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Response from the Correctional Service of Canada Response to the Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator 2005-2006

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PRIORITY 3 – ABORIGINAL OFFENDERS
Enhanced capacities to provide effective interventions for First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders

As previously noted, Aboriginal peoples continue to be disproportionately represented in the correctional system. Moreover, Aboriginal people admitted to federal custody are increasingly younger and are more likely to be incarcerated for a violent offence, have affiliations with gangs and have much higher needs (relating to substance abuse, health, employment and education, for example). While many needs of Aboriginal men and women are similar, they require different types of interventions to address those needs. Furthermore, research highlights distinct background, offence patterns and need characteristics among First Nations people on reserve, First Nations people off reserve, Métis and Inuit offenders.

To address the specific needs of all Aboriginal offenders, CSC’s Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections (2006-07 to 2010-11) will assist CSC in moving forward on three key areas:

  • implement initiatives within a continuum of care to provide culturally appropriate interventions that address the specific criminogenic needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit men and federally sentenced women offenders;
  • enhance horizontal collaboration and coordination within CSC, within the Public Safety portfolio, and with other levels of government, Aboriginal organizations and stakeholders, to contribute to Aboriginal community development and to help Aboriginal offenders initiate and sustain their healing journeys; and
  • address systemic barriers internally and increase CSC cultural competence

CSC’s response is organized according to its five priorities, and recommendations related to community transition, safety and security in institutions, mental health and strengthening management are included in those specific sections, since these issues apply to all offenders, regardless of their heritage. Those responses will not be reiterated within this priority.

CI’s Recommendation 6:

I recommend that, in the next year, the Correctional Service:

  • implement a security classification process that ends the over-classification of Aboriginal offenders;
  • significantly increase the number of Aboriginal offenders housed at minimum security institutions; and
  • build capacity for and increase use of section 84 and 81 agreements with Aboriginal communities.

CSC’S RESPONSE:

CSC will continue to develop and use evidence-based tools that facilitate the overall assessment and security classification of all offenders, including Aboriginal offenders.

CSC is actively pursuing strategies to continue to enhance its ability to provide effective interventions for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Offenders. At the same time, CSC will continue to work collaboratively with its criminal justice partners and the community to support the safe transition of Aboriginal offenders to communities, including those returning to urban areas.

  • implement a security classification process that ends the over- classification of Aboriginal offenders;

The security classification tool used by CSC is appropriate for Aboriginal offenders, and the criteria which are used to classify offenders are contained in the CCRA and Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR). Empirical evidence has not been provided by the OCI that Aboriginal offenders are over classified.

Criticisms have been levied against CSC’s reclassification methods. Therefore, CSC plans to conduct a needs analysis into the efficacy and cultural appropriateness of its re-classification methods, and will revise these methods, if the analysis provides evidence that changes are necessary.

As well, CSC is focussing its efforts on increasing access to programs and interventions which will help Aboriginal peoples who are incarcerated, to address criminogenic needs identified in each individual’s correctional plan, and consequently improve the process of gradual supervised release.

  • significantly increase the number of Aboriginal offenders housed at minimum security institutions;

The number of Aboriginal offenders eligible for transfer to minimum security is the result of a complex interaction of factors, not all of which are under CSC’s control. Nonetheless, CSC is committed to assisting Aboriginal offenders in achieving the correctional goals that would enable them to be safely housed at minimum security. To this end, CSC is integrating the needs of Aboriginal offenders into each of its operational activities, such as Programs, to maximize the resources and energy that can be brought to bear on this objective.

  • build capacity for and increase use of section 84 and 81 agreements with Aboriginal communities.

Section 81
As a result of increased Elder involvement and Pathways7 implementation, CSC healing lodges8 (minimum security) were near full capacity, as of March 31, 2006. The transition of four CSC-operated facilities to Aboriginal communities, and the development of new proposals for section 81 agreements, is dependent on a community’s capacity to assume responsibility. A variety of funding mechanisms through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) are in place to assist communities in developing that capacity.

Section 84
In 2005-06, 226 release plans were completed for presentation to NPB, reflecting a significant increase in community involvement. These release plans do not constitute agreements. Parole Officers integrate the plans into documentation for NPB’s consideration in making a decision for a conditional release.

As noted previously in response to recommendation 5, ACDO positions have been staffed across the country to create links for both men and women offenders with Aboriginal communities, raise Aboriginal community interest in participating in the correctional process, and initiate section 84 agreements.

Also noted elsewhere in this document, the Section 84 Conditional Release Planning Kit has been produced and widely distributed throughout CSC.

[7] Pathways: traditional environment for Aboriginal offenders who wish to follow a healing path.

[8] Healing Lodges: institutions that offer culturally appropriate services and programs in an environment that incorporates Aboriginal peoples’ traditions and beliefs.