The 2018-2019 annual report from the Office of the Correctional Investigator tells of one instance in which an inmate with “significant impairments” was allegedly abused by several correctional officers at a Millhaven Institution treatment facility.
Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator, believes this story is simply one instance in a pattern of inmate abuse at the Millhaven Regional Treatment Centre.
In fact, Zinger’s report found that Millhaven made up 80 per cent of all unecessary use-of-force incidents at institutional treatment centres across the country.
Zinger provided security footage stills of an altercation that took place while an inmate was going through a theraputic interview with a behaviourial technologist.
The report notes the inmate had a “serious mental health disorder with significant impairments.”
During his interview, the inmate asked a nearby security officer if he could go to the recreation yard after the session.
The security officer said no, since there was maintenance going on in the yard.
When the inmate protested, Zinger said the officer’s response simply “escalated the situation.” Despite the behaviourial technologist’ attempt to intervene with verbal coaching, the technologist was then abruptly asked to leave the room due to safety concerns, the report says.
Zinger pointed out notes from the behaviourial technologist, who said at no point did they feel the inmate was putting anyone was at risk.
“The inmate was ‘appropriate and polite’ in all interactions,” Zinger said the behaviourial technologist noted following the incident.
Although the technologist was told to leave the room, the report said they were blocked by the entrance of four other security officers.
The report notes the inmate then lunged at the officers, trying to strike them, while the officers charged at him, taking him down to the floor. .
“The inmate is held down by the weight of the four officers while lying prone.” Zinger’s report read. “A nearby health practitioner reports later that an officer was kneeling across the inmate’s neck and that his face was purple.”
The report said the inmate began gasping for air.
Zinger said one officer said: “Want me to jizz on your face,” while the were seen laughing others laughed.
The inmate is then picked up, and his head is slammed against a steel door with an officer’s hand on the back of his neck, according to the report.
Finally, he is escorted to his cell, where he is “forced onto the cell bed in a prone position with his face planted firmly onto the metal surface until his handcuffs are removed.”
As an officer leaves the cell, Zinger says he forcefully twists and stretches of the inmate’s arm and wrist as a “pain compliance technique.”
According to Zinger, Correctional Service Canada reviewed the incident and took “swift disciplinary action.”
Nevertheless, the investigator notes this particular incident is not an “isolated case” for the penitentiary’s treatment centre.
Investigation by Zinger and his team have found nearly 30 per cent of the treatment centre’s use of force incident involved unecessary force — the national average for other treatment centres across the country is 13 per cent.
Zinger said during his last annual report, he raised the issue of inappropriate training for treatment centre staff to Correctional Service Canada (CSC), to which CSC reportedly replied: ““All correctional staff, including those who are working in Regional Treatment Centres, are carefully recruited, selected and trained.”
Zinger said the incident he described at Millhaven proved that this was not the case.
The report did include a response from CSC saying they were currently evaluating their engagement and intervention model after the correctional investigator’s 2017-2018 report.
“It is acknowledged there is an opportunity to look at security and health services protocols related to de-escalation and intervention activities, and build on best practices, to ensure the needs of patients are appropriately supported taking into account principles of least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders.”
In a comment sent to Global News Friday, CSC said interactions between frontline staff and offenders is essential to helping rehabilitate inmates.
“Any misconduct towards offenders is a complete violation of our mission, which is to provide a safe, secure, and humane environment, conducive to the rehabilitation of offender in our care,” the statement said.
Although CSC stands by the training they give their correctional officers, they noted that over 2017 and 2018, the organization “implemented a higher level of scrutiny at the regional and national level for disciplinary decisions related to use of force incidents that resulted in serious bodily harm or death, and a higher level of transparency in all decisions related to disciplinary sanctions.”
Following the last correctional investigator’s report, CSC says along with their review of their current intervention model, the institution has been actively working to ensure their intervention practices avoid use of force when possible.
CSC says they are now holding a forum with correctional stakeholders to explore de-escalation and intervention techniques.