Surge in Violence at Federal Penitentiaries Signals Urgent Need for Reform, Warns Correctional Ombudsman

Female hands behind prison yard bars

Recent Data Reveals Alarming Trends in Canadian Prisons

Thunder Bay, Ontario – The Office of the Correctional Investigator has raised alarm over escalating violence in federal penitentiaries, signaling a critical juncture that could lead to mass disturbances if unaddressed. This uptick in violence, marked by increased assaults on staff and between inmates, poses a significant concern for correctional facilities across Canada.

This level of violence is also present at the provincial jail level with overcrowding and backed up clogged provincial courts as major factors.

Sharp Increase in Assaults

Recent statistics show a dramatic rise in incidents, with assaults on prison staff surging by 189% and prisoner-on-prisoner assaults jumping by 132% over the last decade. These figures not only reflect a growing trend of instability within the walls of federal penitentiaries but also underline a brewing discontent among the prison population.

Contributing Factors to the Rise in Violence

The Correctional Investigator, Ivan Zinger, and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers have voiced concerns that recent changes in prison management and policy, including the phasing out of solitary confinement, may have inadvertently increased the risk of violence. The cancellation of key rehabilitation programs due to COVID-19 has also left inmates idle, exacerbating tensions.

Impact of Legislative Changes

Legislation that eliminated solitary confinement, replacing it with structured intervention that offers inmates more out-of-cell time, was intended to improve conditions but has faced criticism. Some argue that these changes have led to more violence as inmates may engage in assaults to gain access to these less restrictive environments.

Technological and External Threats

The introduction of contraband via drones, including weapons and drugs, has further complicated security within prisons. Correctional officers have seized significant quantities of illegal items, indicating a sophisticated and dangerous black market operating behind bars.

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