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Implementing The Life Line Concept: Report Of The Task Force On Long Term Offenders

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Moving the Life Line Concept Forward

The central defining characteristic of the Life Line Concept is that it is based on an equal partnership among Correctional Service of Canada, National Parole Board and the non-governmental proponents of the Life Line Concept, this partnership being reflected in the role and composition of the Life Line National Resource Group. Further expansion of any of the three components of the Life Line Concept requires building a large network of non-governmental organizations, nationally, regionally and locally. The specific reasons for this expanded network are as follows.

1. In-Reach Workers must be contracted through a community-based non-governmental organization, and therefore it is necessary to seek organizations in a wide range of communities in Canada.

2. Putting in place the range of community resources required to meet offenders' needs wherever they may be on conditional release demands the participation of nearly all agencies traditionally involved in this type of work, and also finding non-traditional partners at the community level.

3. The correctional system must address the needs of various specific offender groups, and an essential element in doing this is seeking the advice and assistance of non-governmental organizations representing their interests. This includes organizations representing women, Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians, Canadians of a range of ethnic or cultural origins, advocates for victims of AIDS/HIV, and others.

4. The growing awareness and opinions of the types of non-governmental organizations outlined above will also be of great value in developing the third component of Life Line, public education.

With the adoption of Life Line as an official service by the Correctional Service of Canada and this subsequent plan being developed to implement the Life Line Concept, it is now time for the Life Line National Resource Group role and mandate to be reviewed and updated. Its current list of Long Term Goals is as follows:

I There will be an In-Reach Worker available to each lifer serving a sentence in a Canadian prison.

II Develop a set of Standards and Guidelines which will form the basis for review and evaluation of Life Line programs across the country.

III Conduct a formal study on the lifer's potential role in the institution including access to programs, training, employment and community service.

IV Determine the key elements for success which could contribute to assessing offender risk.

V Develop standardized training and orientation packages for all In-Reach Workers.

VI Develop and implement a communication strategy to create a more positive appreciation of effective correctional programs for long term offenders.

VII Develop residential and related community resources to enhance the reintegration of long term offenders.

While it is clear not all these goals have been met in their full magnitude, it is a fact that expansion of Life Line services is becoming a reality. This should lead to a review of the overall role and mandate of the Group.

It is recommended that the role and mandate of the Life Line National Resource Group be reviewed now.

The Life Line National Resource Group was established to reflect the partnership that is the foundation of the Concept. Therefore, this review must also consider the view of the Task Force that the composition of the Life Line National Resource Group should address the need for the expanded partnership with a larger and broader range of non-governmental organizations. A previous section of this report discussed the need for expertise on Aboriginal and women offenders. As well, the full implementation of the Life Line Concept will depend on obtaining support from all parts of Canada.

It is recommended that the Life Line National Resource Group should:

  • include expertise on lifers and long term offenders, and on specific offender groups, at a minimum on women and Aboriginal offenders;
  • reflect the geographic, social, linguistic and cultural diversity of Canada; and
  • engage national non-governmental organizations involved in corrections.

 

Immediate Next Step

While the terms of reference and time frame for this Task Force were limited in scope and short term in nature, the Task Force was also aware that its work was not happening in a vacuum. Staff, offenders and managers in all parts of Correctional Service of Canada; staff and members of the National Parole Board and staff and managers of non-governmental organizations involved in the justice system are working on a daily basis with lifers and other long term offenders. Their knowledge, expertise, opinions and responses are what will determine how the Life Line Concept moves forward. Collectively, their contributions will also determine how effectively and completely the three components of the Concept will be implemented. It is therefore the view of the Task Force that they should have an early opportunity to see and provide feedback on the report of the Task Force.

It is recommended that the final report of the Task Force be widely shared within Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board and among non-governmental organizations active in the criminal justice system, as the first step in a broadly-based consultation effort to develop effective correctional responses to the needs of lifers and long term offenders in prisons and in the community.