Guards ‘left to own devices’

Canada’s prison guards are essentially being left to their own devices when it comes to treating inmates with basic human respect, according to an internal survey report obtained by The Canadian Press.

TORONTO — Canada’s prison guards are essentially being left to their own devices when it comes to treating inmates with basic human respect, according to an internal survey report obtained by The Canadian Press.

The “ethical climate survey” of Correctional Service Canada staff included a question about “treating offenders with respect as human beings.”

However, responses to the question from the survey’s 2,200 participants were dropped from the final report because of a “lack of unanimity.”

“Most probably, the (corrections) community does not share a common understanding and expectations regarding respect toward offenders,” the report states.

“Apparently social values around respect toward offenders have not been encouraged within CSC to the same extent as values of respect toward the organization and co-workers — leaving this aspect to each individual’s discretion.”

The document says without proper training, employees rely on “what is deeply ingrained in their beliefs” to mould how they treat offenders.

The report’s analysis notes several respondents brought up concerns about staff who abused their power, a problem it says could be tackled through workshops focused on values and ethical issues.

The findings open a window on the mindset of correctional officials at a time when a coroner’s inquest into the 2007 prison death of troubled teenager Ashley Smith has exposed how a mix of personal action and bureaucratic procedure shape treatment of the incarcerated.

Smith choked herself to death inside her segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., while guards, ordered not to intervene, stood watch outside.

Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said the apparent lack of agreement from staff on humane treatment should serve as a shot across the bow of prison authorities.

“It should be a significant wake-up call to Correctional Service Canada, and instead of burying it or ignoring it and taking it out of the survey some sort of concerted effort to address this should be in order.”

Pate said the survey underscores what she called a shift under the Harper government toward punishment of prisoners and away from rehabilitation.

“One of the most consistent complaints I’ve heard from staff, particularly (those) who work with women in prison, is that they don’t receive a lot of training in how to support and assist prisoners — that the priority seems to be on how to use force,” Pate said.

A corrections spokeswoman said the prison service is studying the report.

“The survey results raise important issues for employees, supervisors and senior managers across the Correctional Service of Canada and will inform actions at all levels,” Sara Parkes said in an email.

“CSC continues to work to apply its values in the workplace and integrate them into its practices and processes, as well as to support and strengthen the ethical culture in the workplace.”

Parkes also said employees are given training on ethics and workplace values when they are hired and again on appointment to specific jobs.

The poll of workplace values follows a pair of earlier ethics questionnaires done in 2007 and 2009. A subsequent audit determined results from those surveys, which drew on much smaller sample sizes and found similar results, were not acted upon at most participating correctional institutions.

The 2012 voluntary survey was administered online to staff ranging from guards patrolling cell blocks to top-level bureaucrats carving out policy in Ottawa.

In all, about 12 per cent of the corrections workforce responded. The results are considered accurate within five percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Just Posted

Alberta has made a more detailed framework for those looking to acquire an exemption to the mandatory indoor mask bylaw. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Alberta changes requirements for mask exemptions

Masks wearing has been recommended for almost a year and provincially mandated… Continue reading

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP investigating shooting near Maskwacis

Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin RCMP are seeking public assistance after a shooting has… Continue reading

Rode
Smith among impressive group of RDC soccer Queens recruits

There have been a number of cases where younger girls have developed… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools is projecting a $4-million budget deficit for 2021-22 school year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools prepares $124-million budget

$1 million COVID recovery plan to assist students

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, is shown in Calgary, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The final three games of Canada's Secret Cup women's hockey tournament will be played in Calgary's NHL arena.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

FILE - In this Thursday, July 18, 2019 file photo, Ron Francis talks to reporters in Seattle after he was introduced as the first general manager for Seattle's yet-to-be-named NHL hockey expansion team. Four years since George McPhee was a “puppet master” of the NHL leading up to the Vegas expansion draft, general managers approached this trade deadline with Seattle’s upcoming addition to the league in mind. While Kraken GM Ron Francis prepares – and maybe made a handshake deal or two already like McPhee did – Seattle was on his colleagues’ minds.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Simmering internal discontent in his United Conservative caucus has boiled over into an open challenge to his leadership. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) celebrates in the outfield at the end of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

FILE - Jordan Spieth waits his turn to putt during the third round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament in San Antonio, in this Saturday, April 3, 2021, file photo. Spieth will try to complete the career Grand Slam next week at the PGA Championship. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas, File)
Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Most Read