Deaths in Custody
- Our government is focused on ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment that is conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and the protection of the public.
- The Correctional Service of Canada takes the death of an inmate very seriously. The loss of a life is a tragedy at any time.
- Reducing the number of deaths in custody, particularly non-natural deaths, is a fundamental priority of the organization.
- As in all cases where an individual dies while in custody, the police and coroner are called in to investigate.
- The circumstances surrounding these incidents are reviewed to determine any areas of improvement and to prevent reoccurrences of similar incidents.
Deaths in Custody
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has very clear legal responsibilities when an inmate dies in custody. Any time an inmate dies in custody, CSC must promptly notify the following parties, regardless of the cause of death:
- the police;
- CSC regional and national headquarters;
- the coroner/medical examiner who has jurisdiction over the area in which the penitentiary is located, this includes situations when an inmate dies outside the penitentiary (e.g. in a community hospital);
- the local person responsible for the notification, who will in turn promptly notify the inmate's emergency contact or next of kin by telephone where possible;
- the regional Victim Services Unit; and
- the regional administrator of communications and executive services.
CSC has legislation and policies governing the review and investigation of deaths in custody as well as the investigation of other incidents involving offenders.
An investigation is convened when an inmate dies or suffers a serious bodily injury. Several factors are considered when determining what level of investigation is convened (i.e., Tier I, Tier II, Local, File Review), such as:
- the level of violence and injuries sustained;
- the offender profile(s);
- the possible impact on CSC's capacity to deliver programs;
- public interest;
- the frequency with which similar incidents have occurred in the past; and
- the recurrence of similar incidents at a particular site or with a particular offender.
Following the death in custody of a federal inmate, a national board of investigation (for non-natural death) or a mortality review (for a natural death) is convened by the Commissioner under section 19 or 20 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The Senior Deputy Commissioner, in consultation with the Director General, Incident Investigations, will determine the authority under which the investigation will be convened and the type of investigative process to be applied.
When an incident occurs in an institution or in the community, the Commissioner; Director General, Incident Investigations, Institutional Head; or District Director may convene an investigation or file review. The objectives of investigating an incident are to:
- assess and report on all the circumstance surrounding the incident
- provide information to the CSC so that, if required, actions can be taken to prevent similar incidents
- learn about and share best practices
- make findings, and recommendations where required
CSC is currently developing and implementing a number of interconnected initiatives to address issues related to Deaths in Custody.
Prepared by: Jessica Martineau, Officer Parliamentary Relations, 613-943-1726
Approved by: Kirstan Gagnon, Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement, 613-995-6867
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