Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Prison ombudsman accuses prison system of ‘institutionalized discrimination’

Prison ombudsman accuses prison system of ‘institutionalized discrimination’: "Meagan Fitzpatrick,
Font: * * * * OTTAWA -- Canada’s jail system routinely discriminates against aboriginal offenders, according to the federal prison watchdog. In his annual report released Monday, ombudsman Howard Sapers outlined a number of concerns but chose to focus on aboriginal Canadians, saying they are over-represented in the justice system and treated unfairly within it.
Sapers said the general picture is one of 'institutionalized discrimination.'
'Aboriginal people are routinely disadvantaged once they are placed into the care and custody of the correctional service,' he said.
Aboriginal offenders are more often placed in maximum security prisons and in segregation than non-aboriginal offenders, Sapers reported, and that 'severely limits access to rehabilitative programming and services.' He also said aboriginal inmates are not always given the same chance at parole as non-aboriginal offenders.
Sapers said Canada’s correctional service is not responsible for the social conditions and the policy decisions which contribute to its offender population, but it is responsible for ensuring that all offenders are treated fairly.
'It is, therefore, with grave concern that today I am underscoring that the Correctional Service of Canada falls short of this standard of care by allowing for systemic discrimination against aboriginal inmates,' he said.
Sapers said his recommendations must be acted upon swiftly. Among changes to the system, Sapers wants to see more aboriginal people employed in the correctional service.

"My message to the correctional service today is to walk your talk and make real progress a priority in this area. My message to the government is to give the service the resources they need to get the job done," he said

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