Responding to a vulnerable individual—an inmate with a history of mental health challenges—required particular sensitivity.
The inmate complained that correctional officers used mind control techniques to alter his memory and negatively influence the outcome of his trial. As a first step, Ombudsman staff advised the inmate to elevate his concerns to the centre director.
Several weeks later, the inmate complained to the Ombudsman again. He advised that he sent a letter to the director, but had not received a response. Follow-up revealed the director did not believe a response to the inmate would be productive or beneficial. In addition, given the inmate had been moved to a new location, the director suggested that responding now could misdirect the inmate from accessing the proper supports available to him there.
Further information provided by the Adult Centre Operations Branch (ACOB), which oversees the eight correctional and remand centres across Alberta, indicated they had received a letter from the same inmate almost a year earlier outlining similar concerns. At the time, ACOB obtained professional advice from a psychologist that it would be futile to attempt to dissuade the inmate of his beliefs and allegations. Like the director, ACOB was also of the opinion that a response to the inmate was not required.
Nevertheless, from an administrative fairness perspective, it was not fair for the inmate to receive no acknowledgment whatsoever. Our office worked together with ACOB to come up with a solution that would be both fair to the complainant and aligned with the professional recommendations ACOB had previously received.
In the end, the centre director sent a response to the inmate acknowledging receipt of his letter. The director indicated there would be no investigation into his allegations given their lack of grounding in reality. He added that he would not respond to the inmate in the future if the same complaints were raised, bringing this matter to a close. Finally, the director encouraged the inmate to access mental health supports at his current location.
The inmate’s concerns were addressed in a manner that balanced the concerns and objectives of both the Ombudsman’s office and the Correctional Services division of Justice and Solicitor General while still demonstrating fairness to the inmate.
With fairness at the forefront, this case demonstrates how a flexible approach, positive relationships, and a willingness to work collaboratively resulted in an administratively fair outcome.