Frequently Asked Questions: National Correctional Programs

General program questions:

  1. Why does CSC offer correctional programs?
  2. What are risks and needs?
  3. How do programs address an offender's risks and needs? What types of programs are offered? What are the goal(s) of these programs and how do they contribute to public safety?
  4. How do CSC's correctional programs change the behaviour of an offender?
  5. Do all offenders take correctional programs?
  6. Does an offender need to be in CSC's custody to take one of its programs?
  7. What are the criteria to participate in a program?
  8. Can offenders with physical or mental health care needs participate in correctional programs? If so, how are their needs met?
  9. How many programs can an offender take?
  10. Does one type of program take precedence over another?
  11. Are correctional programs offered at every CSC institution? How often are they offered?
  12. How long are programs?
  13. How many participants are there per program?
  14. Who delivers programs?
  15. What happens if an offender leaves a program because he/she is transferred to another institution or is released into the community?
  16. What happens if an offender drops out of a correctional program?
  17. Does CSC offer programs not linked to addressing risk?
  18. I have an idea for a program, what are the next steps?
  19. Do programs designed to reduce reoffending work?
  20. Do we follow-up with offenders after they have completed a correctional program?
  21. Is an offender's performance evaluated in correctional programs?
  22. Why are some of CSC's correctional programs only offered to men?
  23. Are psychologists involved in the delivery of correctional programs?
  24. Why are some correctional programs offered in institutions, while others are offered in the community?
  25. What are maintenance and self-management programs? Who can take these programs?
  26. What is the Integrated Correctional Program Model? How does it differ from other correctional programs for men offenders?
  27. How do correctional programs for women differ from those for men?
  28. Why were separate correctional programs developed for Aboriginal women offenders?
  29. Why were separate Aboriginal correctional programs developed for Aboriginal offenders? How do they differ from other correctional programs?
  30. How do CSC's education programs differ from correctional programs?
  31. Are educational programs different from province to province?
  32. How does CSC assess if an offender has educational needs?
  33. Does CSC pay for offenders to get a post-secondary education?
  34. Do offenders have access to a library?
  35. Do offenders have access to computers and to the Internet?
  36. I would like to donate some books for CSC's institutional libraries.  How do I go about doing that?
  37. What are social programs and how do they differ from correctional programs?

Question 1:

Why does CSC offer correctional programs?

Answer:

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) contributes to public safety by helping offenders to become law-abiding citizens so they can safely transition back into the community. CSC must offer a broad range of programs and services for offenders, both in institutions and in the community. These programs target the specific risk and need factors that are related to criminal behaviour. CSC also offers education and life skills programs. These can improve the chances of a successful transition back into the community and reduce chances of offenders' reoffending.

Question 2:

What are risks and needs?

Answer:

Risk is a measure of how likely it is that an offender will reoffend.

Needs are factors that may have contributed to an offender's criminal behaviour. They can have an impact on his/her ability to successfully transition back into the community. These factors may include friends and associates, history of criminal behaviour, harmful thoughts, history of family violence, education, employment history, and substance abuse.

The offender may also have physical or mental health care needs or disabilities that can impact his/her ability to participate in correctional programs. CSC conducts a detailed assessment of each person admitted to a federal institution. This assessment determines the factors that led to the criminal behaviour, the risk he/she poses, and how CSC can address the risk through programs, interventions and services.

Question 3:

How do programs address an offender's risks and needs? What types of programs are offered? What are the goal(s) of these programs and how do they contribute to public safety?

Answer:

Correctional, education, and social programs provide offenders with the opportunities, strategies, and skills they need to help reduce the risk of committing future crimes. These programs help them to become law-abiding citizens so they can transition back into the community upon release.

Correctional programs help offenders to make positive changes and address their risk factors. The main goal is to reduce reoffending. CSC also offers correctional programs specifically designed to meet the needs of Aboriginal and women offenders.

Education programs help offenders get the skills they need to be able to effectively participate in other programs. Improving education qualifications also increases offenders' chances of a successful transition back into society. The main goal is to improve literacy and education skills.

Social programs build an offender's capacity for change. They teach personal interaction and development skills. They also promote positive lifestyle choices.

Question 4:

How do CSC's correctional programs change the behaviour of an offender?

Answer:

CSC's correctional programs aim to change offenders' harmful behaviours and attitudes, while increasing their sense of responsibility for their actions. These programs help offenders understand why they committed a crime. These programs also help them develop skills in the following areas: emotions and conflict management; problem-solving; conflict resolution; goal setting; interpersonal communication; and, managing risk. In addition, correctional programs provide offenders with the strategies and tools they need to develop and maintain prosocial behaviours, healthy lifestyles and relationships once they are back in the community.

Question 5:

Do all offenders take correctional programs?

Answer:

Offenders are encouraged to participate in programs, but participation is voluntary. Offenders only take programs that address their risks and needs.

Question 6:

Does an offender need to be in CSC's custody to take one of its programs?

Answer:

Only offenders who are either in a CSC institution or on conditional release in the community are eligible to take CSC programs. Some federal offenders live in community-run provincial facilities, community correctional centres, or Aboriginal healing centres. Offenders may have access to CSC programs in these facilities. All CSC programs are delivered by trained staff.

Question 7:

What are the criteria to participate in a program?

Answer:

Most programs have a specific set of criteria for participation. Information on these criteria is found in CSC policy documents (Commissioner's Directive 726 — Correctional Programs and Guidelines 726-2 — National Correctional Programs Referral Guidelines). Generally, in order to participate in a correctional program, the offender must meet the criteria outlined in the referral guidelines.

All offenders with a grade level below grade 12 or its equivalent will have education identified as a need and will be referred to education programs. Offenders interested in pursuing vocational and/or post-secondary education programs must meet additional criteria.

Since social programs target specific offender populations, the criteria vary between the programs.

Question 8:

Can offenders with physical or mental health care needs participate in correctional programs? If so, how are their needs met?

Answer:

Programming for offenders with special needs is considered on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes an offender may be able to participate in regular programming with accommodations made by program facilitators or teachers. In other cases, they may be required to participate in other strategies, such as mental health interventions.

CSC's adapted Integrated Correctional Program Model meets the needs of offenders with cognitive impairments, mental health issues, and/or learning disabilities that interfere with their ability to participate in correctional programming.

Question 9:

How many programs can an offender take?

Answer:

The number of programs that an offender can take is based on his/her level of risk and need. Special needs, such as learning, mental or physical disabilities are also considered.

Question 10:

Does one type of program take precedence over another?

Answer:

Correctional programs, particularly those that address violence, generally take precedence over other types of programs. Those with a high educational need will have education as a priority if their sentence permits. However, priority would be given to the correctional program over the education program if the offender's sentence is too short to participate in both.

Question 11:

Are correctional programs offered at every CSC institution? How often are they offered?

Answer:

All federal institutions have programs, but not all programs are offered at all CSC institutions. Programs offered at an institution are determined based on the programming needs of the offender population at that particular institution.

Aboriginal correctional programs are offered in most CSC institutions for men and all CSC institutions for women.

Question 12:

How long are programs?

Answer:

For correctional and social programs, the length varies depending of the intensity and the frequency of the sessions. Education programs are run on a continuous basis. The length of time that an offender will participate in these programs will depend on his/her needs and progress. For more information on correctional, education, and social programs, please refer to our information on offender rehabilitation.

Question 13:

How many participants are there per program?

Answer:

Correctional programs have a maximum of 10 to 12 offenders at any one time in a group setting. For education and social programs, the number of participants depends on the program, the activity, the security level of the institution, and available space and resources. For more information on correctional, education and social programs, please refer to our information on offender rehabilitation.

Question 14:

Who delivers programs?

Answer:

Correctional programs are delivered by certified correctional program officers who have successfully completed the required training. Aboriginal correctional programs are delivered by certified Aboriginal correctional program officers who have also completed the required training.

Education programs are delivered by teachers who have been certified by the Ministry of Education in the province in which they are working. Education standards are different in each province.

Social programs are delivered or supervised by social program officers.

Question 15:

What happens if an offender leaves a program because he/she is transferred to another institution or is released into the community?

Answer:

If an offender is transferred to another institution they will be re-enrolled in the same program as soon as possible at the new institution. Additional sessions are available to cover anything that he/she missed during the transfer.

Some correctional programs can be taken in the community. Others are only available in an institution. If an offender is released into the community while participating in an education program, his/her education record will be transferred to the province. He/she will then have the option to enrol in an education program in the community.

Question 16:

What happens if an offender drops out of a correctional program?

Answer:

Program participation is voluntary. An offender can drop out of a correctional program at any time. If he/she drops out, CSC staff members will encourage him/her to re-enroll and participate in the program at a later time. Meanwhile, the offender may take a different program if he/she chooses.

It should be noted that program participation and completion are some of the factors that members of the Parole Board of Canada consider when considering release.

Question 17:

Does CSC offer programs not linked to addressing risk?

Answer:

CSC provides a wide variety of programs for offenders that are designed to meet the needs of the offender population. CSC's programming priority is correctional programs that are specifically designed to target the factors that lead to criminal behaviour.

CSC also offers social and education programs. These aim to help offenders to develop positive social and education skills.

Question 18:

I have an idea for a program, what are the next steps?

Answer:

CSC does not accept program proposals. CSC offers correctional programs that research has proven are effective in reducing reoffending. These programs are guided by correctional research, theory and practices. They undergo regular evaluations as well. CSC's correctional programs are developed by experienced program developers, facilitators, and managers. CSC also consults with internal and external stakeholders. For more information, please refer to CSC's Guidelines 726-1 — National Standards for Correctional Programs.

CSC also offers social and education programs. These aim to help offenders to develop positive social and education skills.

Question 19:

Do programs designed to reduce reoffending work?

Answer:

CSC's correctional programs are guided by the most recent evidence in correctional research. An evaluation of CSC's correctional programs in 2009 found positive results for the different programming areas. For example, the evaluation found that offenders who participated in the National Substance Abuse Program were 63 per cent less likely to reoffend with a violent offence than a comparison group of offenders who needed the program, but did not participate in the program.

Question 20:

Do we follow-up with offenders after they have completed a correctional program?

Answer:

A final program report must be completed for all offenders who participate in a program regardless of whether or not they completed it.

Men offenders can also participate in maintenance programs while women offenders are offered the opportunity to participate in self-management programs. Maintenance programs are offered both in institutions and in the community. Offenders are given a refresher on the lessons learned during the program. Participants are also given ongoing support and the opportunity to practice and enhance the skills they learned in these programs. Self-management programs are offered both in institutions and in the community. They provide offenders with support and assistance to maintain skills learned in correctional programs.

Question 21:

Is an offender's performance evaluated in correctional programs?

Answer:

Performance is evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine progress and to respond to the offender's needs. A final program report must be completed for all offenders who participate in a correctional program. An assessment of an offender's performance is completed against the objectives that are set for each program. This includes the offender's behaviour throughout the program.

Question 22:

Why are some of CSC's correctional programs only offered to men?

Answer:

CSC is legally required to offer programs that respect gender. Men and women have different risk areas that impact their likelihood of reoffendingFootnote 1. As a result, some programs are designed to meet the needs of men, while other programs are designed to meet the needs of women. In addition, because some needs of Aboriginal offenders differ from non-Aboriginal offenders, CSC is legally required to offer programs that meet the needs of Aboriginal offenders.

Question 23:

Are psychologists involved in the delivery of correctional programs?

Answer:

Psychologists are involved in the assessment of some offenders when they are admitted to an institution. These assessments help staff to determine what programs, interventions, and services would best address risk and meet the needs of the offenders.

Question 24:

Why are some correctional programs offered in institutions, while others are offered in the community?

Answer:

CSC is responsible for providing programs and services to offenders throughout their entire sentence. Some programs are available in both institutions and in the community. Other programs may only be offered either in the institution or the community. It depends on the type of program and at what stage the offender is at in his/her sentence.

Question 25:

What are maintenance and self-management programs? Who can take these programs?

Answer:

Maintenance programs provide men offenders with ongoing support to help them put the skills they learned into practice. These programs are available to men who have participated in a correctional program. These programs may be taken in institutions or in the community.

Self-management programs are maintenance programs for women offenders. These programs target women in the institution who need support to maintain skills learned in other programs. They are also available to women on conditional release in the community who need added support and assistance.

Question 26:

What is the Integrated Correctional Program Model? How does it differ from other correctional programs for men offenders?

Answer:

The Integrated Correctional Program Model (ICPM) is a "multi-target" correctional program model that CSC is implementing nationally. This program model was developed using the content from CSC's most effective correctional programs. It includes three separate program streams: a multi-target program; an Aboriginal multi-target program; and a sex offender program.

The ICPM differs from other correctional programs for men offenders in that it targets and addresses multiple factors at the same time. It also helps CSC to ensure that the right offender receives the right program at the right time during his sentence and that correctional programs are offered to those who need them most.

The ICPM addresses the risks and needs of specific offender populations. The benefits of the ICPM include enrolling offenders in programs earlier in their sentences and allowing more offenders into programs on an ongoing basis.

Question 27:

How do correctional programs for women differ from those for men?

Answer:

Correctional programs for women address the unique needs of women offenders. These programs help women understand the impact of their behaviour in different situations and relationships. These programs form the "Continuum of Care," which provides women with support from their admission through to the end of their sentences. There are also specific programs for Aboriginal women, which are part of an approach called the "Circle of Care."

Question 28:

Why were separate correctional programs developed for Aboriginal women offenders?

Answer:

Aboriginal people are over-represented in the Canadian correctional system. This over-representation is even more evident among Aboriginal women offenders. Many were victims before they became offendersFootnote 2.

Issues such as victimization, abuse, substance abuse, and gender discrimination and oppression are common among Aboriginal women offenders. They may also have faced racism, unfair working conditions, and a history of forced adaptationFootnote 3.Given their unique needs, CSC developed comprehensive, gender- and culturally-specific programs for Aboriginal women. Correctional programs within this approach form the “Circle of Care”. This provides Aboriginal women with support from their admission through to the completion of their sentences.

Question 29:

Why were separate Aboriginal correctional programs developed for Aboriginal offenders? How do they differ from other correctional programs?

Answer:

CSC provides effective programs and services to First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders to address the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the Canadian correctional system. Correctional programs for Aboriginal offenders address their unique needs (i.e., spiritual, emotional, mental and physical). These programs also aim to address issues related to the historical circumstances associated with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

Like other correctional programs, Aboriginal correctional programs address offenders' risk and need factors related to criminal behaviour. Aboriginal correctional programs differ from other correctional programs in that they are culturally relevant and include Aboriginal Elder involvement.

Question 30:

How do CSC's education programs differ from correctional programs?

Answer:

Education programs aim to improve literacy, academic and personal development skills. Correctional programs directly target specific factors that are related to offenders' risk to reoffend.

Question 31:

Are educational programs different from province to province?

Answer:

In Canada, education standards are different from province to province. As a result, CSC's education programs vary. Although education programs are regulated at the provincial level by ministries of education, CSC maintains a standard level of service and consistency so offenders can access the same or similar programs in federal institutions across Canada.

Question 32:

How does CSC assess if an offender has educational needs?

Answer:

Education needs are determined once an offender enters into CSC custody. Although the actual type of educational assessments may vary across provinces, the assessments that CSC staff complete are used to determine offenders' functioning grade level.

Question 33:

Does CSC pay for offenders to get a post-secondary education?

Answer:

Offenders may pursue post-secondary education while incarcerated. Courses are generally completed through correspondence with local colleges and universities. Offenders are responsible for all costs related to post-secondary courses. However, under some exceptional circumstances, an exception may be made for CSC to cover some or all of the costs. The criteria are outlined in Commissioner's Directive 720 — Education Programs and Services for Offenders.

Question 34:

Do offenders have access to a library?

Answer:

All of CSC's institutions have libraries. CSC's library services support institutional programs and address offenders' needs for recreational, cultural, spiritual, educational, and informative materials.

Question 35:

Do offenders have access to computers and to the Internet?

Answer:

CSC allows offenders to use institutional computers in a controlled manner for learning, work, programs, legal needs, and recreational use in designated areas. These computers are stand-alone and are not linked to CSC's security systems, external networks or the Internet. Offenders who owned in-cell computers prior to CSC's 2002 decision to discontinue offender-owned computers, continue to have them. These offender-owned computers also do not have access to CSC's security systems, external networks, or the Internet.

Question 36:

I would like to donate some books for CSC's institutional libraries.  How do I go about doing that?

Answer:

CSC welcomes the donation of new or gently used books from CSC staff and the public. For more information about how you can help support literacy, please contact: bookdonation@csc-scc.gc.ca.

Question 37:

What are social programs and how do they differ from correctional programs?

Answer:

Social programs aim to help offenders make personal changes in their lives. Correctional programs directly target specific factors that are related to the offenders' risk to reoffend.

Social programs teach personal interaction and development skills and promote positive and healthy lifestyle choices. These programs also help offenders learn how to use their leisure time constructively and in a pro-social manner. Social programs are unique in that they target factors that may impact offenders' ability to successfully transition back into the community. Unlike correctional programs, many social programs are not offered on a national basis, as they are subject to institutional need and suitability.

Definitions:

Correctional programs are based on behavioural and social learning theories. They focus on risk factors that contribute to criminal behaviour. They aim to reduce reoffending by helping offenders make positive changes to address their risk factors.

Education programs aim to improve offenders’ literacy and education skills. By increasing education levels, these programs can also help offenders participate in other programs.

Social programs aim to build an offender’s capacity for change. They teach personal interaction and development skills. The main goal is to promote positive lifestyle choices.

Risk is a measure of how likely it is that the offender will reoffend.

Needs are factors that may have contributed to an offender’s criminal behaviour. They can have an impact on his/her ability to successfully transition back into the community.

Related CSC Policies and Procedures

Commissioner's Directive 720 — Education Programs and Services for Offenders
Commissioner's Directive 726 — Correctional Programs
Guidelines 726-1 — National Standards for Correctional Programs
Guidelines 726-2 — National Correctional Programs Referral Guidelines
Commissioner's Directive 760 — Leisure Activities

Public Safety Partners:

Parole Board of Canada

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Bonta, J., Pang, B., & Wallace-Capretta, S. (1995). Predictors of Recidivism Among Incarcerated Female Offenders. The Prison Journal, 75, pp. 227-294.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Shaw, M., Rodgers, K., Blanchette, J., Hattem, T., Thomas, L. S., & Tamarack, L. (1991). Survey of federally
sentenced women: Report to the task force on federally sentenced women on the prison survey (Report No. 1991-4).
Ottawa, ON: Correctional Service Canada.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Moore, J-P. (2003). First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-Aboriginal federal offenders: A comparative profile (R-134).
Ottawa, ON: Correctional Service Canada.

Return to footnote 3 referrer