Response to the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s Report
In the Dark: An Investigation into Correctional Service of Canada’s Information Sharing and Disclosure Practices Following a Death in Custody
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) welcomes the release of In the Dark: An Investigation into Correctional Service of Canada's Information Sharing and Disclosure Practices Following a Death in Custody by the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI). The report examines CSC's information sharing and disclosure practices following a death in custody, and includes recommendations to improve organizational and institutional policies and practices.
CSC takes the issue of deaths in custody very seriously. The loss of life is a tragedy, and we are taking concrete steps to address the areas where changes need to be made. We recognize that the death of a family member is an extremely challenging time, often made more difficult when he or she has been incarcerated away from his or her home community. We want to ensure we are communicating with the families of offenders following a death in a clear, transparent and empathetic way, and we welcome this opportunity to respond to the OCI's recommendations to help us improve these practices.
I recommend that the Service proactively disclose factually relevant information to families of deceased inmates immediately following a death in custody. This disclosure should include a factual summary of the circumstances and events immediately preceding the death, life saving measures that were initiated upon discovery and preliminary details on the measures taken to manage pre-existing medical or mental health problems.
CSC will continue to disclose factually relevant information following a death in custody under section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy ActFootnote 1. This information will be shared through a new facilitated disclosure process. However, the timing and nature of information shared is dependent on a number of factors and will be determined on a case-by-case basisFootnote 2.
I recommend that CSC develop and implement a facilitated disclosure process based on best practices in this area. Facilitated disclosures should occur shortly after the death and include those individuals who were directly involved with the inmate as well as the Warden. Follow-up discussions should be made available to correct information, provide additional detail or report on measures taken as a result of the investigation.
CSC will develop and implement a facilitated disclosure process. This process will include designated staff members who will act as points of contact for family membersFootnote 3, and share information with next of kin from notification through to the completion of the investigative process. The facilitated disclosure process will be implemented in December, 2016.
I recommend that CSC clearly define procedures and protocols when an inmate is taken to an outside hospital in a medical emergency situation. This should include providing next of kin with a contact at the hospital, information regarding what family members can expect when they arrive at the hospital, and approved access for next of kin to enter the hospital room of their family member.
CSC will establish a guideline outlining procedures regarding next of kin notification in circumstances of serious medical emergencies. The guideline will be completed in March 2017.
I recommend that CSC establish a family liaison in each of the five regions to coordinate with National Headquarters and the institution in providing /sharing information with next of kin from the point of notification through to the completion of the investigative process.
Through a new facilitated disclosure process, CSC points of contactFootnote 4 will take measures to ensure there is an appropriate level of engagement between family members and CSC staff, service providers and others who are well-equipped to provide assistance and support when sharing information with next of kin. These points of contact will share information with the next of kin from notification through to the completion of the investigative process, and in cases where a report cannot be immediately shared, families will be provided with any other information that is readily available and can be disclosed. This approach will also ensure that the way in which information is provided to family members is appropriate and considers their expressed preferences, health and well-being.
I recommend that CSC develop and provide training to staff involved in communicating with families following a death. This should include a national forum for staff to discuss challenges, exchange best practices and lessons learned.
CSC is in agreement with providing training to identified staff to assist them in communicating with families following the death of an inmate. CSC will search for a training content that has been developed and improved on the basis of experience, best practices and lessons learned. Once identified, CSC will ensure this training is routinely provided to staff members (i.e. point of contacts) involved in communicating with families following the death of an inmate. This training will be proposed for approval and implementation in April, 2017.
I recommend that CSC send a letter of condolence to the next of kin forthwith following a death in custody.
A letter of condolence to the next of kin will be a requirement and will be included in Commissioner's Directive 530, Death of an Inmate: Notifications and Funeral Arrangements in January, 2017.
I recommend that CSC develop a guide for families explaining CSC policy, responsibilities and investigative process following a death in custody. Contact information for the Coroner/Medical Examiner Officers and the police should also be included as well as any community contacts that may be helpful to grieving families.
CSC is developing a guide that will assist families in understanding CSC's policies, responsibilities and investigative processes following a death in custody. We will also provide key contact information as suggested to ensure that community contacts and services that may be helpful to grieving families are readily available. The guide will be available in April, 2017.
In the interest of transparency and openness, investigative reports (Mortality Reviews and National Board of Investigations) in their entirety should be presumptively and routinely shared, in a timely manner, with next of kin.
Disclosing information surrounding the death of a family member in this way presents privacy challenges for all parties involved, including family membersFootnote 5. Specifically, Board of Investigation (BOI) and Mortality Review (MR) reports contain sensitive personal information and may contain third party personal information, sensitive security information, information that could be injurious to ongoing investigations or information that could reveal the identity of a confidential source of information. However, CSC proactively offers the next of kin of deceased inmates the opportunity to receive information under section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy ActFootnote 6. Specifically, following a death in custody, a letter is sent to the next of kin expressing condolences and explaining that a BOI is being convened. At that time, the next of kin is also provided with a request form and other information they need should they decide to request the BOI report.
CSC's Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Division will continue to process requests for BOI and MR reports from next of kin in a timely manner and release information contained in BOI and MR reports under Section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act on a case-by-case basis; and will promote a culture of transparency and accountability while ensuring that the appropriate safeguards are respected regarding the protection of personal information.
I recommend that, the Commissioner of Corrections routinely consider releasing information to families of deceased inmates under public interest disclosure provisions of the Privacy Act.
CSC will continue to release information to family members of deceased inmates under the public interest provisions of the Privacy Act in a way that balances the protection of personal information with the provision of information to family members in order to help them understand the circumstances surrounding the death of their family member. We have also modified our approach to vetting and releasing information such that a dedicated team of ATIP experts works closely with family members and other partners and stakeholders to ensure that information is shared appropriately and consistently.
- Footnote 1
Section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act permits, on a case-by-case basis, the release of personal information where, in the opinion of the head of the institution, the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure, or that the disclosure would clearly benefit the individual to whom the information relates.
- Footnote 2
The timing and nature of information shared is dependent on the relevant provisions of the Privacy Act, and considers sensitive information, third-party personal information, sensitive security information, information that could affect ongoing investigations, or information that could reveal the identity of a confidential source of information.
- Footnote 3
The Regional Administrator, Communications and Executive Services (RACES) in each region is designated as the key point of contact for facilitating sharing of information with next of kin. As appropriate, site personnel can be designated to fulfill this role, under oversight, coordination and monitoring by the RACES.
- Footnote 4
- Footnote 5
Board of Investigation (BOI) reports contain sensitive personal information and may contain third-party personal information, sensitive security information, information that could affect ongoing investigations, or information that could reveal the identity of a confidential source of information.
- Footnote 6
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