Bill Blair orders prison data to be turned over, but does the data even exist?

Good question in the header (follow-up article to Paul Wells’ Another farce on Bill Blair’s watch:

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he has ordered Correctional Service Canada to hand over data to an independent panel reviewing its practises, nearly a year after the panel first requested the information. But new documents from the corrections agency reveal it may be failing to accurately collect the data altogether.

In an interview with Maclean’s, Blair vows that “we are working very hard to make sure that we are able to provide that information and access to what the panel needs before they would consider continuing their job.”

Anthony Doob, the former head of the panel, says he still hasn’t heard from Correctional Services and has not been convinced to continue his work. “I need to know that we can actually do our work,” he told Maclean’s.

Last month, the panel tapped by the Trudeau government to review the implementation of its Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) was disbanded. Its scathing final report pointed to a lack of cooperation from Blair and Correctional Services, which rendered the panel “powerless to accomplish the job that it was set up to do.”

The new SIUs were supposed to replace an existing solitary confinement regime, which courts in Ontario and British Columbia called unconstitutional and, possibly, torture. Yet when Doob and his panel tried to analyze whether the new units were complying with the court orders and a new legal regime, they were stonewalled.

Doob says the information is crucial to the implementation of these units and that “the bulk, or all of the data, that we’re asking for is stuff they should want for their own purposes.”

But Correctional Services was unable to turn over the necessary data before the panel’s appointment ended in August. It has yet to offer a timeline on when it might supply the statistics.

On Wednesday, Correctional Services posted a request for information to the Canadian government’s procurement platform, seeking companies capable of updating its offender management system. The system, which tracks every inmate in custody, was implemented in the early 1990s and last updated in 2002.

The system governs just about every part of Canadian prisons, and is responsible for tracking the accommodations and mental health status of inmates. It is also the system that monitors inmates placed in the Structured Intervention Units.

Correctional Services first identified the need to update the system in 2015. Today, the database is strained, the document reveals. The systems to input and check crucial information on inmates, including their risk of suicide, “are manual, cumbersome, redundant and open to potential human error in data entry.” Other indicators, such as social history, are “not well integrated into the overall process.”

Correctional Services also notes that, on several fronts including inmate discipline, the process is “cumbersome and relies on paper and humans to ensure that information is gathered.”

Doob says that while their computer systems may be “not ideal,” that technology is no excuse. “They do lots of research themselves using their old system to get data. And, as I’ve said many times, if they truly cannot get the data for the panel, that means that they don’t know what is happening, in a systematic way, in their institutions.”

Often, the only recourse for inmates to contest the conditions of their confinement is to file a grievance. As Correctional Services notes in the procurement documents, the “offender grievance process is approximately 90 per cent paper based. This process has resulted in delays in processing offender grievances from the 60-80 day policy prescribed timeframes to up to three years.”

The service did provide a batch of files to the panel in May but, Doob says, the tables were unusable, inaccurate and essentially worthless for his study. For example, he says, the data noted when an inmate had a mental health issue—but not whether it was noted before, during or after their stay in the Structured Intervention Unit. The service employee responsible for data analysis admitted the information was essentially worthless, Doob says.

Maclean’s asked Correctional Services about deficiencies in their inmate tracking system, but has yet to receive a response.

Blair acknowledges that “Correction Services Canada struggled to collect and then make available the information in a timely way.” The panel first alerted Blair to its issues obtaining data in mid-March, then filed an interim report, noting “this panel has not been allowed to do its work” on July 23, and filed its final report on Aug. 11.

It wasn’t until the details of the report were released by Vice on Aug. 26 that Blair’s office responded. The day after, Blair called Doob to discuss next steps.

Asked why he didn’t intervene sooner, Blair didn’t answer. “When it was brought to my attention, I immediately gave direction that the information was to be collected and made available to the panel,” he says.

Doob says that, even if Correctional Services produces the data, he’s not sure he’ll rejoin the panel. He wants assurances that he’ll be able to properly review the service’s practises, including on-the-ground access to the new cells. “I’ve heard zero from CSC,” he reports.

Zilla Jones, a Winnipeg-based lawyer and a fellow member of the panel, has clients who have been placed in the Structured Intervention Units at the Stony Mountain penitentiary in Manitoba. She says the upgrades to some of the cells have been limited to “cosmetic” changes, such as a new coat of paint and some posters.

In a series of court rulings declaring the old system unconstitutional, the courts of appeal in Ontario and British Columbia ruled that inmates must be given more than two hours outside their cell per day. As part of the new Structured Intervention Units, the Trudeau government vowed that 20 hours per day would be the maximum amount of time per day that inmates would be locked up.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Correctional Service Canada has locked some inmates—especially those who are awaiting tests for the virus, or who exhibit symptoms—in the Structured Intervention Units for upwards of 23 hours a day.

Blair disagrees that doing so has run afoul of the courts’ rulings. “That was not for the purposes of either administrative or disciplinary segregation,” he says. “It was medical isolation for those who were ill.”

Given that Correctional Services has not been collecting data on those put in these units, Doob and the panel have questioned if Ottawa even knows whether the new law is being followed.

Nevertheless, Blair is confident. “The law is explicit, in that it eliminates the administrative and disciplinary segregation in those institutions,” Blair says. “We have eliminated [solitary confinement].”

Source: Bill Blair orders prison data to be turned over, but does the data even exist?

Software likely to blame for CSC’s ‘unfortunate’ failure to report solitary confinement data, says watchdog

Hard to understand why, if technical issues were the problem, why the radio silence to the independent panel. Hard to blame it only on incompetence. Look forward to an update by Paul Wells on his previous piece (Another farce on Bill Blair’s watch –

Technical issues and a new “Cadillac” software system to track inmates likely explains the Correctional Service of Canada’s failure to provide promised data to an independent panel monitoring the new system meant to end solitary confinement, says Canada’s prison watchdog.

The challenge rests primarily with a new tracking technology the Correctional Service of Canada picked that doesn’t yet blend with its existing “antiquated” software, though it was ultimately the right choice, said Correctional Investigator of Canada Ivan Zinger, echoing the CSC’s public defence after outcry last week over the panel’s term having ended without any work done.

In September, a volunteer panel was struck to track the prison system’s adoption of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs)—the Liberal government’s response to the court-mandated end to the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation in all federal correctional institutions. The legislation, Bill C-83, guaranteed prisoners a right to four hours daily outside of cells, and two hours of meaningful human contact. The United Nations defines solitary confinement as 22 or more hours a day in a cell without human contact, and 15 straight days in such conditions as torture.

A scathing report released Aug. 19 by the SIU Independent Advisory Panelwarned that the eight expert appointees were unable to complete any work.

“We cannot equate the fact that CSC cannot give the data with that there was no compliance or, or there was ill motive on the part of the service to provide the data,” said Mr. Zinger.

He said it’s often difficult to get information from the CSC, and it’s “very unfortunate” that was the experience of the panel, which he hoped could assure his office the service was living up to its promise. He remains concerned and critical of the “flawed” SIU model, which he said affects approximately 225 to 250 inmates and will likely face a court challenge, but his job is to ensure compliance with the law.

“CSC did the right thing initially, purchasing a computer system and software to ensure they could demonstrate compliance, they went for a Cadillac model,” he said, complete with cellphone technology and a remote keyless system at every cell door. “I think eventually it’ll be bulletproof.”

Nearing a year since the units came into use, panel members and critics argue the CSC should be able to prove compliance and report even basic data for the relatively small number of inmates, and say oversight is essential to ensure conditions the UN defines as torture aren’t occurring in Canada’s prisons. The CSC was not forthcoming throughout the now-shutteredpanel’s lifespan since launching in September 2019, said its chair Anthony Doob, a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Toronto.

For example, the panel had expected its first data dump in February, with information like the average and shortest number of hours inmates were out of their cells, with updates every two months to determine improvements. By February, the CSC informed the panel that might not be coming. The panel in turn notified Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) office, but got no response, only to later get a “useless” batch of bad data, and then learn from the CSC that its information-management technology was out of date and it ultimately wouldn’t be sharing the requested information.

CSC spokesperson Marie-Pier Lécuyer said by email Sept. 1 that the CSC continues to “actively work” on the panel’s requests. She said the service has technology in place to track “what we set out to track,” but the two systems, one older and one launched for the SIUs, “limit the integration of the data, and we continue to work through this.”

Mr. Zinger said his office’s investigators have observed the system tracking data that he believes will eventually be available to the public—though he’s also not clear on when that CSC will have that capability, and neither the service nor the minister responsible, Mr. Blair, have committed to a timeframe.

Having the data in-hand is the only way Prof. Doob said he’ll be back on the job, pushing against Mr. Blair’s promise to renew the panel’s appointments so it can complete its work in the wake of the fallout.

Mr. Blair told The Hill Times by email he had spoken to Prof. Doob about the panel’s “serious concerns” and has asked his officials “to develop a work plan that will help ensure the panel gets all the information it needs to complete its work in a timely manner.”

That statement “was a little vague, to put it politely,” said panel member Ed McIsaac, who previously spent 18 years as executive director of the Correctional Investigator’s office.

There’s “no question” Mr. Blair shares some of the blame for the CSC’s failure to hand over data, said Mr. McIsaac. But while he was “terribly disappointed” the CSC failed to provide the needed data, he said he wasn’t surprised.

Panellist Alexander Simpson, chief of forensic psychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said he’s willing to come back because he believes the work is important, but the minister needs to provide public assurances that the issues will be addressed and make it “absolutely clear that the problem that we’ve encountered will not continue.”

The CSC also reiterated in its Sept. 1 statement that it gave the panel some data, an assertion Prof. Doob said is misleading when the agency months ago admitted the data it provided was essentially useless. It feeds into a feeling—shared by two other panelists The Hill Times spoke with—that they’ve been “jerked around,” he said.

“CSC has said a number of different contradictory things about the data and it’s unfortunate,” and the explanations don’t add up, he said. “We don’t have data… Nobody has any information about the way these units are actually operating. And we don’t even know when we’re going to get it.”

How CSC tracks compliance

Ms. Lécuyer stressed the SIUs have “not gone unchecked since their implementation,” as independent bodies were set up ahead of the new units, as required by the enacting legislation to work as oversight and accountability measures. One is a group of Independent External Decision Makers, who provide oversight related to an inmate’s conditions and duration of confinement in an SIU and review cases, she noted, and the correctional investigator also follows up on complaints.

Asked if it’s complying with the new laws surrounding the structured intervention units, Ms. Lécuyer said the service has “worked hard to implement the SIUs” which are a brand-new correctional model.

She pointed to more than 1,100 decisions and reviews completed by the Independent External Decision Makers, of which 75 per cent determined that the inmate should remain in an SIU. Of the IEDM reviews, less than 25 per cent led to recommendations that the CSC “take additional steps,” and less than 2.5 per cent resulted in an order to remove an inmate from the SIU.

As for how it records compliance, she said an application tracks several different data points, including every inmate who is transferred into and out of an SIU.

That application is loaded onto a guard’s handheld device so they track in real-time the number of hours an inmate spends out of their cell as well as their activities, such as participating in correctional programs, receiving interventions from parole officers or health services, or interacting with other inmates.

“Policy requires a daily review by a manager of all information that is logged in the application about an inmate’s daily time out of cell and their activities,” she said.

Record likely ‘abysmal’ amid COVID

If the data for the last six months had been turned over to the panel, Mr. Zinger said it would likely show failure to meet the requirements of the new law—at least four hours every day out of cell and “meaningful” human contact—a development he said is a separate, and troubling, matter tied to the pandemic.

“Since November [the CSC has] been struggling to train and comply, and they’ve put a lot of effort in place to get to a desirable level,” he said, and most prisons with SIUs were complying with the majority of their obligations.

“As soon as the pandemic hit, compliance went back to zero,” and by mid-March the SIU’s were on lockdown, said Mr. Zinger, whose office has made two COVID updates, the last in June, warning the new units had returned to their former function. “It was solitary confinement, [prisoners] were lucky to have an hour outside their cell, let alone the yards.”

The numbers will likely show implementing the SIUs, in part because of COVID-19, has been an “abysmal failure,” agreed Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada.

“I think it’s a rampant, flagrant violation of the law in terms of isolated confinement. They will try to justify this on the back of COVID,” she said, but “nothing, not even a pandemic justifies the wholesale violation of prisoner’s rights and that’s what we believe we’re seeing now.”

Many prisoner advocates were concerned the legislative regime the Liberals introduced was inadequate and lacked safeguards, said Ms. Latimer, and the government used the promise of an independent panel of respected people to allay those concerns.

She doesn’t accept the technology defence, saying it’s “absolutely essential” that data be provided to the advisory panel to verify and validate the extent to which the structured intervention units are following the law.

“If they’re not getting the data then we all need to be worried,” she said.

It leaves the public and prisoners in “a rather precarious situation,” agreed Mr. McIsaac, because if the CSC is proclaiming it’s running the units in compliance with the law, but there’s no data to support that, he’s not sure where to turn.

“I think there needs to be public concern expressed [and] perhaps a revisiting at the court level what is currently going on within these units,” he said.

If Prof. Doob doesn’t get the requested data and doesn’t return to the panel, Ms. Latimer said Canada likely needs a judicial review of isolated confinement at the CSC, and not just structured intervention units.

“We’ve just taken a giant step backwards and in a way that’s inconsistent with judicial rulings in Canada,” she said, calling the situation so serious that she considers Canada to be in the worst corrections crisis in the last 50 years.

“The challenge is that this is less visible to the public, and damage to individuals is less visible but  it is horrific.”


Wells: Another farce on Bill Blair’s watch

Hard not to read this column by Paul Wells and not be discouraged. Why launch a process, led by a well-known expert, and then not provide the needed data and cooperate.

And even more shocking that Correctional Services Canada does not have any of the requested data on hand.

Fortunate that with immigration, IRCC has an abundance of data, and with diversity and representation, as does TBS, even if I sometimes complain and want more.

The GiC appointments index, on the other hand, bears some similarity to the issues raised in the case of Correctional Services Canada, in that there is no integrated spreadsheet of all appointments, only separate tables by organization, as I discovered when doing my baseline analysis in 2016 (Governor in Council Appointments – 2016 Baseline):

I’ve got my journalistic obsessions, Lord knows. But the notion that Bill Blair, the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, is in way over his head was not something I brought to this game. It’s a learned response. Lately it’s kind of getting locked in.

First there was the federal government’s response to April’s mass murder in Nova Scotia, which amounted to three months of silence and stonewalling, a botched announcement of an “independent review” that would have no power in law to compel testimony, and a hasty retreat after three days because basically everyone in Nova Scotia was saying in the newspapers what hundreds of them had been trying to tell Blair in private for months.

The hallmarks of this farce were unfamiliar but, in hindsight, look characteristic.  A long period of bland assurance that all is well in hand. (“We’ll put the processes in place to make sure that those answers not only are obtained for Canadians, but done in a way which is trustworthy,” Blair told Maclean’s in June. “It’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s my job.” Nice touch, that last bit.) The belated realization that actually, freaking nothing is happening. And finally, the headline-driven climb-down, accompanied by assurances that the minister was on top of things all along.

Fast forward to the strange case of Anthony Doob, Emeritus Professor of criminology at the University of Toronto. He’s 77, he’s in the Order of Canada, he’s one of the most-cited criminologists in the field. Last summer Blair’s predecessor Ralph Goodale put Doob in charge of a distinguished panel to monitor changes to solitary confinement in Canada’s federal prisons.

The change was part of Bill C-83, and it amounted to replacing “segregation units,” where inmates could be holed up alone for up to 22 hours a day if they were deemed dangerous to other prisoners or if they were under investigation for disciplinary infraction, with “structured intervention units (SIUs),” where they could be kept for up to 20 hours a day. Under the new law, summarized with its limitations in this article, inmates would also be given regular “meaningful human contact” with a counsellor, elder or other helpful person.

It’s a very modest improvement to treatment that’s been found systematically damaging to inmates’ prospects of rehabilitation—and, in some cases, to their lives. A succession of courts have found disciplinary segregation violated inmates’ Charter rights. Finally a B.C. Supreme Court justice gave the feds a year to fix the system.

The stakes were high. Section B of the court’s decision begins with a long discussion of whether extended solitary confinement constitutes torture. The judge sounds inclined to conclude it does.

So Bill C-83 was the Trudeau government’s coerced response to a legal obligation, not a spontaneous decision for reform. But Goodale appointed Doob and seven colleagues because he wanted to make sure the reform was working. The SIU review panel “will play an essential role in ensuring that the new SIU system achieves our goal of humane and effective corrections,” Goodale said then. He told the panel to “give ongoing feedback” to Correctional Services Canada during its one-year mandate—and to “alert the Minister directly” about any “problems or concerns” with the new system.

On Tuesday of this week, Professor Doob announced the panel no longer exists and that it had achieved nothing because Correctional Services Canada gave it no usable information and Bill Blair did nothing to help when Doob tried to tell him what was happening.

Justin Ling has reported on this over at Vice, and it’s been reported elsewhere, but I want to emphasize the Kafkaesque absurdity of the situation.

Usually when this government screws up, its defenders look around for somebody they can designate an outsider, spoiler, saboteur or wrecker, somebody who doesn’t understand the Trudeau government’s beautiful mission and who seeks to discredit it. A Jody Wilson-Raybould, a Jesse Brown, a Postmedia. That’s hard in this case because every player in this drama was appointed by this government: Blair, CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly, Doob and his fellow panelists.

From Doob’s final report (“We have essentially not been able to examine any aspect of the SIUs during their first 7-8 months of operation”) and a telephone conversation I had with Doob on Friday, the short version of what happened is as follows.

In mid-November, the panel told CSC it would need a set of information on every inmate transferred to an SIU: the inmate’s case history, the reasons for transfer, the maximum number of hours in the SIU in a 24-hour period, the average number of hours of confinement per day over the length of the stay, and so on. It was a long list of indicators, but that’s why Doob sent the list to CSC before the SIUs even opened in late November, and it’s why he asked for the first batch of data to be sent in February. This would take time. Updates would follow every two months.

The information the panel requested was “all things that were administrative in nature,” Doob said. “It’s stuff that is almost certainly in their files somewhere.” If anything he asked for wasn’t available, he’d adjust. “I’ve been working with quantitative data for 50 years. This is the sort of thing that happens all the time. And you don’t worry about it.”

Correctional Services gave no hint that any of this would be a problem.

In mid-February Doob contacted the agency to begin figuring out how the data would be transmitted to the panel, how inmate confidentiality could be respected, and so on. This is three months after he told them what he wanted and five months after the responsible cabinet minister called his work “essential.” Doob’s contact at CSC said the agency hadn’t yet decided whether it would give the panel any of the information it had requested.

This turn of events “came to the panel as a complete surprise,” Doob wrote mildly in his final report. After some back-and-forth to insist on the importance of the panel’s request and gauge the agency’s willingness to block, he wrote to CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly in mid-March—and to Bill Blair at the end of March. From Kelly, he received no reply. Not until she saw her name cc’d on the complaint to Blair. That got a request from her for a meeting. But it took most of April for the meeting to happen. Finally in late May, CSC delivered data to Doob.

That data was unusable. Instead of a single spreadsheet with comparable indicators for every inmate, there were more than 900 spreadsheets. And Doob quickly discovered that depending on the criterion, the number of cases varied. Which meant that there was no way to compare among cases or between criteria. “It was a pile of crap,” he told me. Remember, this is a guy who’s spent decades in the field.

Doob’s dismayed response led to CSC, an organization with 18,000 employees, coughing up one (1) data analyst to work with him on cleaning up the data. His report is very complimentary about this data analyst, but after she’d worked for six weeks, he sent CSC a report advising the agency that he had no systematic analysis because he’d been given no useful data for most of his panel’s time on this earth.

CSC received that report on July 21. By an agreement Doob had reached with the agency when his panel was formed, it had three weeks to respond. After three weeks it hadn’t responded. After three weeks and six days, Doob received a letter from a senior deputy commissioner saying, in effect, sorry for the crummy data, we’re in the process of transferring our data collection from a platform that no longer works to one that doesn’t work yet. On the bright side, CSC promised monthly updates. On the downside, members of Doob’s panel were reaching the end of their one-year mandates, a couple at a time because they hadn’t even been appointed at the same time.

On Tuesday, Doob sent Ottawa reporters his final report with a cover-letter broadside, via the office of Kim Pate, a (Trudeau-appointed!) Ontario Senator with a long career in criminal-justice reform. “Our panel no longer exists,” he wrote. And it wasn’t just a problem that it wasn’t given the information it needed. It’s a problem because the agency that jails a huge prison population seems uninterested in how they’re doing. “CSC is telling us that it does not have systematic information on the operation of its Structured Intervention Units and apparently never made the gathering of this information a priority.”

Remember Bill Blair? Remember how he had nothing to say when Doob warned him through official channels in March? He did now, once Doob made his concerns public. “There have been news reports on the Correctional Services of Canada’s work with an Implementation Advisory Panel,” a statement from Blair’s office read.

“It is amusing to me that they don’t even acknowledge that these ‘news reports’ come from a report (from our panel) that CSC had for weeks,” Doob writes in an annotated version of Blair’s statement that Doob has been sending reporters.

The statement rehashes some of the background of the panel and adds: “We have dedicated extra resources to expedite this request.” Doob’s response: “CSC itself, for its own purposes, should want to know how the SIUs are operating. They shouldn’t have to be pushed into getting these data by an independent panel. They should want to know. Hence the implication that we are requiring them to dedicate ‘extra resources’ is, quite frankly, offensive.”

At midweek, Doob received a telephone call from Blair. “He said to me, ‘I’d like you to do this job,’” said Doob, who had written to Blair five months earlier warning that he was not being permitted to do his job.

Doob still thinks it’s worth knowing whether a court-mandated and hastily-developed reform is achieving its ends. He still thinks somebody should do the work he tried to do. Will he, now? “I told [Blair] that a necessary condition would be that I actually have the data in front of me,” he says. Promises of data later aren’t enough.

But that’s what Doob needs before he’ll even consider doing for Blair the work Goodale assigned him, the work he’s spent all of 2020 trying to do. “That’s the necessary condition. I don’t know what the sufficient conditions would be. If they even exist.”

A few concluding thoughts.

Once at a public event, I met a staffer from the Prime Minister’s Office I didn’t know yet. This person worked on files related to science and research policy, a longstanding preoccupation of mine. “When you tweet about science policy, I wind up working all weekend,” this person said. Sure, it was flattering, and I’m sure it wasn’t meant as a rigorously truthful or complete statement. But it also struck me as a little odd. I’m not smart enough to write anything on science policy that I haven’t heard from researchers. Why would my tweet be the thing that provokes overtime shifts? Why not the scientists?

I thought about this conversation when I learned that a report from a duly-constituted government-appointed panel isn’t enough to get the responsible minister involved in the file—but a headline in Vice is. Blair’s call was “a response to what’s in the media,” Doob told me, “not to what I’ve sent the government.”

This is what many people who work with this government tells me. Public servants, consultants, NGOs. Official channels are useless. Process is window dressing. This government consults but doesn’t listen, and whatever the plan is, it’s never as useful to know the plan as it is to have the personal phone numbers of a half-dozen senior staffers so you can text one of them and urge an improvised change of plans.

A couple of weeks ago Rob Silver, a supremely well-connected Liberal working for a mortgage firm, was in the news for his attempts to secure a legislative change that would benefit his company. Silver’s overtures were fruitless and I offer no opinion on their propriety, but he plainly knew what you need to do if you want to get something done in this town: Call Mike McNair, call Elder Marques, call Justin To. Write a letter to the minister? Don’t be old-fashioned.

When Anne Kelly became the Commissioner of Correctional Services Canada, Ralph Goodale wrote her a public mandate letter. “I encourage you to instil within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection,” he wrote, amusingly in hindsight. “This includes: regularly reviewing policies and operations to identify what works and change what does not… and welcoming constructive, good-faith critiques as indispensable drivers of progress.”

But in a government in which only a handful of staffers can actually make a decision, very few people in any department have the kind of autonomy Goodale was hoping Kelly would exercise. When the decision-making pipeline is no thicker than the PMO, and every particle of communication is the product of a chain involving dozens of staffers and bureaucrats reaching across government, nobody has the right to decide. So nobody is accountable for their decisions.

I don’t just mean that in the negative sense that nobody is sanctioned for a bad decision. I mean nobody has the authority to make a good decision. Things just happen. Or they just don’t. In a real sense, we’re not governed. We’re just given a constant runaround by people who, in many cases, would prefer not to be part of the immense machine delivering the runaround. Which is how a panel appointed to answer a basic question — has Canada stopped torturing people yet? — could work for a year and find no answers. And somehow it’s nobody’s fault. Not even Bill Blair’s, I guess.

Source: Another farce on Bill Blair’s watch

Correctional Service flip-flops on transgender inmate placement policy – Politics – CBC News

That was a fast reversal. Town halls may prove more substantive in terms of policy development:

Canada’s prison service has abruptly reversed course on its new policy for transgender inmates, one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to promote equality for all trans Canadians, including those behind bars.

Correctional Service Canada spokesman Jean-Paul Surette said trans inmates will now be considered for placement in prisons based on their gender identity rather than their genitalia.

“We are currently assessing — on a case-by-case basis — individual inmates’ placement and accommodation requests to ensure the most appropriate measures are taken to respect the dignity, rights and security of all inmates under our custody,” he told CBC News in an email.

That is a sharp departure from CSC’s revised policy directive on trans inmates that was released on Monday, which confirmed a previous rule that based placement on birth sex rather than gender identity.

“Pre-operative male to female offenders with gender dysphoria will be held in men’s institutions and pre-operative female to male offenders with gender dysphoria will be held in women’s institutions,” the Jan. 9 policy reads.

The change in course comes after Trudeau, during a town hall meeting in Kingston, Ont., made an off-the-cuff promise to ensure transgender inmates can serve their sentences in institutions based on their gender identity.

The pledge came in response to a question from a transgender woman and advocate who described Canada’s current placement policy as “torture.”

Trudeau said the issue hadn’t been on his radar, but would act now that it is.

“I will make sure we look at it and we address it and we do right in recognizing that trans rights are human rights and we need to make sure we are defending everyone’s dignity and rights in every way we can,” he said.

Source: Correctional Service flip-flops on transgender inmate placement policy – Politics – CBC News