Ontario proposes legislation to transform adult correctional system
The Ontario government says it is transforming its adult correctional system by introducing legislation that would apply an evidence-based approach to rehabilitation, among other things.
If passed, Ontario says the new bill will:
• Set rules around, and clearly define, segregation by aligning with international standards and phasing in time limits and prohibitions on segregation for vulnerable inmates, including pregnant inmates and those with a significant mental illness.
• Improve conditions of confinement by requiring minimum standards for living conditions that would apply to all adults in custody.
• Increase transparency and accountability by establishing an Inspector General to ensure compliance with the new legislation and all policies. Independent review panels will review segregation cases and ensure that inmates are held in the least restrictive conditions possible. To ensure the safety of inmates and staff, disciplinary hearings officers will make decisions about sanctions for serious acts of misconduct by inmates.
• Clearly define in legislation the health care services that incarcerated individuals should have access to, including treatment of disease or injury, health promotion, disease prevention, dental care, vision care, mental health and addictions care, and traditional Indigenous healing and medicines.
• Better support rehabilitation and reintegration through individualized, evidence-based assessments that will be completed for every new admission as part of an evidence-based approach.
“This bill and the forthcoming regulations represent an important opportunity to reshape corrections in Ontario,” said Paula Osmok of the John Howard Society of Ontario. “The bill articulates key values and principles that inform how Ontario’s correctional system can and should operate: fairly, humanely, and effectively. Many of the new processes and protections the bill puts in place to achieve those key values and principles are promising, and something we will look forward to monitoring.”
There will also be new facilities built in Thunder Bay and Ottawa as part of this bill and, among other things, an advisory committee with the Ministry of the Attorney General, Anti-Racism Directorate, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services will be established to address the over-representation of black inmates in corrections and support their reintegration into the community.
There are currently 25 provincially run adult correctional facilities in Ontario, according to the province. The average number of adults in custody across the province in 2017 was 7,584.
The proposed legislation would replace the Ministry of Correctional Services Act.