Prison suicides occur at 5 times general population's rate

Suicides in federal prisons occurred at a rate five times higher than in the general population over three years beginning in 2011, a report by Canada's correctional investigator says.

Report finds 30 suicides in federal prisons over 3 years, a third of them by aboriginal inmates

Canada’s correctional investigator, Howard Sapers, is the author of the report 'A Three Year Review of Federal Inmate Suicides,' which found there were 30 suicides by inmates over a three-year period.

Suicides in federal prisons occurred at a rate five times higher than in the general population over three years beginning in 2011, a report by Canada's correctional investigator says.

There were 30 suicides in federal prisons in those years, a third of them by aboriginal inmates.

Half of the people who died were in segregation.

Although the number of suicides fluctuates, on average there have been 10 a year for the past 10 years, the report says.

Correctional investigator Howard Sapers, author of the report, slams Correctional Service Canada, saying "progress is stalled" in efforts to prevent suicides.

On average, 10 inmates take their lives each year. About half of those involve prisoners who have been placed in solitary confinement, according to the report released Wednesday.

"Preventing deaths in custody is challenging work, but it is not beyond the reach of a comprehensive prison suicide awareness and prevention program," Sapers says.

His report, entitled "A Three Year Review of Federal Inmate Suicides," also condemns the department for using segregation to deal with prisoners who have serious mental-health problems.

In 27 of the 30 suicides examined, the inmate died by hanging, the report said.

Sapers makes 11 new recommendations, including:

  • Removing "suspension points" from cells.
  • Preventing seriously mentally ill prisoners from being put in segregation.
  • Creating a monitoring and reporting framework for suicide prevention.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association issued a statement welcoming Sapers's report, noting that it was released on World Suicide Prevention Day.

"Prison is a challenging environment in which to treat mental illness, but we can do better than segregation," said forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, author of a CPA position paper.

The federal report also points out that Correctional Service Canada hasn't complied with several fundamental recommendations in his previous reports and issued by independent review panels.

The department still has not responded to the review into the death of Ashley Smith that was released in November 2012.

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