‘We have work to do’: head of prison policy formulation at closure of Gravenhurst death investigation

The final day of testimony regarding the 2015 sudden death of Mark Jeffrey, an Inuk man previously incarcerated in Beaver Creek, focused less on Jeffrey himself and more on the procedures and policies that affected his life while in Correctional Service custody. from Canada. .

Final witnesses heard for investigative testimony included Sarah Macdonald, Assistant Director of Interventions at Beaver Creek Institution and Marty Maltby, Senior Policy Analyst, Aboriginal Initiatives at Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

The prison system’s use of segregation, or solitary confinement as it is sometimes known, an integral part of the investigation, emerged early in Tuesday’s proceedings.

The Beaver Creek Institution stopped segregating criminals in March 2019, Macdonald testified. The practice was banned in Canada in November 2019. The correctional system now uses what is known as the “structured intervention unit.”

Offenders who engage in misconduct, such as fighting or any other behavior that is perceived as a threat to the security of the prison, staff or other men, are excluded from the general population, Macdonald said.

“Recognizing that segregation is no longer an option, there has certainly also been a change in culture,” he said. “Criminals who had previously been removed, we are finding other ways to handle them in the population, depending on the situation.”

Violators are held in the gym or an office until matters are resolved; if they cannot, a prisoner is transferred to another Ontario prison the same day.

Decisions about what happens to criminals “are made with as many voices at the table as possible” and with the greatest possible urgency, he said. “No more than a couple of hours because we cannot hold a criminal in an area that is obviously not his cell for a period of time.”

When asked about cultural awareness training for prison staff, Macdonald said it has increased over the years. After Jeffrey’s death in 2015, he said managers took an Inuit awareness training.

When asked if additional training on how personal biases can affect the way staff interact with and evaluate inmates, Macdonald replied, “Yes, I would.”

Willful ignorance could lead to prejudice, Macdonald conceded, but not to inadvertent ignorance.

The investigation heard that as of mid-November, Beaver Creek is home to approximately 20 Inuk inmates.

The number of indigenous offenders in Canada has risen steadily since 2001, when they constituted 17.5 percent of inmates; That number has now exceeded 30 percent. Indigenous people make up five percent of the population.

Wearing a Elk fur campaign Pin and pausing the proceedings before his testimony to offer a reconnaissance of the land, Maltby began with an overview of his role developing what he described as an ever-evolving set of policies within which CSC operates, including the specific to the Inuit.

Maltby shared that additional funds – $ 750,000 to $ 1 million a year – are available nationwide from the correctional system to address the gaps in resources for Inuk men in their prisons.

Changes have been made to transfer policies, decision-making, scheduling and reintegration policies for offenders, he explained, calling it an ongoing process. “I still think we have work to do. I’ll be honest with you. “

Inuit awareness training is not part of the national training standards, Maltby said, but is a requirement for “people who work in Inuit centers.”

“As part of our response to the internal investigation into (Jeffrey’s) case, we did some training with the Beaver Creek management team in particular,” he said.

There has also been training on diversity and culture, he said, focusing on prejudice and privilege. “We are all prejudiced to some degree,” he said. “I think it’s about understanding it and making sure we recognize it in every decision we make and making sure it doesn’t negatively influence us.”

And there has been discussion about moving the resources that make Beaver Creek an “Inuit Center of Excellence” to a prison closer to Ottawa, where the largest Inuit population resides outside of Nunavut, as well as the construction of a federal prison in Nunavut, Maltby testified. .

“There have been no formal talks about building a new institution,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you, I wish we had fewer federal institutions. But, at the same point, I think there are opportunities to continue those negotiations to provide more support in the north.

The attorneys’ final arguments began Wednesday before the jury begins deliberations.


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