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Let's Talk

VOL. 33, NO. 1

How We Got Here
Background to Transformation

Kingston Penitentiary
BY Mary Beth Wolicky, Communications Specialist, Transformation Team

Changing offender profile

Over the past decade, CSC has been facing an increasing number of challenges, particularly those associated with the changing offender profile. The average offender coming through CSC’s doors now has a history of violent offences or violent behaviour. Offenders also are more likely to be involved in gangs or organized crime, be assessed as having serious mental health problems, and have substance abuse problems. As a result, most offenders require either increased interventions or different types of intervention. This must be done within an even shorter timeframe than in the past, due to shorter sentences.

Other overall challenges include a lack of financial resources to adequately fulfill our public safety mandate and the need to take a serious look at rebuilding or replacing a number of outdated penitentiaries.

The spring 2007 Budget provided CSC with bridge funding to address urgent requirements and announced that CSC would be reviewed by an independent panel. On April 20, 2007, the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, announced the appointment of an independent panel to review CSC’s operations, as part of the Government’s commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities.

CSC Review Panel

The Panel members included Chair Rob Sampson (former minister of Correctional Services for Ontario), Serge Gascon (long-time police officer in Quebec), Ian Glen (former chair of the National Parole Board), Chief Clarence Louie (Aboriginal business leader) and Sharon Rosenfeldt (victims’ rights advocate).

The Panel was asked to look at specific aspects of CSC and to prepare a report with recommendations, to be delivered to Minister Day on October 31, 2007.

Throughout the spring and summer, the Panel visited penitentiaries, parole offices and halfway houses to see first-hand the operations of federal corrections in Canada. They met with many groups, including frontline staff and managers, union representatives, CSC executives, non-governmental organizations, volunteers and interested members of the public.

The Panel released its report, A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety, identifying 109 recommendations in five key areas. The Panel believed that if these five key areas are strengthened, CSC will be in a better position to offer greater public safety results to Canadians.

Government response

As part of the 2008 Federal Budget on February 28, 2008, the Government endorsed a comprehensive response to the recommendations of the CSC Review Panel and allocated funding to support a robust first phase of implementation. This launched a long-term transformation agenda that will ensure that CSC is in a better position to improve results in institutions and in the community.

As Commissioner Keith Coulter said, “This is a turning point for corrections in Canada — an opportunity to make real improvements in our contribution to public safety — and we all have a role to play in our success.”

CSC Transformation

CSC’s efforts in support of this new agenda are being led by the Transformation Team, under the direction of Senior Deputy Commissioner (SDC) Don Head.

This is the first time in CSC history that a secretariat has been created to focus on issues that will transform correctional services. Accordingly, significant human and financial resources have been assigned to the task.

The members of the Team (and their previous positions) are:

  • Julie Blasko, Warden, Pittsburgh Institution
  • Richard Harvey, Associate Assistant Commissioner, Human Resource Management
  • Phil Higo, Director, Relationship Management and Client Services, Information Management Services
  • Jim LaPlante, Senior Advisor to the SDC
  • Suzanne Laplante, Director, Comptrollership Services
  • Brenda LePage, Warden, Saskatchewan Penitentiary
  • Denise Mainville-Vantour, Senior Program Policy Analyst, National Parole Board
  • France Poisson, Warden, Cowansville Institution
  • Chris Price, Director General, Security Branch
  • Mary Beth Wolicky, Manager, Corporate Communications
  • Morris Zbar, former deputy minister of Correctional Services, Province of Ontario

The members bring a wealth of experience in corrections, in institutions, communities and headquarters to the considerable task of transformation. They are working closely with CSC staff, the National Parole Board and our partners across the country on a wide variety of initiatives relating to the recommendations. The Team is coordinating CSC’s efforts to develop approaches and proposals for decision by CSC’s Executive Committee, the Minister or Cabinet.

The Transformation Team members have started by focussing on key areas endorsed by the Government in Budget 2008: eliminating drugs in the institutions; enhancing correctional interventions, programs, and employment and employability; strengthening community corrections; modernizing our physical infrastructure; and enhancing offender responsibility and accountability.

Commissioner Coulter, Senior Deputy Commissioner Don Head and the Transformation Team members have spent the first part of 2008 focusing on internal and external discussions and consultations with staff and managers across CSC, including those at National Headquarters, Regional Headquarters and individual sites. Effectively engaging stakeholders and partners in CSC’s transformation agenda is equally critical; conversations have begun with unions, citizens’ advisory committees, Elders, community partners, volunteers, non-governmental organizations and others.

These groups have all made valuable contributions to the transformation process by sharing information and ideas on how CSC can do things differently.

The Team has identified a number of “quick wins” in each category—initiatives that can be implemented in the short term and that can start producing immediate public safety results with a lasting positive effect. You will be able to read about the activities of several of the Team members in the next section. The other Team members are playing key roles in aspects integral to the transformation agenda, including information technology, finance, coaching, project management and communications. You will learn more about these parts of the transformation in future issues of Let’s Talk and other CSC publications.