The Office of the Correctional Investigator yesterday released a report on the situation of Aboriginal offenders
under federal jurisdiction.
The Correctional Investigator is mandated by Part III of the federal Corrections and Conditional Release Act
as an Ombudsman for federal offenders. The primary function of the Office is to investigate and bring resolution to individual offender complaints.
The report finds that Aboriginal offenders in the federal correctional system are not treated equally. Aboriginal offenders tend to be:
- released later in their sentence (lower parole grant rates)
- over-represented in segregation populations
- more likely to have served previous youth and/or adult sentences
- more often held to warrant expiry
- classified as higher risk and higher need
- more likely to reoffend and have their conditional release revoked more often
The report also finds that Aboriginal offenders are disproportionately overrepresented in federal correctional populations – despite representing only 4% of the Canadian population, Aboriginal people comprise 20% of the total federal offender population.
Among women offenders, the over-representation is even more dramatic – one in three federally sentenced women is Aboriginal. Aboriginal rates of incarceration are now approaching nine times the national average.
The report acknowledges that many of the circumstances contributing to high rates of Aboriginal incarceration – e.g. poverty, social exclusion, substance abuse, discrimination – go well beyond the capacity of the Correctional Service to address in isolation.
However, the federal correctional system does have a legal mandate to make sure that Aboriginal prisoners are given every opportunity to access culturally sensitive programming. This type of rehabilitation programming is found to be lacking or inconsistent.
The report documents the following:
- limited use of legislative provisions designed to enhance Aboriginal reintegration, including under-utilization of Healing Lodges
- shortage of Elders and dedicated Aboriginal program delivery officers
- inconsistent access to Aboriginal programming
- lack of an Aboriginal anti-gang management strategy
- lack of an Aboriginal-sensitive classification instrument
- absence of statistical evidence indicating progress or improvement in managing Aboriginal offenders
- lack of capacity to address the unique social and historical circumstances contributing to Aboriginal offending
Labels: aboriginal law, correctional services, criminal law