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Errant report sparks procedural changes at prison

Two prisoners at the Correctional Service of Canada’s Grande Cache Institution, west of Edmonton, filed complaints after a prison report containing their personal information turned up among the personal effects of a fellow inmate.

An investigation by the minimum-security facility determined that, in early-April 2009, a contract worker had printed off a single copy of the report, which listed the names, dates of birth and other personal information of all serving inmates. The report was given to a welding instructor, who took the report to his office in the welding shop and referred to it frequently when interacting with inmates.

In late-May 2010, as an offender’s effects were being packed in the prison’s discharge area, an officer discovered the report. The investigation could not determine how the document wound up among the prisoner’s belongings. The inmate claimed he did not know he had the report, and the welding instructor denied having given it to him.

The investigation further revealed that both the contractor and the welding instructor had been trained on the importance of safeguarding personal information.

Correctional service officials formally acknowledged the privacy breach. They also took a number of steps to minimize the risk of inappropriate disclosures.

For example, the kind of report that went missing is no longer to be printed out; it can only be viewed on a computer screen. Procedures were also put in place to ensure that staff and external contractors fully understand the need to safeguard personal information, and how to protect it from unauthorized disclosure.

Our own investigation confirmed that the privacy rights of the complainants had been breached and upheld their complaints as well founded. Because of the corrective measures already underway, we did not call for further action.

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