ARCHIVE - D. The Current Environment
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CSC's mandate is to provide correctional interventions that allow offenders to learn behaviours and skills that will allow them to return to Canadian communities as lawabiding citizens. For offenders the correctional process has three distinct stages:
admission to a federal penitentiary, where offenders work toward parole eligibility (inside the walls); gradual release to the community (transition); and day parole, full parole and statutory release under supervision in the community (outside the walls).
However, before we speak further about intake assessment and correctional interventions, it is important to first speak to the manner in which CSC manages its various populations within the penitentiary, and some of the security issues raised by stakeholders for consideration by the Panel.
The Panel believes that life inside a penitentiary should promote a positive work ethic. Today, an offender working hard at rehabilitation is often treated no differently than an offender who is seeking only to continue his criminal lifestyle. The Panel believes that this is detrimental to promoting offender accountability.
Neither the Act nor the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR) refer to the other subpopulations that exist within the two basic offender populations of today's penitentiary system—a general population and an administrative segregation population.
As stated earlier, when the Act was drafted there was a single, homogeneous general population, but this has not been the case for some time. With the growing number of offenders affiliated with criminal gang organizations, there has been a rise in the number of incompatible populations within federal penitentiaries. It is not uncommon to find four or five distinct subpopulations that cannot intermingle in a penitentiary, and two or three groups of offenders who for their own safety must be physically separated from other populations, either through administrative segregation or special units that separate them.
The physical and operational logistics of delivering correctional services for multiple sub-populations in a penitentiary designed for one general population presents extreme challenges as most penitentiaries are many years past their life cycle (see Appendix A) and infrastructure replacement has been chronically under funded for a number of years and in particular over the past decade.
As important is the fact that the day-to-day management of these sub-populations is placing significant strain on physical infrastructure, particularly infrastructure that does not reflect current more efficient and more functional design layouts and has passed well beyond its life cycle. Inefficiencies and security risks of the current infrastructure are addressed later in the report.
Both the Act and internal policy allow for two types of segregation: involuntary and voluntary.
The Warden may confine an offender to involuntary segregation when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender:
- jeopardizes or puts at risk the security of the penitentiary, and the safety of other inmates or staff;
- may interfere with an ongoing investigation; or
- may be personally at risk.
Involuntary segregation is a necessary tool that CSC uses to maintain a safe and secure environment, especially given the changing offender profile.
Specifically, the CCRA states that:
Grounds for Confining an Offender in Administrative Segregation
Segregation may also be ordered as a sanction to offenders who have been charged with a disciplinary offence and appear before an Independent Chairperson. According to the CCRR:
According the CCRA, an offender may be voluntarily segregated if the instutional head believes on reasonable grounds:
31.(3)(c) that the continued presence of the inmate in the general inmate population would jeopardize the inmate's own safety, and the institutional head is satisfied that there is no reasonable alternative to administrative segregation.
The composition of the voluntarily segregated population can generally be described as offenders who:
- have significant 'debts' and seek voluntary segregation as a temporary way to escape their creditors;
- are at risk in any of the subpopulations (multiple number of incompatibles) and seek the protection of segregation;
- generally fear for their safety and seek the protection of segregation;
- threaten violence if released from segregation and refuse to accept any proposed alternative;
- are not disruptive but are not following their correctional plans; and
- want to be or should be fully engaged in their correctional plans but cannot be integrated into a population that will provide that opportunity.
The Panel has heard that another factor contributing to this rise has been the fact that, while in segregation, offenders maintain living conditions that are almost identical to those elsewhere in the penitentiary, without having to resolve the issues that brought them to segregation. The CCRA states that:
- an inmate in administrative segregation shall be given the same rights, privileges and conditions of confinement as the general inmate population, except for those rights, privileges and conditions that
- can only be enjoyed in association with other inmate, or
- cannot reasonably be given owing to
- limitations specific to the administrative segregation area, or
- security requirements.
Furthermore, CSC policy prohibits double-bunking in segregation. A single cell can be considered to be another advantage over the offender's circumstances in the general population.
The Panel is concerned that if the living conditions in segregation continue to equal or exceed those found in other parts of the penitentiary and there are no viable alternatives to placement in the penitentiary, more offenders will seek voluntary segregation. The Panel believes that offenders may not see any benefit to engaging in their correctional plan, thereby allowing them to be isolated from the level of intervention necessary for their rehabilitation.
The Panel believes that living conditions in penitentiaries should serve two purposes:
- to provide a safe, secure environment, and
- promote positive, pro-social behaviour, and an active interest in participating in the offender's correctional plan.
Without having any incentives to provide to offenders who are working to rehabilitate, the Panel believes that the current environment of voluntary segregation diminishes offender responsibility and accountability.
Adequacy of the Inmate Disciplinary Process
The Panel heard from UCCO-SACC-CSN representatives that they believe that the disciplinary process is not working as it should. They specifically commented on the situation where "a non-compliant offender sentenced to segregation serves the penalty in a regular cell, with all the property and privileges enjoyed before conviction in Disciplinary Court."6
UCCO-SAAC-CSN also provided the Panel with an analysis of what they termed "the Discipline Regime" and as an example, gave an analysis of offence reports at Donnacona Penitentiary between January 1 and October 19, 2006. The union reported that its analysis showed:
41.2% of the offence reports resulted in sanctions after being filed, while 58.8% of the reports were dismissed for various reasons (not guilty, untimely, stay of proceedings, and so on).7
The union noted issues around the timelines of the application of the disciplinary process. Section 36 of Commissioner's Directive 580 stipulates that the initial hearing of major and minor charges of a disciplinary offence shall normally take place within two weeks after the charge is laid. However, the statistics reveal that only 20.5% of the hearings are held within these time limits. Out of all offence reports filed, only 41.2%, led to sanctions of some sort. Hence, 58.8% of the major reports were rejected for various reasons, including administrative reasons such as timeliness.
The union also noted that many rejected offence reports are not passed on to the offender's future parole officers and thus are not considered during National Parole Board hearings. In addition, two out of five reports are not recorded in the Offender Management System (OMS). The union's study revealed that 135 reports with guilty verdicts were not officially recorded in OMS, which had a significant impact on case management, given that parole officers depend heavily on the OMS when evaluating cases to be presented to the Parole Board.
The Panel was not able to confirm the accuracy of the union's allegations with CSC management but, the essence of the union's submission has led the Panel to conclude that in order to reduce levels of violence by offenders within the walls of the penitentiary system, there must be significant and meaningful consequences for abusive or assaultive behaviour. While the Panel heard from frontline correctional officers that some verbal abuse is to be expected from offenders given their profile, staff should not feel they have to accept this behaviour. There should be appropriate and meaningful consequences for offenders' behaviour that is not deemed acceptable. Staff has repeatedly told the Panel that current sanctions are inadequate, and are handed down too late to have any deterrent effect on the offender.
Providing a safe and secure environment in federal penitentiaries will always be an ongoing challenge. The Panel was truly impressed by the commitment of frontline staff and management, and their openness to discuss their daily challenges. The Panel is particularly concerned about the safety of frontline staff and offenders, particularly in medium- and maximum-security penitentiaries where the assaultive behaviour of offenders is occurring and, in many cases, is unpredictable. The Panel is also concerned that the presence of security cameras and staff are not deterring offenders from committing these assaults. The current consequences are obviously having little deterrent effect on this group of offenders.
This is particularly troublesome since CSC must use the incarceration time to begin the rehabilitation process that requires, in most cases, learning to respect rules and the law.
This concern was echoed by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) union:
Over the years, several security problems and unfortunate events have affected our members. It is recognized by all parties that the offender population is more violent and less concerned about the repercussions while incarcerated.
While many factors may be contributing to this climate of disrespect, the Panel believes the key underlying factor is illicit drug use and trafficking. The prevalence of drug abuse and trafficking should not be surprising given that about four out of five offenders arrive at a penitentiary with serious substance abuse problems, and about half the offenders have committed crimes under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicants. The current offender population will try to find every vulnerability in CSC's security systems to introduce drugs into the penitentiary.
According to a member of the Citizens' Advisory Committee at the Victoria, B.C., parole office:
When I have inmates tell me they can get just about any drug in an institution that they can get on the street and I hear from CSC institutional staff about drug-related violence, I have to wonder whether enough is being done to keep these drugs out of institutions.8
The Panel is convinced that drugs have also propagated the increase in organized gangs within penitentiaries and the ensuing violence as these gangs attempt to continue their criminal activity. Gang members are not averse to using violence to advance their agenda and to maintain or enhance their positions within the offender hierarchy. As long as drugs are a major source of revenue and power, the introduction of drugs into penitentiaries will continue to be their primary focus. Whether it be through the direct use of their associates in the community or through threats and intimidation of other offenders and their families, gang members will continue to use as many possible conduits as possible to introduce drugs into CSC penitentiaries.
The Panel members believe that illicit drugs are unacceptable in a federal penitentiary and create a dangerous environment for staff and offenders that translates into assaults on offenders and staff, promotes transmittable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, and destroys any hope of providing a safe and secure environment where offenders can focus on rehabilitation.
As dismal as the situation seems, the Panel believes there are solutions requiring a sustained focus.
(i) Eliminating Drugs in Penitentiaries
CSC's Drug Interdiction Strategy
CSC's current drug interdiction strategy is based on prevention, treatment, and enforcement. This strategy is guided by Canada's National Drug Strategy, and is briefly outlined below.
CSC's Drug Strategy includes awareness programs, immunization programs, infectious disease testing, methadone maintenance treatment and intensive support units. Harm reduction initiatives are also available.
CSC provides a range of internationally accredited programs to offenders whose substance dependence is related to their criminal behaviour. The more difficult the offender's problem, the more intense the intervention. Programs have also been designed especially for women and Aboriginal offenders. These substance abuse and maintenance programs teach offenders to manage their patterns of substance abuse, with the goal of decreasing recidivism.
To reduce violence and illicit drugs in penitentiaries, all offenders— including those belonging to organized criminal groups—are monitored to prevent incidents and thus enhance safety. Offenders involved in violent incidents or found possessing or using illicit drugs face disciplinary actions and criminal charges.
While the Panel appreciates that CSC's approach to drug interdiction is headed in the right direction, we believe that much more can be done to prevent drugs from entering federal penitentiaries, and to reduce the negative impact they have on CSC's operations.
The Drug Detector Dog Program, introduced in CSC in 2001, has proved to be of great value. The dogs have many times accurately and quickly detected drugs both within the penitentiary and on visitors. The drug detector dogs have been a key component of the initiatives focused on stopping the flow of illicit drugs into penitentiaries. However, the present capacity is insufficient since each team can work only four hours per day, five days per week, and some teams must provide services to more than one penitentiary. The service gaps increase the likelihood that drugs will be introduced into the penitentiary.
(ii) Outside Sanctions for Assaultive and Threatening Behaviour
Correctional staff from across the country told the Panel that police and Crown Attorneys do not always respond to requests to lay criminal charges against offenders for minor assaults. The Panel is particularly concerned that CSC's partners in criminal justice appear to have abandoned CSC in enforcing minor assaults. The police, Crowns and judges must be educated so that they appreciate that although an assault may appear relatively minor, offenders' aggressive behaviour, particularly towards staff, cannot and should not be accepted.
(iii) Infectious Diseases
The safety of staff is of paramount importance. Staff recognize and acknowledge the inherent risks involved in working with offenders, but these risks can be better managed in a safe work environment.. A healthy, safe, and secure workplace is a priority and must be continuously considered in all CSC decision-making.
In addition to threats posed by the prevalence of drug use among offenders and other high-risk activities such as unprotected sexual activity and unsafe tattooing, another significant threat to correctional officers is the alarming rate of infectious disease among the offender population. The exact rates of infectious diseases in the offender population are not known because testing for HIV and Hepatitis B and C is voluntary, as it is in Canadian communities. During the intake assessment process, offenders are screened for risk behaviours and are advised of the testing and treatment options available to them, but all testing is voluntary. This is in spite of previous studies that have found that offenders' rates of HIV are 7 to 10 times higher than the general Canadian population and their rates of Hepatitis C are 30 times higher, often as a result of their history.
This means that when correctional officers are pricked with dirty needles or showered with offenders' urine or feces, they literally fear for their lives.
The Panel heard from UCCO-SACC-CSN that:
These attacks are potentially life threatening … More importantly, officers have no way of knowing whether they have been exposed to life-threatening disease … The damage to family life and relationships is enormous.9
CSC has established collaborative partnerships with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other external service organizations that provide several types of expertise in infectious disease: control and prevention; education and training; screening, testing and treatment; and surveillance. The Panel believes that this should continue to be a priority for CSC.
(iv) Perimeter Controls
The perimeters of some penitentiaries are close to public access roads, which has created vulnerabilities for the safety and security of the penitentiary. Furthermore, the Panel is aware of managerial decisions not to staff some control towers on certain shifts and that some negative results have been evidenced. For example, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of drugs being launched into penitentiary grounds using arrows and/or tennis balls. The Panel believes that if the perimeter is not adequately secured, it will be impossible to eliminate drugs from a penitentiary.
Most people imagine a federal penitentiary as an island, entirely separated from its surrounding communities, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of people enter and exit a penitentiary every week, including visitors, contractors, and staff. While penitentiaries do search visitors, the Panel observed during visits that some of these searches are no more than cursory. Ion scanners are used inconsistently at the entrances to the institutions, and in some penitentiaries, the Panel was told by staff that they could not properly use the technology because they had not been fully trained.
Section 71(1) of the CCRA states that:
In order to promote relationships between inmates and the community, an inmate is entitled to have reasonable contact, including visits and correspondence, with family, friends and other persons from outside the penitentiary, subject to such reasonable limits as are prescribed for protecting the security of the penitentiary or the safety of persons.
The Panel heard from staff and unions that visitors are considered one of the major sources of drugs coming into the penitentiaries.
This concern was also raised by several interest groups, including the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness (CCAA), as expressed to the Panel by Director of Public Safety John Muise:
[The CCAA recommends] that any visitor convicted of attempting to transport illicit drugs or narcotics into institutions be banned for life from entry upon CSC premises and that signs reflecting this policy be clearly placed (and articulated by CSC staff before entry) at all entry points into CSC institutions.10
Although visitors are pre-screened and searched, resources are insufficient to maintain a comprehensive search program. Visitor searches must be enhanced. It is the view of the Panel that the policy framework is sound, but quality assurance of implementation is lacking. We saw inconsistency in searches at the principal entrance to penitentiaries in our tours across the country.
(vii) Use of Technology
The Panel recognizes that CSC staff needs better technological tools to assist in the detection of drugs and other illicit contraband. The Panel's priority is to introduce more effective new technology at the principal entrances, to assist in drug detection.
Another example of useful technology is enhanced cell phone detection and interception technology as today's cell phones are capable of accessing the Internet, text messaging, and taking photographs and video. As these devices become smaller and harder to detect, their presence inside a penitentiary allows offenders to conduct their criminal activities. This presents a serious security risk inside the penitentiary but also poses a public safety risk in the community. There are many more examples where technology could be of vital use and CSC should look to other jurisdictions to find effective new technology.
(viii) Intelligence Gathering
From across the country the Panel heard about the importance of "dynamic security"— interacting with offenders and knowing them well—to maintain safe penitentiaries. A key component of dynamic security is gathering intelligence, analyzing it and sharing it with those who need to know. Expectations of CSC to share information and intelligence have increased substantially, not only internally but outside the organization in conjunction with partners in the criminal justice system.
The Panel's view, however, is that CSC currently has a limited capacity to engage in security intelligence activities since there is currently only 1 security intelligence officer (SIO) for every 250 offenders. These SIOs are expected to monitor illicit activities that could potentially compromise the safety and security of the penitentiary. For example, they:
- cultivate offender sources who provide valuable information on ongoing threats;
- gather information through correctional officers' observation reports at the end of every shift;
- liaise on an ongoing basis with police, operations and police intelligence units;
- participate in morning briefings to alert staff of any potential risks/threats and advise on what to look out for (e.g., an SIO could receive information that two gangs are experiencing tensions on the street, which may play out within the penitentiary); and
- fulfill other roles and duties, including gathering information on an incident, writing reports, securing crime scenes, etc).
The Panel applauds CSC's efforts but believes that the SIO function must be strengthened. The return on investment should prove to be significant. Through more timely, effective and efficient collection, analysis and dissemination of information within CSC, and through more consistent and strategic sharing of information with criminal justice partners, the benefit should be:
- an increased awareness of the activities of high-profile offenders and offenders linked to organized crime and extremist groups within CSC penitentiaries and on supervised release;
- better decision making about offender placements and transfers;
- fewer incidents of extortion, fewer drugs and contraband entering penitentiaries, and less reinvolvement in criminal activity in the community;
- a more integrated approach to organized crime with criminal justice partners; and
- improved intelligence, resulting in the prevention of security incidents in CSC penitentiaries and in Canadian and international communities.
6"Rewards and Consequences: A Correctional Service for the 21st Century—A brief to the Independent Review Panel studying the future of Correctional Service Canada," UCCO-SACC-CSN, June 2007, page 11.
7 Ibid., page 18.
8Letter addressed to Lynn Garrow, Head, CSC Review Panel Secretariat, from Deryk Norton, member of the Victoria Parole Office Citizens' Advisory Committee, May 29, 2007.
9 "Rewards and Consequences: A Correctional Service for the 21st Century—A brief to the Independent Review Panel studying the future of Correctional Service Canada," UCCO-SACC-CSN, June 2007, page 34.
10 "Submission to the CSC Review Panel," Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, June 11, 2007, Recommendation #25, page 16.
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