ARCHIVE - C. Refocusing the CCRA

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In the context of CSC's current priorities, we explore CSC's legislated mandate. We consider what we believe is the key rehabilitative principle and recommend changes to CCRA S.4 (Principles) to support an increased emphasis on offender accountability and propose changing the principle of 'least restrictive measures' with the principle of 'appropriate measures' to support correctional plan implementation. We provide recommended changes to CCRA Principles. The following chart provides an overview of the key issues reviewed.

(a) The CSC Mandate

The longstanding historical debate over crime, punishment, and the correctional system is essentially a discussion of the extent to which punishment overshadows or is overshadowed by efforts to correct criminal behaviour. This debate has taken place politically and in academia.

On October 7, 1971, Solicitor General Jean Pierre Goyer announced in the House of Commons the Government's intention to stress rehabilitation of criminals even though it posed a risk to the public. He went on to say that:

…too many Canadians…disregard the fact that the correctional process aims at making the offender a useful and law-abiding citizen, and not any more an individual alienated from society and in conflict with it... Consequently, we have decided from now on to stress the rehabilitation of individuals rather than protection of society.

This direction was not without controversy. Some view the correctional system as the mechanism for the infliction of the punishment component of the sentence, but it is clear to the Panel that the "punishment" and deterrent component of the Criminal Code's sentencing principles is achieved by the incarceration of the individual—the offender goes to a penitentiary as punishment, not for punishment. The correctional system is therefore responsible for implementing the rehabilitation principle as part of its overall mandate to protect public safety, thereby linking CSC to the broader criminal justice system in Canada.

To make it clear, the Panel has taken the position that an individual is sentenced to a penitentiary as punishment and CSC delivers on that principle by admitting the individual to one of its institutions and, within the limitations of the original sentence ordered by the courts, holding that individual until it is determined that he or she can safely be returned to society. CSC then imposes the various restrictions on the on the offender's personal liberty in order for the correctional system to deliver on the rehabilitation principle.

It was with this intent that legislators in 1992 created the legislative mandate of CSC, which states:

  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.

It is the view of the Panel that this mandate of control and assistance remains as relevant in 2007 as it did in 1992, and will continue to serve the Service and the Canadian public well into the future. However, the Act does not discuss the importance of the balance between CSC's responsibilities and the offender's responsibilities.

(b) Offender Accountability

The Panel does not view the rehabilitation mandate of CSC as a one-way commitment. The foundation of the Panel's philosophy is the belief that if rehabilitation is to occur and truly be sustained, it must be shared between CSC and the offender.

First, it is CSC's responsibility 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 their behaviour, offenders must seize those opportunities, pick up the tools of rehabilitation and use them.

A fundamental principle of democracy is that individuals are responsible and must be held accountable for their actions. This should be no different simply because an individual is incarcerated. In fact, the Panel believes that it becomes even more important for offenders to accept accountability for their criminal acts. They must learn that they are responsible for their actions and are obligated to respect the rights and freedoms of others in society.

The CCRA provides legislative direction for CSC, and is highly prescriptive in how CSC should operate, and what it can and cannot do. But the Panel believes that the Act is weak in defining offender responsibilities. The Panel believes that an offender's responsibilities have to be strengthened in the Act.

(c) Principles of the Act

Section 4 of the CCRA provides principles to guide CSC in its administration of offender sentences. The Panel is particularly concerned with Section 4(d) of the Act that states:

that the Service use the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members and offenders

The Panel believes that this principle has been emphasized too much by the staff and management of CSC, and even by the courts in everyday decision-making about offenders. As a result an imbalance has been created that places the onus on CSC to justify why the least restrictive measures shouldn't be used, rather than on offenders to justify why they should have access to privileges based upon their performance under their correctional plans. The Panel believes that this imbalance is detrimental to offender responsibility and accountability. The Panel acknowledges that these measures should be applied with respect to the Rule of Law.


  1. The Panel recommends that a substantive section be added to the CCRA entitled "Offender Accountabilities" and that, at a minimum, it contain the following:

    Offenders, as part of their commitment to society to change their behaviour and in order to help protect society, must:

    1. obey penitentiary rules as established by CSC;
    2. respect the authority of staff at all times; and
    3. actively participate in programs identified by CSC in their correctional plans (e.g., education, work, correctional programs).
  1. The Panel recommends that the following amendments be made to Section 4 of the CCRA:

    Note that the underlined text identifies the Panel's recommended changes.

    1. that the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the corrections process;
    2. that the sentence be carried out with regard to all relevant available information, including the stated reasons and recommendations of the sentencing judge, any direction provided by the Criminal Code on conditions of confinement, 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, offenders, and other members of the criminal justice system;
    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, the public, and other members of the criminal justice system;
    4. that, in managing the offender populations in general and the individual offenders, in particular, the Service use appropriate measures that will ensure the protection of the public, staff members and offenders, and that are consistent with the management of the offender's correctional plan;
    5. that offenders retain the basic 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, or that are required in order to encourage the offender to begin to and continue to engage in his or her correctional plan;
    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, and that offenders have access to an effective grievance procedure;
    8. that where possible, correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and Aboriginal peoples, the needs of offenders with special mental health requirements, and the needs of other groups of offenders with special requirements;
    9. that offenders be expected to actively participate in their correctional plans and in programs designed to promote their rehabilitation and safe reintegration;
    10. that offenders be obligated to obey penitentiary rules and to respect the authority and position of the staff, and any conditions governing their release to the community; and
    11. 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 personal dignity, and
      3. opportunities to participate in the development of correctional policies and programs.
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