On January 10, 2017, representatives from correctional systems across the world gathered in Ottawa to discuss successes and challenges they’re experiencing within their institutions. The symposium was organized by Commissioner Don Head as a way to share ideas, overcome barriers and cultivate informative communications among corrections’ top leaders. The symposium was held over the course of two days and heard from each attending country, sharing anecdotes about personal achievements and obstacles in their paths. The ten countries that were in attendance included Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Namibia, Sweden and the United States.
Correctional representatives discussed a range of topics over the course of the symposium, some of which included population management, uses of technology, contraband detection and much more. Speakers shared innovative ways to improve the operations of their institutions and successes they’ve had. On the topic of technology, representatives of New Zealand detailed their use of on body cameras for correctional officers (CX), saying that in the first year they saw a substantial decrease in serious staff assaults by prisoners. In regards to contraband control, the discussion focused on the role that technology has to play in contraband detection versus good old fashioned searches by correctional staff who are well trained and engaged.
Common challenges experienced among the ten countries included cell phone use by prisoners, smuggled drugs and drones. Drones pose a threat because they not only have the ability to trespass on correctional grounds, but have the capacity to drop contraband items to inmates. Although this new technology can have a negative impact on the operations of a correctional facility, Commissioner Don Head said it can also be used to an advantage. For example, a drone could be used to gather information before sending staff out to respond to a perimeter intrusion or escape, or to perform infrastructure checks. A representative from Namibia also expressed growing concern over staff corruption and officers bringing contraband to inmates. To combat this challenge, the Namibian Correctional Service plans to strengthen its regular searches of officers and collaborate with police for occasional searches with trained dogs.
The two-day symposium wrapped up with the signing of a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between CSC and Hong Kong Correctional Services that fosters the sharing of best practices and information that can help both parties address common issues and concerns. Participants from all attending countries expressed their gratitude for being invited to the event and said they look forward to crossing paths again.
The following day, delegates visited Kingston, Ontario where they toured Collins Bay Institution’s maximum, medium and minimum security units and Henry Traill Community Correctional Centre where they got to see firsthand how corrections works here in Canada.