COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: September 14, 2020

This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada's (CSC’s) stakeholders from the Commissioner of CSC.

September marks a time of change for many families with a return to routines and children going back to school. However, this year looks different for many families across the country. The silver lining is that we have all done a lot of work to keep each other and those around us safe. We continue to learn new things about COVID-19 and it is important that we stay up-to-date on the facts and remain responsive in how we manage through it. We are thinking through every operational decision with health and safety in mind. Thank you to all of you who continue to work with us as we reinstate a number of activities under heightened health and safety measures.

Risk Management Framework and changing risk levels

In shaping our new normal, we have established a Risk Management Framework (RMF), which guides us in how we phase in activities and conduct operations during COVID-19. It outlines different risk levels and mitigation strategies associated with each operational activity. To inform these decisions, we have been working closely with stakeholders, our labour partners and the Public Health Agency of Canada. We have had productive discussions on which measures need to be put in place to safely resume certain activities. If, at any time, the COVID-19 risks associated with an activity change, the RMF identifies actions we will take in response.

Our Health Services Sector is constantly monitoring and analyzing public health data. It is important to remember that a case of COVID-19 in a community does not equal community transmission. When Health Services identifies that there are 10 incidence cases per week per 100 000 people in the local community (defined by public health authority boundaries), they collaborate directly with local public health authorities; and engage three committees: the Management Early Response Committee, the Health Operations Working group, and Local Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees. Health Services has identified a communication tree to ensure that everyone who needs to know is informed of any changes to a facility’s risk level in the RMF.

In-person volunteer activities

I am pleased to share with you that Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is resuming some in-person activities with volunteers, in-reach representatives from Community-based Residential Facilities and non-governmental organizations in institutions and in the community where there is no local transmission of COVID-19.

Returning to a CSC site will look different than it did prior to COVID-19 given new health and safety measures in place. CSC is prioritizing activities that support offenders’ needs for safe reintegration and respond to its legislative mandate.

The timeline of the resumption of these activities will vary and be gradual. The ongoing need to prevent the transmission of the virus in this new normal also means that some of our volunteers and partners will not be resuming their normal activities at this time. While this may be disappointing, please know that we value all our volunteers and community partners and hope that in due time all will be able to return.

The current pandemic has given us an opportunity to look at new ways of doing things. We recently sent an on-line questionnaire to CSC’s volunteers to get ideas about new ways of volunteering. The questionnaire is available until September 25, 2020. We have received over 900 responses.

Systemic racism

I want to provide you with an update on our work and continued conversations related to the important issue of systemic racism. It is essential that we all continue to work hard to talk about this and do more to ensure that our practices, policies and initiatives address the root causes of inequities and best support Black people, Indigenous peoples and all members of racialized communities.

I have struck a joint working group with the Chairperson of the Parole Board of Canada, Jennifer Oades, to look at diversity and racism within the federal corrections and conditional release system. CSC has three representatives on this working group. The group will start by identifying the policies and programs that are currently in place to specifically address the unique needs of racialized offenders. This group will also review our policies and practices aimed at increasing the diversity of our employees, identify gaps and make recommendations on next steps.

CSC is also reviewing the assessment tools for the recruitment of correctional officers to ensure there is no cultural bias. We also plan to discuss the issue of systemic racism and actions moving forward with our National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee this fall.

CSC is committed to making positive change and I will continue to keep everyone informed of progress made on this important issue.

Suicide Prevention

September 10, 2020, marked ­­World Suicide Prevention Day. In keeping with this year’s theme of “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”, CSC is committed to working with its stakeholders to provide awareness, understanding, training, treatment and resources to those affected by suicide. CSC has a Suicide Prevention and Intervention Strategy to address suicide and self-injurious vulnerabilities among federal offenders.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your continued support and collaboration. Stay safe.

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