Commissioner's Directive

Correspondence And Telephone Communication


  1. To encourage inmates to maintain and develop family and community ties through written correspondence and telephone communication, consistent with the principle of protection of the public, staff members and offenders.


  1. Section 71(1) of the CCRA.


  1. Section 184 of the CCRA;
    Sections 88, 89, 94 and 95 of the CCRR;
    Commissioner's Directive 084 - Inmates' Access to Legal Assistance;
    Commissioner's Directive 090 - Personal Property of Inmates;
    Commissioner's Directive 566 - Prevention of Security Incidents;
    Commissioner's Directive 566-7 - Searching of Inmates;
    Commissioner's Directive 566-8 - Searching of Staff and Visitors;
    Commissioner's Directive 566-9 - Searching of Cells, Vehicules and Other Areas of the Institution;
    Commissioner's Directive 860 - Inmates' Money.


  1. Inmates who are unable to read or write are entitled to the assistance of a person to assist them in preparing and reading correspondence.
  2. The following measures shall be taken to verify the contents of envelopes:
    1. letters sent to an inmate shall be opened and the contents of the envelope inspected by a staff member; and
    2. letters from an inmate shall be handed over unsealed to a staff member who will inspect the contents of the envelope.
  3. If items are found in the letters, the rules for inmates' money, personal property or confiscation of contraband shall apply. Envelopes in which letters have been forwarded to inmates may be withheld.
  4. When items are found in letters, the inmate shall be advised of the measures taken in accordance with paragraph 6.


  1. Normally, letters to and from inmates shall not be read. However, pursuant to subsection 94(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations, the Institutional Head or designate may, in writing, authorize a staff member to read correspondence when he or she believes on reasonable grounds, that:
    1. the correspondence between the inmate and the member of the public contains or will contain evidence of an action that would jeopardize the security of the penitentiary or the safety of an individual; and
    2. interception of the inmate's correspondence with the member of the public is the least restrictive alternative available in the circumstances.
  2. When letters are intercepted and read, this reading and the reasons for it shall be recorded. The inmate shall be promptly advised, in writing, thereof and given the opportunity to make representations, except in situations where the information would adversely affect an on-going investigation. In this case the inmate would be advised of the reasons and given an opportunity to make representations once the investigation is completed.
  3. When letters are read, the Institutional Head or designate shall authorize the following measures to be taken, as applicable:
    1. letters considered unfit for delivery shall normally be returned to the sender;
    2. the original letter or a copy may be retained by the institution, depending on the circumstances;
    3. any retention shall be duly recorded and the reason for it stated. When prevented from communicating with a person, the inmate shall be promptly informed, in writing, of the reasons, and shall be given the opportunity to make representations. The sender shall be notified and advised of the reason, unless the purpose of the retention would be thwarted.


  1. Correspondence between an inmate, or the person or group representing him or her and a person listed in Annex "A" is privileged and shall be forwarded unopened to the addressee.
  2. The Institutional Head or designate may authorize the correspondence to be opened and read in accordance with the considerations of paragraphs 9 and 10 if he or she is satisfied that there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the communication will not be or is not properly the subject of a privilege, and if conditions as outlined in subparagraphs 8 a. and b. exist. The person intercepting the privileged correspondence should treat the information contained therein as confidential.


  1. Under normal circumstances, incoming mail shall be distributed to inmates and outgoing mail forwarded to the Post Office within 24 hours of receipt.


  1. National Headquarters shall be responsible for the selection, installation and maintenance of a national inmate telephone system.
  2. Access to telephones, through an inmate telephone system, should be provided, on a fair and consistent basis, to help maintain family and community ties and to provide a direct link with families in the event of an emergency. To ensure consistency, standards for inmate access to telephones and the use of an inmate telephone system are provided in Annex "B".
  3. Telephone calls between inmates and members of the public may be intercepted (interception is defined as the listening to and/or recording of a conversation by some mechanical devices) if both of the criteria outlined in subsection 94(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations are met, and in accordance with Commissioner's Directive 575, entitled "Interception of Communications Related to the Maintenance of Institutional Security".
  4. The telephone monitoring system provides the Institutional Head or designate with the ability to manage, supervise and control inmate access to the inmate telephone system and its use for communication with members of the public.
  5. Telephone communication is a part of the overall program of reintegration into the community, similar to visits and temporary absences.
  6. Telephone calls for humanitarian purposes, such as illness, death in the family, or birth of a child, shall normally be provided without delay.


  1. An inmate may be prevented from communicating with members of the public by mail or telephone when:
    1. the Institutional Head or designate believes, on reasonable grounds, that the safety of any person, both in the institution and the community would be jeopardized; or
    2. the Institutional Head or designate is satisfied that the intended recipient of the communication, or the parent or guardian of an intended recipient who is a minor, does not want to receive communications from the inmate.
  2. Where an inmate's application to have a telephone number added to his or her call allow list is disallowed or an approved telephone number is blocked, pursuant to paragraph 20, the inmate shall be promptly advised of the reasons, in writing, by the Institutional Head or designate, and shall be given an opportunity to respond.


  1. Inmates shall be given the opportunity to retain legal counsel in accordance with Commissioner's Directive 084, entitled "Inmates' Access to Legal Assistance".


  1. Telephone calls to those identified in Annex "A" as authorized privileged correspondents, shall normally be granted. Such calls shall be provided, subject to operational constraints, during normal business hours. Inmates are required to provide reasonable notice, of no less than 24 hours, of their wish to communicate by telephone with privileged correspondents. However, the Institutional Head or designate may decide, depending on the circumstances, that the reasonable notice is not required.
  2. Calls between inmates and privileged correspondents are normally confidential. They may however be subject to interception if both of the conditions stipulated in subsection 94(2) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations are met and in accordance with Commissioner's Directive 575.
  3. Should the Institutional Head or designate determine the need to restrict access to telephone communication with privileged correspondents, he or she shall communicate the rationale for the decision in writing to the inmate and to the person concerned. Copies shall be forwarded to Regional and National Headquarters.
  4. Inmates or the recipients of the calls shall normally be responsible for the cost of telephone calls.
  5. The Institutional Head or designate may authorize the use of government telephone network lines by inmates for emergency situations such as serious family illness or death, or for any other special circumstance.

Original signed by
Lucie McClung, Commmissioner


The following is a list of authorized privileged correspondents and shall normally include the office and/or staff thereof.

  1. Solicitor General of Canada
  2. Deputy Solicitor General of Canada
  3. Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
  4. Chairperson of the National Parole Board
  5. Correctional Investigator of Canada
  6. Assistant Commissioner, Performance Assurance of the Correctional Service of Canada
  7. Governor General of Canada
  8. Canadian Human Rights Commission
  9. Commissioner of Official Languages
  10. Information Commissioner
  11. Privacy Commissioner
  12. Members of the House of Commons
  13. Members of the Senate
  14. Members of the Legislative Council for the Yukon, the Northwest Territories or the Nunavut
  15. Members of provincial legislatures
  16. Provincial ombudspersons
  17. Consular Officials
  18. Judges and provincial court judges of Canadian courts, including the registrars of those courts
  19. Legal Counsel
  20. Privacy Coordinators of federal departments



  1. Standards will be developed to permit the Institutional Head or designate to control and supervise inmate telephone communications.


  1. Institutional Standing Orders shall set out the following:

    1. procedures for assignment of Personal Identification Number (PIN) to each offender;
    2. procedures for establishing or amending an inmate's authorized call list (Call Allow List) - normally this should be processed within 15 working days of the inmate's written request;
    3. information to be provided on the authorized call list which shall include the address and name and relationship to the inmate;
    4. procedures for establishing, posting, and amending the Common Access Telephone List of up to a maximum of 35 telephone numbers;
    5. procedures for determining the time periods, during the week and weekend, that the inmate telephone system will be activated;
    6. procedures for the activation of the Call Duration Feature when there is a high demand for use of telephones so as to ensure equitable access;
    7. requirement that inmate telephones be positioned to permit line-of-site supervision by staff;
    8. procedures to ensure the confidentiality of private information provided by the inmates on their application to have a telephone number inserted on the authorized call list;
    9. procedures to ensure that the terminals associated with the inmate telephone system are held in a secure area;
    10. procedures to ensure that information derived from the inmate telephone system is accessed only on a need to know basis; and
    11. provision of access to a maximum of 40 telephone numbers on the authorized call list.

For more information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the Canada Gazette and Consulting with Canadians websites.