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In Canada, the goal of the criminal justice system is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society. As the federal agency that manages Canadian penitentiaries and supervises federal offenders on conditional release in the community, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) plays an important role in contributing to public safety.
Research has shown that, for nearly all offenders, the best way to achieve public safety is the successful reintegration of offenders into society, through a gradual release using effective programming, support and supervision. To achieve these results, CSC must focus on actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens while it exercises reasonable, safe, secure and humane control in its institutions and effective supervision in the community.1 In doing this, it must ensure, at all times, that public safety is the paramount consideration in the correctional process.
The Correctional Investigator (CI) is the Ombudsman for federally sentenced offenders. The primary function of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) is to investigate and bring resolution to individual offender complaints. The Office, as well, has a responsibility to review and make recommendations on the Correctional Service’s policies and procedures associated with the areas of individual complaints to ensure that systemic areas of concern are identified and brought to the attention of CSC.
Over the years, CSC has worked with the CI to develop a unique and respectful working relationship, and to address and resolve issues of mutual concern. In his Annual Report, the CI provides an important, independent perspective on CSC operations, and thus gives CSC additional insight into its own performance.
His report this year is a compilation of issues that have been raised over several years and identifies areas where the CI considers that CSC has not met his expectations. The magnitude and breadth of the recommendations presented in this report require a comprehensive response which describes the context in which CSC operates and its ongoing efforts to improve results.
While the CI’s recommendations are not binding, CSC nonetheless takes this report very seriously, analyzing each recommendation in detail, with a view to addressing the issues identified that are most pressing and capable of being addressed within its existing resource base.
It is important to understand that even if CSC agreed with all of the CI’s recommendations which, as explained below, it does not, it would be beyond its reach and capacity to address all of them at once, given its existing financial and human resource constraints. Nevertheless, CSC is committed to continuous improvement and learning and this report provides an opportunity to do both.
In terms of overall context, the most fundamental point to be made here is that CSC’s approach must continue to evolve rapidly to sustain even the current level of correctional results because of the changing offender profile. The simple reality is that offenders today present a broader range of risks and needs than at any time in our history. They have, for example, more extensive and violent criminal histories as youths and as adults: ˇ
As well, approximately 12% of male offenders and 26% of female offenders are identified at admission as presenting mental health problems. These proportions have risen since 1997 (from 7% to 12% for men, or an increase of 71%, and from 13% to 26% for women, or an increase of 100%). Consequently, CSC needs to rapidly strengthen and integrate its response to the mental health needs of offenders in institutions and in communities.
Furthermore, most offenders now have unstable job histories, low levels of education, and are generally in poorer health, having much higher rates of infectious disease such as HIV and Hepatitis than other Canadians. In addition, Aboriginal peoples continue to be over-represented in the correctional system; approximately 3% of the Canadian population is of Aboriginal ancestry, in contrast to approximately 18% of federally incarcerated offenders.
Additionally, over 50% of new male offender admissions are now serving sentences of less than three years. This trend toward shorter sentence lengths has been increasing for nearly a decade and continues to increase, leaving less time to change a lifetime pattern of attitudes and behaviours.
At the same time, the proportion of people who are being released under supervision as a result of discretionary release decisions is decreasing and the proportion of those being released as a result of statutory release provisions, with less time in the community under CSC supervision, is increasing.
These factors pose significant challenges for the effective management, treatment, and employment of offenders while incarcerated and for their eventual successful reintegration into the community. In this context, if CSC is to continue to make the contribution to public safety that Canadians expect and deserve, it will have to build more sophisticated and integrated approaches within a fiscally responsible framework.
 See Annex A for CSC’s Mandate.
CSC administers 58 penitentiaries, 16 community correctional centres and 71 parole offices across Canada, to manage offenders who are sentenced to two years or more. On any given day, there are approximately 12,400 offenders in institutions and 8,300 under supervision in the community. On a flow-through basis, CSC manages approximately 26,000 offenders per year.
To position itself to meet the challenges of the changing offender profile described above, CSC’s approach will be to focus, over the next three years, on five strategic priorities in order to achieve the following results:
|1. Safe transition of offenders into the community;||A reduction in the rate of violent re-offending by offenders, both while they are in the community under CSC supervision and following the end of their sentence;|
|2. Safety and security for staff and offenders in our institutions;||A reduction in violent behaviour within CSC institutions;|
|3. Enhanced capacities to provide effective interventions for First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders;||A narrowing of the gap in the rate of re-offending between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders, both while they are in the community under CSC supervision and following the end of their sentence;|
|4. Improved capacities to address mental health needs of offenders; and||An improvement in correctional results for federal offenders with mental disorders; and|
|5. Strengthening management practices.||An improvement in management practices at all levels, in institutions and the community.|
Strategies have been developed for these five priorities and are now reflected in current business plans. Strategies for the four operational priorities, and expected results, have been developed based on extensive criminological research which demonstrates that gradual and controlled release of offenders to the community, when it is safe to do so, and with proper supervision and support — is effective in ensuring the short and long term safety of our communities. Offenders who have benefited from targeted interventions are less likely to commit new crimes.
Strategies for the fifth strategic priority, strengthening management practices, include focussing special attention on ensuring roles and responsibilities are well defined; internal communications are robust; teamwork is sustained across organizational boundaries and across disciplines; and management approaches are transparent, with decisions that are based on public service values, quality and cost effectiveness to provide public safety results for Canadians.
The CI’s Annual Report includes 42 individual recommendations (including sub-recommendations) covering a broad range of topics. Given the very clear set of five priorities that CSC has established for 2006-07 and beyond, and that the CI’s recommendations can be related to these priorities, CSC’s response to these 42 recommendations is organized in terms of how each of these relate to the priorities.
This structured response will provide clarity for the reader who may wish to cross-reference any other CSC report including, most importantly, its 2006-07 Report on Plans and Priorities, and other mechanisms for reporting to Parliament.2 It will also allow CSC to effectively monitor, where appropriate, progress in relation to its response as part of its ongoing work in implementing its business plan. For those who wish to review the response by numerical order of the CI’s recommendations, please see Annex B for a cross-reference index.
From CSC’s perspective, some of the 42 recommendations require additional attention at this juncture and others do not. In many cases, this is because, while CSC agrees with the overall thrust of the CI’s recommendation, CSC has already taken action in many of these areas. For example, as described below, improvements in the delivery of programs and services at institutions and parole offices, which contribute to preparing offenders for a safe and gradual transition to the community, are already underway, and will have positive impacts that have not been recognized in the CI’s report.
CSC will continue to work closely with the CI on many of the areas covered in the Annual Report. CSC has benefited greatly from the experience and input provided by members of the CI’s office in relation to policy development and improvement of processes. The OCI has, for example, been instrumental in making recommendations that have improved the process for review of use of force incidents.
It should be noted that CSC’s response does not include a response to recommendation 15 in the CI’s Report because it has been made to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness rather than to CSC:
I recommend that the Minister play a leadership role by requesting the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security examine the implementation of independent adjudication of administrative segregation decisions when it considers other amendments of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
CSC’s position on this issue has been clearly communicated to the CI. CSC is not in favour of, and does not support the implementation of independent adjudication, at this time.
This response to the CI’s Annual Report has been developed to provide more context than has been provided in previous responses. As such, it should provide the reader with greater insight into the complexities of managing a rapidly changing offender population, and into how, over the coming years, CSC intends to maximize it contribution to public safety by focussing on five strategic priorities.
 The Report on Plans and Priorities is tabled each year in Parliament and guides all business planning in CSC.