Underfunding and overpopulation in detention centres - SOCIAL REINTEGRATION OF DETAINEES COMPROMISED

    QUEBEC CITY, June 7 /CNW Telbec/ - The Québec Ombudsman believes that,
given their correctional capacity, detention facilities no longer have the
minimum latitude required to carry out their mission properly, and employees
work under extremely difficult and highly demanding conditions. This was one
of the conclusions Ombudsperson Raymonde Saint-Germain reached in her
2006-2007 annual report, presented to the National Assembly today.
    The new Act respecting the Québec correctional system, which was adopted
in 2002 and entered into force February 5, 2007, places more emphasis on
social reintegration, and imposes strict obligations for evaluating those
incarcerated and developing the programs to do so. However, the Ombudsperson
is concerned whether this central objective will be achieved given the
situation as it stands.
    She criticizes the fact that this situation persists in spite of having
been raised in a 1999 special report from the Québec Ombudsman and in all of
its annual reports since. "Not only has the situation failed to improve, but
our investigations and visits show that conditions of detention have
degenerated," the Ombudsperson said.
    Social reintegration has been neglected as a result. Failing to
adequately prepare people for release at the end of their sentence can
compromise the safety of the public, correctional services officers, victims
and their loved ones, and the people who are incarcerated.
    "Social reintegration has often been recognized as the best means of
ensuring public safety, and it is among the fundamental objectives of the new
law on the correctional system. The Québec Ombudsman intervenes, and will
continue to intervene, so that when imprisonment is imposed, it becomes an
opportunity to carefully manage all aspects of cases of offenders,
particularly with regards to social reintegration," Ms. Saint-Germain said.
    Overpopulation has a range of effects, and its management monopolizes
much of the time of employees in Québec detention centres. Currently, the
increase in institutional security procedures and the transfer of excess
people to other detention centres seriously limits the ability to monitor
    The Québec Ombudsman examined over 1,588 grounds for complaint from
detainees in 17 detention facilities in Québec. In 507 cases, these grounds
were substantiated.

    Offenders suffering from mental health problems: situation under review

    As correctional ombudsman, the Québec Ombudsman is concerned about
offenders who suffer from mental health problems. Their numbers are increasing
in Québec's detention centres.
    According to the Ombudsperson, there is a greater challenge in managing
these cases, which are a concern not only for the Ministère de la Sécurité
publique, but also for the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux and,
at another level, the Ministère de la Justice.
    The Québec Ombudsman questions why so many people suffering from mental
health problems regularly find themselves behind bars. This situation has
repercussions not only on those incarcerated, but also on those close to them
and workers in detention centres. Aside from these initial issues, their
preparation for social reintegration in a manner that is suited to their
health condition, for their benefit and that of all citizens, is compromised.
    There is a glaring need for health services appropriate to the situation
of these citizens. They must not be deprived of the care required for their
condition by virtue of their detention. The health and social services network
must assume responsibility, and offer them the care and services they need for
their condition to improve and, most importantly, not deteriorate.
    The Ombudsperson believes that it is necessary to examine all procedures
and situations that result in the imprisonment of those with mental health
problems. The study under way will allow her to make a global, careful and
impartial assessment of the possible responses of public services to the
complex needs of these citizens. She believes that their management requires
concerted effort, medium-term vision and a real concern for controlling risks.

    Two examples of cases examined by the Québec Ombudsman in 2006-2007

    Social reintegration efforts of a detainee compromised by a transfer

    An incarcerated citizen who was recently transferred between institutions
complained to the Québec Ombudsman about the impact of this decision on his
social reintegration efforts. He was motivated and said that he participated
in a variety of therapeutic and educational activities offered by the original
institution, including registering for a training course. However, he was
transferred because of overpopulation before he could attend a single session
of the course, and the new institution did not offer these services, as was
also the case for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which he attended two
evenings a week.
    The citizen was concerned about the effect this situation would have when
he applied for parole. The employees of the detention facility the Québec
Ombudsman contacted were reassuring: the lack of reintegration activities
should not have a negative impact on the citizen, because he was not
responsible for the situation, and his file confirms his desire to take part
in these activities.
    Given these comments, the Ombudsperson wonders what actual opportunities
are offered to detainees to prepare for their social reintegration. She
believes that individual will alone cannot make up for actual access to a
supervised social reintegration effort.

    A sector left without surveillance for almost three hours

    A person with serious diabetes was incarcerated in a cell in the
admission area of a detention centre. He contacted the Québec Ombudsman to
complain about the lack of surveillance. He reported that he had not been
feeling well and called for help, but no one responded.
    When it reviewed the situation, the Québec Ombudsman learned that there
had been a reorganization of tasks because of overpopulation. Either the tasks
were misunderstood or there was an oversight, but regardless, an entire sector
was left without surveillance for almost three hours.
    Following the complaint, which the citizen filed simultaneously with the
Québec Ombudsman and the person responsible for handling complaints at the
facility, corrective measures were taken, and surveillance of the area
returned to normal.
    -%RE: 1

For further information:

For further information: Dominique Bouchard, Information Officer, (418)
643-2688, Cell.: (514) 346-2643,
dominique.g.bouchard@protecteurducitoyen.qc.ca; Source: The Québec Ombudsman

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