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CSC is faced with a small number of offenders who file grievances continuously and in large numbers. These grievances must be managed more expeditiously, while protecting the offender's right to raise issues of concern for review and action.
The Panel reviewed legislative alternatives but concluded that they do not offer a fair and expeditious approach to managing these types of grievances. The Panel has concluded that these types of grievances should be reviewed and resolved at the first level of the grievance process and applying CSC policies at that level.
- The Panel recommends that CSC clearly establish criteria to define offender grievances that are considered frivolous and vexatious and review its Offender Redress System to ensure that procedures are introduced at the 'first level' of the grievance process to address these grievances in the context of CSC policy.
The Panel was asked to comment on the current approach used by CSC to classify and place offenders sentenced to first or second degree murder in a maximum-security penitentiary for at least two years from the start of their sentence. The Panel recognizes the severity of a sentence for first or second degree murder and that such a sentence reflects the courts intent to address the sentencing principles of denunciation and deterrence.
In February 2001, in the House of Commons, the then Solicitor General announced the then Commissioner's direction that offenders convicted of first and second degree murder would have to spend a minimum of two years in a maximum-security penitentiary, prior to being considered for transfer to a lower security penitentiary.
Since the announcement, the 2001 policy has been criticized by various stakeholders, including the Correctional Investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission as being inconsistent with the overall approach applied to all other offenders; specifically, individualized assessment and security classifications based on defined factors in the CCRA. Their argument is that the policy for lifers is contrary to law, as prescribed in the CCRA, which stipulates that an offender's security classification and subsequent penitentiary placement provide the least restrictive environment, in accordance with the offence, history and needs, and taking into account the safety and security of the penitentiary and the public.
This policy has also been challenged in court on three occasions and, in all cases, CSC was successful on technical or jurisdictional grounds. However, while the legal perspective supports CSC's ability to change its policy, it was noted that any policy change must allow for the individual assessment of offenders rather than a generalized practice.
Although CSC has since made some minor adjustments in terms of where the decisionmaking authority is for any exceptions to the current policy, these changes have not resolved the larger debate around the perceived legitimacy of such a policy.
The Panel recognizes that a life sentence is the most severe sentence that an individual can receive in Canada and believes that the management of offenders serving life sentences must be more clearly defined within the federal correctional system. The Panel also agrees that all offenders should remain at a determined security level as long as that level of security is deemed necessary to best manage the offender in light of public and penitentiary safety.
However, it is critical to ensure that all processes related to the management of offenders have a clear grounding within legislation. An overall management strategy should be in place to ensure that the implications of a life sentence are understood and managed in a way that ensures public safety is paramount and that the needs of offenders are addressed in a logical manner over the course of the long-term sentence.
- The Panel recommends that consideration be given to amend the CCRA to clearly define the initial security level and duration of placement of offenders convicted of first and second degree murder and the reasons for placement.
- Offenders convicted of first and second degree murder should be managed differently from offenders with short sentences. In light of the impacts of the amendment, CSC should use the results of intake assessment and the offender's correctional plan to manage the offender's sentence in a comprehensive manner until subsequent decision points related to the reassessment of the progress the offender has made in following the correctional plan.
The Panel has heard from a number of interest groups suggesting that the DNA Data Bank should be expanded to include a broader range of offences and that consideration should be given to taking samples from all federal offenders, regardless of the offence committed.
- The Panel recommends that, as part of its contribution to ongoing and effective criminal investigations, that CSC be supportive of any action that considers taking DNA samples from federal offenders in CSC penitentiaries, especially from sexual and dangerous offenders.
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