Volunteering in the Correctional Service of Canada
Corrections and the Criminal Justice System
Role of the Correctional Service of Canada
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is the federal government agency responsible for administering sentences of a term of two years or more, as imposed by the courts. CSC offers a variety of programs for offenders within the institution and those on parole in the community, to assist them to successfuly reintegrate into society as law-abiding, contributing citizens.
CSC does not determine the guilt or innocence of persons charged under the Criminal Code or other related statutes or set sentences for convicted offenders. When an offender is eligible for parole, CSC makes a recommendation to the National Parole Board, based on its assessment of the risk posed to society and the offender’s potential to reintegrate. CSC is also responsible for offenders on parole, statutory release and long-term supervision orders.
There are several pieces of legislation that govern the functioning of CSC. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations are the key legislative documents. Other governing legislation includes:
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- The Criminal Code of Canada
- The Canadian Human Rights Act
- The Privacy Act
- Access to Information Act
- The Official Languages Act
- The Financial Administration Act
- The Public Service Modernization Act
- The Public Service Employment Act
- The Public Service Labour Relations Act
Corrections and Conditional Release Act
The federal correctional system is governed by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). While the CCRA details the purpose of CSC, it also lays out a number of principles that shall guide the CSC in achieving its purpose. These principles are as follows:
- that the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the corrections process;
- that the sentence be carried out having regard to all relevant available information, including the stated reasons and recommendations of the sentencing judge, 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 and offenders;
- 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 and the public;
- that the Service use the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members and offenders;
- that offenders retain the 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;
- that the Service facilitate the involvement of members of the public in matters relating to the operations of the Service;
- that correctional decisions be made in a forthright and fair manner, with access by the offender to an effective grievance procedure;
- that correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and aboriginal peoples, as well as to the needs of other groups of offenders with special requirements;
- that offenders are expected to obey penitentiary rules and conditions governing temporary absence, work release, parole and statutory release, and to actively participate in programs designed to promote their rehabilitation and reintegration; and
- that staff members be properly selected and trained, and be given
- appropriate career development opportunities,
- good working conditions, including a workplace environment that is free of practices that undermine a person’s sense of personal dignity, and
- opportunities to participate in the development of correctional policies and programs.
The Mission of CSC was first adopted in 1989. It clearly defines CSC’s role within the criminal justice system and forms the blueprint for its accountability to Canadians.
The Core Values
Core Value 1
We respect the dignity of individuals, the rights of all members of society, and the potential for human growth and development.
Core Value 2
We recognize that the offender has the potential to live as a law-abiding citizen.
Core Value 3
We believe that our strength and our major resource in achieving our objectives is our staff and that human relationships are the cornerstone of our endeavor.
Core Value 4
We believe that the sharing of ideas, knowledge, values and experience, nationally and internationally, is essential to the achievement of our Mission.
Core Value 5
We believe in managing the Service with openness and integrity and we are accountable to the Minister of Public Safety Canada.
The Government of Canada made a commitment to protect Canadian families and communities. To further this commitment, Stockwell Day, former Minister of Public Safety, announced the appointment of an independent review panel to assess the operational priorities, strategies and business plans of CSC with the ultimate goal of enhancing public safety. The panel’s report was provided on October 31, 2007.
The panel reviewed CSC’s 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities and other relevant CSC documents. It visited CSC facilities and also consulted with stakeholders, justice experts, CSC staff and the general public. Based on this review, the panel provided the Minister of Public Safety with an independent assessment of CSC’s contributions to public safety, and advice on how they might be strengthened.
The independent Review Panel made 109 recommendations, concentrating on five key areas:
- Increasing offender accountability
- Eliminating drugs from prisons
- Developing employability/employment skills
- Renewing physical infrastructure
- Eliminating statutory release and moving to earned parole
There is much to consider in the years ahead about the Review Panel’s findings and recommendations, and what they mean for CSC, its people, and its business. Obviously, this is an important juncture for CSC, and one that presents an historical opportunity to position CSC for the future.
Overview of the Canadian Criminal Justice System
Overview of Criminal Courts
The Criminal Justice Process
Overview of Sentencing
CSC is responsible for the administration of sentences of convicted adult offenders sentenced by the courts to two years or more. CSC does not determine a person’s guilt or innocence.
The following clearly sets out the responsibilities regarding sentencing and how CSC fulfils its mandate to the Canadian public and the Government of Canada.
Parliament is responsible for establishing sentencing principles. The Criminal Code of Canada outlines the sentencing principles, as well the maximum, and at times, minimum length of sentence. Usually discretion is left to the judges to set the actual length. The Court takes into account these principles and extenuating factors when handing down sentences. They operate within the framework established by law, and base their decision on information provided by Crown prosecutors and defence attorneys, while always taking into account aggravating and mitigating circumstances. It is important to take note that CSC and the National Parole Board have no authority to change the sentence that was set by the Court. This can only be done through the appeal process or the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
The definitive purpose of the Canadian criminal justice system is always public safety. The significance of public safety to the Canadian government and its impact on criminal justice policy is reflected in the aim of sentencing, which is to “contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful, and safe society” (Criminal Code of Canada sec. 718). With that objective in mind, the federal government has brought about, guided and influenced the formulation of principles around criminal sentencing. The most important principle is that the sentence be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the offender’s degree of responsibility for the offence. It also states that an offender should not be imprisoned if a less restrictive sentence is appropriate.
Additional aims of sentencing include:
- Denouncing unlawful conduct
- Deterring the offender and others from committing offences
- Separating offenders from society, where necessary
- Helping in the rehabilitation of offenders
- Providing restitution to victims or the community
- Promoting a sense of responsibility on the part of offenders, such as acknowledging the harm they have done
The Criminal Code of Canada stipulates that incarceration should be a last resort, used in the absence of other effective alternatives. It is important to understand that should a judge decide that the safety and protection of the public is not compromised through the use of a community-based alternative, then sanctions such as fines, restitution, conditional sentences and community diversion programs may be imposed.
The Role of the National Parole Board
The National Parole Board (NPB) is an independent administrative tribunal that has the sole authority under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to grant, deny, terminate or revoke day parole and full parole. The Board also has the authority to hold certain offenders in prison until the end of their sentences.
The Board makes conditional release decisions for offenders serving two years or more in federal penitentiaries as well as those serving less than two years in the provinces and territories that do not have their own parole boards (only Ontario and Quebec have their own parole boards).
The NPB also has the authority to grant, deny or revoke pardons under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Criminal Records Act. A pardon is a formal attempt to remove the stigma of a criminal record for people who, having a conviction, have satisfied the sentence and remained crime free. Finally, the Board also makes recommendations for the exercise of clemency through the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
The NPB is headed by a chairperson who reports to Parliament through the Minister of Public Safety. It is important to note that the Minister does not have statutory authority to give direction to the chairperson or other members of the NPB in the exercise of their decision-making powers regarding the conditional release of offenders. The reason for having this structure in place is that it ensures the Board’s independence, impartiality and the integrity of the parole decisionmaking process.
Sentencing and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act
CSC administers the sentences of adult offenders, who have been given a sentence of two years or more. During this time of federal jurisdictional sentencing, CSC is mandated under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), 1992, Section 5 for the following:
- Care and custody of inmates
- Provision of programs that assist with rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community
- Preparation of inmates for release
- Parole, statutory release supervision and long-term supervision of offenders
- Providing a program of public education about the operations of CSC
The CCRA sets forth the legal framework within which the federal correctional system must operate. It sets out the principles for the administration of federal sentences along with the requirements for sentence calculation, forms of conditional release, and eligibility criteria not included in the Criminal Code. The operations of CSC are based on a “balance between control and assistance.”
Public Safety Canada
Public Safety Canada is responsible for protecting Canadians and helping to maintain a peaceful and safe society.
The Portfolio consists of the Department, and five agencies: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Correctional Service Canada (CSC), National Parole Board (NPB), and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
There are also three independent review bodies that ensure accountability and respect for the rule of law, and two statutory review bodies of CSIS.
Included in the Department is the The National Crime Prevention Centre. This Centre is responsible for implementing the National Crime Prevention Strategy – a strategy focused upon community-based early intervention efforts that deal with the root causes of crime and victimization.
The Department’s role within the Portfolio is to support the Minister in giving effective direction to the agencies responsible for policing and law enforcement, national security, corrections and conditional release.
Collaboration is essential in its work. As such, the Portfolio works in close collaboration with Justice Canada, which has primary responsibility for federal criminal justice policy. The Portfolio also works closely with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, as well as the voluntary and private sectors.
- The Deputy Minister for Public Safety represents the Department.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The RCMP enforces Canadian laws, prevents crime and maintains peace, order and security. They provide investigative and protective services to other federal departments and agencies; offer specialized police training, research and forensic (crime detection) expertise to all Canadian law enforcement agencies.
- A Commissioner, equivalent to a Deputy Minister, represents the RCMP.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service
CSIS is responsible for monitoring and investigating behaviour and events that may affect national security. CSIS provides security assessments on employees to federal government departments and agencies, as well as advice to ministers on immigration and citizenship applications.
- A Director who reports to the Minister of Public Safety represents CSIS.
The National Parole Board
The NPB is an independent administrative body that controls the conditional release of federal offenders and has the power to grant, deny, terminate or revoke parole for inmates in federal institutions. Upon recommendation from CSC, the NPB may compel offenders to serve out their full term. They also decide whether to issue, grant, deny or revoke a pardon under the Criminal Records Act and make clemency recommendations to the Government of Canada.
- A Chairperson who reports to the Minister of Public Safety represents NPB.
Correctional Service Canada
CSC is the federal government agency responsible for administering sentences of convicted adult offenders sentenced to two years or more as imposed by the courts. Responsibilities include managing institutions of various security levels and supervising offenders on conditional release in the community. CSC does not determine a person’s guilt or innocence, nor set sentences for convicted offenders. When an offender is eligible for parole, CSC does make recommendations to the NPB, based on its assessment of the offenders’ potential to reintegrate and the risk he/she poses to society. The most important consideration in the decision making process is public safety.
CSC also offers a variety of programs for offenders inside the institution and for those on parole, to help them make a successful transition back into the community.
- A Commissioner, equivalent to a Deputy Minister, represents CSC.
Canada Border Services Agency
CBSA was created on December 12, 2003. Its mandate is to manage the nation’s borders by administering and enforcing about 75 domestic laws that govern trade and travel, as well as international agreements and conventions.
The CBSA brings together all the major players involved in facilitating and managing the movement of goods and people into Canada. It integrates several key functions previously spread among three organizations: the Customs Program from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Intelligence, Interdiction and Enforcement program from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Import Inspection at Ports of Entry program from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- A President, equivalent to a Deputy Minister, represents CBSA.
- Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP
- Office of the Correctional Investigator
- RCMP External Review Committee
CSC policies are consistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations, other applicable statutes, and regulations and policies of the Government of Canada. Policies incorporate CSC’s values and support the Service’s priorities and objectives. CSC policies reflect special needs, including those relating to gender, culture and religion.
CSC policies are mandatory rules that govern the management of the Service, including the operation of its programs and activities. Commissioner’s Directives (CDs) and Standing Operating Practices (SOPs) are considered operational policies, which are developed subject to Sections 97 and 98 of the CCRA.
As per Section 97 of the CCRA, the Commissioner may make rules:
- for the management of the Service;
- for the matters described in section 4 of the CCRA; and
- generally for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Part and the regulations.
Section 98 of the CCRA further states that the Commissioner may designate as Commissioner’s Directives any or all rules made under section 97.
Federal Offender Population Profile 1
The offender population continues to change, presenting significant security and reintegration challenges for CSC. In recent years, the offender population has been increasingly characterized by offenders with extensive histories of violence and violent crimes, previous youth and adult convictions, affiliations with gangs and organized crime, serious substance abuse histories and problems, serious mental health disorders, higher rates of infection with Hepatitis C and HIV and a disproportionate representation of Aboriginal people.
The total federal offender population as of 2008 was 22,016. A total of 5,007 offenders were admitted to facilities in the federal correctional system last year. Following consecutive decreases in the federal incarcerated offender population from 1997-2004, there were small increases in each of the last three years. Presently about 60% of offenders are incarcerated and 40% are under some type of supervision in the community.
Among other things, between 1997 and 2005 changes to the offender population profile have included:
- More extensive histories of involvement with the court system – roughly 9 out of 10 offenders now have previous criminal convictions;
- More extensive histories of violence and violent offences, with far more assessed as violence-prone, hostile, impulsive and aggressive on admission;
- An increase of more than 100% in the proportion of offenders who are classified as maximum security on admission – 13% are now classified at this level on admission;
- An increase of 33% in the proportion of offenders with gang and/or organized crime affiliations – one in six men and one in ten women offenders, now have known affiliations;
- An increase of 14% in the proportion of offenders serving sentences for homicide – it now stands at more than one in four male offenders;
- An increase of 71% in the percentage of male offenders and 100% increase in women offenders identified at admission as having very serious mental health problems – 12% of male and 25% of women offenders are now so identified; and
- An increasing prevalence of learning disabilities as well as offenders with low functioning capacities.
In 2006-07, a review of departmental data found that for a number of complex reasons, there was a trend towards shorter sentences. More specifically, this meant an increase of 62% in the proportion of male offender admissions serving a sentence of less than three years. This resulted in an increasing polarization of the offender population, with roughly one in four male offenders and one in three women offenders serving sentences of three years or less, and roughly one in four male offenders and one in six women offenders serving life/indeterminate sentences – adding to the complexity of the management of challenges in CSC’s institutions. A review of data in 2008 showed that the average length of sentence of offenders admitted to a federal institution had stabilized at a term of 38.4 months.
Older offenders (50 years or more) represent 19.2% of the inmate population and 95% are men and 17% of offenders are Aboriginal.
Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) and mental health concerns are more prevalent in the offender population than the public at large. These concerns increase both the costs of incarceration and medical care within CSC as well as adversely affecting offender reintegration.
Women offenders account for 5% of the federal offender population. Of the total women offender population, 53.1% are in the community while 46.9% are in the institutions. Aboriginal women offenders account for 26.4% of the incarcerated women offender population. Of these, 86.7% are serving their first federal sentence. Women offenders serving an indeterminate sentence account for 16% of the women offender population.
Currently there are five women offender institutions, one healing lodge, and two national treatment centres. These include: Nova Institution for Women (Atlantic), Joliette Institution (Quebec), Grand Valley Institution for Women (Ontario), Edmonton Institution for Women (Prairies), Fraser Valley Institution (Pacific), the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge (OOHL) (Prairies), Institut Philippe-Pinel of Montreal (IPPM) (Quebec) and the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) (the Churchill Unit) (Prairies).
The Intensive Intervention Strategy, announced in September 1999 by the Minister of Public Safety, includes Structured Living Environment houses for minimum and medium security offenders with mental health problems or cognitive difficulties and Secure Units for women classified as maximum-security. These units have around the clock, dedicated staff present. All staff have received extensive, specialized training in mental health issues. Front-line staff in women’s facilities are not referred to as “guards” or “correctional officers”, but rather, as “primary workers”. In addition to traditional correctional officer duties, primary worker duties include case management and program support.
CSC addresses the needs of women offenders through supportive environments, extensive staff training and a wide variety of correctional, educational, vocational, and personal development programs.
1 Data provided by the CSC Departmental Performance Report 2006-2007 and from Performance Assurance as of June 2008.