Stripped of Dignity

Three inmates at the Provincial Correctional Centre (PCC) were subject to a group strip search in front of two correctional officers.  Under threat of being placed into separate confinement if they refused, the three inmates complied. Despite bringing complaints against the officers involved, the inmates did not believe their concerns were being adequately addressed by PCC management. Two of the inmates contacted us about their complaints.

We used our informal resolution process to discuss the complaints and ask some questions. PCC confirmed that the search contravened centre policy, and that the matter was being investigated.  They told us that the staff involved in the search were new correctional officers working on a casual basis.  PCC confirmed the officers violated centre policy despite receiving training on how to conduct strip searches. PCC suggested that there may have been a misunderstanding of the instructions given to the officers by a floor supervisor.

In response to this issue, PCC provided additional training and one-on-one coaching to the officers involved and required each to provide meaningful in-person and written apologies to the inmates. Recognizing the potential for psychological harm being caused by the event, each inmate was offered psychological counselling and support services. PCC’s strip search policy was reviewed with all correctional officers and the centre committed to using this event as a case study in future training sessions for how not to conduct strip searches.

We applaud the steps taken by PCC to assess what happened, prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, provide additional training to staff, offer meaningful apologies and facilitate psychological counselling supports to the complainants.  As such, we considered these complaints resolved through informal resolution and closed our files.

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