Correctional Services Canada failing younger inmates, advocates argue in report

Correctional Services Canada failing younger inmates, advocates argue in report
From CBC - October 3, 2017

Canada's prison watchdog and Ontario's Child Advocate sayCorrectional Services Canada is squandering opportunities to turn young federal inmates' lives around.

"The majority of them are not enrolled in programs or school, not because they are not motivated but because they are wait listed and there arevery few programs being offered," said Canada's Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger in an interview with CBC News. "They are also not connecting with the programs."

Zinger said Correctional Services Canada has designed programssuch as anger managementwith an older inmate in mind, when younger offenders require basic skills such as how to prepare meals, apply for a job and open a bank account.

The report released Tuesday, titled "Missed Opportunities," wasproduced by Zinger and Ontario's child advocate, Irwin Elman.

"Young people who find themselves in adult custody should have, and be given, the opportunity to positively change the direction of their lives," said Elman.

"As we stated at the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, the adult correctional system is not equipped to ensure this happens."

Higher rate of solitary confinement

While younger offenders make up only 2.7 per cent of the overall federal prison population, they represent six per cent of those placed in solitary confinement or administrative segregation. The percentages are even higher for women, Indigenous and black offenders under the age of 21.

The report notes younger inmates fare far worse in segregation, given they have less developed coping skills and are less resilient. As such, Zinger and Elmanask the federal government to stop placing inmates in segregation if they are aged 18 to 21.

"I feel it's an arbitrary distinction that as soon as an inmate turns 18, they are an adult," said Zinger.

Other recommendations include:

The report also found higher rates of force used on younger offenders. Of those, 70 per cent involved an Indigenous young adult.

Gang involvement


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