COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: November 6, 2020

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

I hope you are all well, and staying safe and healthy. I would like to share some updates with you.

Addressing systemic racism

On Monday, during the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU), Minister Blair provided an update on his mandate letter, including his accountabilities related to CSC. The Minister spoke about the government's Speech from the Throne, which includes addressing the issue of systemic racism within his portfolio. Minister Blair acknowledged that Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and reiterated his support to take action on this important issue.

The issue of systemic racism in the correctional system is one that I have acknowledged publicly, including my commitment to doing more through concrete actions. We have done important work over the summer and fall to look at everything we do. As I mentioned previously, we convened a joint working group with the Parole Board of Canada to identify the policies and programs that are currently in place to address the unique needs of racialized offenders. This group also reviewed our policies and practices, identified gaps and proposed next steps. We will soon be consulting with stakeholders, including our national advisory committees, to inform our plans and actions moving forward.

 

 

In recent weeks, there were media reports on CSC's risk assessment and security classification tools for Indigenous offenders. SECU will be studying this important issue. As I have said publicly, we welcome this study and are available to assist the committee in any way. I take this issue very seriously and want to reiterate that it is essential that we work collaboratively at all levels – with Parliamentarians, Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities, you as our stakeholders, our employees and offenders – to remove barriers and make improvements to the correctional system.

Office of the Correctional Investigator Annual Report

On Tuesday, October 27, the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) tabled its Annual Report in Parliament. I would invite you to read CSC's response and my statement, which outlines the progress we have made to date in addressing the issues outlined in the report, as well as further efforts that we will continue to undertake.

Several recommendations in the OCI report addressed Sexual Coercion and Violence (SCV) in institutions. We take this issue very seriously. We have a zero-tolerance approach to SCV, as we work to protect the physical and mental health, and overall safety, of offenders. Correctional officers are trained to recognize and deal with all types of criminal behaviour between inmates, including sexual coercion and violence. CSC employees have an obligation to report such incidents, work to identify offenders who are vulnerable or are predatory, monitor them and adopt appropriate population management strategies. We will also be working with Public Safety Canada to conduct research to inform a strategy to detect, prevent, and respond to sexual coercion and violence in correctional institutions, with consideration of vulnerable populations such as inmates with prior trauma, LGBTQ2+, women, and those with mental health issues.

We welcome the opportunity to work further with the OCI to address the issues raised and work towards our common goal of supporting offender rehabilitation and reintegration, while maintaining public safety.

Report on Structured Intervention Units

Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) continue to be a priority for CSC. SIUs are a new correctional model that saw the abolition of administrative segregation. We implemented them almost a year ago, marking a significant historic and transformational change in federal corrections. CSC continues to work hard everyday to run the SIUs and provide proper supports to inmates, including health interventions.

Last week, a report was issued by Dr. Anthony Doob and Dr. Jane Sprott with preliminary findings on components of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). While more analysis is needed before we reach conclusions, this report will be useful along with data from Independent External Decision Makers (IEDMs) who review conditions and duration of confinement in real-time across the country. You can read my statement for a bit more context:

All information on SIUs, including data, our external oversight bodies, and lived experiences with SIUs (from both staff and inmates) will help us examine and build on lessons learned over the past year and make any improvements needed to strengthen their implementation.  

Diversity Week

Each year, CSC celebrates Diversity Week during the first week of November, which is an opportunity to promote and embrace our diversity. CSC has almost 19,000 employees who vary in age, ethnicities, race, religion, abilities, sexual orientations, languages, and cultures. I believe that productive and constructive dialogue, and collaboration, at all levels – internal and external to CSC – is key in achieving greater inclusion, equity and diversity. This year we launched new virtual opportunities for staff to gather, discuss and learn from one another, including webinars with panel participants sharing their lived experiences on some of the barriers they have faced and ways to overcome them.

COVID-19

We are working very hard to prevent introducing the virus into our institutions and rely on everyone's support to play an active role in helping us protect inmates and staff. We currently have no COVID-19 cases among federal inmates.

I know some of you have asked questions on social media about where you can find more information on inmate testing and updates on COVID-19 for families of offenders. Since the beginning of the pandemic and in the spirit of transparency, we have made a lot of information accessible on our website. This includes all of my message to inmates, employees and data on our ongoing testing results of federal inmates. Families have noted that they find it very useful to read the weekly inmate communiqués online.

Thank you for your continued support.

 

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