Report on the CSC Community Corrections - Municipal Discussion Groups (March 2010)

March 31, 2010

Prepared by:

Delta Partners Inc.

14-5480 Canotek Rd., Ottawa, ON, K1J 9H6
Tel: 613-747-8121
Fax: 613-744-5913
E-mail: tdegagne@deltapartners.ca

Executive Summary

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has conducted a series of discussion groups to engage key stakeholders in Canadian municipalities and communities in effective community corrections and, to improve CSC's capacity to better communicate with municipal leaders. The objective of these discussion groups was:

  • To exchange information between CSC and municipalities on community corrections and the correctional system;
  • To discuss the concerns and needs of both parties;
  • To identify how CSC can better communicate and what type of information the municipalities would like to receive; and
  • To build on the discussions by developing an outreach plan.

Based on a review of communities with significant release rates, five (5) cities across Canada were identified as potential locations for these discussion groups to take place. An invitees list was developed for each city, comprised primarily of municipal elected officials, business representatives and local community groups who were non-traditional partners, in addition to other criminal justice partners.

A total of four discussion groups were held in Halifax, Toronto, New Westminster and Edmonton. A fifth session, scheduled for Montreal, was postponed for logistical reasons. There were a total of 83 participants, including 55 community members. Most of the community members were community service providers or public safety workers, plus a handful of elected officials and business leaders.

Knowledge of the Federal Correctional System and Community Corrections

There appears to be a general understanding among participants (who mostly had some contact with the system in the past) that 'community corrections' entails supervised support for offenders who are serving the balance of their sentences while transitioning back into the community. However, most would say that the general public has little or no awareness of corrections activities occurring in their communities except when some high profile event occurs.

Based on the group discussions it would seem that a stronger focus and improved management of public perceptions is required.

Improving Communications

The dominant view of participants appears to be that the negative messaging fostered by the media is a major detriment to public support for community corrections This could translate into inadequate services for offenders in transition.

Participants offered a number of suggestions for a more balanced messaging and positive 'branding' of community corrections. It was also suggested that to offset any perception of a CSC bias toward offenders, that CSC's community partners could also take ownership of good news stories and promote the dissemination of the messaging within the community at large.

Strengthening Partnerships - Establishing New Collaborations

Participants generally agreed that local community stakeholder representatives have a role to play in public safety and the local community has a role to play in offender reintegration.

Traditional partnerships (such as the local police, John Howard Society, Elizabeth Fry Society, St. Leonard's Society, etc.) appear to be working fairly well. Therefore, most of the discussions focused on the need for 'non-traditional' partnerships with community service providers and/or community groups whose support is greatly needed to ensure the safe transitioning of an offender back into the community and which might also positively influence public opinion regarding community corrections.

Regarding the need for more and/or better services, it was suggested that improved partnerships might focus particularly on public housing, transportation, employment services and mental health and counselling services. Special attention was directed to the need for partnerships with employers and business community service clubs, educational institutions and, with respect to the need to involve Aboriginal communities..

Development of CSC's Community Engagement / Outreach Plan

Participants were asked to brainstorm items for a CSC outreach plan. The exercise resulted in a list of target audiences and outreach activities, as well as a few general planning considerations. It was suggested that when developing activities and determining target audiences, consideration should be given to ensure the distinction between national and regional/local level programs and activities, and equal consideration should be given to the development and delivery of proactive and transparent messaging. In addition, it was suggested that CSC should capitalize on the pride of its employees and their ability to deliver on a job well done. Moreover CSC should maximize on the various opportunities presented through outreach activities by building upon and engaging with current partnerships to promote the need for community support in the area of public safety.

Conclusion

After an analysis of these consultations, participants were overwhelmingly in favour of a more proactive and informative outreach by CSC. It is a big step to get from the results of a brief brainstorming exercise among a relatively small number of community stakeholders to developing a coherent, effective national outreach strategy. Nevertheless, the discussions described in this report provide a substantial amount of information and informed opinion upon which to make a good start. There are currently gaps in CSC's capacity to tap into community level outreach events which could increase their ability to better develop an overall outreach strategy and planning and more effectively communicate with the general public on matters of community corrections.

As a concluding thought, we would emphasize the importance of strengthening CSC's ability and capacity to foster new and build upon current partnerships. Capitalizing on these collaborative relationships is key to enabling CSC to extend their reach and engage with new and non-traditional stakeholders.


Introduction and Background

In March 2008, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the National Parole Board and Public Safety Canada Joint Committee on Community Corrections, hired a research company to conduct telephone interviews to explore the needs and perceptions of the Canadian municipalities regarding community corrections and the overall federal correctional system. Despite its exploratory nature, the process provided good indications about the approach CSC needs to adopt for future consultations.

As a next step, CSC has pursued discussions on community corrections and the correctional system with municipalities who have significant rates of release. By liaising with these municipalities, CSC wants to reinforce how stakeholders can influence the way the Service delivers programs and services, and welcome the creation of new partnerships to ensure public safety in these communities.

In this context, CSC has conducted a series of discussion groups. Their objective was:

  • To exchange information between CSC and municipalities on community corrections and the correctional system;
  • To discuss concerns and needs of both parties;
  • To identify how CSC can better communicate and what type of information the municipalities would like to receive; and,
  • To build on the discussions by developing an outreach plan.

The Correctional Service of Canada, as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.

The CSC mandate, as set out in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by carrying out sentences imposed by the courts. CSC does this through the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders with sentences of two years or more. It also assists in 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.

CSC is responsible for managing institutions of various security levels and supervising offenders under conditional release in the community. Currently there are approximately 13,000 offenders in federal institutions, and over 8,000 under supervision in the community. More than 90% of offenders return to the community, therefore it is essential that they maintain effective community corrections practices to ensure public safety. Community Corrections refers to the process(es) whereby offenders are gradually released, under supervision, into the community.

The correctional process cannot function effectively without the support of its community partners. Correctional Services Canada benefits from great collaborative relationships with various community partners. The Service is also committed to informing and consulting communities so that they can make a valuable contribution to the quality of the correctional process. Key to this process is consulting local stakeholders.

Participants and Methodology

Delta Partners Inc., an outside independent consulting firm, was engaged by CSC to facilitate the series of discussion groups and draft a final report. Working in close collaboration with CSC's Citizen Engagement Branch, the consultants developed a Discussion Guide which was used by the facilitator, in a general way, to keep the discussion on track without unduly limiting participants' freedom to express their views within the three-hour time limit allotted to each session.

Five (5) cities across Canada where there were significant rates of release were identified as potential locations for these discussion groups to take place. An invitees list was developed for each city, comprised primarily of municipal elected officials, business representatives, local community groups and other criminal justice partners.

A total of four (4) discussion groups were held in Halifax (March 4), Toronto (March 9), New Westminster (March 23) and Edmonton (March 24). A fifth session scheduled for Montreal was postponed for logistical reasons.

There were a total of 83 participants, of which 55 were community members. The following table shows the breakdown of participants who self-identified within a stakeholder category.

Which category best describes you? (N=45)
Elected Official 4.4%
Public Safety Worker 17.8%
Community Service Provider 48.9%
Business Leader 6.7%
OtherFootnote 1 22.2%

The discussion was structured around four themes as follows:

  1. Knowledge of Federal Correctional System and Community Corrections;
  2. Improving Communications;
  3. Strengthening Partnerships - Establishing New Collaborations; and,
  4. Development of CSC's Community Engagement /Outreach Plan.

Each session was kicked off by a local CSC official who briefly presented the CSC mission, mandate and local operations. Following the presentation and introduction of participants, the facilitator introduced the first discussion theme. Participants were given approximately twenty minutes for a 'table discussion', following which each table reported the results of their discussion in plenary. These were repeated for the three remaining themes.

The results of the discussions were summarized in several ways:

  • The facilitator recapped main points on flip-charts;
  • The plenary sessions and some table discussions were digitally recorded;
  • Participants captured main ideas during their table discussions on flash cards, and,
  • Structured feedback was collected from the brief questionnaires that participants were given time to complete during the session.

Results

Knowledge of the Federal Correctional System and Community Corrections

Participants were asked to discuss their understanding of the federal correctional system and more specifically 'community corrections', and some of the positive (benefits) and negative (drawbacks) aspects associated with it.

There appears to be a general understanding among participants (who mostly had some contact with the system in the past) that 'community corrections' entails supervised support for offenders who are serving the balance of their sentences while transitioning back into the community. However, there seems to be a lack of clarity in the distinction between federal and provincial correctional systems and their respective jurisdictions. Most would say that the general public has little or no awareness of corrections activities occurring in their communities, except when some high profile event occurs. Furthermore, when the average citizen is aware of community corrections, the perception is often that reintegration is seen as an easy way out (early release) for the offender and that justice is not being served.

Benefits Associated with Community Corrections

While recognizing the delicate balance between the need for public safety and the offenders' need for reintegration support, participants were generally positive about community corrections. It was suggested that CSC could present community corrections in a manner which would liken a story board; an explanation of the sequence of events, inclusive of the relevant milestones marking an offender's journey from incarceration to successful reintegration into the community. The story board would allow CSC to highlight the importance of community supervision and the relevance of community partners to ensure its success. Additionally this approach would allow CSC to demonstrate how, while still maintaining some controls, offenders are able to make the transition back to the community, access programs and services and benefit from CSC's partnerships through the assistance of parole officers and the communities. Community corrections as a whole works to prevent the likelihood of recidivism.

Drawbacks Associated With Community Corrections

Participants recognized the obvious drawback to successful community corrections in terms of the need for more services, particularly in the areas of housing, employment, addictions and mental health. They also recognized a general lack of informed understanding of how the system works, calling for better information sharing among corrections partners, with victims and with the public in general.

Another drawback highlighted was a loss of critical services within the community due to a lack of available resources, which easily translates to mean anything and everything from human to financial. Often non-governmental service providers appear to be competing for the same resources and therefore many cease to exist. Participants also suggested that any change in the law affecting community corrections could also have an impact on the related municipal services resulting in an onerous effect on taxes.

As well it was noted that offenders are at times reintegrated into a community other than from where they originate, thereby raising a concern that offenders have no apparent ties to the community. This may be an added challenge for community corrections, in the absence of any personal support network to help the offender.

In addition, it was suggested that community corrections suffers from the absence of a role for the community in the corrections process as a whole - at all stages, not just at the reintegration stage. This implies that community involvement and support might be more effective if the community were engaged throughout the sentence management process.

Based on the group discussions it would seem that a stronger focus and improved management of public perceptions is required. The dominant view of participants was that the negative messaging fostered by the media is a major detriment to public support for community corrections and this translates into inadequate services for offenders in transition. One service provider reported that panic in the community results from just ringing up and looking for spaces for people who are perceived as dangerous.


Whereas local policing authorities maybe at liberty to reveal more information to the media, CSC must act in accordance to the Federal Privacy Act. Therefore, by practicing a more proactive, transparent and balanced approach with regard to information sharing and positive messaging, CSC may see a reduction in negative perceptions toward reintegration of offenders into communities and the organizations who provide support and services.

At the end of the discussion, participants were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with several statements that reflect their knowledge of the federal correctional system and community corrections. The result is displayed in the following table, which indicates that, participants:

  • Were already somewhat familiar with the distinction between Federal and Provincial corrections;
  • Were only marginally aware of CSC's program and services in the community;
  • Did not agree that current programs and services in the community are sufficient to meet their needs for safe offender reintegration; and,
  • Agree that they were more aware about federal corrections as a result of the session.
Average score from 1 to 5 where:
1= Strongly disagree, 2= Somewhat disagree, 3= Neither agree nor disagree, 4= Somewhat agree and, 5= Strongly agree
TO Hfx NW Edm All Groups
1. Prior to today's session, I was already familiar with the distinction between Federal versus Provincial corrections. 4.4 3.6 4.6 3.9 4.0
2. Prior to today's session, I had a good knowledge of Correctional Service of Canada's program and services in my community. 3.7 3.1 4.1 3.4 3.5
3. The current programs and services in my community are sufficient to meet our needs for safe offender reintegration. 2.3 2.6 3.1 2.6 2.6
4. Today's session raised my awareness about the federal corrections. 2.8 4.0 4.3 4.2 3.9

On the questionnaire, participants were invited to briefly state their overall perceptions of Federal corrections in the community. A sampling of their responses includes:

  • Federal corrections - good work but largely unknown
  • Has become more inward in focus - a silo within the larger community
  • Stretched (for resources)
  • Has a good relationship with police and community
  • First priority - safety of our citizens
  • Seems like a holistic approach towards inmate reintegration into the community

Improving Communications

Participants were asked to discuss the level of community awareness around the importance of effective community corrections and also provide suggestions on how best to increase the level of awareness.

Articulation of the Challenge

Participants felt that the community is almost completely unaware of corrections. To quote one participant, "Until it becomes a personal issue, people aren't concerned about it. I don't think the average citizen really cares what's here." It was also suggested that, in some jurisdictions, people were more likely to be in denial about the existence of "those people".

Some think that this lack of awareness may be a good thing - reflecting that the system is working well. Others feel that Corrections may want to stay 'under the radar' for concern of arousing public fear or unease.

As stated earlier in this report, participants feel that the negative messaging fostered by the media is a major detriment to public support for community corrections and this translates into inadequate services for offenders in transition.

How to Increase Constructive Awareness

Some participants noted that this was a 'marketing' problem and so, to use the terminology of marketing, we describe the many suggestions as falling into one of two main categories - branding and messaging on the one hand and, 'marketing' channels on the other.

Branding and Messaging: Participants made the following suggestions on how to overcome the predominantly negative messaging that bedevils community corrections.

  • Sell CSC as a 'crime prevention' organization - perhaps people would perceive corrections in a more positive light. An explanation of the sequence of events, inclusive of the relevant milestones marking an offender's journey from incarceration to a successful reintegration into the community, would not only demystify the community corrections process but also demonstrate how the process aids in reducing the risk of re-offending, thereby providing a concrete example for marketing community corrections as a 'crime prevention' program. Everyone involved needs to be consistent with the messaging, thus contributing to the 'branding' of Community Corrections as such. Messaging may be reinforced by providing specific tools to help members of the public to manage their own safety - e.g. safety tips.
  • Change the stigma associated with common terminology and language currently used within the corrections world. For example, replace terms such as 'half-way houses' with 'transition centres', 'release from prison' with 'return to community' and, 'community corrections' with 'community reintegration'.
  • Develop and publicize success stories which are inclusive and promote the sharing of personal experiences, of both the offender and victim, to demonstrate the power of restorative justice. These stories should be balanced to exhibit how the correctional system and community corrections process work together, when and where there is the anticipation or risk for recidivism, building trust and ensuring public safety, and crime prevention.
  • Segment audiences for more effective messaging as the 'one-size-fits-all' strategy does not work when targeting varying demographics. For example, generation 'X and Y', our future leaders, are more technology savvy and will respond to a different style of messaging than the generation of baby-boomers.
  • Finally, messaging should include statistics and hard data such as the cost of incarceration in comparison to community corrections.

'Marketing' Channels: Participants made the following suggestions concerning the use of partnering agencies, other community groups, and the mass media as channels for community corrections messaging.

  • CSC needs to be more strategic in partnering with organizations that already have a developed media channel or avenue for distribution.
  • Collaborating with partners for the dissemination of good news stories to deter any perceptions of CSC pandering to offenders. Communications should be coordinated and more inclusive of linkages amongst agencies. One suggestion for accomplishing this would be to sponsor a forum with agencies to get to know each other. This would foster a collaborative way to deal with messaging - "four heads are better than one". It is also important to invest time in building relations (with community councils, police, etc.) based on respect, integrity and honesty.
  • Reaching CSC's non-traditional audience could involve expressing an interest in attending their respective events/meetings - e.g. school groups, church meetings, service clubs, residence associations etc. - it's easier than attracting ones own audience. It could address the lack of good information currently available by implementing a regular outreach (continuous) program focused on sharing factual, consistent and reliable information . Also, it could acquire champions from within the business and education communities.
  • City Council meetings offer CSC a good opportunity to present to the community as many people either attend or watch the television broadcast. In this context, it was suggested that the PowerPoint presentation given at the beginning of the current session would be very helpful for the community as it was concise with good statistics.
  • CSC needs to become more involved in the community. For example, the Service could foster children directed programs (e.g. Cadet Program and Chrystal Kids) - put the kids onto a non-violent path.
  • Use occasions like Corrections Fair (open house and recruitment) to promote and share information and messaging around community corrections.
  • Since most publications believe that bad new sells, CSC should consider paid advertising as a means to getting the good news stories heard. It should take ownership of drafting its own stories and mak them available to local media (tv, newspapers, radio).
  • It is generally a better practice to put a human face on communications. Several suggestions for this include:
    • 'Corrections' needs the face of somebody that people can relate to. Who does the talking?
    • Positive messaging needs to come from persons who have positive experiences with ex-offenders - an example is given of the woman living across from a half way house that borrowed a rake from the residents - things that people can connect with.
    • A speaker's bureau of ex-offenders. People are always interested when they hear an actual offender talk about his experiences because they begin to see him as one of them.
    • Developing a mentorship program consisting of successfully re-integrated offenders could serve as an effective means to bring credence to the message that community corrections does work.

Better Practices and Other Innovative Suggestions

Participants mentioned the following experiences and other specific suggestions that CSC could put forward as options for the 'better practices' label.

  • Cultivate and foster relationships with the various media outlets and/or reporters who have an interest in corrections. Providing relevant and accurate information can not only increase awareness and knowledge but can also ensure that our critics are formulating informed opinions.
  • Local television and radio media can be instrumental in providing a platform for CSC and offenders to have their stories heard.
  • How do you get stories out without bringing too much notoriety? A city has been converting heritage buildings to house the homeless which has been successful in raising the positive visibility of this demographic in the community.
  • Some groups reach out to the public by having their own event tent (on Canada Day, etc.) One participant reported that their community does things that attract kids to their tent (games, etc.). " We can talk to them and show we are serious about drug abuse, etc. - soft sell is an easier sell."
  • Community corrections agencies can reach out to municipally elected officials to be on their board and CSC's staff to be members of the residence association.
  • Community Residential Facilities hosting a community barbeques and other events have enjoyed tremendous success in terms of public acceptance. CSC should partner in planning and holding these types of events.

Participants were also asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with two statements that reflect their communications experience with CSC and their level of comfort in discussing federal corrections publicly in the community. The result is displayed in the following table, which indicates that:

  • The perceived effectiveness of CSC communications varies from region to region;
  • Participants are somewhat comfortable to express their views and/or discuss federal corrections publicly within the community; and,
  • Regions in which the level of comfort is highest are also the regions in which the perceived effectiveness of CSC communications is highest.
Average score from 1 to 5 where:
1= Strongly disagree, 2= Somewhat disagree, 3= Neither agree nor disagree, 4= Somewhat agree and, 5= Strongly agree
TO Hfx NW Edm All Groups
5. My previous contact with CSC was effective from a communications perspective. 2.5 3.0 4.1 3.4 3.2
6. I feel comfortable to express my views and/or discuss federal corrections publicly within the community. 3.5 4.0 4.4 4.1 4.0

About which subject areas would you like to have more information? Percent (N=50)
a) CSC Policies and Programs 32.0%
b) Intervention and Community Supervision 50.0%
c) Federal Corrections Performance Data 56.0%
d) Opportunities for Community/Citizen Involvement 54.0%
e) Local CSC Activities 52.0%
f) Other Footnote 2 16.0%
How would you like to receive this information? Percent (N=50)
a) Face to face meeting / Public forum 42.0%
b) E-mail Messages 44.0%
c) Website 44.0%
d) Written Communications by Mail 10.0%
e) Organized Visits to Correctional Facilities 34.0%
f) Contact with CSC staff or Volunteers 44.0%
g) Other Footnote 3 4.0%

Strengthening Partnerships - Establishing New Collaborations

Participants were asked to discuss ways of strengthening current partnerships and the creation of new partnerships. Initially discussions highlighted the various stages in partnership development, whether less formal arrangements such as networking or more formal such as providing a service. A suggested approach was to define the terms of reference, along with the overall purpose, and inclusive of any strategic planning, financial implications and expectations around service delivery as these are critical elements to ensuring an increased capacity to raising awareness and the delivery of essential services. In addition, it was also stated that there is a need to clarify and define roles and responsibilities, specifically where there is a differentiation in jurisdictional levels and functions. It was also suggested that the current federal funding system could be viewed as breeding a more competitive environment rather than one of collaboration amongst the various agencies and service providers. It was also noted that partnerships should be developed on the basis and understanding of what the offender and the community need in order to create a more integrated level of services and furthermore to facilitate the ease of identifying partners and or services within the community they serve.

Strategic Level Partnerships

Participants made the following comments regarding high-level partnerships that could be developed and/or improved:

  • The biggest partnership that could be improved upon is that between the Federal Government, the Province and the city.
  • CSC needs to partner better with other federal agencies to break down silos - e.g. Service Canada.
  • Other elements of the justice system should be brought to the table - should cultivate relationships with the Crown and Judiciary.
  • Media partnership needs to be more strategic. In addition to partnering a corrections employee with a reporter, the CSC Commissioner should meet with editorial boards.

Case Management Partnerships

In addition to the strategic partnerships listed above, participants identified several very specific needs for partnerships or linkages with respect to the case management process. These needs include:

  • Increased local case management input into National Parole Board decisions re: offenders under supervision.
  • Better articulation between the provincial and federal system when an offender is remanded from one jurisdiction to the other.
  • The link between institution and the community where the offender has re-integrated needs to be strengthened with regard to discharge planning.
  • A broadening of the discharge planning partnerships (e.g. with YWCA).
  • Development of partnerships to provide transportation from the point of release to the area of community supervision.

Service Delivery and Community Support Partnerships

Traditional partnerships (such as the local police and larger nation-wide community organizations such as the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society) appear to be working relatively well. However, there is a need to better foster these relationship to ensure that all parties can realize the clear benefit. Therefore, most of the discussions focused on the need for 'non-traditional' partnerships with community service providers and/or community groups whose support might positively influence public opinion regarding community corrections.

Regarding the need for more and/or better services, it was suggested that improved partnerships might focus particularly on social housing, transportation, employment services, mental health and counselling services. It was also suggested that partnerships be developed with some of the "Coordinating Committees" (e.g. Community Action Committee for Women who Experienced Violence) which represent a table of service providers. Also, municipal Social Planners should be partnered, as they have links to so many groups.

Special attention was directed to the need for partnerships with:

  • Employers and business community service clubs who might arrange to provide work experience, volunteer opportunities, personal mentorship in trades, etc.
  • Educational institutions for distance learning and career planning services.
  • Multicultural and particularly Aboriginal partnerships (e.g. Tribal Councils) - the latter on account of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) - Section 84; where an inmate who is applying for parole has expressed an interest in being released to an aboriginal community, the Service shall, if the inmate consents, give the aboriginal community:
    1. adequate notice of the inmate's parole application; and
    2. an opportunity to propose a plan for the inmate's release to, and integration into, the aboriginal community.
  • Cultivate and foster local media relationships to ensure they are receiving proactive, relevant and accurate information, which lends to promoting an informed community and removes the element of fear of the unknown.

Other partnerships are needed to 'get the message out' and garner public understanding and support for community corrections. Suggestions include:

  • residence associations;
  • schools;
  • service clubs;
  • faith groups;
  • seniors groups;
  • voluntary organizations; and,
  • crime prevention, community safety, and anti-violence associations.

Participants were also asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with three statements that reflect community roles in public safety and offender reintegration. The result is displayed in the table below, which indicates that:

  • Respondents do not believe that local community residents understand the need for supervision and support for offender reintegration;
  • Respondents do believe that local community stakeholder representatives have a role to play in public safety; and,
  • Respondents do believe that the local community has a role to play in offender reintegration.

Based on these reactions a fair conclusion to draw upon would be that there are opportunities available for the Service to reach out to and garner support from the community.

Note that individual responses to questions 8 and 9 are highly correlated (r =.90), indicating that, among these respondents, an interest in public safety goes hand-in-hand with an interest in offender reintegration.

Average score from 1 to 5 where:
1= Strongly disagree, 2= Somewhat disagree, 3= Neither agree nor disagree, 4= Somewhat agree and, 5= Strongly agree
TO Hfx NW Edm All Groups
7. The residents of my local community understand the need for supervision and support for offender reintegration. 2.2 2.3 3.1 1.6 2.2
8. Local community stakeholder representatives have a role to play in public safety. 4.0 4.6 4.8 4.3 4.4
9. The local community has a role to play in offender reintegration. 3.9 4.5 4.7 4.3 4.3
With which local stakeholders should CSC further develop a working relationship? Percent (N=55)
a) Law enforcement 74.5%
b) Provincial corrections 70.9%
c) Town council / City Hall 76.4%
d) Chamber of Commerce 67.3%
e) Faith Groups 72.7%
f) Social Services/Voluntary Agencies 81.8%
g) OtherFootnote 4 40.0%

Development of CSC's Community Engagement / Outreach Plan

Participants were asked to brainstorm items for a CSC outreach plan. The exercise resulted in a list of target audiences and outreach activities, as well as a few general planning considerations. Not surprisingly, the results of this brainstorming overlap considerably with the previous discussion of partnerships.

General Considerations

Target Audiences

Target audiences mentioned by participants include:

  • Ethno-cultural specific business associations
  • Employers, education institutions and housing providers
  • Across the board faith groups
  • Aboriginal and multicultural associations
  • Local riding associations and residence associations (when not in crisis)
  • Crime prevention groups and anti-violence associations
  • Community centres and seniors groups
  • Front line workers at municipal, provincial and federal levels
  • Courts (judges because they are unaware of what happens once sentenced is passed)
  • Media

Outreach Activities

As this was a brainstorming exercise, there was no critical lens brought to it. The list of suggested outreach activities includes:

  • Establishing a governmental dialogue around corrections issues.
  • Exploiting technology - develop a communication strategy around blogs, social media, etc.
  • Having champions from various fields of education and employment talk about corrections.
  • Conducting and/or sponsoring more communication and engagement activities such as:
    • Panel presentations including a wider spectrum of stakeholders, such as ex-offenders and victims
    • Pow Wows and town hall meetings
    • Speakers bureau
    • Ethno-culturally targeted public forums
    • Participation in Family Day activities and other community events
  • Do 'in reach' as well as outreach with some of the target agencies and community groups (e.g. Bring the message into district management meetings, etc.). Get more involved with others' activities in various cities such as 'victims awareness' meetings.
  • Establishing partnerships with post-secondary institutions (especially criminology departments) for research into best practices and promote public lecture series at various educational institutions. Also, let strategically important institutions like the B.C. Justice Institute know what Corrections is doing - let recruits know that this is the system they are joining - this is the senior system.
  • Developing and testing pilot programs involving partnerships.
  • Opening facilities such as the Centre for Restorative Justice (CRJ) to the community to see how it operates - CRJs are not frightening environments.
  • Engaging the media by:
    • Inviting media/editors to a round table discussion
    • Doing a week of stories on lives - focus on success stories (similar to stories that were done on Olympic athletes who had problems and turned themselves around).
    • Doing public service announcements (e.g. similar to Heritage Moments).

Recommendations

Based on participant feedback, there are two strategic routes that CSC could follow based on the desired level of exposure and understanding the inherent risks associated with either:

  1. Fly 'under the radar' in order to avoid stirring up public opposition; or
  2. Engage in proactive outreach.

It has also been recommended that CSC develop their capacity to become more aware of events taking place at the community level with other CSC sectors or regions, various community agencies, and other government departments. This would help position themselves for better and stronger collaborations through shared opportunities. In addition, participants have recommended that CSC partner with community agencies when conducting outreach events.

Conclusion

Participants in these consultations were overwhelmingly in favour of more outreach by CSC to develop a better understanding within the community around the federal correctional system and moreover to increase the level of awareness in relation to community corrections. According to the results from the discussion groups' evaluation forms, 53 of 55 respondents (96.5%) agreed or strongly agreed that the discussion group had been a worthwhile use of their time. Moreover, 44 (or 76%) agreed or strongly agreed that the information presented would be of practical value to them as a community member.

It is a big step to get from the results of a brief brainstorming exercise among a relatively small number of community stakeholders to developing a coherent, effective national outreach strategy. Nevertheless, the discussions described in this report provide a substantial amount of information and informed opinion upon which to make a good start.

As a concluding thought, the emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of CSC's ability to strengthen its capacity to maintain and foster current partnerships in the community. The focus should be on communicating a positive message and developing opportunities for ongoing collaboration and a view to extending its reach to further engage in a variety of ways with new and non-traditional stakeholders.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Those who specified 'Other' included: post-secondary education representatives (3), a community safety advocate (1) and other non-specified interest group representatives (2), provincial government employee (1), and a municipal policy support person (1)

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Footnote 2

Those who specified 'Other' included: domestic violence education in institutions, programs for offenders on parole, opportunities for funded partnering, educational/career planning, and promotion and development for staff.

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Footnote 3

Those who specified 'Other' included: working together on local pilot projects, stakeholder meetings, and having CSC representatives attend City Council meetings.

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Footnote 4

Those who specified 'Other' included: schools and universities (8), community groups (7), media outlets (3), business sector (1), Fed/Prov. Gov. Departments (1), labour unions (1), NGO sector (1), Aboriginal communities (1), politicians (1), newcomers to the city (1) and the next generation cohort (1).

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