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Correction service practices discriminate against Aboriginals.

"The federal prison system has practices that discriminate against Aboriginal offenders," Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers says in his Annual Report of the Corrections Ombudsman.

Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day, immediately responded to the report with a denial that discriminates against aboriginals. "I visited personally a number of federal institutions and have spent time with aboriginals themselves individually and in groups in the institutions," he said in the House of Commons.

The Correctional Investigator found that First Nations, Metis and Inuit inmates:

* are routinely classified as higher security risks than nonnative inmates;

* are released later in their sentences than other inmates; and

* are more likely to have their conditional release revoked for technical reasons than other offenders.

* often do not receive timely access to rehabilitative programming and services that would help them return to their communities.

Sapers says that it is well documented that Aboriginal people are over represented in Canada's prisons but the "disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders are not as well known and should be addressed on an urgent basis." The higher rate of recidivism for Aboriginal offenders is in part due to the Correctional Service's failure to manage Aboriginal inmates in a culturally responsive and non-discriminatory manner, he added. "More commitment and resources are required to address the troubling trend."

The Correctional Investigator's Report reiterates the often repeated need for the CSC to:

* provide adequate services to federal offenders with significant, identified mental health needs, the proportion of whom has more than doubled over the past decade;

* demonstrate compliance with its legal obligation to provide every inmate with essential health care according to professionally accepted standards, and accredit all institutional health care sites;

* implement a more humane and less restrictive alternative to the long-term segregation of women inmates; and

* convene timely investigations and follow-up action regarding incidents of serious injury or death among inmates. The Report found that the CSC initially classifies Aboriginal offenders at higher security levels than other inmates, identifies them as having lower reintegration potential and places them in minimum-security institutions at less than half the rate of non-Aboriginal offenders. Aboriginal inmates are placed in segregation more often than non-Aboriginal offenders, limiting their access to appropriate programming. These discriminatory outcomes are even more pronounced in the case of female Aboriginal offenders.

Aboriginal groups said that the Conservative government's plan for more minimum mandatory prison sentences and other tough measures will make the problem worse for native prisoners.
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Title Annotation:JUSTICE
Publication:Community Action
Date:Oct 23, 2006
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