Indigenous Leader Demands Correctional Service Commissioner Resign, Systemic Discrimination & 52% Increase Indigenous Prisioners

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jerrym
Indigenous Leader Demands Correctional Service Commissioner Resign, Systemic Discrimination & 52% Increase Indigenous Prisioners

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin is demanding that Correctional Services Commissioner Anne Kelly resign because she undermined and then blocked an expert panel on the effects of Structural Intervention Units that isolate prisoners. Many of these prisoners are indigenous. The panel's report last month was scathing in its discussion of this issue. The panel has now been disbanded, preventing it from completing its work. This coverup also raises the question of whether the commissioner did this on her own or at the behest of the Trudeau Liberal government as this policy is determined by the cabinet. ​Kelly reports to Liberal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, who was the former Chief of Police of Toronto. 

Beaudin also criticized Kelly and the government for failing to release prisoners putting their lives at risk because of Covid-19. As a result of this and other correctional systems problem, he said its time to look at defunding Correctional Services.

The federal inmate population increased by 1.2% since 2010 but by 52.1% for indigenous people during this time, demonstrating the systemic discrimination inidgenous people have faced under the Harper and Trudeau governments, thereby following a Canadian tradition since the nation's inception.

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin is calling for accountability after a panel of experts assigned to look into the use of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), in Canadian prisons released a scathing report on 19 Aug. detailing how their work was obstructed, undermined and blocked by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). “The panel has now disbanded and will not be able to complete its work to ensure safety for prisoners in Canada,” said Beaudin, who worked as a justice of the peace for the Province of Saskatchewan for five years, and later as an advocate for incarcerated Indigenous youth. 

SIUs are meant as a way to avoid solitary confinement and are implemented when an inmate is found to be a danger to themselves or others. The panel was supposed to gauge their effectiveness. Beaudin said they are essentially one and the same.  "I’m dealing with people in prison that have been cut completely off from their families. Literally cut right off. They're not even allowed to talk to them. Their mothers can’t even visit them when they’re in prison. They’re not allowed," Beaudin said. ...

University of Toronto Criminologist Anthony Doob, who chaired the inquiry, said their work was thwarted by a lack of cooperation from the Correctional Service of Canada. ... “Very simply, this panel has not been allowed to do its work,” Doob, wrote in an Aug. 19 memo attached to the report. Doob said the CSC did not provide workable data to go by. 

Beaudin pointed to the death of Curtis McKenzie, a 27-year-old member of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, who took his own life in March while in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert. “He suffered from (having been) in solitary confinement… We fought so hard trying to get some oversight and trying to make sure that Canada was following international law about torture, and obviously they’re not,” Beaudin told Canada’s National Observer in an interview on Thursday.  “It seems like once you are in the system you’re done. You’re hidden in the system. There’s no transparency, there’s no accountability for officials. They can do whatever they want.”

Beaudin said McKenzie was one of many. "I’m dealing with people in prison that have been cut completely off from their families. They're not even allowed to talk to them. Their mothers can’t even visit them when they’re in prison." 

“We have no oversight. I’ve counted four people who died in prison as a result of suicide alone. I believe two out of federal (prison) and two provincial (prison) in Saskatchewan ... That was just in the last month and a half,” Beaudin said. “This is another way of silencing people. These are the kinds of things that happen behind closed doors that we don’t hear about.” 

Beaudin said the panel of experts appointed to investigate SIUs gave him hope that change was on the horizon. “It was a faint hope but that’s gone now.” ...

Beaudin pointed the finger at CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly, who he said has responsibility within the public service for the actions of her department, and for implementing the policies set out by cabinet to lower the disproportionate rate of Indigenous people in federal prisons. “It’s time for her to step down. That’s what I think. She should step down because she’s clearly not doing her job ... She was given a mandate by Trudeau. It’s clear that she’s not following that mandate,” Beaudin said. 

Beaudin also called for Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair to bring fresh blood to the CSC leadership. Ideally someone with a background other than corrections, he said. “Somebody who has a different way of looking at things. Who comes to it with a different lens. Not bringing the stereotypes that they learned when they went through the system themselves,” Beaudin said. ...

Beaudin lambasted the CSC for what he called a "failure to expedite releases of prisoners due to COVID-19, and a failure to implement oversight promised in 2018 relating to suicide in prisons." He said it's time to reexamine the CSC's spending priorities. "I know that after this pandemic passes they’re going to have to look at making cuts overall to Canada’s budget where they spend money and prioritize money" Beaudin said. "Increasing a budget at Correctional Service of Canada shouldn’t even be a priority. It’s time that we defunded the Correctional Service of Canada".

The federal inmate population increased 1.2 per cent since 2010, while the Indigenous inmate population increased by 52.1 per cent. The rate of Indigenous incarceration within provincial correctional facilities in Saskatchewan is 76 per cent and is 65 per cent at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary.

According to the most recent national data available from the annual report of the office of the correctional investigator (2018-2019), “Indigenous offenders are over-represented in the number of incidents of attempted suicide, accounting for 39 per cent of all such incidents in the last 10 years.” ...

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief, Robert Bertrand, told Canada's National Observer that solutions don't lie in keeping Indigenous people locked up, but in working to lower that number. He said the CSC has to find a way to "bring fresh air" to the discussion. "So many times, if an Indigenous person has a mental problem the answer (from Canada) was 'let's throw them in jail.' That's not a solution," Bertrand said. Bertrand said the number of Indigenous inmates in Canada needs to go down and that he's willing to work with the CSC to that end. "We are the perfect organization to sit down with the Corrections Service of Canada to find these solutions. Let's bring the percentage down of incarcerated Indigenous people... Let's change the system... Let's sit down and work cooperatively," Bertrand said. Bertrand said what has happened to Curtis McKenzie and others while in CSC care is unacceptable. "Let's go into these prisons, find these people and bring their files to the light for the Canadian public."

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/09/12/news/indigenous-vice-chief-c...

jerrym

However, the death of Ashley Smith in 2007 following being placed in solitary confinement, shows that this problem is not one faced only by racialized people. But the 52.1% increase in incarcarated indigenous people since 2010 under both the Harper and Trudeau regimes show that the problem is much worse for indigenous and other racialized groups.

The extent to which the correctional services and government will go to cover-up the problems with solitary confinement are revealed in what happened the Ashley Smith case. She was repeatedly transferred from prison to prison at 59 days of solitary confinement to avoid breaking the rule of 60 days max in solitary confinement in an institution in order to have the clock start over at the new institution. 

Between the ages of 13-14, her parents noted distinct behavioural changes in the child; by age 15 she had been before juvenile court 14 times for various minor offences such as throwing crabapples at a mailman, trespassing, and causing a disturbance. ...

On 29 January 2006, Ashley Smith turned 18; on 29 July a motion was made under the Youth Criminal Justice Act to transfer her to an adult facility. Smith hired a lawyer to fight the transfer, but was unsuccessful. On 5 October 2006, Smith was transferred to the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre (SJRCC). Due to her behaviour at SJRCC, Smith spent most of her time there in segregation; she was tasered twice and pepper-sprayed once. On 31 October 2006, Smith was transferred to the Nova Institution for Women in Nova Scotia (a federal institution).[1] Through 2007, Smith was transferred a total of 17 times among the following 8 institutions during 11 months in federal custody. ...

While at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario on 16 October 2007, Smith requested to be transferred to a psychiatric facility; she was placed on a formal suicide watch on 18 October. In the early hours of 19 October, Smith was videotaped placing a ligature around her neck, an act of self-harm she had committed several times before. Guards did not enter her cell to intervene, and 45 minutes passed before she was examined and pronounced dead. ...

On 8 January 2010, CBC News Network's The Fifth Estate broadcast a documentary about the case titled Out of Control. ... Smith was placed in solitary confinement after disruptive behaviour on her first day. Her initial one-month sentence would last almost four years, entirely in isolation, until her death in 2007.

The frequent "use of force" reports required to document responses became a source of concern for facility officials. According to an internal document obtained and partially read aloud by Gartner, eventually Corrections Canada administrators instructed guards and supervisors not to respond to self-strangling attempts by Smith, "to ignore her, even if she was choking herself".[2] CSC officials kept transferring her to other facilities, preventing the implementation of a Canadian law requiring mandatory review of prisoners kept in isolation for more than sixty days. ...

After Smith's death, and the firing of both wardens and four directly involved officers, the four officers were charged with negligent homicide. The spokesman for the union for the four guards alleged the guards were "scapegoated" by senior management: "There was daily direction given right from the highest levels of management all the way to the front line staff, and we're not talking once or twice, we're talking everyday, repeatedly, 'you are not to go in the cell; this is your orders' [sic]".[2] The union's spokesman relayed his organization's stance that the guards' prosecution was part of a cover-up by those in CSC management....

A second documentary titled Behind the Wall was first broadcast on 12 November 2010, and looks at the case of another similar detainee, while probing more closely at a four-month period in Ashley Smith's detention while at the Regional Psychiatric Centre, PrairiesSaskatoon. The program also depicts the two-year conflict between The Fifth Estate and CSC to broadcast more footage of the last days of Ashley Smith....

The first coroner's inquest into Smith's suicide began in May 2011.[10] The inquest, initially led by deputy chief coroner Dr. Bonita Porter, was controversial. ...

 In late June 2011, Dr. Porter was replaced as the presiding coroner, apparently due to her impending retirement in November 2011; the replacement presiding coroner was Dr. John R. Carlisle.[15] The sudden and unexpected replacement led Smith's family to formally accuse the chief coroner of interfering in the inquest with no legal basis; Dr. Porter had apparently indicated that she would deliver three outstanding rulings in July, days before the announcement of her replacement.[16] The inquest resumed briefly on 12 September, only to be suspended once again until 19 September, when the Smith family lawyer challenged the right of the new coroner to continue the inquest, and called for a mistrial.[17] On 30 September 2011, the Ontario Coroner's Office formally terminated the inquest and dismissed the jury. ...

A second inquest began on 20 September 2012. ... Dr. John Carlisle continued as presiding coroner. .... Lawyers for the Correctional Service of Canada filed a motion to seal video materials and documents related to Smith's forced restraint and sedation while incarcerated in the Quebec prison facility;[21] when the motion was denied by the presiding coroner, the government lawyers requested a temporary injunction to stay the inquest proceedings through Ontario Divisional Court. This motion was also denied and the video and documentary material were made available to the inquest, which subsequently proceeded as planned. Additionally, three doctors involved in Smith's treatment during her incarceration challenged the expansion of the inquest to include events that took place outside the province of Ontario. ...

On 19 December 2013, the coroner's jury returned a verdict of homicide in the Ashley Smith case, indicating the actions of others contributed to her death but stopping short of a finding of criminal or civil liability. The jury additionally provided 104 recommendations to the presiding coroner, most of which were intended to suggest ways in which the Canadian Correctional System could better serve female inmates and inmates suffering from mental illness. The jury specifically recommended that indefinite solitary confinement should be banned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Smith_inquest

jerrym

When it comes to prison reform for indigenous people, the Trudeau government has acted directly opposite to its 2015 election promises, with problems accelerating during the Covid-19 crisis. 

When Justin Trudeau became prime minister of Canada in 2015, there was considerable hope that there was a partner in Ottawa whom Indigenous peoples could work with to deliver meaningful change. ...

The year began with Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger sounding the alarm that the efforts of the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) to “Indigenize” its federal penitentiaries had failed. He underscored that while the number of non-Indigenous federal prisoners decreased by 14 percent over the past decade, the number of Indigenous federal prisoners increased by 43 percent during this period. While Indigenous people account for 5 percent of the people living across the country, they now make up more than 30 percent of federal prisoners. Under a “feminist” administration in Ottawa, Indigenous women remain the fastest-growing prison population in Canada.

The mass incarceration of Indigenous people has deepened during an era of “reconciliation,” a time when their imprisonment is recognized as a consequence of the intergenerational trauma they have endured. The trauma stems from the theft of Indigenous lands; the attempted destruction of Indigenous languages through Indian Residential Schools and Indian Day Schools; the historical criminalization of Indigenous spirituality; the severing of cultural and familial bonds through the Sixties Scoop and the kidnapping of children under the guise of child welfare; and a host of other colonial policies and practices that have ravaged traditional Indigenous lands that settlers call Canada. ...

This colonial-made crisis continues during the pandemic. In the months since physical distancing and a series of emergency measures were enacted from coast to coast to coast, the federal government has further distanced itself from its commitments to address the pandemic of Indigenous mass incarceration that plagues this country and fuels more violence instead of preventing it. Indigenous leaders from organizations like the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous scholars like Pamela Palmater and allies like Senator Kim Pate have all urged the federal government to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19 behind and beyond the walls of its penitentiaries. They have called upon Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to depopulate federal prisons to the degree that is possible and to provide the necessary resources to safely house and support Indigenous people returning to their communities.

It is deeply troubling that these calls – rooted in Indigenous self-determination and the knowledge that imprisonment is a contemporary manifestation of colonialism – have not resulted in meaningful releases of Indigenous prisoners. Not even most of the prisoners whom the Canadian carceral state deems to be low-risk or non-violent have been released from CSC institutions, nor have most of the human beings living with serious chronic health conditions that put them at great risk of death if they contract COVID-19.

Instead, in the name of public health and safety, federal prisoners – including Indigenous people as well as Black people mass incarcerated among them – are frequently subject to lockdowns. Under the guise of medical isolation, symptomatic and ill prisoners face weeks of segregation – a practice supposedly “abolished” during the last Parliament. Many prisoners have been cut off from their community supports, including Indigenous elders, while communication with their families has been sparse. ...

Where public health is concerned, the results speak for themselves: by the end of May, 360 federal prisoners and more than 120 CSC employees had contracted COVID-19. As of mid-June, two federal prisoners have died from the coronavirus that we know of.

https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/june-2020/mass-incarceration-of...