Federal prison guards are failing to comply with rules around videotaping their use of force against inmates in a majority
of cases, according to data obtained by The Canadian Press.
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the Office of the Correctional Investigator led by Ivan Zinger reviewed 1,436 incidents in which guards resorted to force against a prisoner. While the situation has improved in recent years, the high incidence of problems around video — in 67 per cent of the cases — is of significant concern, the prison ombudsman said in an interview.
“This is still a very high number of non-compliance,” Zinger said from Ottawa. “That’s what is alarming.”
Prison policy mandates that guards use a hand-held camera to video planned uses of force, as well as in spontaneous situations where feasible. Compliance problems exist in both scenarios, data show.
Some of the issues with video compliance are of a relatively minor or technical nature but in other cases, crucial video of
incidents in which a prisoner alleges guards used excessive force — a criminal offence — simply isn’t available when it should be.
‘An incredibly negative light’
One recent example is the case of Timothy (Mitch) Nome, who alleged guards in March at Kent Institution in Agassiz, B.C., beat him in his cell without provocation. The independent investigator from Zinger’s office found no hand-held video of the incident was available for reasons not properly explained.
The lack of video evidence that could have proven or refuted Nome’s allegation left the investigator with little choice other than to say he couldn’t conclude what happened in Nome’s cell that morning, his report shows.
Overall, Zinger said, cases where video goes missing, is deleted, or is otherwise unavailable to his ombudsman office are relatively rare but have an enormous impact.