A Matter of Dignity

**This featured case is one example of the concerns people have brought to us. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.

Joe contacted us while at a provincial correctional centre. He told us that he broke sprinkler heads in his cell while suffering a panic attack. He said he was then strapped into a restraint chair while naked and then placed in a room where nurses and other staff
could see him. We investigated and made several findings.

After Joe broke the sprinkler in his cell, he took off his wet clothes. Staff placed him in a dry institutional smock and moved him to another cell. He then undressed, interfered with the camera in the cell, and broke another sprinkler head. He was removed from the cell and, while naked, placed in a restraint chair.

According to Corrections policy, an inmate can be placed in a restraint chair to prevent the destruction of institutional property. Based on the video evidence, we found that staff did not use more force than necessary while placing him in the restraint chair.

Once in the chair, a towel, along with another towel or smock, were placed across his lap to cover him. He was taken to the exercise room. The coverings eventually fell or were kicked off. He told staff that he was cold, uncomfortable and embarrassed. He said he accepted the consequences of being in the chair and that he was sorry. Although his vital signs were checked from time to time, he was not covered up again. For the last 45-50 minutes that he was
in the chair, he was naked. We found that he had not been treated with dignity.

Joe spent about an hour and a half in the chair. In our view, he might have been removed sooner since he seemed to have calmed down while in the chair and expressed remorse. The time frame was, however, within the limits set by policy.

While reviewing the video evidence, we found one record that was not time and date stamped. There was also no video record of Joe’s removal from the chair. We were told that the camera in that room had malfunctioned.

Based on these findings, we recommended that the Ministry of Justice – Corrections and Policing:

  1. Write Joe to apologize for failing to ensure he was clothed while in the restraint chair, and provide us a copy of the letter.
    Status: Accepted
  2. Ensure that videos of restraint incidents depict the entire event, as required under policy, and that such video be date and time stamped, and that steps are taken to ensure that there are no gaps or blind spots in the videos.
    Status: Accepted
  3. Ensure all video is kept in a permanent file along with the written reports of the incident and securely retained in accordance with an appropriate operational records management system.
    Status: Accepted