REGINA – Saskatchewan’s ombudsman wants video footage kept longer in correctional centres, but the province’s Ministry of Justice thinks the current time frame is sufficient.
In her annual report released on Thursday, Mary McFadyen highlighted two cases that couldn’t be fully investigated because video recordings were unavailable or incomplete.
“We think it’s important that video recordings are done properly and kept for a reasonable period, so that when there’s unusual circumstances where use of force is used, that we can review them or that they’re available if the inmate complains,” she said.
One of the cases at an unnamed correctional facility involved allegations of excessive force being used on an inmate.
The ombudsman received conflicting information on whether the force was excessive. The video was no longer available because it had only been kept for 30 days.
McFadyen didn’t say how much longer she would like to see recordings kept.
A Justice spokesman said the department did look at keeping recordings for 40 days, but that would cost and extra $250,000 a year.
“We seem to be at the high end, so we’re keeping tape for longer than most jurisdictions,” Drew Wilby said.
“If we do see cases arise where we don’t have the videotape available – it does need to go longer than the 30 days – I think we would look to potentially make those changes.”
The other case covered in the ombudsman’s report involved a woman at White Birch Female Remand Unit in Regina.
The woman told the ombudsman she had been placed in restraints that covered her arms and legs for five hours and that she had to lie in her own feces for several hours.
A camera recorded the event, but there was no sound and a significant blind spot in the cell.
“We made recommendations which Corrections has decided to implement to make sure there are no blind spots,” McFadyen said. “If you’re using physical restraint which is excessive, then in the circumstances it needs to be properly recorded.”
Typically restraints that cover arms and legs are only used in youth facilities. White Birch is the lone adult jail that’s approved to use them.
On the ombudsman’s recommendation last fall, Justice also implemented a two-hour maximum for adult women to be put in that specific restraint.
The Ministry of Justice wrote a letter of apology to the woman and the ministry also meets with the ombudsman quarterly to figure out what is best practice.
McFadyen’s office received more than 4,200 complaints last year and almost 3,300 were deemed to be within its jurisdiction.