APTN National News
IQALUIT– Nunavut’s jails are unsafe, lack maximum security facilities and completely lack rehabilitation programs that would help inmates return to society, according to a report from the Auditor General of Canada released Tuesday.
The report found that Nunavut’s jails are overcrowded and getting worse, that inmates are offered little if any services and that jail staff are not trained with basics such as first aid or the proper use of force.
“Our audit concluded that the (Nunavut) Department of Justice has not met key responsibilities for inmates within the correctional system,” said Assistant Auditor-General Ronnie Campbell. “The safety and security of staff and inmates at the Baffin Correctional Centre and the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility are at risk”
Some of the report’s findings were so severe that the federal auditor general’s office reached out to Nunavut Corrections prior to the release of the audit for safety reasons.
“We also found that evacuation drills were not being conducted at either facility… we sent a letter to the acting deputy minister of The Department of Justice during the audit to advise her of this,” said Campbell.
The audit found that despite the high number of crimes committed in Nunavut connected to substance abuse, “there is no substance abuse treatment centre” operating in Nunavut.
“It is especially important for inmates to have access to the programs and support they need in custody,” said the audit.
The audit found there were no substance abuse programs offered at the Baffin Correctional Centre for seven months in 2012 and the program as offered only twice between January and September 2014.
A total of 98 per cent of male adult inmates in the territory are Inuit and their average age is 32, the audit found. Yet the Inuit traditional values, known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and which are written into Nunavut’s justice system, are not applied inside the territory’s jails.
“The directives contain little guidance on how Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit can be incorporated into other aspects of the corrections system,” reads the audit.
The audit found that Nunavut’s mental health issues also extend into the territory’s prisons, but the corrections department employs only one psychologist.
“Without mental health services, inmates rehabilitation efforts can be limited as the issues underlying criminal behaviour were not being addressed,” said the audit.
Jail guards and staff are also woefully undertrained, the audit found, which many not having mandatory training in “first-aid, mental health issues, the criminal justice system or the proper use of force.”
The audit also found that correctional employees increased their income by 20 per cent by working overtime. At the Baffin Correctional Centre alone, 16 front-line workers increased their annual salary by 50 per cent. Within that 50 per cent group, five staff members saw their pay rise by more than 90 per cent.
The audit found that inmates were being sent to segregation without the authorization of the warden, as is required. The report found that the warden authorized only one of 14 segregation cases studied by auditors. The report found that routine reviews and observations of inmates in segregation were also ignored.
The territory has also failed to adequately monitor land camps where inmates are taken out of the prison for cultural activity outdoors. There are five camps operating in Nunavut at an annual cost of $1 million. The audit states that “the program was not well monitored by the Department.”
Case management faced criticism from federal auditors which reviewed 39 different inmate files. Iqaluit’s Uttaqivik Community residential house – a halfway house for low security inmates – received praised, but the Baffin Correctional Centre and the new Rankin Inlet Healing Facility did not.
“Serious case management deficiencies at Baffin Correctional Centre and Rankin Inlet Healing facility limit the Department’s efforts to rehabilitate inmates and prepare them for release back to the community, “ said Campbell.
At the Baffin jail none of the 21 files auditors examined had any indication they were monitoring an inmate’s progress, and only one of the 21 had a plan for the inmates release.
The 44-page report contains 17 recommendations.
Nunavut’s Department of Justice agreed with all the recommendations, including improving care of maximum-security inmates, using data collected by territorial officials, providing more oversight for staff and improving case management for inmates.
The report was tabled Tuesday in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.