Use of Force in Conditions of Confinement

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Table of Contents

  • Treatment of Inmates in Canada
  • Current Correctional Practices
  • Conclusion
  • References

In the annual report by the Officer of the Correctional Investigation, specific issues of concern were raised. To be particular, the use of force while in confinement. This issue raises some concerns of social justice, this is because inmates should be treated properly while in confinement. “Ministry policy describes “use of force” as any application of physical force against an inmate, expressly excluding routine searches of and application of restraints to compliant inmates” (Marin, A. 2013). The use of force will occur in the course of policing and corrections (Jackson, A.B, et all. 2016). All officers who make arrests will likely encounter a variety of arrest scenarios, some of which will require force (Jackson, A.B, et all. 2016). Although, a report done by Ombudsman Ontario summarizes, “to dismiss inmates who are victims of excessive use of force as deserving of their fate; inmates, regardless of why they are incarcerated, are human beings deserving of respect, dignity and humane treatment…” (Marin, A. 2013). There is a rising issue regarding the excessive use of force cases in correctional facilities (Varette, S., Archambault, K. 2011).

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In March 2018, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) conducted an audit of the Situation Management Model (SMM) (Zinger, I. 2017). The assessment was to review compliance of the policy, response and framework that governs use of force in CSC facilities (Zinger, I, 2017). The audit focuses on several areas for improvement. It does not clearly define who is in charge when there’s an incident, guidance material is not provided, and training on the manner is not consistently provided to staff (Zinger, I. 2017); performance monitoring and reporting is insufficient at all levels of correction, as well as intervention plans are not always documented properly (Zinger, I. 2017). There is a variety of solutions to lower the incidents of excessive use of force in confinement. Although, the process takes time and a lot of reviewing with the addition that every institution is different.

Treatment of Inmates in Canada

Inmates across Canada are treated fairly well depending on what is being measured. There are many avenues of what treatment in corrections can be. From the programs offered for rehabilitation, living conditions by way of solitary confinement and how the correctional staff treat them inmates. For the use of force, it is an unfortunate situation that relies on the guard carrying out procedure to do it with the least amount of harm (Correctional Service Canada, 2016). A responsibility given to the Director General, security, is “ensure security procedures related to the use of force are within the scope of the law and CSC policies and limited to only what is necessary and proportionate to attain the purpose of the CCRA” (Correctional Service Canada. 2018). Although this is a key responsibility it gets abused.

The OCI conducted a study and it identified that there were 1,487 complaints for use of force nationally, and over 40% of use of force interventions involve inmate(s) with a mental health issues (Zinger, I. 2017). This indicated that the use in force in corrections is certainly an issue that needs to be focused on as well as the training on how to deal with mental health. Prison guards in Ontario are authorized to use force against inmates under certain circumstances, and only using force necessary for administration or enforcement of the law (Marin, A. 2017). Its important for correctional staff to use a risk assessment based on AIM principles to determine the course of action. Ability for inmate to carry out a threat; Intent to act a certain way; Means to carry out or act on a threat (Zinger, I. 2017). Following this procedure then gives inmates proper treatment to a situation that is being handled.

If the focus wasn’t on use of force, correctional facilities have a lot of mistreatment inside their walls. For example, kitchen staffed by inmates felt as if they are mistreated because of small meal portion sizes; lack of fresh food and salad; unsanitary kitchen conditions; food shortages, etc. (Zinger, I. 2017). Correctional facilities are meant to treat and release inmates with the hopes they won’t reoffend, however the current treatment plans aren’t always effective. Inmates must desire to participate in the rehabilitation of themselves, “research suggests significant reductions in reoffending among inmates who participate in postsecondary correctional education” (Zinger, I. 2017). Overall, the treatment of inmates depends on what is being measured; the use of force is an issue that applies to treatment of inmates because they are human too and have the right to be treated fairly (Zinger, I. 2017).

Current Correctional Practices

The current correctional practices are getting us further away from social justice because the issues are being identified and addressed through annual OCI reports. Zinger mentioned that his report strongly contradicts the current CSC approach (Zinger, I. 2017). In order to move toward a socially just correctional system there needs to be research done and a solution discussed. Its important to make this movement because it benefits the offender in rehabilitation if conditions, policies and procedures are improved. In the book The Spirit Level, it states that punishment systems to deter crime don’t necessarily work and make crime increase (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). Treatment is very important to have within the facilities because it does have a result on the decrease of reoffending; although, it depends on what level the inmate is in. High risk offenders need 300 hours of treatment, rather than 100 to effectively have a difference in reoffending rates (Bourgeon, G. 2005). Having a fair correctional system allows for offenders to enter an environment of rehabilitation that allows them to improve their lives for once they get out of the facility. Correctional facilities have current initiatives that include emergency-simulation training, in-class values and ethics training, and the newly developed engagement and intervention training (Zinger, I. 2017). Although these are being provided there needs to be additional training on how to deal with an inmate with mental health. There needs to be improvement to the correctional system and their policies to address all the issues they are having. The process can be very lengthy but in the end it will help inmates when they get released (Zinger, I. 2017).


The excessive use of force incidents in correctional facilities are inappropriate to carry our because offenders are already vulnerable. There are some grounds that make the incident understandable but when guards disrupt protocol it puts a strain between offender and officer relationship. To relate this to the book The Spirit Level is difficult because it focuses on financial equality over any other type. In the life of an inmate the equality of treatment and conditions is important in providing them with an opportunity to reintegrate into society.


  1. Bourgon, G. (2005). Effective Correctional Treatment. Retrieved from
  2. Correctional Service Canada. (2016). Commissioner’s Directive: Use of Force. Retrieved from
  3. Varrette, S., Archambault, K. Correctional Service Canada. (2011). Retrieved from
  4. Jackson, A.B, Towe, V.L, Wagner, L., Hunt, P., Greathouse, S., and Hollywood J.S. (2016).
  5. Managing Officer Behavioral Risk Using Early Intervention Systems: Addressing System
  6. Design Challenges for Law Enforcement and Corrections Environments. Retrieved from Buchanan Library database 
  7. Marin, A. (2013). Ombudsman: Investigation into the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ response to allegations of excessive use of force against inmates. Retrieved from
  8. Wilkinson, R., Pickett, K. (2009). The Spirit Level: Why is Equality Better for Everyone. London: Allen Lane.
  9. Zinger, I. (2017). Office of the Correctional Investigation Annual Report. Retrieved from

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