OTTAWA – Indigenous and black federal prisoners in Canada are subjected to more force than any other racial group, the country’s corrections officer said Thursday.
Leticia Gutierrez, senior policy adviser for the coroner’s office, said their investigation found that identifying as Indigenous or Black was associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in a use case. violence.
That’s true regardless of factors such as level of risk, level of security, age or gender, and “all the same,” she said.
The bureau’s investigation, which looked at nearly 10,000 recorded use of force cases between 2015 and 2020, found that these incidents increased during that period despite a decrease in the overall prison population.
The report said Indigenous, black and other racial inmates accounted for 60 percent of all uses of force, while representing 44 percent of the federal incarcerated population.
Correctional investigator Ivan Zinger said: “We have seen an incredible increase in the use of force over the past few years.
“We’ve seen an increase in suicide attempts and self-harm. And that just shows the frustration and psychological damage that’s going on here.”
The correctional service defines the use of force as any action by staff to “cooperate and control the prisoner” by taking measures such as restraint, corporal punishment, pepper spray or use batons or firearms.
The office’s investigation found that pepper spray was the most common form of force used, accounting for 42 percent of the total force used in all incidents examined.
Zinger released its annual report on Thursday and said the investigation pointed to racial bias in the use of force in federal prisons.
“The most important thing to me is when you have an organization and an agency that has a lot of authority and power over individuals, that they do everything they can to make sure that unconscious biases that doesn’t lead to a negative outcome.”
Zinger is calling on the government to sign an international treaty to prevent torture, called the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which would create a framework for independent examination of all detention facilities. kept in Canada.
Anne Kelly, commissioner of Corrections Canada, said the service is carefully reviewing all of the recommendations made in the Zinger report and taking specific actions to address them.
The correctional agency takes the use of force very seriously and employs an intervention model that is used to de-escalate a situation, including talking as a first step, Kelly said.
The correctional agency said it recommended developing an action plan in consultation with stakeholders to address the relationship between the use of force and systemic racism against inmates. Indigenous and Black.
Zinger said the service’s response was “defensive and inappropriate, and the correctional service could certainly do better.” He added that because the service received his report earlier than it was made public, it should have started creating an action plan to address the bias.
“I do not believe that Corrections Canada has fully acknowledged or responded to compelling evidence about the unique role of race in how force is applied, how often it is used, and against whom.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on February 10, 2022.
This story was made possible with the financial support of Facebook and the Canada Press News Fellowship.