ARCHIVE - (c) Assessment and Correctional Interventions

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Here, we examine the current intake assessment process and identify three key areas that we reviewed — the impact of the length (duration) of the intake assessment process on program 'starts' for offenders with short sentences; the need for comprehensive mental health assessments, particularly for Aboriginal offenders, and the development of a comprehensive correctional plan that includes offender program integration and an emphasis on developing skills to prepare for and find employment.

(i) Offender Intake Assessment

Determination of Security Classification

Upon admission to the federal correctional system, all offenders undergo intake assessment which is designed to assess each offender's risks and needs. Offenders are assigned to a security level according to Section 30 of the CCRA which states:

30.(1) The Service shall assign a security classification of maximum, medium or minimum to each inmate in accordance with the regulations made under paragraph 96(s.6).

Furthermore, the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR) identifies the following factors for consideration:

  1. The Service shall take the following factors into consideration in determining the security classification to be assigned to an inmate pursuant to section 30 of the Act:
    1. the seriousness of the offence committed by the inmate;
    2. any outstanding charges against the inmate;
    3. the inmate's performance and behaviour while under sentence;
    4. the inmate's social, criminal and, where available, young offender history;
    5. any physical or mental illness or disorder suffered by the inmate;
    6. the inmate's potential for violent behaviour; and
    7. the inmate's continued involvement in criminal activities.
  2. For the purposes of Section 30 of the Act, an inmate shall be classified as:
    1. maximum security where the inmate is assessed by the Service as
      1. presenting a high probability of escape and a high risk to the safety of the public in the event of escape, or (ii) requiring a high degree of supervision and control within the penitentiary.
    2. medium security where the inmate is assessed by the Service as
      1. presenting a low to moderate probability of escape and a moderate risk to the safety of the public in the event of escape, or
      2. requiring a moderate degree of supervision and control within the penitentiary; and
    3. minimum security where the inmate is assessed by the Service as
      1. presenting a low probability of escape and a low risk to the safety of the public in the event of escape, and
      2. requiring a low degree of supervision and control within the penitentiary.

The chart below describes all the elements of the Offender Intake Assessment process leading to the placement of the offender and the development of a correctional plan.


Offender Needs

To thoroughly evaluate the offender, the intake assessment process includes a review of information on the impact of the offender's crime(s) on the victim(s), as well as information gathered from police reports, court transcripts, judges' comments on sentencing and other information. The assessment also establishes a multidisciplinary correctional plan for treatment and intervention to be carried out during the offender's sentence. Once this assessment process is complete, the offender is transferred to the appropriate penitentiary and the rehabilitative process begins

CSC has been challenged for quite some time to complete this intake assessment in a timely fashion for offenders serving less than four years (eligible for parole by year 1.5 and statutory release by year three). Current policy states that for offenders serving less than four years, the intake assessment process should be conducted within 70 days. It is critical to complete an offender's intake assessment as quickly as possible because the end result is a correctional plan —a roadmap, so to speak, outlining what the offender should achieve through the rehabilitation process. In recognition of the need for a streamlined process CSC initiated a pilot to complete the Offender Intake Assessment (OIA) process in 45 days instead of 70. The Panel had not received the results of the pilot at the time of writing.

(ii) Program Effectiveness and Accreditation

In this section, we focus on the general effectiveness of programs as a primary factor in the rehabilitation process. We note that CSC has focused on the development and delivery of core programs at the expense of the development and delivery of basic adult education and employment programs. We identify concerns about low participation/completion rates, space availability and the need for high intensity programs to meet increasing offender risks and needs. We examine the responsibility and accountability of CSC and the offender to become more responsive to correctional plans. The following chart summarizes the path that an offender follows from intake assessment through to community programming and the six issue areas considered by the Panel.

CSC has collected data and profiled all offenders since 1995. This data allows for ongoing review of programming needs and the effectiveness of programs. Additionally, the data ensures that the correctional programs (programs that deal with an offender's behavioural and attitudinal development) are research-based, are subject to a review and accreditation process, and are evaluated as appropriate for the federal correctional system. The Panel agrees with this approach and believes it should be continued. In fact, CSC is currently looking at a more streamlined accreditation approach, which the Panel supports.

The Panel heard from other correctional jurisdictions that CSC's use of cognitive-based correctional programs has been highly effective and has been used by many other jurisdictions. CSC has made a determined effort to develop and deliver cognitive-based correctional programs that contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders. The Panel has been presented with evidence that programs based on sound research and theory do work and ultimately reduce reoffending. However, the Panel did not witness any extensive CSC work on integrating these programs with job readiness programs. In fact, employment and employability programs appear to have been placed on the back burner by CSC and not given the attention that they require.

It is important to note, however, that if a safe, supportive environment is missing in CSC's penitentiaries, the learning acquired may be jeopardized and CSC risks that offenders will not have the opportunity to internalize the changes required to rehabilitate.

CSC must also consider identifying a framework that defines what and how programs should be made available at various levels of penitentiary security and in the community, e.g., adjustment and motivation programs at maximum security; behavioural, educational and employability programs at medium and minimum security. Program availability should be directly related to requirements for progressing to lower levels of security. The program framework must also be retooled to address the management of offenders serving shorter sentences.

(iii) Program Delivery and Availability

The Panel thoroughly reviewed the issues surrounding programs offered to offenders. While it is simplistic to point out that people are complex creatures, it is especially critical that this statement be understood in the corrections domain.

CSC has an offender population that is more violent and serving shorter sentences, which essentially leaves CSC less time to do more. Even as recently as 1999, the recommended number of correctional programs for offenders often could not be delivered prior to the earliest possible parole date. Today, this situation has been further exacerbated by the trend toward shorter sentences and the realities of the intake assessment process.

However, with the changing offender profile, offenders now generally have an increased level of risk and need. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that these high-risk/high-need offenders require more intensive interventions than the offenders of the 1990s. Furthermore, on average, an offender does not even start the first program for six months after the intake assessment process.

Although the Panel has no statistics on the availability of spaces for offenders in correctional programs, we did hear from various stakeholders that in addition to timeliness, space availability is a challenge.

Jane Griffiths, President of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, expressed to the Panel that:

Our members who volunteer in the present federal system report that there is not enough program space to conduct appropriate programming and it is a challenge to move the [inmates].11

A spokesperson of the UCCO-SACC-CSN said he is concerned about the danger of releasing federal offenders into society before they have had access to rehabilitation and anger management programs. He said waiting lists for such programs are lengthy, causing a gridlock that forces some inmates to wait months for parole. Some, he said, leave the correctional system without receiving treatment for the problems that got them into trouble in the first place.12

Also, the Salvation Army told the Panel:

CSC has a world-wide reputation for developing risk assessment tools and standardized programs based on solid research on what is effective in reducing reoffending upon release. Unfortunately, there appears to be several systemic barriers to the timely delivery of these programs inside federal facilities. Failure to complete programs often means that access to early release is denied to individuals who might otherwise be safely managed in the community. The Salvation Army among other organizations is providing these programs in the community with training and funding through CSC contracts. We firmly believe this is a very successful, cost effective program delivery model which is significantly under-utilized.13

The Panel believes that, at this time, given the realities of limited resources, CSC's focus should be on effective program delivery in penitentiaries. Every effort should be made to review the modules of cognitive-based correctional programs to identify and lessen redundancies, thereby shortening program content and required time frames. Furthermore, as previously discussed, a better targeted correctional plan can ensure offenders undergo key programs while incarcerated and are provided with programs that extend and maintain these programs in the community.

(iv) Offender Participation

Time pressures, capacity and available resources are not the only challenges affecting opportunities for rehabilitation. Offender participation in correctional programs is presently voluntary. The table in Appendix B shows that there is a serious drop-out or non-completion rate in rehabilitation programs for violence prevention, substance abuse and sexual offending. The Panel believes that this is again an issue where offender accountability has to be strengthened.

CSC is at a stage where it must focus its efforts on enhancing offender "responsiveness" for engaging in the correctional plan. In practice, this means that the assessment of motivation and other responsivity factors (e.g., age, gender) can help structure many of the decisions CSC makes regarding the living environment, security classification, temporary and conditional release recommendations, supervision requirements and placement of the offender.

Strategies have to be introduced into correctional practices to decrease offenders' resistance to participate in their correctional plans. Correctional program strategies should be expanded to include "primers" to reduce program attrition. Motivated offenders should have first priority for placement in programs, and motivation-based approaches should be developed for non-motivated offenders.

Some form of incentive or consequence may be appropriate to engage program-resistant offenders. Non-completion of programs should have a bearing on decision making regarding the release of the offender to the community.

However, there are two issues of concern to the Panel:

  1. Because shorter sentences are being given to federal offenders who have increased risks and needs, limited time is available for offenders to use and internalize the CSC programs and interventions before their release.
  2. On average, offenders do not begin the first CSC program until six months after completing the intake assessment process.

ARCHIVE - (d) Education

(i) Background and Results

The CCRA clearly establishes CSC's legal responsibility to provide programs:

76. The Service shall provide a range of programs designed to address the needs of offenders and contribute to their successful reintegration into the community.

The delivery of education programs to offenders is guided by Commissioner's Directive (CD) 720, Education of Offenders. Each region has the responsibility to ensure that education service delivery meets their respective provincial requirements, and adheres to CSC's national policy.

The primary components of CSC's Education Program are Adult Basic Education (ABE), vocational education14 programs, and library services. Each program component provides offenders with opportunities to acquire education appropriate to their needs, achievement and ability. Together, these components provide education interventions that suit offenders' needs and abilities.

(ii) Importance of Educational Programs

Education has an undisputed role in the personal development and professional or vocational success of an individual in Canadian society. Upon arrival at a penitentiary, approximately 65% of offenders test at a completion level lower than Grade 8, and 82% lower than Grade 10. Since 1990, CSC had made a Grade 10 education the minimum standard for its ABE program. However, since the labour market in Canada sets increasingly higher standards for skilled employees, a Grade 10 or equivalent education is no longer sufficient to be competitive when seeking employment.

According to Statistics Canada, since the early 1990s, 84% of new jobs have required a high school diploma. In addition to this, various studies, including a 1996 Auditor General Report, have reiterated the need for educational services to be provided to offenders and the importance of upgrading offenders' education levels. Therefore, CSC determined that it had to adapt to current market trends and the realities of today's society. Consequently, in 2001, CSC made Grade 12 education the minimum standard for its ABE program.

The importance placed on education has been supported by research. A review of 97 articles that examined the relationship between correctional education and recidivism levels revealed "solid support for a positive relationship between correctional education and (lower) recidivism."15

(iii) Adult Basic Education

The ABE program is the education priority of CSC. It maintains the highest enrolment. In fact, 40% of all enrolments are for the ABE program. Since 2001, education programs are listed as a priority in the correctional plans of offenders who do not possess a Grade 12 education. Participation in the programs is voluntary; however, a refusal to participate in programs means that the offender is not eligible to receive a higher pay level.

(iv) Vocational Education

Vocational programs are currently the choice of approximately 25% of all offenders. They provide training in a wide range of job-related skills relevant to employment opportunities in the penitentiaries and in the community. Some of the subjects currently taught in CSC's vocational programs are:

The vocational education programs include a generic skills component that is applicable to several vocational fields. This component addresses industrial and shop safety and personal and interpersonal skills for success in the workplace.

(v) Post-Secondary Education

Post-secondary education gives offenders the opportunity to acquire a trade or profession, and to update trade qualifications. Less than 10% of participants in education programs opt for post-secondary education. Offenders generally pay for their own post-secondary studies, unless it can be demonstrated that the education addresses a very specific need.

(vi) Education Certificates

Prior to 1977, CSC provided its own certificates to indicate that offenders had taken certain courses and passed CSC's exams; however, these certificates were not recognized by provincial governments.

In 1977, Parliament assigned the provinces the responsibility to provide suitable educational programs to their residents, including offenders. As a result, provincial governments formally agreed to partner with CSC to provide educational services in federal penitentiaries. CSC then began offering a standardized curriculum to offenders, specific to each province, to ensure that all provincial governments recognize CSC's educational certificates at Grade 10 level and above.

Currently, all CSC regions have arrangements with the provinces that ensure educational certificates are recognized for grades 10 to 12. These certificates are recognized across all federal penitentiaries and by all provinces. Educational records are kept by each region's ministry of education and are updated to reflect certifications, test results and course credits. These records are available in the event of transfer or release into the community.

(vii) Results

It is of concern to the Panel that the completion rate for all educational programs is currently 31% (see Appendix C). If education is a critical component of an offender's successful return to society as a productive, law-abiding citizen, the completion rate must be improved. The Panel did not receive any findings from CSC to explain why these results are so low. Anecdotally, we have heard of several reasons, including systemic (i.e., offender transfers or competing correctional program demands) and issues of motivation.

Interestingly, the completion rate for vocational programs is twice as high as that for educational programs. Again, whether this is due to systemic or motivational issues is not clear to the Panel.

(e) Work—Employability and Employment

In this section, we focus on the CORCAN mandate and the related Business Plan in the context of its effectiveness in preparing offenders for employment in the community. We look at the current penitentiary infrastructure capacity of CORCAN to provide offender employment in CSC penitentiaries and produce goods and services for market consumption. We identify employment as a key factor in the assessment process at intake assessment. We focus on particular requirements to address the unique needs of Aboriginal and women offenders in preparing for and finding employment and further focus on the need for an increased emphasis to be placed on skills development, particularly apprenticeship training. The chart that follows identifies the key elements supporting employability/employment initiatives and the five issue areas considered by the Panel.

(i) The Offender Population

At admission, more than 70% of the federal penitentiary population had unstable work histories, more than 70% had not completed high school and more than 60% had no trade or skill knowledge. At any given time, only approximately 15% of the total offender population is working in a CORCAN facility.

The current offender profile demonstrates a low level of basic employment qualifications, poor employment histories, and life skills that have contributed to poor job performance.

In addition, related deficits such as substance abuse and violent behaviour have contributed to offenders' deviant behaviour. These deficits, if left unaddressed, will continue to limit the offenders' ability to find and keep jobs.

(ii) The Mandate of CORCAN

CORCAN assists in the safe reintegration of offenders into Canadian society by providing employment and training opportunities to offenders during incarceration in federal penitentiaries, and during conditional release in the community. CORCAN is a Special Operating Agency16 that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Public Safety. Each year the agency trains approximately 4,000 offenders in employability skills, including fundamental skills (communication, problem-solving); personal management skills (responsibility, adaptability, work safety) and teamwork skills. It operates 36 institutional sites across Canada and employs approximately 350 staff. Offenders are trained and employed in five businesses—agribusiness, textiles, manufacturing, construction and services.

Products produced by CORCAN are used within CSC, by other federal government departments, provincial and municipal governments, and non-profit institutions such as schools, universities and hospitals. CORCAN provides employment bridging services for offenders through 37 community employment centres across the country. The agency generated approximately $60.5 million in gross sales in 2006–07.

(iii) The Current Focus

The Panel met with CORCAN staff during visits to CORCAN operations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The Panel has reviewed the CORCAN Business Plan.

CSC penitentiaries offer varying levels of employment, varying levels of utilization of operating capacity, and varying levels of availability and degrees of integration of employability, education and skills development programs.

The Panel has looked at the vocational training strategy. For example, the Pacific Regional Vocational Strategy indicated that "from an offender perspective, the most useful (employment) programs are those that are of longer duration, teach technical, life and interpersonal skills, and provide third-party certification in fields that are accepting of offenders and paying a living wage." The evaluation pointed to:

The Panel notes that employment has been eclipsed as a priority over the past decade by programs that address other core needs (e.g., substance abuse and violence).

Pascal Bélanger of the Association de rencontres culturelles avec les détenus told the Panel:

Although CSC can assert that their programs are among the best in the correctional world, this type of treatment is being done instead of job training as it was done in the sixties, seventies, and early eighties. So even if [an offender] can better understand the many factors contributing to his criminal behaviour, this cannot guarantee it will help him back to work … Wouldn't it be much easier for a parolee to stay out of trouble and abide with its conditions of release if he can rely on a legal income, therefore staying away from criminal acquaintances?17

Offenders lack skills development training that can directly link them to an occupational group or specific job market. The Panel saw examples that demonstrate that basic education and specific skills can guarantee immediate employment and can offer a solid base that an employer can use to build increasing expertise through on-the-job experience and training.

There is a lack of focus in assisting Aboriginal offenders to prepare themselves for work when they return to their communities, either on reserves or in urban centres. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples urged the Panel:

work programs must address the unique needs of Aboriginal offenders and must consider the types of employment that might be available to them in the communities to which they may be released.18

Furthermore, the Canadian Human Rights Commission noted to the Panel that the employment and employability needs of women offenders are not being met either.

In 1996, the Arbour Report recommended that priority be given to work programs that have a vocational training component. However, in 2003, the Auditor General in her report on the reintegration of women offenders found that there are few vocational programs available to women offenders and that women offenders have minimal access to meaningful work opportunities while incarcerated.19

This was affirmed by the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies:

… there is insufficient meaningful employment and employability programming, and inadequate accommodation and support for women upon their release into the community.20

(iv) The Current Employment Model—Penitentiaries

Visits to CORCAN sites gave the Panel first-hand knowledge of the current limitations posed by the age of many penitentiary structures and equipment. In addition, the availability of offenders for employment is often limited by penitentiary routines, competing requirements for program participation and related resourcing constraints.

Providing meaningful employment in CSC penitentiaries requires a fine balance between providing jobs related to a penitentiary's operational requirements (working in the kitchen, providing general cleaning and maintenance services) and providing jobs generated by CORCAN industries. CSC staff and parole officers have indicated that to enhance both the quantity and quality of work opportunities available in penitentiaries, there is a need to move from employing large numbers of offenders in general maintenance jobs to providing more meaningful skills development to prepare the offender for employment upon release.

CORCAN's capacity to respond to market opportunities for products and services varies significantly by region and penitentiary. The Panel notes that without investment in new capacity and increased markets, CORCAN faces a significant challenge in generating sufficient revenues to support investment strategies that would create employment opportunities for offenders and offset the costs of employability and employment training.

The Panel questions whether CORCAN can continue to balance revenues and expenditures to provide future employment and training requirements under its current operating model. The Panel questions whether CORCAN's prime objective is sufficiently focused on its core responsibility to produce fully trained and job-ready offenders ready for release to positions in the community.

11Submission to the CSC Review Panel, Church Council on Justice and Corrections, June 6, 2007, page 2.

12 CBC News, October 9, 2007,

13 Submission to the CSC Review Panel, The Salvation Army, Territorial Headquarters, M. Christine MacMillan, Territorial Commander. June 7, 2007, page 2.

14 Note that post-secondary education programs are also offered; however, this component is not a primary component of CSC's Education Program.

15 Compendium 2000 on Effective Correctional Programming, page 59, CSC 2001.

16 According to the Department of Finance, a Special Operating Agency is a federal government organization that has increased management flexibility in order to improve performance. Objectives include better overall management, improved operational results and greater focus on demand.

17 Submission to the CSC Review Panel, ARCAD, June 18, 2007, page 4.

18 "Brief to the Panel Review of CSC Operational Priorities, Strategies and Plans," Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, May 2007, page 7.

19 "The Canadian Human Rights Commission's Submission to the Correctional Service of Canada Review Panel," June 11, 2007, page 10.

20 "Submission of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies to the CSC Review Panel," June 10, 2007, page 13.

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