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Victim Services at CSC
Security Classification of Institutions
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Victim Services has summarized information on the Federal correctional environment for victims of crime. CSC operates federal institutions for offenders serving a sentence of two years or more. Each federal institution has a security classification, which determines the level of security and layout of the premises, the operations, and the programming at each institution. Information on the security classification of institutions that CSC operates is provided for: the Special Handling Unit (SHU), Maximum-Security Institutions, Medium-Security Institutions, Minimum-Security Institutions, Women Offender Institutions, and Community Corrections and Conditional Release.
This site provides information on an offender's sentence at maximum, medium, and minimum-security institutions, including information on case management, intake assessment, security classification, transfers, programs, the CORCAN program, chaplaincy, information on visiting and the Private Family Visiting Program.
CSC is the federal government agency responsible for administering sentences of a term of two years or more, as imposed by the courts. CSC is responsible for managing institutions of various security levels and supervising offenders under conditional release in the community. The Mission of CSC states that, “...as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, [CSC] contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control”.1
The main piece of legislation that governs CSC is the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), enacted in 1992. The CCRA declares that the fundamental purpose of the Canadian correctional system is the protection of society. The CCRA recognizes that victims of crime have an important role to play in the criminal justice system and provides victims with an opportunity to participate in the federal corrections and conditional release process.2
Offenders who are sentenced to a prison term of two years or more serve their federal sentence in a CSC supervised institution. An offender will serve his/her sentence in a maximum, medium, or minimum-security institution, in a women offender institution or in the community on conditional release. There are maximum-, medium- and minimum-security institutions located in each region across Canada. CSC has institutions in each of its five regions: Atlantic region (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador), Quebec region, Ontario region (Ontario and Nunavut), Prairies region (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northwestern Ontario, and the Northwest Territories), and the Pacific region (British Columbia and the Yukon Territory).
Starting a Federal Sentence - Intake Assessment
When an offender receives a federal sentence of two years or more, the first step is to conduct an Intake Assessment. The purpose of the Intake Assessment is to:
- complete a comprehensive profile of an offender’s criminal and social history;
- assess the risk posed by the offender;
- identify the problem areas that need to be addressed to reduce the risk of re-offending;
- complete the Correctional Plan outlining how the problem areas will be addressed throughout the sentence; and,
- recommend a security classification and initial penitentiary placement.
The security classification determines the security level of the institution that the offender is placed in: maximum, medium, or minimum security. The Intake Assessment takes place over 70 to 90 days. Psychological risk assessments are conducted for some offenders. This process identifies the offender's needs and is a necessary first step in creating the Correctional Plan.
The Correctional Plan outlines and prioritizes the areas that must be addressed to reduce an offender’s likelihood of re-offending and to prepare him or her for safe reintegration into society. The plan serves as a basis to monitor the offender’s progress throughout the sentence. Static and dynamic risk factors are determined and assessed to prioritize the areas of the offender’s behaviour that need to be addressed. The plan includes certain restrictions on movement and actions, as well as commitments to participate in constructive activities - jobs, programs, etc. Since each offender has different needs and problems, each plan is different.
The Offender's Case Management Team
Each offender is assigned a Case Management Team (CMT), which includes a Correctional Officer, a Parole Officer, a Manager of Assessment and Intervention (MAI), and if applicable, an Aboriginal Liaison Officer and an Elder. The team works with the offender to achieve the goal of reintegration back into society as a law-abiding citizen. The team members work together to develop and evaluate the inmate's case based on institutional behaviour, work performance, and adherence to the Correctional Plan.
Correctional Officer (CO): there are two levels of Correctional Officers. The first level of COs are responsible for general security functions, reporting activities, and monitoring an offender's progress.
COs at the second level have a supervisory role, are part of the inmate's Case Management Team, interact with offenders on a daily basis, and observe behaviour. This CO is the inmate's primary contact with the CMT
Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO): assists all Aboriginal offenders while they are incarcerated. The ALO provides counselling and assistance concerning Case Management and Pre-Release planning for Aboriginal offenders. The ALO also assists the institutional staff as they engage with Aboriginal inmates, Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal community-based organizations, and other outside interests.
Elder: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Elders contribute throughout the sentence to meeting the cultural and spiritual needs of diverse Aboriginal offenders in correctional operations. Elders facilitate core national correctional programs based on Aboriginal teachings and guidance for those who wish to follow a traditional healing path.
An Offender Security Level rating (minimum, medium, or maximum) is determined for each offender. The security classification is based on the offender’s institutional adjustment, risk of escape, and risk to the public in the event of an escape. The classification determines the offender’s level of supervision and accommodation within the institution. Offenders are classified to the least restrictive level of security that can ensure the safety of the public, staff members, and other offenders, as well as the security of the institution.
- the seriousness of the offence;
- outstanding charges laid against the offender;
- the offender’s performance and behaviour while under sentence;
- the offender's social, criminal and, young offender history;
- any physical or mental illness or disorder;
- the offender's potential for violent behaviour; and,
- the offender's continued involvement in criminal activities.
The Parole Officer also completes a clinical appraisal of the case to determine if there are any case-specific factors not captured by the CRS. This appraisal is considered jointly with the results of the CRS in determining security classification.
Security Classification Review
Normally, the offender’s Parole Officer or Primary Worker (in women’s institutions) completes a security classification review every year. However, if an offender is serving a life sentence for first- or second-degree murder or a terrorism offence with a life sentence, the security classification review occurs every two years.
The Security Reclassification Scale (SRS) and Security Reclassification Scale for Women (SRSW) are research-based tools used to determine the most appropriate level of security at key points throughout an offender’s sentence and are used in conjunction with clinical judgement and psychological assessments. Like the CRS, they are used in conjunction with a clinical appraisal of the case. The SRS and SRSW reflect the same components as the CRS. The SRS and SRSW re-evaluate:
- institutional adjustment (ie. violent incidents, behaviour and program participation);
- escape risk; and
- risk to public safety.
Security Classification Review for Women
For each woman, a security classification review is conducted at least once a year.
- Maximum security - the review occurs every six months for women classified as maximum-security.
- A life sentence for first- or second-degree murder or a terrorism offence - the review occurs every two years for women serving life sentences for these offences.
- Medium security – the review occurs yearly.
- Minimum security - the review occurs only when there is reason to believe that a classification review may be required.
Please see Women Offender Institutions for more information on corrections for women.
Daily Routine in an Institution3
An offender's day is determined by the routine of the institution, which varies depending on the security classification of the institution. Offenders typically are involved in programs, educational activities, or institutional employment. The following schedule depicts a usual inmate weekday:
- 06:45 - inmate count
- 07:00 - breakfast
- 08:00 - go to program, work or back to the cell
- 11:45 - return to cell for inmate count and lunch
- 13:00 - go to program, work or back to cell
- 16:30 - return to cell for inmate count and then supper
- 18:00 - go to recreation, cultural events, self-help groups
- 22:30 - night inmate count
- 23:00 - lock-up
Informal inmate counts also take place several times a day, without interruption of activities. During the night, Correctional Officers make regular rounds to ensure inmate safety and that inmates are in their cells.
Transfer Decision Process
Offenders may be transferred to another institution for a variety of reasons, including emergency transfers, a judicial review, programming needs, or to accommodate a different security classification. Offenders may be transferred from their current institution to the Special Handling Unit (SHU), a maximum security, medium security or minimum security level penitentiary, a healing lodge, or a CSC regional health/psychiatric centre.
According to section 28 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), offenders are placed and transferred to the least restrictive setting required. All transfers take into account:
- the degree and kind of custody and control necessary for
- the safety of the public,
- the safety of that person and other persons in the penitentiary, and
- the security of the penitentiary;
- accessibility to
- the person’s home community and family,
- a compatible cultural environment, and
- a compatible linguistic environment; and
- the availability of appropriate programs and services and the person’s willingness to participate in those programs.
An offender may be recommended for transfer without request, called an involuntary transfer; this transfer is initiated by CSC for the reasons outlined in section 28 of the CCRA, stated above. Offenders receive all the information used to make the transfer decision, which includes the details of the incident or the reason that prompted the recommendation for transfer, the evidence or proof of its occurrence, and any other relevant information.
Emergency involuntary transfers are transfers used on an involuntary basis when there is immediate risk to the public, staff, or offenders that cannot be managed within the current site. This includes medical emergencies where an offender sustains an injury or condition that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health or life which requires medical intervention.
When offenders make an application to be transferred to another institution, it is called a voluntary transfer. An Institutional Parole Officer or Primary Worker reviews the transfer application and considers:
- the reasons in section 28 of the CCRA;
- issues of shared accommodation/double bunking and the offender’s suitability and manageability in that situation;
- the offender’s progress towards meeting the objectives set out in his or her Correctional Plan;
- the offender’s security classification; and
- the up-to-date Community Assessment that confirms the presence and level of support when the purpose of a transfer is to gain access to community support.
The Parole Officer or the Primary Worker interviews the offender to ensure the offender understands behavioural requirements at the transfer institution and different security level (if applicable). If the offender was transferred to access different programs, the offender is informed that failure to fully participate in programming may result in discharge from the program and/or return to the original institution.
A variety of correctional programs are offered at each security classification level. See the full list of correctional programs for more details about maximum security, medium security, minimum security, women offender institutions or on conditional release.
One of the correctional programs available at most CSC institutions is the CORCAN program. CORCAN is an industrial operation program that provides inmates with the ability to obtain work habits, skills and experiences that will be of value in the institution and upon release. In order to be employed by CORCAN, a minimum education level of Grade 10 is required.
CORCAN offers a variety of programs, including wood manufacturing, business offices, engraving, repair and maintenance, and machinery operation. CORCAN Manufacturing also offers custom capabilities that provide for complete architectural millwork of institutional case goods, office furniture, dorm-line goods and reception counter furnishings.
Chaplaincy and spiritual services are offered to all inmates; chaplaincy is the work of the faith community. The services are provided by chaplains and volunteers, who affirm and support the spiritual values of inmates and provide worship experiences. Accountability for the provision of these services rests with faith communities. They define valid practice within the correctional setting so that appropriate services can be provided to meet the religious needs of inmates.
Institutions generally have full-time chaplains in the Protestant and Catholic faiths with regular visits from the Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Pagan faith communities. Various religious services are conducted weekly, such as Catholic Mass, Muslim prayers, or Buddhist meditation, among others. Chapel libraries are available that include religious texts, such as Bibles and Korans. Inmates approved for Escorted Temporary Absences (ETAs) may attend worship services in the community.
Some institutions offer pastoral councils made up of inmates, community volunteers and chaplains. Spiritual events are held throughout the year and include multi-denominational services, Thanksgiving services, and volunteer appreciation events.
Aboriginal spirituality is also practiced according to traditional teachings. Institutional Elders and Aboriginal Liaison Officers facilitate the Aboriginal spiritual practices and use traditional medicines, such as sweet grass.
Women's institutions take a holistic approach to spirituality. This includes traditional spiritual services with a non-denominational approach. Services include individual and group prayer sessions, counseling, program delivery, and community escorts for religious services. As well, traditional Aboriginal spirituality is provided at the institutions. Elders play a key role in the development of the spirituality of the women and provide spiritual support, counseling and a connection back to an Aboriginal identity for Aboriginal women.
Inmates are allowed visitors weekly to assist with their rehabilitation. The visiting times are regulated and supervised by institutional staff in designated areas of the institution.
Private Family Visiting Program
The Private Family Visiting (PFV) Program enables inmates to develop and maintain positive family and community relationships that will assist them in preparing for reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens. Visits take place in special family visiting units located in the institutional within areas that provide as much privacy as reasonably possible. The fully furnished units have at least two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.
The duration and frequency of private family visits is normally up to 72 hours, once every two months. All inmates are eligible for private family visits except those who are:
- assessed as being at risk of becoming involved in family violence;
- in receipt of unescorted temporary absences for family contact; or
- in the Special Handling Unit (SHU) or are waiting to be transferred to the SHU.
An offender's spouse, common-law partner, children, parents, foster parents, siblings, grandparents and persons with whom, in the opinion of the Institutional Head, the inmate has a close familial bond, provided they are not inmates, are eligible for the PFV program. Inmates are not eligible to participate in private family visits with other inmates.
When a private family visit is requested, the inmate's file is reviewed for security concerns. A Parole Officer from the community interviews each prospective visitor and makes a recommendation. Inmates are responsible for the associated costs of the visit, including food provision for the family members for the duration of the visit.
See the Families of Offenders portal for more details on the PFV program and offender and visitor eligibility.
3 For more information, please see the Information Guide to Assist Victims: Federal Corrections and Conditional Release.