Inmate access to legal counsel during COVID-19
The Correctional Service 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. CSC has put in place a number of interim measures to offer financial relief and help inmates maintain access to:
- their families
- counsel, and
- support networks
Certain measures are in place to protect inmates, staff and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out:
To protect inmates, staff and our institutions, CSC has suspended visits at some 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:
- mail, and
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Due to COVID-19, what changes have occurred that affect offenders’ access to legal counsel?
Based on the COVID-19 situation in the local community, CSC has suspended visits at some institutions, including for legal counsel. Where visits are suspended, and there are no COVID-19 cases at the facility, closed visits from legal counsel may be permitted in exceptional circumstances. These measures were 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. At sites that are accepting visitors, lawyers are permitted for in-person visits if they are from a community that is not subject to:
Offenders can access legal aid toll free on all institutional phones via the institutions common access list. Inmates can also add any law firm to their call allow list and call at any time when the phones are available in the institution. Inmates may call collect using these phones, provided there is someone to accept the charges when the call goes though.
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 that number can be entered to allow for call forwarding, once CSC confirms the number.
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.
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:
regional contact information for questions about inmate access to legal counsel Region Name Email address Atlantic Darcy Leblanc email@example.com Quebec - firstname.lastname@example.org Ontario Jill Botelho email@example.com Prairie Christine Hills firstname.lastname@example.org Pacific Samantha Cater email@example.com
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