The Ombudsperson speaks out against the detention conditions of people serving an intermittent sentence
Québec City, March 21, 2018 – Today the Québec Ombudsman released an investigation report on the consequences of the rise in intermittent sentences in Québec’s correctional facilities. This increase exacerbates the problem of overcrowding in many facilities, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. The situation not only adversely affects the safety and detention conditions of those serving intermittent sentences, but the entire prison population as well.
Sentence management is a sizable challenge for correctional facilities. In 2016-2017, the number of complaints received by the Québec Ombudsman from people serving intermittent sentences practically doubled from the figures for the previous year.
"Our investigation brought into focus the urgent need to expose the problems encountered by detainees because of the massive reliance on intermittent sentences and to find concrete and feasible solutions to correct the situation," said Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret.
The findings by the Québec Ombudsman include the following:
- Inadequate detention conditions (overcrowding, incarceration in areas not intended for that purpose, insufficient bathroom facilities);
- Even worse conditions for female detainees;
- Increased risk for tension and violence;
- Harmful conditions for all detainees due to overcrowding during peak periods;
- High number of detainees shuttled from one facility to another;
- More strip searches.
In its report, the Québec Ombudsman made 17 recommendations, most of them to the Ministère de la Sécurité publique and others to the Ministère de la Justice. They are aimed at making the detention conditions of people serving intermittent sentences tolerable, by, among other measures, setting a maximum occupancy rate in certain sections. These recommendations are also meant to foster greater inter-facility cooperation in order to reduce transfers and searches and to favour alternatives to incarceration. Lastly, their purpose is to encourage reintegration of offenders, prevention of recidivism and more effective use of temporary absences when one sixth of the sentence has been served.
One of the Québec Ombudsman’s mandates is to ensure that the rights of detainees in correctional facilities under provincial jurisdiction are upheld in accordance with acts, regulations and administrative standards.
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