current problems by ensuring that the Canteen offers a wide selection of more nutritious and healthy food products at reasonable prices. (While it is noted that selections have increased, more options are still required)
- The ministry should recognize the systemic problem of overcrowding and take immediate action to relieve the burden that this places on provincial correctional institutions.
- It is recommended that strategies be implemented to reduce the amount of lockdowns and increase yard time for inmates.
- It is recommended that the ministry review current staffing levels for medical personnel and increase as required.
- It is recommended that the OCDC review present maintenance arrangements to ensure the noted structural deficiencies in the institution are addressed in a timely manner.
- It is recommended that OCDC review inmate clothing requirement needs to ensure clothing in all sizes is available for inmates, and that clothing is appropriate for seasonal temperatures and weather conditions.
- It is recommended that OCDC provide improved access to and disinfecting of personal grooming equipment.
- It is recommended that better incentives for inmates be considered.
- It is recommended that the ministry reinstate a physical activity program at OCDC.
Presentations and Training
Number of Presentations made to the CAB: One All-CAB Meeting held in Ottawa on October 28, 2015.
OCDC CAB members participated in the all-CAB meeting hosted by the ministry, and would like to recognize the value that this provided in terms of networking and knowledge exchange with CAB colleagues from across the province as well as institutional and ministry representatives.
The CAB reiterates the importance of being able to open communication channels to both inmates and staff within the institution. The request for ministry support in developing a basic information sheet and contact process has been ongoing since the CAB was established in 2014.
The CAB again highlights the importance of replacing members in a timely way. The CAB remains short one member, which impacts its ability to fulfill its mandate without placing an increased burden on the time of existing volunteer members. As previously suggested to the ministry, a CAB member who is representative of the OCDC population would be an excellent complement to the group.
The CAB notes that the release of the condensed version of the annual report was well-received by institutional staff as well as community partners. However, the time lag between submission of the report in March and its release in October was also noted and questioned. The CAB strongly encourages the ministry to release the submitted full-version report sooner following submission. The CAB also heard a high level of dissatisfaction with the ministry’s response to the report – in particular the lack of concrete solutions being offered to address the problems identified – and encourages the ministry to provide a more meaningful response; for example, with concrete plans and timelines to those issues that the ministry chooses to address.
The CAB recognizes the value of the opportunity to meet with the minister, and welcomes further dialogue with senior representatives toward the development of solutions to the system-level issues that continue to jeopardize the safety, security, and wellness of those within the institution. The CAB highlights the fact that inadequate services within the institution have significant negative impacts on the family, friends, and communities of both staff and inmates, with ripple effects that increase costs in terms of health care, enforcement, and social services, among others.
Finally, the CAB noted with concern the implication by the ministry and institutional administration that the CAB would be unable to fulfill its mandate should strike action take place. The CAB noted that as the labour situation escalated, communication with some contacts at both administration and staff levels became more difficult.
Number of Training Sessions Completed: Training was provided to one newly appointed CAB member by the Program Advisor of the Field Operations and Corporate Support Branch of the ministry. The new CAB member found the overview of Ontario’s correctional services and of the OCDC institution informative. The extensive tour provided with the training was also very educational and helped the member prepare for her new role. It is recommended that as part of the training, new members also have the opportunity to meet with the superintendent and individually with the Deputy superintendents of Operations, Administration, Programs and Service to gain a better understanding of OCDC’s operations. In addition, tours of OCDC were arranged with the assistance of CAB members on several occasions in accordance with CAB’s mandate to increase community interest and improve community perspective of operations within OCDC.
Over the past year one of the CAB members facilitated information and observational tours for three groups of Federal Crown Prosecutors from Ottawa (ie. counsel at various levels within the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC)) on different occasions between June and November 2015.
The superintendent and her staff were extremely supportive of these visits, giving up several hours of their time. Each visit started with an hour and a half session where OCDC senior staff, often including the superintendent, explained how OCDC worked, its programs, policies, pressing issues, operational limitations etc. During that time PPSC counsel and OCDC officials were able to ask questions and share information. Then, one of the institutional security officials conducted a tour of the entire facility. The tours were extensive and thorough, covering most of the institution and taking up to two hours. Thereafter, the visitors returned to the administrative board room where officials were on hand to answer further questions.
OCDC officials and the PPSC counsel found the tours and the information sessions to be enlightening. We believe that the tours allow both of these groups to build better connections which might allow for more direct and timely communication should concerns about access to treatment (eg., Methadone) be raised by accused or their counsel. In addition, several of the counsel have been involved with the Ottawa Mental Health Court and were able to discuss various small issues or concerns about different matters with staff.
Finally, the PPSC counsel found the tours themselves to be very useful in that they were able to observe conditions under which those they prosecute have or could be remanded, they could see where people would be housed, what services were available and how things worked. For example, OCDC officials were able to discuss the difficulty in scheduling video remands given the limited number of video kiosks at OCDC and the fact that they are used for many official matters throughout the week.
The CAB and OCDC are working to offer a renewed set of visits both for other PPSC counsel as well as Ontario Crown Attorneys. We also believe that these tours would be instructive for local Judges who are tasked with deciding whether or not to release an accused on bail or remand them into custody at OCDC.
The Operation of the Institution
The operations and dynamic of the institution have been strongly influenced by the threat of a strike. The CAB noted a significant increase in the level of tension within the institution, evident among management, staff, and inmates. The resources dedicated by the ministry to strike preparation were a particular pain point among staff hearing at the same time that there are no resources for essential operational supports such as new hires, infrastructure development, facility improvements, and training. CAB members have noted that despite the avoidance of the strike, tension within the facility remains quite high, with low expectations among staff that the root systemic problems such as adequate resourcing will be resolved in a timely way. The CAB would like to highlight the significant impact that this tension has on the health and well-being of those working within the institution, resulting in increased costs due to medical leave, staff turnover, physical and mental health concerns, and impacts on family and community relationships. Management, staff and inmates would all benefit greatly if the ministry was able to devise and implement a strategy for restoring trust and mutual commitment between management and staff.
Since the resolution of the labour issues, the CAB learned of the resumption of meetings between the management and the ‘Local Employee Relations Committee’ (LERC) at OCDC. This committee has the capacity to bridge the relationship between management and staff at OCDC. Regional attendance of the Ministry Employee Relations Committee (MERC) at the LERC is also anticipated. This is a positive step forward and CAB recognizes the importance of such initiatives and dialogue.
During prison tours, CAB members were informed by correctional officers that they lack authority with inmates to efficiently do their job due to the perception of an increased administrative burden and increased scrutiny associated with the use of force, and the lack of space and the lack of space to strategically move problematic inmates. With cancelled and decreased access to yard, programs, and visits, inmates become frustrated and even violent which exacerbates a difficult working environment for OCDC staff.
Improvements to OCDC
The 2014 Annual Report of the OCDC CAB recommended that maintenance arrangements for the OCDC building be reviewed and that structural deficiencies, including improving the insulation of the institution, be attended to in a timely manner. In 2015, an exterior cladding project was undertaken to improve the insulation of several areas of the OCDC building. This project was intended to ultimately improve the regulation of the temperature in a number of areas within the institution. This project was completed in November 2015, and the CAB recognizes that this was a much-needed initiative to improve the day-to-day circumstances for inmates and staff at OCDC.
The installation of 450 cameras within the institution was commenced in 2014 and continued in 2015. The CAB recognizes this project to be a much-needed initiative.
Institution Impact on the Community
The CAB was informed that on a number of occasions, friends and family in the community coming to OCDC to visit inmates were either turned away at the gate or received notice that their visit had been cancelled by a sign posted on the exterior gate of the institution. Many family members travel long distances in order to attend a scheduled visit, at significant cost and inconvenience. The CAB was concerned that delays on visit days sometimes result in the cancellation or significant abbreviation of scheduled visits and that even though staff make efforts to contact family members, no notice is provided to many family members and friends prior to their arriving at the institution. The CAB recognizes that these cancellations can be due to unforeseen circumstances associated with staffing shortages. Perhaps some method of real-time communication of cancellations can be devised.
Local Communications Authority
Part of the role of the CAB is to act as a liaison and link back to the community. In that role, looking from the outside community back into OCDC, we see a steady stream of negative media coverage. We know that this reflects poorly on OCDC but that it also appears to be part of the approach media often takes toward public institutions. That said, we know that there are many good news stories from within OCDC. We also know that many of the staff work hard both in their jobs and in service to the community in which OCDC is located.
We think that OCDC should be better equipped to be able to get its message out into the area it serves both to allow for positive information and to be able to triage events when they happen. This latter point is important in that most information back to the press is controlled by and run through the ministry and its communications people in Toronto. While this approach is acceptable in general it removes OCDC’s ability to be nimble and responsive to community concerns and misinformation or skewed information about what goes on behind the gates at OCDC.
As result, we recommend that the ministry develop a policy/program by which OCDC officials can have some local autonomy on some issues so as to be able to both proactively and reactively get more accurate, fulsome and positive information into the community. While we are not in a position to suggest the exact structure or make-up of a policy or program we note there is likely significant value in ensuring that OCDC has a media/communications official who can work to build contacts and bridges with local media. While this sort of relationship may not always yield positive results in terms of fashioning the media depiction of OCDC’s image or work it will at least offer a conduit by which this sort of positive result is at least possible; which is not the case now where communications appear to only come from outside of Ottawa.
Administration of the Institution
The CAB recognizes the cladding project that was undertaken to improve the insulation in the older part of the building. Although this project involved significant logistical challenges, it was a necessary step toward improved basic living conditions. However, once the project was completed a number of the programs which had been suspended pending completion of the project should have been reinstated. It is also noted that the living arrangements for a number of the inmates during the completion of the project were substandard. Inmates were observed to be housed in shower stalls as ‘temporary’ living quarters during the completion of the project. The practice of housing inmates in shower stalls is never an acceptable option. This issue is dealt with in more detail in the following section.
The CAB notes the archaic nature of the institutional records system, and strongly recommends that the ministry invest in an on-line system that would increase accuracy and allow for real-time reporting and access to inmate and operational information.
Mental Health Support for OCDC Staff
The OCDC CAB welcomed the touring of OCDC by the Vice-Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Deputy CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA). Following the tour, arrangements were made to introduce OCDC staff to the National Standard which is an initiative of the MHCC. The National Standard is a set of guidelines, tools and resources which promote employees’ mental health and help to prevent psychological harm due to workplace factors. To date, no feedback has been provided to CAB regarding the delivery of this training.
The Treatment of Inmates
Visitation is important to the reintegration of the inmates and to ensure continued interpersonal links and community support. The regular cancellation of visits contributes to the tension within the institution.By way of example, inmates have advised that family members (spouses and children) have driven a considerable distance to be advised when they arrive at OCDC that visitations are cancelled due to staff shortages. When this repeats itself, tension mounts amongst inmates. Visitation cancellations seemed to be a semi-regular occurrence at OCDC leading up to and following the labour dispute.
While there is a clear need for increased programming at OCDC, the programming that is in place was regularly cancelled due to staff shortages.It has been reported to CAB members that volunteers who provide programming to inmates have experienced a degree of frustration by cancelled programs.Some volunteers have reported running their weekly programs only two times per month due to lock downs and staff shortages. As well, it is not clear if inmates are aware of the various program options at OCDC as it was observed by CAB members attending programming that some inmates were not even aware what program they would be attending until they arrived to the program room.
Searching of Inmates/Strip Searches
Strip searches are humiliating and degrading for inmates. OCDC is a detention centre, where many inmates are detained pending trial. It was reported to CAB members that strip searches are ‘routinely’ carried out at OCDC, with some inmates reporting strip searches occurring 15 to 20 times over a 9 month period and under certain circumstances strip searches are routinely conducted on a daily basis.
It was further reported that many times the strip searches were conducted in the absence of a reasonable explanation or reasonable grounds provided to the inmate(s) prior to being subjected to the strip search. Strip searches were reported to have been carried out in an ‘open’ place, where groups as large as 30 inmates were openly strip searched at one time and in view of one another. Strip searches should not be carried out simply as a matter of routine policy. Individuals should not be subjected to strip searches without reasonable grounds communicated to the inmate prior to the search process and strip searches should never be carried out in an open environment (such as a dorm setting). The privacy and dignity of each inmate should be preserved by conducting strip searches behind closed doors on a one-by-one basis. ministry strip search policies should be reviewed and revised as appropriate to ensure that they adequately address these concerns.
Inmates in segregation, in particular in the POD segregation unit, have little to no access to programs or basic privileges such as yard time. The CAB heard that inmates may stay in the unit for extended periods of time while awaiting trial, primarily due to mental health conditions that prevent them from being housed with the general population. The limited access to psychiatric or psychological care available in the institution does not meet the significant needs that these individuals bring; resulting in lack of opportunity for rehabilitation and often an increase in symptom severity. The CAB looks to the anticipated provincial-level review being conducted by the ministry for a concrete and resourced strategy to address this pressing issue.
Quality of Meals:
Up until January 2016, no discernable progress appears to have been made toward improving inmate access to palatable, high quality food at OCDC. It is important to note, however, that since January 2016, a combination of factors, including strike preparations and the Cook-Chill facility closure for upgrades, resulted in much better food being provided from a different commercial source. Kitchen staff, inmates and inmates’ contacts suggest that the food available from an alternative provider is much better; meals do not come back uneaten, inmates actually look forward to meals. The CAB members had a chance to test this alternative provider’s food at our March CAB/OCDC monthly meeting. The food looked good and was properly cooked. The taste and texture of the food was quite acceptable; indeed, some of the meals were very good. Certainly, this level of quality represents a significant departure from the meals observed prior to 2016. We are also led to believe that there is only a minor or marginal increase in the cost for food from the alternative supplier. This, of course, begs the question: why can the regular supplier not consistently provide meals of this quality?
The concern about meals prior to January 2016 is still something that must be addressed as food from the regular supplier will again be served once the repairs to the Cook-Chill facility are completed in June 2016. Anecdotal information paired with CAB member direct observations continue to suggest that food provided from the Cook-Chill facility in Milton continued to be unacceptable. Spoiled salads, food past its expiry date, mushy meat and generally unappetizing (or worse) food has been provided fairly regularly. A large portion of the meals served are regularly returned and thrown in the garbage by kitchen staff.
In addition, the poor status of the meals from the Cook-Chill facility was highlighted in the weeks leading up to the anticipated correctional workers’ strike in January 2016. Bulk meals (both hot and cold) were procured from an outside vendor to be stored and served to inmates in place of meals that would otherwise have come from the Cook-Chill facility, which would have been closed during the strike. The difference in the meals, again from newspaper reports, staff observations and inmate comments, was significant. The food was fresher and had a taste and texture expected of the described meal and generally the food was well regarded. It is disconcerting to see that a different commercial provider can provide acceptable bulk meals while the main provider does not appear to have made any progress.
In addition, no information or update has been provided to CAB members as to how the ministry will concretely deal with this significant problem in a timely fashion (and this is really an issue to be addressed by theministry/province as opposed to OCDC). As a result, we reference and re-affirm the observations made in the last report and request that a more proactive and quantifiable course of monitoring and correction with the cook chill facility be considered in the remaining years of the current contract with this particular provider. We also suggest that more effort be made to enable the food services provider to develop and consistently provide acceptable meals for inmates.
CAB Members also learned that the ministry has a different service provider for the kosher meals as the cook-chill facility is unable to provide such meals. The kosher meals appear more appetizing than the regular meals and overall seem to be superior in quality to the regular and halal meals for inmates. This is another clear example of how a different service provider is able to produce better quality meals.
CAB members also heard that there are problems in accommodating some special needs diets, in particular the recognition of food allergies and significant limitations in variety. The CAB heard, in particular, that an inmate with a soy allergy was repeatedly given tofu products as a protein source in vegetarian meals. It was reported to us by some inmates on special diets that there was a lack of variety in their diets. Although the CAB recognizes the challenge of accommodating special diets, it is incumbent on the ministry to ensure that inmates are able to meet basic dietary requirements.
The OCDC CAB notes that the canteen items available to male and female inmates at OCDC have expanded to include more healthy items including protein bars, fresh fruit, and other items. That said, we perceive that additional more nutritious and healthy items would be better for the inmate’s mental and physical health. Inmates reported that, due to the unpalatable meals being served at the institution, some meals were replaced by eating 5 or 6 protein bars which is not an acceptable meal-replacement option. We recommend that more substantial food items, such as those found on the “sentenced” inmate canteen list (as opposed to the “remanded” inmate canteen list), should be made available to all inmates regardless of their status.
Our CAB recognizes that people associate food with cultural beliefs, feeling and identity. Virtually all cultures include food in their cultural celebrations and ceremonies. Aboriginal peoples in Canada are no different. While we applaud OCDC and the ministry for offering various spiritual food-based accommodations (eg. Kosher and Halal meals), there is a void with respect to accommodations made for Aboriginal dietary needs and/or preferences.
Our CAB recognizes that the ministry has not obtained approvals to procure and provide fresh game meat and other traditional foods to the diverse group of Aboriginal inmates currently held at OCDC, and more generally throughout the province. The status quo is not acceptable. Efforts to meet the cultural needs of Aboriginal inmates with respect to access to traditional foods on a daily basis and for ceremonial purposes must be prioritized. Perhaps the best way forward would be to develop a protocol with respect to the provision of Aboriginal traditional and ceremonial foods at OCDC and throughout the province, then the institutional Native Inmate Liaison Officer (NILO) or Inuit Inmate Liaison Officer (IILO) will make recommendations to the superintendent. The superintendent will retain the right to prohibit foods that are contrary to the safety and security of the institution and any question on whether the items requested are “traditional” will be referred to the institutional NILO/IILO. The CAB recognizes that food that is to be used in relation to a ceremony does not always need to be “traditional” food, but it is ultimately the act of sharing food that is important to the ceremony. Opportunities for this should be made available on a regular, ongoing basis.
Aboriginal Spiritual Programming
In September 2015, our CAB was informed that a newly constructed Sweat lodge existed at OCDC. Plans for both male and female sweats had been made for early October. However, as of the date this Annual Report was drafted no sweats have occurred. In fact, daily access to smudging does not occur either. Aboriginal inmates reported that their spiritual needs were not met due to the lack of access to the outdoors or the programming room at OCDC as a result of staff shortages. Smudging was reported to occur once or twice per month at most. This is unacceptable. Ensuring that the spiritual needs of Aboriginal inmates, both men and women are met is a priority issue for our CAB.
Another issue reported to our CAB was inmates’ concerns regarding access to medicines and medicine pouches. Inmates have their medicine pouches confiscated upon admission to OCDC. Sweetgrass is provided to inmates once inside the institution, however, protocol for ensuring access to other medicines for ceremonies and as offerings should be developed. Medicines and medicine pouches have no monetary value but have high spiritual and healing value to inmates. Institutional NILOs are in the best position to work with the superintendent to develop protocol for the provision and use of medicines and medicine pouches within the institution, and also to develop protocol for the retaining of/access to medicines and medicine pouches by inmates while in custody.
The tension resulting from the labour dispute impacted everyone within the institution. Staffing shortages had a greater impact due to decreased staff willingness to work overtime; resulting in decreased access to yard, programs, and visits. Overall, system-level and institutional maintenance and infrastructure challenges highlighted elsewhere in this report have a negative impact on the treatment of inmates as well as the environment in which they live; further contributing to the tension and feeding a vicious circle. Particularly problematic issues include:
- consistent triple-bunking
- inmates sleeping in showers due to overcrowding
- consistent use of segregation for inmates with mental health issues
- lack of access to programs due to inadequate space and staff
- extended periods of time without access to yard, and
- inconsistent access to health care due to staff shortages among the health professionals needed to provide services as well as correctional officers required to provide the security to access these services.
Our CAB recognizes that efforts to hire additional staff are ongoing and our CAB looks forward to ongoing updates regarding the progress made on this issue. The impact on the day-to-day living for inmates should be minimized as much as possible. Reliance on volunteer services and programming should be at a maximum.
The CAB members heard reports that methadone was being administered at varying times each day. Inmates complained of the heightened anxiety and craving they experienced waiting long periods of time between receiving doses of methadone. The impact of inconsistent administration of methadone to women, particularly pregnant women, was noted by our CAB members. Female inmates reported that the inconsistency in the provision of methadone doses while pregnant caused difficulties in stabilization and an increase in withdrawal symptoms, along with other health-related concerns. The provision of methadone to inmates should be at a consistent time each day in order to reduce the withdrawal symptoms and cravings experienced by inmates. The CAB also noted the efforts made by OCDC nursing staff to ensure continuity of medication for inmates newly arrived to the institution or unexpectedly transferred from court without opportunity to retrieve medication from OCDC. Continuity of care is a vital part of addressing the physical and mental health needs of inmates, and the development of system-level processes to ensure this continuity would greatly benefit the inmate as well as reduce the administrative burden on health care staff.
Summary of Concerns and Recommendations
- It is recommended that the unresolved recommendations provided by the CAB in the 2014 Annual Report be addressed.
- It is recommended that CAB members be provided a contact list for ministry staff and CAB colleagues in order to facilitate networking and CAB operations.
- It is recommended that the CAB Annual Report be released publicly on a timely basis, and with a more fulsome ministry response outlining intended action and timelines.
- It is recommended that CAB members have increased opportunity to inter-face with ministry officials with respect to addressing systems-level issues within the institution.
- It is recommended that tours of the institution continue with justice officials including counsel, Judges and Justices of the Peace.
- It is recommended that proper and timely notice be given to friends and family members scheduled to visit inmates at the institution in order to avoid delays and wasted efforts as much as possible.
- It is recommended that a comprehensive ministry-level, CAB-focused communications strategy be developed and implemented (with input/participation from CAB members).
- It is recommended that the ministry implement a local media/communications strategy to ensure timely and accurate reporting to the community regarding issues occurring at OCDC specifically.
- Overcrowding at OCDC is an ongoing issue, however, it is recommended that some emergency provisions need to be developed and implemented to ensure that no inmates are ever housed in shower stalls for any reason.
- It is recommended that the ministry invest in an online record keeping system to allow for greater accuracy and real-time reporting for inmate information and institutional operations.
- It is recommended that ongoing, regular mental health training be provided to staff at OCDC in order to better meet the mental needs of staff and to facilitate their recognition of the mental health needs of their co-workers. The National Standard (training in mental health care) could be an available resource to OCDC staff on an ongoing basis.
- It is recommended that programming at OCDC be made available on a regular basis, with cancellations occurring only when absolutely necessary.
- It is further recommended that there be improved coordination with respect to attendance at programming by inmates, including targeted program delivery (inmates should attend programming targeted to their specific needs and be well aware of their programming plans).
- It is recommended that strip searches only be conducted when reasonable cause exists; under reasonable circumstances and privacy; and, on a one-by-one basis and that strip search policies be revised by the ministry.
- It is recommended that the ministry make every effort to accommodate the dietary needs of all inmates, with greater variety in meals served to inmates on special diets.
- It is recommended that the ministry make available healthy, robust meal-replacement options in the canteen selections for inmates. Perhaps replacing the ‘remanded’ inmate canteen list with the ‘sentenced’ inmate canteen list is the best solution.
- It is recommended that the culture-based dietary needs of Aboriginal inmates be met.
- It is recommended that Aboriginal inmates have access to smudging every day, and access to the newly constructed Sweatlodge occur on a (suggested) bi-weekly basis for both male and female inmates.
- It is recommended that protocol be developed for the provision of medicines and the retaining of/access to medicine pouches while in custody.
- It is recommended that staffing levels at OCDC be monitored and accurately reported on an ongoing basis, reflecting both newly recruited staff, staff due to retirement and staff leaving their employment for other opportunities.
- It is recommended that health services relating to the provision of methadone to inmates be scheduled at the same time every day for both male and female inmates.
- It is recommended that segregation policies and practices be quickly studied and improved to meet national and international standards.
List of Attachments
None to append.
Submitted March 23 2016
Meredith Porter, Chair
May 31, 2016
Ms. Meredith Porter
Community Advisory Board Chair
Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
Dear Ms. Porter:
Thank you for your submission of the 2015 Community Advisory Board (CAB) Annual Report for Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC).
We appreciate the time the CAB has taken to put together such a comprehensive list of recommendations for the ministry based on your observations at the institution over the last year.
I have reviewed your report and appreciate the thoughtful comments you have made about OCDC. Associate Deputy Minister Marg Welch will be responding in detail to all of the 22 meaningful recommendations you have made.
We are grateful to have such a dedicated group of volunteers that work diligently to help us improve operations and transparency in our institutions. The ministry values your input and will be working on addressing the recommendations from the Annual Report. I look forward to working with the CABs in the coming year, moving this innovative program forward and continuing to engage local communities to a greater degree. Please accept my sincere thanks for your work in this critical role and producing a valuable annual report.
c: Ms. Marg Welch
Associate Deputy Minister of Correctional Services
August 25, 2016
Ms. Meredith Porter
Community Advisory Board Chair
Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
Dear Ms. Porter:
Thank you for your submission of the 2015 Community Advisory Board (CAB) Annual Report for the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC). The Annual Report has been reviewed by ministry staff and we are already working on the recommendations outlined in your report.
As the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, noted in his acknowledgement letter to you, the ministry is committed to implementing your recommendations and the ongoing development of this innovative CAB program.
I would also like to thank you for your participation on the OCDC Task Force. I appreciate the insight and expertise you and the other CAB members offered which resulted in the delivery of the 42-recommendations Task Force Report.
The transformation of Ontario’s correctional system is a top priority. Work is underway to further address capacity pressures, develop additional supports for inmates with mental illness, reform the bail and remand system and review our segregation policies. We will continue to work with all our correctional partners as we move forward with our mandate to transform our correctional system to develop effective and lasting improvements.
I am pleased to provide the following responses and next steps for the recommendations put forward in the OCDC CAB Annual Report:
Recommendation 1: It is recommended that the unresolved recommendations provided by the CAB in the 2014 Annual Report be addressed.
The ministry has considered and provided a response to the 2014 Annual Report recommendations. The implementation of the recommendations is an ongoing process. OCDC has been actively working on addressing the recommendations at the local level and many of the recommendations have already been actioned and/or completed, including ongoing correctional officer recruitment, publicly posting the Annual Report, facilitating communication with other CABs and training on mental health.
The ministry will continue to work on the recommendations from 2014, in addition to beginning the resolution process for the 2015 recommendations.
Recommendation 2: It is recommended that CAB Members be provided a contact list for Ministry Staff and CAB Colleagues in order to facilitate networking and CAB Operations.
The OCDC CAB had the opportunity to meet their CAB colleagues in 2015. There were two CAB Chair Meetings (on April 20, 2015 and December 23, 2015), as well as an all-CAB Meeting on October 28, 2015, which was also attended by ministry staff.
I am advised that the program advisor for the CAB portfolio has provided all chairs with a contact list that includes the names and contact information for all CABs. The Superintendent at OCDC will provide the CAB chair with a contact list for ministry staff at the institution at the next CAB meeting.
Recommendation 3: It is recommended that the CAB Annual Report be released publicly on a timely basis, and with a more fulsome ministry response outlining intended action and timelines.
Last year, the former minister committed to releasing the annual reports and responses online for public viewing. The annual reports and Deputy Minister’s responses were posted on the ministry’s website on November 6, 2015. This year, our goal is to post the reports in summer 2016, which provides an earlier timeline for release, as well as additional time for the ministry to action the recommendations before the next reporting.
The CAB report process is frequently reviewed for improvements and each year we have made adjustments to the process as well as the timelines associated with the process. The CAB program is still very new and we are continuing to develop a process that works best for both the ministry and the CABs.
Recommendation 4: It is recommended that CAB Members have increased opportunity to inter-face with Ministry officials with respect to addressing systems-level issues within the Institution.
The CAB works directly with the Superintendent, management and staff at each institution to resolve local issues related to the operations of the institution. OCDC management attends monthly CAB meetings to communicate with members and provide information on all matters related to the operation of the institution.
Last year, there were two events that provided CABs with the opportunity to network with ministry staff. An annual CAB Conference is being arranged this coming fall for all members. We are committed to offering interaction with ministry staff from outside of the institution including, but not limited to, the Associate Deputy Minister, the Assistant Deputy Ministers, the regional directors and corporate staff.
An additional opportunity for interaction with multiple levels of ministry staff was presented to OCDC CAB members this year, for example, the OCDC Task Force you participated on to develop an action plan to address overcrowding and capacity issues at the institution. The Task Force consisted of a number of key stakeholders that included OCDC CAB members, the Associate Deputy Minister, Director of Institutional Operational Branch, Regional Director of Eastern Region, managers, staff, union representatives and external service providers. As you know, the Task Force released its recommendations on June 1, 2016.
The ministry will continue to provide opportunities for CAB members to liaise with ministry staff to discuss systemic issues.
Recommendation 5: It is recommended that tours of the Institution continue with Justice Officials including Counsel, Judges and Justices of the Peace.
The ministry supports having our justice sector partners tour the facility. The institution makes every effort to accommodate tours upon request.
Recommendation 6: It is recommended that, as much as possible, proper and timely notice be given to friends and family members scheduled to visit inmates at the Institution in order to avoid delays and wasted efforts.
Correctional Services recognizes the importance of visiting programs for enabling inmates to maintain contact with friends and family and the community. At OCDC, the superintendent is responsible for the safety of inmates, staff and the public while ensuring the security of the institution is maintained. During certain unexpected circumstances where a lockdown is required, limitations on the institution’s operations may be put in place to respond to the situation. Limitations may include the cancellation of visits.
OCDC has a procedure in place to contact family and friends with scheduled visits as soon as possible to advise them of changes to their scheduled visit due to an unforeseen circumstance. Where possible, OCDC will provide advance notice to family and friends in order to reduce impacts to visitors.
Recommendation 7: It is recommended that a comprehensive Ministry-level, CAB-focused communications strategy be developed and implemented (with input/participation from CAB Members).
The ministry’s Communication Branch is developing a communication strategy that will look to raise the profile of CABs internally and externally. CAB pamphlets, posters and a banner are currently being developed in consultation with CAB chairs.
An update on proposed communications activities will be provided at the CAB annual conference later this fall.
Recommendation 8: It is recommended that the Ministry implement a local media/communications strategy to ensure timely and accurate reporting to the community regarding issues occurring at OCDC specifically.
The ministry is supportive of media attending events which create good news stories about corrections.
The Communications Branch is developing a communication strategy that will aim to raise the profile of the positive contribution CABs make to the correctional system. An update on proposed communications activities will be provided at the CAB annual conference later this fall.
Recommendation 9: Overcrowding at OCDC is an ongoing issue, however, it is recommended that some emergency provisions need to be developed and implemented to ensure that no inmates are ever housed in shower stalls for any reason.
The ministry continues to assess capacity needs to ensure that beds are available where they are most needed in the province. In March 2016, Minister Naqvi, the former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services directed OCDC to immediately halt the use of shower cells to house inmates and administered a directive to prohibit use of shower stalls in the future. Daily tours are now being conducted in all areas of the institution to ensure that no inmates are being housed in these areas for any reason.
In response to reports of inmates housed in shower cells at OCDC, the Associate Deputy Minister sent out two Directive notices on March 25 and 31, 2016, halting the use of the shower cells for any reason other than their intended use. Additionally, a Task Force, which included you and other CAB members, was assembled to develop an action plan to address overcrowding and capacity issues at the facility. As you know, on June 1, 2016, the Task Force’s action plan was released, which included 42 recommendations to improve conditions of confinement, infrastructure and the bail and remand system, among others. The ministry has already moved forward on a number of the recommendations and this includes the announcement of the comprehensive health care review and full physical inspection of the OCDC as well as appointing a Provincial Inmate Transportation Coordinator.
Recommendation 10: It is recommended that the Ministry invest in an online record keeping system to allow for greater accuracy and real-time reporting of inmate information and institutional operations.
The Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) is a database shared by Correctional Services, which maintains records for all inmates in our institutions and the community. OTIS provides information in real time which means that immediately after information is saved to the system it is available to all other users.
OCDC utilizes OTIS for all inmates as well as a local incident tracking system. All incidents are forwarded to Regional Office and the Information Management Unit for Ministry-wide tracking and analysis. In June 2016, OTIS was upgraded to OTIS Elite, which included a number of application improvements. A number of business processes and modules received program enhancements including the Offender Program Tracking module.
Recommendation 11: It is recommended that the National Standard (training in mental health care) be an available resource to OCDC staff on an ongoing basis.
The ministry, in partnership with the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH), has developed a mental health training program for institutional services staff (Understanding and Responding to Inmates with Mental Health Challenges).
As of July 29, 2016, 232 OCDC staff have received the Understanding and Responding to Inmates with Mental Health Challenges training.
Recommendation 12: It is recommended that programming at OCDC be made available on a regular basis, with cancellations occurring only when absolutely necessary.
Correctional Services understands the significance of providing meaningful programming to our inmates while in custody and promotes programming that assists inmates with rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.
OCDC has regularly scheduled programming for inmates in the institution. OCDC also offers many types of programming such as Alcoholics Anonymous, library, spiritual and religious care, and smudging through volunteer programs, agencies, contracted professionals and internal ministry resources. There may be situations where programs will not be able to run due to safety and/or security concerns. However, OCDC makes every effort to maintain the programming schedule with minimal disruption.
Through the OCDC Task Force recommendations, the ministry has also committed to increase programming for the diverse inmate population and enhancing discharge planning and parole application support for inmates.
Recommendation 13: It is further recommended that there be improved coordination with respect to attendance at programming by inmates, including targeted program delivery (inmates should attend programming targeted to their specific needs and be well aware of their programming plans).
A comprehensive risk/needs analysis is carried out during the inmate classification process, which assists the institution in making informed decisions about program requirements for each inmate. Programming may also be recommended by clinical staff in the institution who have been actively involved with the inmate (i.e. nurses, social workers, psychologists). Recommendations may also come from chaplaincy services or correctional officers in the units.
Inmates may also submit a request to staff indicating interest in a specific program. These requests are then arranged based on type of program, housing location of an inmate and number of interested inmates for a specific program. All reasonable attempts are made to accommodate inmate requests to attend programming.
Recommendation 14: It is recommended that strip searches only be conducted when reasonable cause exists; under reasonable circumstances and privacy; and, on a one-by-one basis and that strip search policies be revised by the Ministry.
Strip searches are a necessary practice to maintain security at the facility. Correctional Services endeavours to ensure they are conducted with professionalism and sensitivity. There are provincial policies and procedures for strip searches outlined in the ministry’s Institutional Services Policy and Procedures Manual. Institutional staff are required to follow this guideline when conducting strip searches. The policy outlines when strip searches should take place and how they should be conducted.
The policy states that a minimum of two employees must be present when a strip search is conducted. The first employee must be a correctional officer (primary searching officer) and the second is the back-up or witness. To ensure the safety and security of the employee and the inmate, strip searches should never be conducted on a one-on-one basis. While strip searches are necessary, our procedures are respectful of the dignity of the inmate.
Recommendation 15: It is recommended that the Ministry make every effort to accommodate the dietary needs of all inmates, with greater variety in meals served to inmates on special diets.
It is ministry policy to provide inmates with a balanced diet according to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating prepared by Health Canada. The ministry menu is set to ensure that the needs of those with the greatest nutritional requirements are met. Inmates are provided with three nutritionally balanced meals daily. An evening beverage and snack are also provided.
A master menu and standardized recipes are provided to ensure nutritional adequacy, consistency between institutions and economy of operation. Menus are on a 28-day cycle to provide inmates with a variety of meals.
The ministry accommodates inmates with special diets when required for medical treatment, religious requirements or lifestyle convictions (such as vegetarian or vegan). Restricted diets are planned to be as similar as possible to the regular meals.
Recommendation 16: It is recommended that the Ministry make available healthy, robust meal-replacement options in the canteen selections for inmates. Perhaps replacing the “remanded” inmate canteen list with the ‘sentenced’ inmate canteen list is the best solution.
The ministry offers a Canteen Program for inmates, which is delivered by a contracted service provider. There is a requirement in the contract for the service provider to continually research the marketplace for healthier snack food items that will meet the ministry specifications and security requirements. The Service Provider is required to submit a summary of their marketplace research for healthier snack food to the ministry on a quarterly basis with the additional ministry-approved healthier snack food items to be made available for sale to inmates.
The products offered through the Canteen Program are limited in quantity, packaging and size for safety and security reasons and may vary slightly depending on the type of facility. There are four available canteen lists:
- Male Remanded,
- Female Remanded,
- Male Sentenced, and
- Female Sentenced.
OCDC may make a request to the Regional Office to allow for the sentenced canteen items to be accessed by remand inmates. However, this is at the discretion of the superintendent.
Recommendation 17: It is recommended that the culture-based dietary needs of Aboriginal inmates be met.
Traditional foods (e.g. fish, beans, squash) are incorporated in the ministry regular menu. In addition, as per the Aboriginal Spiritual Care Services policy, feasts can be conducted and coordinated by the Native Inmate Liaison Officer (or other Aboriginal resource), which includes the preparation and consumption of specific First Nation, Métis or Inuit traditional foods.
Recommendation 18: It is recommended that Aboriginal inmates have access to smudging every day, and access to the newly constructed Sweat Lodge occur on a (suggested) bi-weekly basis for both male and female inmates.
Aboriginal inmates have the opportunity to smudge at OCDC on a daily basis. Any restriction of the access of Aboriginal inmates to practices of their beliefs is limited only to the extent necessary to preserve the safety, security and order of the institution.
Regular access to the Sweat Lodge at OCDC is coordinated by the Native Inmate Liaison Officer as part of their regular programming.
Recommendation 19: It is recommended that protocol be developed for the provision of medicines and the retaining of/access to medicine pouches while custody.
The ministry has a policy outlining the provision of medicine bags/sacred pouches and amulets. At the request of an Elder, Aboriginal inmates will be provided with a medicine bag/sacred pouch that meets security standards outlined in the policy. A medicine bag/sacred pouch may be provided to inmates for spiritual reasons including seeking mercy, protection or guidance of the spirits.
Recommendation 20: It is recommended that staffing levels at OCDC be monitored and accurately reported on an ongoing basis, reflecting both newly recruited staff, staff due to retire and staff leaving their employment for other opportunities.
Correctional Services recognizes the importance of maintaining staffing levels to ensure the care, custody and control of inmates in our correctional facilities. OCDC monitors its staffing levels and submits requests for additional staff when required. Since 2013, 1001 new correctional officers have been deployed to facilities across the province. Hiring remains a priority, which is why over three years, we are hiring 2,000 new correctional officers. OCDC received 11 new staff in May 2016, and approximately 30 recruits were placed at the institution from the graduating class in July 2016.
Recommendation 21: It is recommended that health services relating to the provision of methadone to inmates be scheduled at the same time every day for both male and female inmates.
The methadone maintenance program is managed at the institution under the direction of the health care department. Methadone is delivered on a daily basis. The timing of the distribution of methadone is dependent on various factors including, but not limited to, staffing levels, operational requirements and court appearances. Ultimately, the health care professionals determine the requirements for the administration of medication including methadone.
Recommendation 22: It is recommended that segregation policies and practices be quickly studied and improved to meet national and international standards.
The ministry is reviewing how segregation is utilized across the provincial correctional system.
Segregation is never used lightly. Segregation can be emotionally and mentally distressing. Individuals who suffer from mental illness are particularly vulnerable. Our goal is that segregation is used only as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.
The ministry is consulting with mental health professionals, staff, the Ombudsman of Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders to see how we might better regulate segregation in our facilities. The ministry is also asking members of the public, as well as those with lived experience in Ontario adult correctional facilities, to provide feedback to help inform the review.
I appreciate the CAB indicating in its Annual Report the many OCDC success stories such as CAB member facilitation of visits for Federal Crown Prosecutors from Ottawa supported by management, the positive reception of the 2014 condensed Annual Report by OCDC staff and the success of the exterior cladding project to improve the insulation of several areas of the OCDC building.
Thank you for all of the hard work that went into the development of your recommendations for the ministry. As volunteer members of the Community Advisory Board, you have gone above and beyond to provide meaningful feedback on the operations at OCDC. Please be assured that the ministry values your input and recommendations. The ministry will be working throughout the rest of the year to address as many of your recommendations as possible. I am looking forward to your ongoing support as we move forward with this very important work.
Associate Deputy Minister, Correctional Services