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Bias behind bars: A Globe investigation finds a prison system stacked against Black and Indigenous inmates | The Globe And Mail

Read Time 3 min.

Bias behind bars: A Globe investigation finds a prison system stacked against Black and Indigenous inmates | The Globe And Mail

Federal inmates’ risk assessments determine everything from where a prisoner is incarcerated to what rehabilitation programs they are offered. After controlling for a number of variables, The Globe found Black and Indigenous inmates are more likely to get worse scores than white inmates, based solely on their race


After a year spent staring at the walls of his cell at the Sudbury Jail, Nicholas Nootchtai finally had his sentence.

Twelve years. Manslaughter.

It had been less than a week since the judge had signed off on his plea deal, and on a Tuesday evening in November, 2007, a guard came to find him. Nick had a visitor.

They walked through the two-storey jail’s dimly lit hallways to a small room. A wall-to-wall metal table cleaved the space in two, with concrete stools and a door on either side. Across from Nick sat a parole officer with the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), there to interview him ahead of his transfer to federal prison.

A reserved man, Nick spoke softly and didn’t catch her eye much, though the contraband joint he’d smoked earlier that day – easy to come by at the Sudbury Jail – might have been partly to blame. He was nervous, he told her, about going to prison.

They started with the basics: He was 28 years old and had grown up in the Ojibway First Nations community of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, a 20-minute drive from Sudbury. They went over his allergies (aspirin), gang affiliations (none), childhood (traumatic) and struggles with alcohol. Nick’s parents had battled alcoholism, and he had his first drink when he was 10. By his early 20s, alcohol was a constant in his life, and when he was 24, he drank so much he fell down a flight of stairs and slipped into a coma.


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The Innocence Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit legal organization that is committed to exonerating individuals who it claims have been wrongly convicted through the use of DNA testing and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The group cites various studies estimating that in the United States, between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners are innocent. The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. Scheck and Neufeld gained national attention in the mid-1990s as part of the so-called “Dream Team” of lawyers who formed part of the defense in the O. J. Simpson murder case.

As of November 17, 2019, the Innocence Project has worked on 189 successful DNA-based exonerations.

Source – Innocence Project (Updated: 18 August 2020) Wikipedia. Available at, (Accessed: 24 October 2020)