Report of the Task Force on Security


Inmate and staff sub-cultures have the potential to act as forces for constructive or destructive agents of change in an institutional environment. Indeed, much of the focus for change enunciated in this report have been driven by these forces.

Today, there are many inmate sub-cultures. Each institution has its dominant inmate culture and sub-cultures within. The inmate sub-culture may be positive; for example, it may give support and encourage fellow inmates in their involvement in programs that address their criminogenic needs. In some institutions a negative sub-culture exists which makes it difficult to operate effective programs. The greatest problem, of course, is in the high security institution. Sometimes offenders have a strong criminal sub-cultural identification in the community and they bring this identification with them into the institutions. Their anti-authority values contribute to a power struggle with staff and this disrupts the smooth functioning of the institution. The paradox is that such behaviour on the part of the inmates results in a stronger emphasis on control by the staff, and this in turn contributes to a strengthening of the negative inmate sub-culture. Thus, a cycle of negative reinforcement occurs that is very difficult to break.

The encouraging reality is that the strong negative "inmate code" that existed in decades past has been significantly ameliorated because of many factors: more emphasis on programs, more opportunity to make personal choices, incentives for program involvement such as conditional release opportunities, introduction of female correctional officers, and staff interaction at many levels. What we can learn from all of this is that we have been able to make significant changes in the inmate's sub-culture and we therefore do not need to accept that sub-cultural influences are beyond our control. We need to ensure that staff have the skills, interest and motivation to make such changes.

Similarly there are many staff sub-cultures within our institutions. The staff of the Correctional Service of Canada is as varied as Canada itself. It includes staff at National and Regional headquarters, all facilities of varying design and levels of security, and staff in the community. It includes correctional officers, teachers, shop instructors, clerical staff, psychologists, parole officers, chaplains, and many others of many backgrounds and experiences.

The staff are largely responsible for the "culture" of the Service, and are in turn affected by it. How strong the cultural influences are, and whether the influences are positive or negative, varies by region, by facility, and within each work unit.

"A great part of Restorative Justice involves simply caring and sharing with respect. Maybe someday,  with a lot of work and a little luck,  all the residents and staff of our  institutions  can be advocates and practitioners of restorative approaches as we work to build community inside and outside our prisons."

- David Hough

  • Core Value 3 of our Mission states:
    • "We believe that our strength and our major resource in achieving our objectives is our staff and that human relationships are the cornerstone of our endeavours".

The Guiding Principles and Strategic Objectives related to this Core Value underline the importance of all staff in achieving our Mission.

  • In recent years the Service has made an effort to ensure that the staff are more representative of the general public. The introduction of female correctional officers, Aboriginal staff members, and members of visible minorities has made a positive contribution to the culture of the Service.
  • The ideal security framework will have respect as a basic foundation. We must develop a "culture of respect" throughout the Service if we wish to achieve our Mission. Indeed, the Mission requires us to "respect the rule of law" and Core Value 1 of the Mission document states:
    • "We respect the dignity of individuals, the rights of all members of society, and the potential for human growth and development."

5.2.1. A Culture of Respect

Canada, as a country, has much to be proud of. Perhaps the most significant feature of the Canadian culture is what has been referred to as "unity within diversity". Canada is comprised of many different people -- our First Nations people, the descendants of early settlers, and an increasingly broad mix of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, religious differences, languages and practices. Yet, for the most part, we are a model for the world in having a harmonious, caring society. Respect is a foundation for this harmony --- respect for each other, respect for differences, and respect for the rule of law.

The Correctional Service of Canada should largely mirror Canadian society and it's values and in so doing we will become a model for the criminal justice community, nationally and internationally. We can do this by embracing the concept of "Restorative Justice". This concept is gaining acceptance in many parts of the world, has recently been endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada and will be part of a major United Nations Conference next year. It is a concept whose time has come. Fully embraced, it would have a major impact on our Service --- for the staff, the offenders, and all those who are associated with us.

"Corrections is a people business. Every one  to one interaction has a profound effect, adding up to effect the whole  of the organization."


- Peter Glynn

Restorative Justice provides a new paradigm for addressing crime and victimization. It recognizes that whenever a crime is committed, people are harmed and this harm creates an obligation to make things right. By viewing crime as more than the breaking of a law, Restorative Justice encourages the voluntary inclusion of victims, offenders and community in processes that allow for meaningful accountability, healing outcomes and reintegration. At the very heart of Restorative Justice is the principle of respect - a genuine respect for all people at the very time that it is least likely - following a crime. In this way, the principles of Restorative Justice can be applied to all human interaction, not just where a crime has been committed. Corrections has long been recognized as a "people business" - from the many interactions between staff, to the many interactions between offenders, and between staff and offenders. People interaction is at the heart of our business. We need to deal with each other in respectful ways. When there is a conflict - and conflict is inevitable with people interaction - we need to resolve that conflict in a restorative manner - one that leaves the individuals feeling respected.

Restorative Justice approaches have been championed by many people in CSC. This way of thinking was pioneered by Chaplaincy, and by staff and external partners working to develop new strategies for Aboriginal and women offenders. Evidence of Restorative Justice at work can be found in Circles of Support, which have been developed by community Chaplains and faith groups for warrant expired sex offenders. It can also be found at the healing lodges in the Prairie Region, and in the philosophy underlining the federally sentenced women's facilities.

In addition, the Restorative Justice and Dispute Resolution Unit developed a Framework Paper on Restorative Justice (May, 1998) that outlined how the principles and processes of Restorative Justice could affect CSC's work, including a whole section on how restorative thinking could contribute to the creation of healthier and safer workplaces and correctional environments. Later that same year, the Employee Assistance, Safety and Health Division commissioned a report that made similar recommendations about the necessity for integrated conflict resolution strategies for respectful workplaces.

Examples of the way that Restorative Justice is already affecting the way CSC is operating include the use of consensual decision-making processes on various National committees, the use of appropriate alternative dispute resolution processes at various institutions, the development of integrated conflict resolution strategies at many institutions, the mutual involvement of staff, offenders and community members in discussion groups about Restorative Justice.

Because of this many staff are able to model qualities of fairness and justice to the offenders under their care. If the principles of Restorative Justice are to become fully integrated into our Service, those persons who give leadership in this area must be empowered to provide leadership in CSC.

  • Recommendation:That the Service endorse the principles of Restorative Justice as consistent with the Mission and as the foundation for change to a "culture of respect".
  • Recommendation:That a conflict-positive culture be created by developing conflict prevention and resolution processes based on restorative principles for all disputes:
    • disputes between staff
    • > disputes between offenders
    • > disputes between staff and offenders
    • disputes involving other participants in our enterprise

5.2.2. C.S.C.'s Role with Respect to Victims

Historically, CSC has had little or no role with respect to victims. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act has now given the service a formal responsibility to provide information to victims when requested. It is suggested that CSC should significantly expand it's services to the victims of the offenders that are in it's care. CSC should endorse a restorative approach that supports all staff in responding to the requests of victims in ways that are respectful with a view to helping the victims in their healing journey. This approach would guide all our interactions with victims, including information sharing, referrals to appropriate community support agencies, and/or supporting the facilitation of a Restorative Justice process that may involve the offender. CSC needs to be sensitive to opportunities to foster healing processes.

There are a number of pressures encouraging CSC to re-examine its relationship to victims, including support for an enhanced role with respect to victims. A number of internal and external reports, including the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights report, and the Human Rights and Community Corrections report, have challenged CSC in this area. In response, CSC is currently in the process of developing a victim's strategy that will provide guidance for the development of this new strategy.

One example of how Restorative Justice is affecting CSC's work with victims includes a CSC funded pilot project currently operating in Winnipeg. The Restorative Community Reintegration Project was substantially re-focussed as a result of listening to and respecting the concerns of local victims groups. By using collaborative processes and respecting the feedback of victims groups, the project will now be better positioned to be more respectful when dealing with victims affected by serious crime and the program objectives are now more inclusive of their needs and points of view.

  • Recommendation:That CSC explore what more it can do to help victims and communities in their struggle for healing and their need for support.

5.2.3. Role of the Correctional Officer

As the Service has evolved, various roles have been developed for parole officers, unit managers, correctional supervisors, and a host of other specialized functions.While some of this specialization is inevitable in our increasingly complex society, it must be remembered that the Correctional Officer is responsible for making the environment safe for these functions to be carried out effectively. The Correctional Officer also has a great impact on, and responsibility for, the culture of the workplace. It is disappointing to learn that many correctional officers do not feel valued and speak of limited discretion and a sense of powerlessness. Ways must be found to turn this around so that correctional officers are empowered and valued - and as a result they will experience a sense of pride and self-esteem. We believe that the Correctional Officer must be recognized as a professional in security procedures, people management, and conflict resolution. Our view is that these duties form the core of the case management process and that without excellence at this level the risks to safety, health and reintegration are simply too great. The Correctional Officer is our "on site" expert. He/she interacts with offenders in a way that is fundamental to the success (or failure) of the organization. We strongly favour a redefinition of role that recognizes the inherent worth of the functions we have identified here. Having said this we in no way wish to detract from the role CO2's play in writing Progress Reports for transfer or for Temporary Absence. In fact we would support all efforts to strengthen this role. What we do wish to state emphatically is that there is a natural link between security, particularly dynamic security, and the case management process. One is heavily dependent upon the other.

We also would argue strongly that CO2's have a vital role to play in terms of conflict resolution on their Units. The CO2 must be empowered to solve day to day problems on the Unit. We would benchmark the experience of Correctional Officers in the United Kingdom in this regard.

We also think that it is imperative that we establish a meaningful, recognized system of selecting and training experienced staff to work with newer staff as coaches and mentors. This will have far reaching effects in serving to enhance the positive elements of the staff sub-culture.

  • Recommendation:That the role of the Correctional Officer be re-defined to reflect his/her primary role as a professional in security procedures, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, including conflict resolution, and case management.
  • Recommendation:That a system of accrediting experienced staff members to serve as coaches and mentors for newly appointed or promoted staff be established.

5.2.4. Uniforms

There is no consensus on the role of the uniform in our contemporary society. In some countries the uniform is worn by staff at all levels and worn with pride. On the other hand, some see the uniform as a barrier to comfortable interpersonal relations between staff and offenders. Whatever the prevailing views are, there is consensus that the current uniform should be improved and that to do so would contribute to improved morale and self-esteem.

  • Recommendation:That a national committee be established with representation from U.S.G.E. to review the policy and design of the CSC uniform.

5.2.5. Trust, Values, Attitudes, and Ethics

All workplaces develop cultures of their own and in turn influence the behaviour of those who work there. The workplace culture may foster a sense of belonging and identification with the overall purpose of the organization, or it may foster a sense of alienation if staff believe they are not respected, not consulted on changes, and have no "stake" in the success of the organization. It is believed that the influence of the sub-culture on the staff is stronger in correctional work environments because of factors such as the potential for physical danger, the difficulty of working with a hostile client group, unreasonable and conflicting expectations of the public, and the dependence staff have on one another for personal safety. This contributes to a stronger sense of "solidarity" among the staff. Line staff need to perceive supervisory and administrative staff to be part of the same team working together for common goals.

"Everything we do either contributes to or takes away from  our opportunity to do something good with an offender."

- Ken Peterson

If the staff can feel good about the purpose of the organization and their role in it, they will see supervisors as facilitators and resources to them. If, however, staff do not agree with the purposes of the organization, they will tend to unite as they perceive the offenders, the senior staff, and sometimes even the public as the "enemy". This sense of alienation often occurs where the inmate's sub-culture is stronger. The two cultures may interface and reinforce each other to the detriment of both, making adherence to the values of the Mission more difficult.

"If you don't take advantage of the opportunities, the dark side will pull the offenders away. There is no neutral ground."

- Ken Peterson

Sometimes staff members find themselves in a moral dilemma - do they go along with the group when to do so would violate their personal ethics, or do they remain true to their own values and risk alienation from the group? An individual's self-esteem and sense of well-being can be positively or negatively affected by how this moral conflict is handled. It is therefore important, for the sake of the staff and offenders and for the sake of the organization, to establish a climate where staff can be true to their own moral values and still have a sense of belonging. This requires strength of character, and ways need to be found to assist all staff in this regard.

  • Recommendation:That ethics training be an integral part of initial and developmental training for all staff to provide an understanding of ethical issues and skills needed to address moral conflicts.
  • Recommendation:That each work unit have a process, such as an "Ethics Forum", for the review of ethical issues to help foster a climate whereby individuals will be able to make personal choices consistent with our Mission.

5.2.6. Assisting Staff with Personal and Family Problems

If staff members are pre-occupied with personal and family problems (e.g. having difficulty coping with stress, a family member in trouble, addictions problems, or marital problems) they will be unable to function to their highest potential. For their sake, and the sake of the organization, timely and easily accessible counselling services should be available. While Employee Assistance Plans are in place, it is suggested that the plans for employees and their families need to be improved to provide total confidentiality, be as user friendly as possible, and be available at no cost to the employee.

  • Recommendation:That a more comprehensive Employee and Family Assistance Program be made available to all staff and their families on a confidential, self-referred and no cost basis.

5.2.7. Facility Improvements

If staff are truly valued, the organization will work toward facility improvements for staff areas - e.g. fitness and training areas, briefing areas, provision for dining and work areas - to create an environment that will foster pride in one's role and enhanced self-esteem. It should be noted that we found this to be emphasized in several countries and it is believed that the investment in such facility improvements is a strong signal to the staff of how they are valued.

  • Recommendation:That improvements be made in existing facilities, and incorporated into the design of new facilities, for staff fitness and training, briefing areas, dining and work areas. This is another instance where staff members should be involved in the planning process.

5.2.8. Staff Empowerment

Staff at all levels often feel powerless. Legislation and policy, along with our vulnerability to public criticism, can lead to a caution that inhibits creativity and innovation.

Staff need to feel they will be supported if they have acted in good faith, even if the results were not as intended. We need to ensure that law and policy are known and followed. We also need to be clear that within law and policy there is much room for professional discretion, and the discretion will be respected and nurtured.

A major tool in this equation is ensuring staff are consulted and informed on every aspect of our day to day operations. Shift briefings, staff meetings, staff forums, informal discussions - we must continuously seek to keep staff informed and involve them in the decision making. Our business is continually evolving, and this gives us many opportunities to involve and empower all staff members.

Another element having a direct bearing on the empowerment of staff rests in their ability to make decisions that have a direct bearing on the conduct of inmates. We have argued for the implementation of specialized units in multilevel institutions elsewhere. We want to emphasize here that specialized units will enable our staff to move inmates with some expediency to units more suited to their needs. This can be accomplished without transfer and without segregation.

5.2.9. Special Employer Status

The Correctional Service of Canada is subject to the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Employment Act. These Acts provide direction to a great variety of organizations that make up the Public Service of Canada.

The Correctional Service of Canada also has a unique function and managers have sometimes found their ability to accommodate unique demands frustrated by the requirements of legislation that applies to all other departments. Effective solutions to these unique demands are sometimes either blocked or extremely complicated. CSC has greater authority over the lives of other people than do most other government departments. It could be argued that the greater the delegated responsibility, the greater the accountability must be in a free and democratic society. While the P.S.E.A. and the P.S.S.R.A. are appropriate for most departments, special requirements may be justified for CSC because of it's level of responsibility over other people's lives. Perhaps "Separate Employer Status" would allow CSC to develop an appropriate "culture of accountability".

  • Recommendation:That Excom review the issue of "Separate Employer Status" to see if this alternative warrants further consideration.