2021-2022 Annual Report — The challenges posed by the pandemic and staff shortages must not compromise detainees’ rights

  • December 1, 2022

Québec City, December 1, 2022 — In his 2021-2022 Annual Report, Québec Ombudsman Marc-André Dowd notes that detainees’ usual routine was radically disrupted because of understaffing and the consequences of the pandemic, notably, measures to combat the virus.

"Of course, I recognize the considerable challenges that COVID-19 poses for decision-makers in prison environments," says Marc-André Dowd. "But this does not justify the abuses uncovered by our investigations, such as excessive use of confinement, cancelled yard time and repeated delays in giving back personal belongings like a simple change of clothing."

When will there be a correctional facility for women?

For several years now, female detainees have been housed at Leclerc de Laval correctional facility, a dilapidated building inconsistent with their needs. This is a finding of the Ministère de la Sécurité publique itself, which as early as 2016 declared that women could not be kept there long term. Given the number of years that has elapsed, this time the Québec Ombudsman has formally recommended that the Department commit, by means of a firm decision, to constructing a new correctional facility as soon as possible.

Substandard decontamination

The inflammatory agent employed to subdue detainees when necessary has very severe irritating effects on them. After its use, the person and the premises must be decontaminated promptly. However, decontamination is not always carried out according to the rules, and this may cause significant consequences for those concerned. At the end of an investigation by the Québec Ombudsman, the authorities issued reminders to the correctional officers at fault. The Québec Ombudsman recommended corrective measures to the Ministère de la Sécurité publique.

A deplorable case of administrative rigidity

Given the risk of spreading COVID-19 in prison environments, a ministerial order temporarily sanctioned the release of detainees, under strict requirements. A detainee was given permission to go home, 700 km away. However, correctional services refused to pay for his ticket ($3.50) to the interregional bus station. In the end, they had to arrange for him to be escorted to his home region, which took up staff at a time of shortages, unduly prolonged his incarceration, and was very costly.

A few figures

In 2021-2022, the Québec Ombudsman intervened regarding:

The Québec Ombudsman acts impartially and independently in ensuring that the rights of people are upheld in their dealings with public services. Its services are free and user-friendly.

See the Highlights of the Québec Ombudsman’s 2021-2022 Annual Report in the Annual Reports section of our website.

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