Correctional Investigator of Canada and the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission Call on Federal Government to Respect the Dignity of Older Persons in Federal Custody
For Immediate Release
February 28, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Today, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, and the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Ms. Marie-Claude Landry, released a joint report entitled Aging and Dying in Prison: An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody. The report highlights the challenges associated with older offenders in prison, including management of chronic health conditions, accessibility and accommodation of disability, institutionalization, reintegration barriers, end-of-life care and dying with dignity in prison.
“Conditions of confinement of older individuals in federal custody are lacking in terms of personal safety and dignity. Some older, long-serving inmates are being warehoused behind bars. Their prospects for release are often overlooked or neglected,” stated Dr. Zinger. He added, “Older offenders are one of the most costly cohorts to incarcerate, yet they pose the least risk. More responsive and humane models of care exist in the community that would better support the reintegration needs of older offenders at a significantly lower cost. These alternatives could be funded through savings generated by unnecessary incarceration.”
Canadian Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Marie-Claude Landry, added: “Every person in Canada, including those in federal custody, has a right to live their final moments with dignity and safety. Prisons are not equipped to provide end of life care. Correctional Service Canada must do more to ensure inmates can return to the community and so that end-of-life care is humane and dignified. This starts with encouraging and facilitating inmates to maintain meaningful connections within their community.”
The report makes 16 joint recommendations. Key recommendations include:
- Independent review of all older individuals in federal custody to determine whether a placement in the community, long-term care facility or hospice would be more appropriate.
- Enhanced partnerships with outside service providers to create additional bed space in long-term care and community hospice facilities.
- Additional training for Correctional Service Canada (CSC) staff in addressing age-related needs, including responding to behaviours related to dementia.
- A legislative review of release options for older and long-serving offenders who do not pose undue risk to public safety.
- An immediate CSC-led comprehensive National Older Offender Strategy to address the care and needs of older individuals in federal custody.
The report is the product of a joint investigation between the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. This collaborative approach provided a unique perspective in terms of how to ensure public safety while respecting and protecting the unique needs, dignity and rights of older individuals in federal custody.
Office of the Correctional Investigator
Canadian Human Rights Commission