ARCHIVE - B. Background

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In this section of the report, we will provide a brief historical perspective of the Act governing CSC; a brief outline of crime in Canada; a description of the changing offender profile; CSC's current legislative framework; CSC's role in the criminal justice system, and CSC's key priorities. This background information summarizes key information that positions the observations the Panel will be making throughout the report.

(a) Historical Perspective

All Canadians have the right to live in safe communities. Threats to that right should be addressed swiftly and effectively by the criminal justice system. The federal correctional system is a critical component of that response.

Much has changed in Canada's criminal justice system since 1992, when the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the statute that governs The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), received Royal Assent. In the intervening 15 years, the nature and size of the federal offender population has steadily changed. The CCRA and CSC's mandate were designed to meet the challenges that the criminal justice system faced in the late 1980s. The Panel has concluded that the principles of the CCRA do not address the current and future challenges facing CSC.

(b) Crime in Canada

In a July 2007 report,1 the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics noted that in 2006 the national crime rate reached its lowest point in over 25 years. This decrease was driven by declines in non-violent crimes, primarily counterfeiting, thefts under $5,000 and breakins. These crimes do not usually result in a federal sentence of two years or more.

The overall violent crime rate remained relatively stable in 2006, primarily because the rate of minor assaults, which account for about 60% of violent crime, remained stable. However, many other serious violent crimes increased in 2006:

A recent Statistics Canada study found that crime is not necessarily a problem only in large urban areas.2 Small urban areas in Canada were found to have higher overall policereported crime rates in 2005 than large urban areas (defined as Census Metropolitan Areas or CMAs) and rural areas, and homicide rates in rural areas were consistently high. However, CMAs reported the highest rates for both robbery and motor vehicle theft. In particular, robbery rates in CMAs were more than double those of small urban areas and almost 10 times higher than those of rural areas.

(c) Changing Offender Profile

To understand crime in Canada, it is important to understand the series of developments in the last 15 years that have gradually transformed the federal offender population profile. These include:

While these factors have contributed to a 12% decrease in the men offender population since 1997, they have also created many new challenges for CSC in implementing its mandate.

In a speech to the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) on October 23, 2006, CSC Commissioner Keith Coulter articulated the nature and gravity of these new challenges:

Our offenders have more and more extensive histories of involvement with the court system—roughly 9 out of 10 now have previous criminal convictions. Our offenders also have more extensive histories of violence and violent offences in their criminal history, and far more are assessed as violenceprone, hostile, impulsive and aggressive. There has been an increase of more than 100% in the proportion of offenders who are classified as maximum security on admission—13% are now classified at this level on admission.

An increase of 33% has occurred in the proportion of offenders with gang and/or organized crime affiliations—one in six male, and one in ten female offenders now have known affiliations.

The proportion of offenders serving sentences for homicide has increased by 14%—it now stands at more than one in four male offenders.

The percentage of male offenders has increased by 71%, with an increase of 67% in female offenders identified at admission as having very serious mental health problems—12% of the male and 26% of the female offender populations have this designation.

About four out of five offenders now arrive at a federal institution with a serious substance abuse problem, with one out of two having committed their crime under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicants.

There is a trend to shorter sentences here in Canada. This has meant an increase of 62% in the proportion of male offender admissions serving a sentence of less than three years.3

This dramatic change in the profile of the average federal offender means that CSC now has an offender population that is more violent and requires either more interventions or different types of interventions, which must be provided in an even shorter timeframe.

Furthermore, many offenders need to learn how to live as law-abiding citizens for the first time, as they have failed to learn the skills required to be productive members of society. The reasons for this vary. Many have failed throughout their lives, beginning in elementary school, and have subsequently moved through the juvenile justice system, the provincial adult correctional system, and in many cases, the mental health system. The reality is that many offenders entering a federal penitentiary are addressing their behaviours for the first time ever. While core programs in the past could focus on criminogenic needs, today's offender has to learn basic living and employability skills, and also address addiction and criminogenic needs.

(d) CSC's Legislative Framework

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) came into force in 1992, replacing the Penitentiary and Parole Act with a modern, comprehensive framework for corrections and conditional release that makes clear that public protection is the paramount consideration in all decisions relating to the incarceration and release of offenders. Also, for the first time, victims of crime were formally recognized in the federal corrections and parole process.

The Act laid out a dual mandate for CSC as follows:

  1. the purpose of the federal correctional system is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by:
    1. carrying out sentences imposed by courts through the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders, and
    2. assisting the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens through the provision of programs in penitentiaries and in the community.

To better define this dual mandate, the Act defined the mandate of CSC in the form of guiding principles, as follows:

  1. the principles that shall guide the Service in achieving the purpose referred to in Section 3 are:
    1. that the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the corrections process;
    2. that the sentence be carried out having regard to all relevant available information, including the stated reasons and recommendations of the sentencing judge, other information from the trial or sentencing process, the release policies of, and any comments from, the National Parole Board, and information obtained from victims and offenders;
    3. that the Service enhance its effectiveness and openness through the timely exchange of relevant information with other components of the criminal justice system, and through communication about its correctional policies and programs to offenders, victims and the public;
    4. that the Service use the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members and offenders;
    5. that offenders retain the rights and privileges of all members of society, except those rights and privileges that are necessarily removed or restricted as a consequence of the sentence;
    6. that the Service facilitate the involvement of members of the public in matters relating to the operations of the Service;
    7. that correctional decisions be made in a forthright and fair manner, with access by the offender to an effective grievance procedure;
    8. that correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and aboriginal peoples, as well as to the needs of other groups of offenders with special requirements;
    9. that offenders are expected to obey penitentiary rules and conditions governing temporary absence, work release, parole and statutory release, and to actively participate in programs designed to promote their rehabilitation and reintegration; and
    10. that staff members be properly selected and trained, and be given
      1. appropriate career development opportunities,
      2. good working conditions, including a workplace environment that is free of practices that undermine a person's sense of personal dignity, and
      3. opportunities to participate in the development of correctional policies and programs.

A Work In Progress: The Five-Year Review of the Act

In accordance with Section 233 of the CCRA, which stipulates that a parliamentary committee conduct a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the Act after five years, in March 1998, the Solicitor General released a consultation paper entitled Towards a Just, Peaceful and Safe Society: the Corrections and Conditional Release Act Five Years Later. As part of the Department's consultation process this paper and a series of technical studies that followed were distributed widely and made available on the Internet, and the Solicitor General appeared before the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights in May 1998. A summary of the responses to the consultation paper was released in October 1998 by the Department of the Solicitor General.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights established the Sub-committee on Corrections and Conditional Release in November 1998 and gave it the mandate to conduct a review of the CCRA. The report, A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act,4 which was delivered in May 2000, emphasized that the corrections and conditional release system could be significantly improved without drastically altering the fundamentals of the correctional system.

The following themes emerged from the report's 53 recommendations:

In its October 2000 response to the Sub-committee's report,5 the Government indicated that action would be taken on 46 of the recommendations in the report.

(e) CSC and the Criminal Justice System

The chart below describes the movement of an offender through Canada's criminal justice system from the time of arrest to the end of the sentence.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), an agency within the public safety portfolio, is responsible for administering court-imposed sentences of two years or more. This includes both the custodial and community supervision components of an offender's sentence. CSC also administers the post-sentence supervision of offenders with Long-Term Supervision Orders for up to 10 years, and in some provinces CSC supervises provincial offenders on conditional release.

At the end of 2006–07, CSC was responsible for approximately 13,200 federally incarcerated offenders (excluding 1,100 offenders temporarily detained, who had been on conditional release to the community) and 6,900 offenders actively supervised in the community. During 2006–07, CSC managed 19,500 incarcerated offenders and 16,400 supervised offenders, including all admissions and releases.

CSC has a presence from coast to coast, managing penitentiaries, mental health treatment centres, Aboriginal healing lodges, community correctional centres, community residential facilities and parole offices. In addition, CSC also manages an addictions research centre, a correctional management learning centre, regional staff colleges, five regional headquarters and a national headquarters.


  • 58 penitentiaries
  • 16 community correctional centres
  • 71 parole offices
  • 4 Aboriginal healing lodges

CORCAN, a special operating agency of CSC, provides training in work and employability skills to offenders in penitentiaries to enhance their job readiness upon release. CORCAN also offers support services at 37 community-based employment locations across Canada to help offenders on conditional release secure employment. CORCAN's services are provided through partnership contracts with CSC, other government organizations, non-governmental organizations and private enterprises.

CSC employs approximately 14,500 staff across the country. Slightly more than 5% are from visible minority groups, approximately 4% are persons with disabilities, and approximately 7% are Aboriginal. These rates are at or above the labour market availability of workers in these operational groups for the types of employment offered by CSC. Just under 45% of CSC staff are women.

Two occupational groups, for the most part exclusive to CSC, represent over half of all staff employed in operational units. The correctional officer group makes up 43% of staff, while another 14% of staff is in the WP category, which includes parole and program officers who work in the institutions and in the community. The remainder of CSC's work force reflects the variety of skills required to operate penitentiaries and community offices—health professionals, electricians, food service staff, and staff who provide corporate and administrative functions at the local, regional and national levels.

CSC managed a budget of approximately $1.709 billion in 2006–07. Approximately 72% of CSC's budget was allocated to the care and custody of offenders in penitentiaries and in communities. The budget includes fixed and semi-fixed costs, such as security systems, correctional staff salaries, facilities maintenance and food. The remaining 28% was allocated to rehabilitation and case management services.

Approximately 14,500 employees, of whom 87% work in penitentiaries and communities.

(f) CSC's Key Priorities

In 2006–07, CSC undertook a comprehensive process to identify new priorities in response to the changing offender profile, the significance of public safety and the Government's emphasis on crime prevention. CSC deliberately limited the number of key priorities and associated plans to ensure sustained management focus and results in these areas. Five priorities were established:

  • Community Transition: Safe transition of eligible offenders into the community.

CSC continues to focus its efforts on minimizing violent reoffending by offenders returning to the community. To assess performance in this area, CSC reports on the percentage of federal offenders in communities convicted of or charged with violent offences while under CSC supervision, and on the percentage of federal offenders convicted of violent offences and returning to federal custody between two and five years after their sentences. CSC also monitors and reports on non-violent reoffending.

  • Safe and Secure Institutions: Safety and security for staff and offenders in institutions.

CSC is committed to continuing efforts to prevent violent and assaultive behaviour. More specifically, staff focuses on preventing the escalation of assaultive behaviour within CSC institutions, which is measured by the rate of major security incidents, the rate of assaults on staff and offenders, and the rate of injuries caused by offenders.

  • Aboriginal Offenders: Enhanced capacities to provide effective interventions for First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders.

This area remains a key CSC priority in order to maximize the results that can be achieved with the resources provided. More specifically, CSC focuses on preventing a further widening of the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders. This is measured by the percentage of Aboriginal federal offenders in communities convicted of, or charged with, violent offences while under CSC supervision, and by the percentage of Aboriginal federal offenders convicted of violent or non-violent offences and returning to federal custody within two to five years.

  • Mental Health: Improved capacities to address mental health needs of offenders.

CSC focuses on improving correctional results for offenders with mental health disorders. This is measured by the percentage of federal offenders with identified mental health needs in communities convicted of or charged with a violent offence while under CSC supervision. CSC also assesses performance by the percentage of federal offenders with identified mental health needs convicted of violent or non-violent offences and returning to custody within two years.

  • CSC's Management Agenda: Strengthened management practices.

CSC aims to strengthen management practices, which are reflected in improved results in harassment, staff grievances, respect, trust and accountability. These results will be measured by future Public Service Employee Surveys. Through its recently approved Ethics Index CSC also assesses performance improvements in the areas of ethics, resources, integrity, fairness, inclusiveness of the workplace, and respect. In addition, CSC reports on improvements in its management practices as measured by the annual Management Accountability Framework assessments conducted by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

1 Statistics Canada. Crime Statistics in Canada, 2006, Juristat, Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE, Vol. 27, no. 5, July 2007.

2 Statistics Canada, June 2007. A Comparison of Large Urban, Small Urban and Rural Crime Rates, 2005, Juristat, Catalogue no. 85-002-XIE. [vol. 27 no.3]

3 "Canadian Corrections: Current Complexities," CSC Commissioner Keith Coulter, International Corrections and Prisons Association Conference, October 23, 2006, Vancouver, BC, (


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