okanagan incorrectional

B.C. government takes three months to produce nothing

A request for records blew past three deadlines, spanning three months, only to withhold all records

This is part of our series, Okanagan Incorrectional, delving into the first 14 months of operations at B.C.’s newest jail.
This is part of our series, Okanagan Incorrectional, delving into the first 14 months of operations at B.C.’s newest jail. Click on the image to go to our Okanagan Incorrectional Dashboard for a full index of the series (also available at the bottom of this article) and more information about the jail.

A B.C. lawyer who advocates for inmates’ rights says she is concerned about a lack of transparency and independent oversight at B.C. Corrections.

Jen Metcalfe, executive director of Vancouver-based advocacy firm Prisoners’ Legal Services, said that lack of oversight can lead to a “potential lack of accountability.”

“We would like to see changes that would require B.C. Corrections to publicly report on things like use of force and rates of solitary confinement, similar to the oversight that the federal Correctional Investigator provides for the Correctional Service of Canada,” Metcalfe said.

The comment comes after the B.C. government blew past a twice-extended deadline to produce effectively nothing after receiving a freedom of information request from the Western News.

The request was for any and all incident reports of violence between inmates and staff at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, and it had an initial deadline of Feb. 28.

Two extensions were granted on that file, ultimately to March 21, but that deadline came and went with no indication the request was still being processed until email correspondence came on April 3 indicating it was still in the works.

Finally, on April 10, 12 business days after the due date, the a response came from the freedom of information department:

“Please be advised the records you requested are withheld in their entirety pursuant to section(s) 15 (Disclosure harmful to law enforcement), and 22 (Disclosure harmful to personal privacy) of FOIPPA,” the release reads, referring to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The response did, however, note that there were eight substantiated incidents of inmate assaults on staff and zero substantiated incidents of staff assaults on inmates, but provided no details.

The Western News has challenged the lack of disclosure with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, but an OIPC investigation can take months or even years.

Another request, this time for records pertaining to inmate complaints at the jail, was put to the information and privacy watchdog in October. But an investigator was not assigned to that OIPC file until March, and there has been no word from the investigator since.

The B.C. government held a public consultation on FOIPPA this spring, with online engagement open until early this month. But a Ministry of Citizens’ Services spokesperson said there would be no information from the government on potential changes to the act or the results of the engagement for at least a few weeks.

In its March newsletter, the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association called for penalties for interfering with information access rights, a duty to document (particularly, pushing against a failure to create documents or destroying them) and bringing education subsidiaries under FOIPPA.

“We are getting more calls and hearing more stories from concerned citizens who are not able to get the information they are looking for,” the FIPA call to action reads. “This lack of transparency fosters a culture of secrecy with no accountability.”

Report a typo or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

Send Dustin an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Work continues to deal with flooding

Increased efforts to mitigate flooding at Sportsmens Bowl and downstream

Penticton sign gets an upgrade

Did someone forget how to spell Penticton?

Reel Reviews: Parlour games or video games

We say, “Rampage is silly fun and Truth or Dare is just silly”

Okanagan-Similkameen freshet looms large: district

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen says property owners have window to prepare for flooding

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

Look back to simpler summers

Rotary honourees reminisce about South Okanagan summers

First West signs on to gender parity

First West and Valley First sign up with Minerva pledge

Low fog creates stunning views near Sicamous

Motorists on the highway between Salmon Arm and Sicamous were treated to spectacular scenery.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

Most Read