ARCHIVED - Safe Streets and Communities Act: Increasing Offender Accountability
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As part of our commitment to help ensure the safety and security of Canadians, the Harper Government introduced the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which includes amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). These changes provide better support for victims of crime, increased offender accountability and ensure that the “protection of society” is the paramount principle of corrections and conditional release.
Better Support for Victims of Crime
A victim's right to participate in parole hearings is now enshrined in law. Although the CCRA clearly recognizes the interests of victims of crime and the role they play in the correctional and conditional release process, victims and victims' advocates have voiced dissatisfaction with the current provisions and have called for enhancements. The amendments to the CCRA will ensure a victim's right to attend and make statements at parole hearings.
Additionally, the CCRA will expand the information that may be disclosed to victims by the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. This includes:
- providing information on the reason(s) for offender transfers with, whenever possible, advance notice of transfers to minimum security institutions;
- disclosing information on offender program participation and any convictions for serious disciplinary offences;
- sharing the reasons for a temporary absence from a correctional facility; and
- providing guardians/caregivers of dependents of victims who are deceased, ill, or otherwise incapacitated with the same information that victims themselves can receive.
When offenders withdraw their participation 14 days or less before a parole hearing date without good reason, the Board may still proceed with a review and decision. This ensures that victims will no longer travel long distances to attend a parole hearing which is then cancelled at the last minute. Victims will also be able to request information on the reasons for a waiver of a parole hearing.
In addition to the reforms to maximize the knowledge available to victims of crime, a National Advisory Committee on Victims Issues, co-chaired by the Departments of Justice and Public Safety, has been created. This committee gives victims the opportunity to provide input into policies and procedures that impact victims and victims' services.
Increasing Offender Responsibility and Accountability
The current disciplinary system will now be modernized and enhanced, including:
- addressing disrespectful, intimidating, and assault behaviour by inmates towards any staff member or other person. The legislative wording will be updated to streamline the description of disciplinary offences. In particular, it separates “abusive” and “disrespectful” behaviour, and clarifies their meaning;
- creating a new, specific offence for inmates convicted of throwing bodily substances or knowingly making fraudulent claims to ensure they face disciplinary sanction; and
- providing that inmates convicted of serious disciplinary offences who are segregated from other inmates could also be subject to restrictions on visits.
Furthermore, adding a requirement in the CCRA to complete a correctional plan for each offender underscores the plan's importance. The legislation requires that a plan include certain elements such as behavioural expectations, objectives for program participation, and an offender meeting their court-ordered obligations, such as restitution to victims or child support.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act also includes provisions to:
- authorize police officers to arrest, without warrant, an offender who appears to be in breach of a condition of any conditional release under certain circumstances; and
- provide that the parole or statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence is automatically suspended.
Ensuring the Parole Board of Canada has the capacity and power it needs to protect society
The CCRA includes:
- consideration of the nature and gravity of an offence, as well as the degree of responsibility of the offender, in decision-making by the Parole Board of Canada and provincial parole boards;
- increases to the maximum number of full-time Board members from 45 to 60 to reduce the reliance on part-time members; and
- that the parole or statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence is automatically suspended.
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