ARCHIVE - A. Executive Summary
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On April 20th , The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, announced the appointment of an independent panel to review the operations of Correctional Service Canada (CSC), as part of the government's commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities.
Mr. Rob Sampson, former Minister of Corrections for the Ontario Government, Chaired the Panel and was joined by four additional panel members with expertise in public policy and public safety. Members of the panel are Serge Gascon; Ian Glen; Chief Clarence Louie; and Sharon Rosenfeldt.
The Panel was mandated to provide the Minister of Public Safety with advice on:
- The availability and effectiveness of rehabilitation programming and support mechanisms in institutions and in the community post release, including the impact on recidivism and any legal framework issues;
- The availability and effectiveness of programs and services for Aboriginal offenders;
- Review the recommendations made in the report Moving Forward with Women's Corrections;
- The availability and effectiveness of mental health programs and services in institutions and in communities;
- The availability and effectiveness of work programs, including impact on recidivism;
- The initial placement of offenders convicted of first and second degree murder;
- CSC's approach to the location of its Community Correctional Centres and Parole Offices in urban areas;
- CSC's ability to deal with parole violations, and with frivolous and vexatious grievances by offenders;
- CSC's plans to enhance services for and support to victims;
- CSC's efficiency in delivering on its public safety mandate—identifying barriers and opportunities for savings including through physical plant re-alignment and infrastructure renewal;
- CSC's operational priorities, strategies and plans as defined in its business plan;
- Current challenges with respect to safety and security in institutions, including those related to reducing illicit drugs and combating violence, and requirements for the future; and
- CSC's capacity to deliver, including its capacity to address infrastructure rust out, maintain basic safety and security in institutions and communities, meet its basic policy and legal obligations; and adapt to the changing offender profile.
The Panel was not mandated to consider the introduction of privately-run penitentiaries into the federal correctional system.
Panel—Process of Consultation
Throughout the spring and summer, the Panel visited penitentiaries, parole offices and halfway houses across Canada and met with hundreds of frontline staff and managers, union representatives and CSC Executives to see first-hand the operations of federal corrections in Canada.
The Panel also met with non-governmental organizations such as St. Leonard's and Elizabeth Fry who work hand-in-hand with CSC to provide services and, in some cases, accommodation, to federal offenders on conditional release. In a variety of sites, the Panel also met with volunteers who have dedicated their time and energy to working with offenders, both during incarceration and in our communities.
Lastly, the Panel also received written submissions from key stakeholders and interested Canadians and met with many in person to discuss the challenges and possible solutions facing federal corrections.
The first observation that the Panel wishes to make is to express our appreciation for the hard work and professionalism of CSC staff, NGOs and volunteers that remains largely unseen by Canadians.
Current Correctional Context
After much deliberation, the Panel believes that this Report charts a roadmap that is a transformation of the way in which CSC does business. This is driven in large part due to the changing offender profile. The picture of who is arriving at penitentiary doors is an alarming one:
- Nearly 60% are now serving sentences of less than 3 years and have histories of violence;
- There has been an increase of more than 100% in the proportion of offenders who are classified as maximum security upon admission;
- 1 in 6 now have known gang and/or organized crime affiliations;
- About 4 out of 5 offenders arrive with a serious substance abuse problem, with 1 out of 2 having committed their crime while under the influence; and
- 12% of men offenders and 26% of women offenders are identified as having a very serious mental health problem.
What this profile means is that CSC is now faced with an offender population that is more violent and requires either more interventions or possibly different types of intervention and this must be done in an even shorter timeframe than in the past.
CSC is to be commended for its efforts to rehabilitate offenders but it continues to face resistance from a portion of offenders who have no interest in rehabilitation and are content to "wait out" the system until they reach statutory release (automatic release at 2/3rd of sentence). It is the belief of the Panel 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.
CSC is also faced with severe challenges in safely housing today's offender population in antiquated penitentiaries. Many of the federal penitentiaries in existence today were built in the 1800s and early 1900s. Newer penitentiaries that were built in the mid-1900s reflect the correctional management philosophy of that era which assumed that all inmates could function as a homogenous group. It is not uncommon today to find 4 or 5 distinct sub-populations that cannot safely intermingle and 2 or 3 groups of offenders who have to be physically separated from other populations for their own safety, either through the use of segregation or special units. Over the past 10 years CSC has been facing capital and operating expenditure pressures. The rapid increase in demands for operational enhancements has caused CSC to make significant reallocations of its capital monies to the detriment of addressing the needs of its aging physical infrastructure. The Panel believes that this situation has to be addressed to provide the best cost-effective approach to addressing physical plant pressures without jeopardizing CSC's ability to fund its operating requirements.
The Panel is particularly concerned about the safety of front-line staff and we are of the opinion that they require more tools and training. Some of the most critical areas involve:
- the detection and prevention of illicit drugs entering penitentiaries;
- training on working with offenders with mental health issues; and
- motivational training for treatment-resistant offenders.
The Panel also notes with some alarm the significant reality facing CSC is that more than 40% of its staff could leave within the next three years, with a significant percentage of this group coming from the senior management ranks.
Finally, the Panel would like to commend CSC for its progress in providing quality services to victims. The Panel has concluded that the elements of the National Victim Services Program are sound and should result in even greater enhancement of the provision of information services to victims of crime.
Roadmap for the Future
The Panel believes that if the following five (5) key areas are strengthened, the Correctional Service of Canada will be in a position to offer greater public safety results to Canadians.
1. Offender Accountability
The rehabilitation mandate of CSC is not seen by the Panel as a one-way commitment. The Panel believes that if rehabilitation is to occur and truly be sustained, it must be a shared responsibility of CSC and the offender.
First and foremost, it is the responsibility of CSC to provide the opportunities and tools necessary to the offender—to provide the offender with ample opportunity to learn the skills required to correct behaviour. However, to change his or her behaviour, the offender must seize opportunities offered to change—to pick up the tools of rehabilitation and use them.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA)—which provides legal direction for CSC—is highly prescriptive in how CSC should operate—what it can and cannot do. In the view of the Panel, the Principles in the CCRA have to be strengthened to further emphasize offender responsibility and accountability.
2. Eliminating Drugs from Prison
It is not surprising that drug abuse and trafficking is an issue within the penitentiary walls given that about 4 out of 5 offenders now arrive at a federal penitentiary with a serious substance abuse problem. The current offender population is one that will look to find every vulnerability in CSC's security systems to introduce drugs into the penitentiary.
The Panel believes the presence of illicit drugs in a federal penitentiary is not only unacceptable but results in a dangerous environment for staff and offenders. This translates into assaults against offenders and staff, promotes transmittable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis and destroys hope of providing a safe and secure environment where offenders can focus on rehabilitation.
The Panel is recommending that CSC strengthen its interdiction initiatives on all fronts:
- Enhanced perimeter control
- Increased use of technology
- More drug detector dogs
- Better search of vehicles and individuals entering the penitentiary
- Intelligence gathering and sharing
A current snapshot of the employment needs of the federal prison population taken at intake assessment identified that more than 70% of offenders at admission had unstable work histories; more than 70% had not completed high school and more than 60% had no trade or skill knowledge.
The Panel notes that employment, as a priority program, has been eclipsed over the past decades with the advent and wide development and distribution of programs designed to address other core need areas (e.g., substance abuse and violence).
CSC staff has spoken repeatedly to the Panel about the need 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.
Without the means to earn a living upon release, an offender's rehabilitation is jeopardized. The Panel is therefore recommending that a more structured work day be implemented to allow for the proper allocation between work, education and correctional programs.
4. Physical Infrastructure
The Panel has heard from CSC how the shortcomings mentioned earlier could be addressed through the development, design and implementation of regional complexes across the country and moving away from a facility development approach that relies on stand-alone facilities.
A significant advantage of employing a regional complex design is the ability to reinforce an overall correctional management model that stresses the accountabilities of offenders to follow their correctional plans. No longer would CSC have to keep moving offenders between facilities within a province or across the country. Offenders would, as a norm, be maintained and managed within the complex but their overall location within the complex would be dictated by their motivation and participation against their correctional plans.
The Panel also sees the potential for being more effective in eradicating drugs from entering a complex. With four or five penitentiaries within one perimeter, CSC could invest in relatively sophisticated equipment to screen not only people but also vehicles entering the compound. Also, drug detector dogs could be used much more effectively as well.
A regional complex would also provide an opportunity to deal more effectively and efficiently with distinct segments of the population. For example, offenders who require ongoing assistance for physical health care needs could be housed in regional health care units thus avoiding expensive costs associated with prolonged stays in community hospitals. As well offenders with mental health care needs would have better access to services that are located in one facility and not thinly spread out over several penitentiaries.
This design would also provide an opportunity to more consistently address problems associated with having segregation units in every maximum and medium security penitentiary across the country. A common segregation unit within a complex would provide a more consistent approach to managing the behavioural problems that a small segment of the offender population presents on a regular basis. Common approaches by properly trained staff could provide a safer and more effective alternative to the smaller segregation units which are not staffed properly to motivate offenders to modify their behaviours in a positive way.
5. Eliminating Statutory Release; Moving to Earned Parole
Conditional release of offenders has been a cornerstone of Canadian corrections for many years and the Panel is supportive of that concept. As stated earlier, rehabilitation must be a shared accountability and the offender must work to address his/her risks and needs. Mirroring Canadian society—earning your own way—should be a core concept of life inside penitentiaries.
The Panel believes that any arbitrary release that is not made based on rehabilitation is counter-productive and, when aggravated by shorter sentences, reduces public safety. This has been demonstrated by the fact that most of the violent re-offending by federal offenders is done by those on statutory release. To improve public safety and re-orient the correctional system to a system that places true accountability on offenders is to require offenders to earn their way back to their home communities and demonstrate to the National Parole Board that they have changed and are capable of living as lawabiding citizens.
The Panel is concerned that approximately 40% of statutory releases are not successfully completed, with 30% of these releases revoked for breach of conditions, and 10% for new offences and that violent re-offending rates are three times higher for statutory releases versus parole releases. The potential for increased risk as a result of the changing profile of the federal population points to the need for change.
Poor program participation and completion rates point to a growing problem associated with offender motivation to participate in correctional interventions. The Panel is of the opinion that presumptive release is a key disincentive to offender accountability and is therefore recommending that Statutory Release and Accelerated Parole Review be abolished and replaced with an earned parole system.
Elimination of Statutory Release and Accelerated Parole Review, supported by significant enhancements to programs that engage and support offenders, particularly high-risk offenders, in making behavioural changes is key to improving conditional release outcomes.
The report contains 109 recommendations which supplement the five major areas to be strengthened discussed above. Each section begins with a discussion of the current situation, followed by the Panel's observations and recommendations for change.
Topics range in complexity so it is important to consider the context and interrelationships of recommendations as the Canadian federal correctional system, given its intricacies.
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