Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/11/2009 (4329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, said the situation for aboriginal inmates in this country is appalling and called upon the Correctional Service of Canada to create a deputy commissioner for aboriginal corrections.
The report says in 2008, 19.6 per cent of federal inmates were aboriginal, although they make up just four per cent of the Canadian adult population. That number grew by nearly 20 per cent over the previous decade.
The number of aboriginal women in jail soared an alarming 131 per cent in that decade, and one in three women now in federal prisons in Canada is aboriginal.
Sapers' office only has jurisdiction for federal prisons. More than 70 per cent of inmates in Manitoba are in provincial facilities. Statistics Canada reports 66 per cent of Manitoba inmates on remand and 69 per cent in sentenced custody are aboriginal.
The OCI report also notes aboriginal offenders are less likely than non-aboriginal offenders to be granted parole, more likely to be in segregation, more likely to have been in prison before, are classified as higher risk and are more likely to reoffend after they are released.
The statistics, says the report, are a sign of the corrections' service failure to ensure aboriginal prisoners are getting the help they need. It notes a 2006 strategic plan for aboriginal corrections was to have been mostly implemented by the end of 2007, but has not been.
Culturally appropriate programming for aboriginal inmates is not yet universally available. Programs are also lacking in the community to help aboriginal offenders reintegrate after they are released which contributes to higher reoffence rates.
Sapers said there is a lack of "dedicated and focused leadership" in the Correctional Service of Canada when it comes to addressing the needs of aboriginal offenders.
He said the appointment of a deputy commissioner would help address the government's "serious governance and accountability gap" in its commitment to improving the lives of aboriginal offenders.
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said there already is a Correctional Service of Canada Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate with a director and 18 staff members.
"Appointing a different commissioner is not going to solve the problem," Van Loan said in an emailed statement. "What's going to solve the problem are changes in approach. We, as a society, have a lot to do."
Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin said appointing a deputy commissioner for aboriginal inmates would be a good step but said Ottawa has to also stop thinking it can solve crime problems by locking more people up for longer.
Martin said the Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda with mandatory sentences will only mean even more aboriginals spend more time in jail. "When your only focus is on punishment, you deliberately ignore the social conditions of aboriginal people," said Martin. "More jail cells just means bigger con colleges."