Inmate access to legal counsel during COVID-19
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) recognizes the operational challenges associated with COVID-19 for many law firms and advocacy groups across the country. CSC is also working hard to lessen the impact of this public health crisis on inmates in federal institutions. We have put in place a number of interim measures to offer financial relief and help inmates maintain access to their families, counsel and support networks.
In order to protect inmates, staff and our institutions, CSC has suspended visits at all federal institutions across the country, including for legal counsel. However, we understand the importance of inmates continuing to have access to legal counsel. Inmates can communicate with legal counsel via telephone, mail, and fax.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Due to COVID-19, what changes have occurred that affect offenders’ access to legal counsel?
CSC has suspended visits at all institutions across the country, including for legal counsel. This measure was implemented to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our institutions and to keep offenders and staff safe.
How can legal counsel communicate with clients located in a federal penitentiary?
Inmates can communicate with legal counsel via telephone, mail, and fax.
Law firms using toll free numbers can be added to an institution’s telephone common access list, which will make calls free of charge for an inmate. While an access list is generally limited to 40 contacts, institutions can temporarily exceed that to facilitate increased telephone communication with legal counsel.
Many law firms are working remotely and some have inquired about the use of call forwarding to a service provider. If law firms are working from home and use a third-party service for call forwarding, they can provide CSC with their number and it will be added it to the institution’s common access list. This will allow for three-way calling with legal counsel.
Costs associated with telephone calls
In cases where inmates are not able to fund the cost of phone calls to communicate with their counsel, the inmate is responsible for providing reasonable notice to CSC staff, of no less than 24 hours, of their wish to communicate by telephone with their counsel. CSC will ensure to facilitate this call as soon as practicable, either by allowing the inmate to place a collect call or by authorizing the use of a government telephone network line.
How can legal counsel send correspondence to clients located in a federal penitentiary?
Legal counsel can send correspondence by mail or fax. If correspondence is sent by fax, it will be delivered to the inmate as per inmate mail procedures. To prevent any risks associated with COVID-19, mail is quarantined for 72 hours before it is distributed.
Outgoing faxes to counsel
In cases where inmates are using fax to send correspondence to their counsel, the costs will be waived, and the inmate will only be required to complete an Inmate Request form, as well as a consent form, which allows CSC to share the documentation with the inmate’s counsel.
How can legal counsel contact clients located in a federal penitentiary for something urgent?
In situations where legal counsel are required to urgently speak with their clients, they can contact the institution’s main line, and request to be transferred to the Visits and Correspondence (V&C) Department. V&C will ensure that the inmates are notified in a timely manner that their counsel wishes to speak with them. Some institutions have implemented local procedures, specific to their institution (for example, the use of the fax machine to notify the institution that counsel wishes to speak with their client as soon as practicable). In these cases, the local procedures will continue to apply.
Can CSC email inmate documents to legal counsel?
CSC is not currently able to facilitate electronic sharing of documents by way of email. As per the Treasury Board Directive on Security Management, encryption must be in place to safeguard confidentiality when data is transmitted across a public network. Any emails leaving the CSC infrastructure and entering a public network would not have the proper encryption of the data.
CSC will continue to explore ways to securely facilitate electronic information sharing.
What if I have further questions?
CSC recognizes the impact that this global health situation is having on not only our inmate population, but on many departments, organizations, businesses and citizens across the country. We appreciate your flexibility and collaboration as we continue to assess the challenges associated with COVID-19. If you have any further questions about inmate access to legal counsel, please contact:
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