Montreal

Ombudsman again criticizes Quebec for overcrowding in jails

Quebec's ombudsman once again lambasted the Public Security Department for overcrowding in the province's jails in her annual report released Thursday.

Jails draw more justifiable complaints than any other branch of government

Quebec's ombudsman once again lambasted the Public Security Department for overcrowding in the province's jails in her annual report released Thursday.

Raymonde Saint-Germain made the same complaint in her annual report last year.

Saint-Germain said she receives more justifiable complaints about the jail system than any other branch of the government. She said up to half the complaints she received about jails during the last year were considered credible.

The ombudsman urged the government to improve conditions in the jails and develop programs for the reintegration of inmates into society.

"The absence of a plan of action for social reintegration can have serious consequences for the direct victims of crime, for indirect victims such as families and children, and of course for convicts themselves," Saint-Germain told a news conference.

She said the deterioration of living conditions stems from the fact that the jails were not built to house the current number of inmates.

In some cases, she said, as many as three inmates share a cell designed for one person.

In a news conference later Thursday, Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis said the government is investing $567 million in the next few years to build new jails, and that temporary buildings will help accommodate convicts in the meantime.

"We are aware of the overcrowding problem," he said.

Insurance board stops illegal practice

The ombudsman's report also criticized the province's auto insurance board for suspending compensation to victims of road accidents just because they were suspected of fraud, which in some cases was proved to be wrong.

"We showed the agency the illegality of this practice and they have agreed to stop it," she said.

The Société de l'Assurance Automobile du Québec (SAAQ) has also agreed to review deadlines for challenges to its decisions before the provincial administrative tribunal, she said.

Saint-Germain also recommended that risk-management efforts in health-care institutions should be improved.

"The pace of inspections and their follow-up is too slow," she said.

The ombudsman noted that a certification process should be implemented for private clinics treating substance abusers with mental health problems because the quality of service now varies.

She said these clinics should be subject to quality controls and inspections.

With files from the Canadian Press

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