I commenced my appointment as Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform on January 1, 2017. My review activities are independent of the government and my mandate, outlined in my public Terms of Reference,footnote 6 is threefold:

  • to provide a report with advice and recommendations on immediate steps that can be taken with respect to the use of segregation
  • to provide a second report on further segregation reform as well as the reform of Ontario adult corrections more broadly
  • to work with the ministry on developing a phased implementation plan

As per my mandate, I produced two reports in 2017. The first report, Segregation in Ontario, was publicly released in May and it addressed many issues surrounding segregation policy and practice and provided the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) with recommendations on ways to create and implement change. When the Government of Ontario responded to my 63 segregation-focused recommendations, it committed to, among other things, new Correctional Services legislation. In late spring 2017, I provided a detailed legislative outline and background document to help inform the drafting process.

In September 2017, I released my second report, Corrections in Ontario: Directions for Reform. This report was based on a targeted examination of select correctional practices in Ontario that reflected on provincial law, policies, and practices in light of the evidence of ‘what works’ in corrections and the underlying values of dignity, respect, and legality. The report contained 62 recommendations made under the following themes:

  • human rights and correctional operations
  • corrections and the presumption of innocence
  • evidence-based correctional practice
  • Indigenous peoples and Ontario corrections
  • health care service and governance in corrections

In May 2018, the Correctional Services and Reintegration Act, 2018 received Royal Assent. This new legislation incorporated many of the recommendations contained in my previous two reports. The Act sends a clear signal that the Government of Ontario has accepted the challenge to reform the province’s correctional system. During the Third Reading, the former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Marie-France Lalonde, expressed concern about violence within Ontario’s correctional institutions and noted that the assault statistics emerging from these facilities suggested a deeply disturbing trend.footnote 7 In response to this concern, the former Minister publicly requested that I conduct an independent review of violence in Ontario’s correctional facilities and that I deliver an initial report within 90 days. The Independent Review of Ontario Corrections (IROC) began this critically important work in May 2018 in consultation and collaboration with frontline staff and their elected representatives.

[…] I have been made aware of several very serious assaults on inmates, and on frontline staff. There is significant concern arising from the statistics coming out of our institutions, and the numbers I have seen suggest a deeply disturbing trend.

Marie-France Lalonde, former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, May 3, 2018

My third report, Institutional Violence in Ontario: Interim Report, was submitted to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services on August 13, 2018 and was publicly released the following month. The Interim Report focused specifically on reported incidents of inmate- on-staff violence and it presented findings under the following themes:

  • understanding Ontario institutional violence in context
  • data management, statistical trends, and reporting practices
  • exploration of evidence-based responses to mitigate institutional violence

The Interim Report identified a number of areas that required further analyses, some of which are explored in the present report, Institutional Violence in Ontario: Final Report. This report and my recommendations are informed by informal discussions with correctional employees, institutional tours, the practices of other jurisdictions, and a thorough review and analysis of various other sources, including ministry data, reports, studies, budgets, surveys, policy and procedure handbooks, news articles, legislation, case law, and relevant empirical research and evidence-based literature. Furthermore, the Independent Review Team continued to engage with institutional employees throughout the province and solicited their feedback by administering an online survey. The IROC Institutional Violence Survey consisted of closed- and open-ended questions that centered around four broad themes:

  • safety and institutional violence
  • inmate supervision models
  • employee training and mentorship
  • institutional culture

Responses were received from all 25 of Ontario’s correctional institutions, although the number of respondents from each facility varied considerably. The majority of responses came from the Toronto South Detention Centre, followed by Central North Correctional Centre, and Maplehurst Correctional Complex (Table 1).

The majority of respondents (884; 66%) indicated that they were currently employed as correctional officers. In addition, responses were received from social workers, chaplains, records clerks, bailiffs, rehabilitation and recreation officers, health care and programs staff, senior administrators, sergeants, and staff from administrative, housekeeping, support services, kitchen, mailroom, maintenance, and payroll departments. Engagement with those who work in Ontario’s institutions is crucial to the transformation of corrections; their knowledge and experience contribute to valuable insight into the problems that arise in their workplace.

The Independent Review Team also sought to better understand institutional violence by undertaking an in-depth analysis of reported inmate-on-staff incidents at Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC) in 2017 (see Appendix A. Case Study: Toronto South Detention Centre). The decision to look closely at TSDC was made after the Interim Report revealed that TSDC experienced the most substantial number and rate of increase in reported inmate-on-staff incidents in 2017. Given the extensive variation in site-specific cultures, inmate and staff composition, local policies and practices, as well as forms of violence (e.g., inmate-on-inmate, inmate-on-staff, staff-on-staff, staff-on-inmate), a complete understanding of institutional violence would require individual examination of each of Ontario’s provincial facilities. Time and resource constraints did not allow for this. However, elements that may have contributed to reported inmate-on-staff incidents at TSDC are likely common to other provincial institutions. These findings can inform ministry efforts to mitigate institutional violence, and the Case Study provides the framework for future site-specific analysis to be undertaken.

As staff and managers working directly in Ontario’s corrections facilities, your knowledge and insights are essential sources of information. We are striving for [survey] participation from everyone currently working in a correctional facility (officers, managers, senior administrators, departmental and support staff).

Howard Sapers, Independent Advisor memorandum to all institutional staff and managers, August 28, 2018
Table 1. Number of IROC Institutional Violence Survey respondents by institution
InstitutionNumber of Respondents
Toronto South Detention Centre319
Central North Correctional Centre126
Maplehurst Correctional Complex97
Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre78
South West Detention Centre72
Quinte Detention Centre63
Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre57
Central East Correctional Centre51
Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre50
Sudbury Jail50
Ontario Correctional Institute46
Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre43
Vanier Centre for Women35
Niagara Detention Centre34
North Bay Jail32
Monteith Correctional Complex31
Kenora Jail30
Thunder Bay Correctional Centre26
Sarnia Jail19
Thunder Bay Jail19
Toronto East Detention Centre19
Brockville Jail14
Fort Frances Jail14
St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre6
Stratford Jail3

In its review of reported incidents of inmate-on-staff violence, the Independent Review Team adopted the definition of workplace violence outlined in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), following amendments (Bill 168) in 2009:

  • The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker.
  • An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.
  • A statement or behaviour that is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.footnote 8

Before turning to a brief overview of the findings presented in the Interim Report, I would like to extend my thanks to the criminal justice professionals and members of the academic community who generously gave their time and shared information that assisted in the writing of this report. I also thank members of the management teams and local union executives at Toronto South Detention Centre and Ontario Correctional Institute for their efforts to increase staff engagement on the IROC Institutional Violence Survey as well as union representatives of the Ministry Employee Relations Committee and the Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee for their continued feedback. Finally, given the important role that all individuals working in a correctional institution play in identifying and implementing solutions required to bring about meaningful change in Ontario Corrections, I thank the 1,334 individuals who responded to the IROC Institutional Violence Survey.