Amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA)
The Government of Canada is committed to a new approach to corrections that places further emphasis on public safety as the paramount purpose of corrections and conditional release.
In December 2007, the Correctional Services Canada (CSC) Independent Review Panel released its final report outlining recommendations for the Government of Canada. The panel was assigned the task of completing a review of CSC’s operational priorities, strategies and business plans.
The report, entitled A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety, contained 109 recommendations and focused on five key areas: increasing offender accountability; eliminating drugs from prisons; developing employability/employment skills; renewing physical infrastructure; and, eliminating statutory release and moving to earned parole.
Budget 2008 invested $478.8 million over five years to initiate the implementation of this new vision for federal corrections and to address some of the Report’s key recommendations. It sets the foundation to strengthen the federal correctional system as we are proposing with the tabling of this bill.
The proposed legislation includes the following key reforms in four main areas: enhancing sharing of information with victims, enhancing offender responsibility and accountability; strengthening the management of offenders and their reintegration; and, modernizing disciplinary actions.
Better Support For Victims Of Crime
Although the CCRA clearly recognizes the interests of victims of crime and the role they play in the correctional and conditional release process, victims and victims’ advocates have voiced dissatisfaction with the current provisions and have called for enhancements. Therefore, a victim’s right to attend and make statements at National Parole Board hearings will be enshrined in law.
Additionally, the CCRA will be amended to expand the information that may be disclosed to victims by CSC and the National Parole Board (NPB). This includes:
- providing information on the reason(s) for offender transfers with, whenever possible, advance notice of transfers to minimum security institutions;
- disclosing information on offender program participation and any convictions for serious disciplinary offences;
- sharing the reasons for a temporary absence from a correctional facility; and,
- providing guardians/caregivers of dependents of victims who are deceased, ill or
otherwise incapacitated with the same information that victims themselves can receive.
When offenders withdraw their participation 14 days or less before a hearing date, the Board may proceed with a review and decisions of their case. This ensures that victims will no longer travel long distances to attend a parole hearing which is then cancelled at the last minute. Victims will also be able to request information on the reasons for a waiver of a parole hearing.
In addition to the proposed reforms to maximize the knowledge and access to services offered to victims of crime, a National Advisory Committee on Victims Issues co-chaired by the Departments of Justice and Public Safety will be created. This committee will give victims the opportunity to provide input into policies and procedures that impact victims and victims’ services.
Enhancing offender responsibility and accountability
Assisting the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens is a shared responsibility between offenders and CSC. The CCRA will be amended to include responsibilities of offenders. They will be required to:
- conduct themselves in a manner that demonstrates respect for other persons and property;
- obey all penitentiary rules and conditions governing release; and,
- actively participate in the setting and achieving of the objectives in their correctional plan.
Furthermore, to underscore the importance of managing an offender’s sentence, when CSC is completing a correctional plan for each offender, components that are currently part of the plan will now be required to be included by the legislation such as expectations for behaviour, any program participation and fulfillment of any court-ordered financial obligations such as restitution to victims. The CCRA will also be amended to allow for the establishment of incentive measures designed to promote offender participation in their correctional plan.
The importance of continuing to address serious mental health issues in our penitentiaries will also be underscored in the amendments.
Strengthening the management of offenders and their reintegration
There is a need to strengthen the management of offenders and their reintegration into the community so that the protection of society is paramount in all conditional release decisions.
The proposed legislation includes provisions to:
- Authorize police officers to arrest, without warrant, an offender who appears to be in breach of a condition of any conditional release;
- Exclude from Accelerated Parole Review recently created offences such as street racing and luring a child; and,
- Provide that the parole or statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence is automatically suspended.
The proposed amendments also emphasize the importance of taking into consideration the seriousness of an offence in National Parole Board decision-making.
Modernizing disciplinary actions
The current disciplinary system and corresponding actions in penitentiaries will be modernized to ensure cooperation with staff and compliance with institutional rules and regulations. To that end, stronger inmate disciplinary and incentive measures, as well as a modern scheme for segregation, are proposed.
The CCRA will be amended by:
- addressing disrespectful, intimidating and assaultive behaviour by inmates towards any staff member or other person;
- providing that inmates convicted of throwing bodily substances or knowingly making fraudulent claims would face disciplinary sanction; and,
- providing that inmates convicted of serious disciplinary offences who are segregated from other inmates could also be subject to restrictions on visits.