Human Respect for Inmates

18 Jul, 2013

Guards Lack “understanding”

Canada’s prison guards are essentially being left to their own devices when it comes to treating inmates with basic human respect, according to an internal survey report obtained by The Canadian Press.

The “ethical climate survey” of Correctional Service Canada staff included a question about “treating offenders with respect as human beings.” However, responses to the question from the survey’s 2,200 participants were dropped from the final report because of a “lack of unanimity.”

“Most probably, the (corrections) community does not share a common understanding nor expectations regarding respect toward offenders,” the report states. “Apparently social values around respect toward offenders have not been encouraged within CSC to the same extent as values of respect toward the organization and co-workers—leaving this aspect to each individual’s discretion.”

The document says without proper training, employees rely on “what is deeply ingrained in their beliefs” to mould how they treat offenders.

The report’s analysis notes several respondents brought up concerns about staff who abused their power, a problem it says could be tackled through workshops focused on values and ethical issues.

The findings open a window on the mindset of correctional officials at a time when a coroner’s inquest into the 2007 prison death of troubled teenager Ashley Smith has exposed how a mix of personal action and bureaucratic procedure shape treatment of the incarcerated. Smith choked herself to death inside her segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ontario., while guards, ordered not to intervene, stood watch outside.

Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said the lack of agreement from staff on humane treatment should serve as a shot across the bow of prison authorities. “It should be a significant wake-up call to Correctional Service Canada, and instead of burying it or ignoring it and taking it out of the survey some sort of concerted effort to address this should be in order.”

“The survey results raise important issues for employees, supervisors and senior managers across the Correctional Service of Canada and will inform actions at all levels,” corrections spokeswoman “Sara Parkes said.

Source: The Canadian Press
Image: www.textually.org

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