COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: December 15, 2020

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

I would like to take a moment to provide you with a number of updates as well as to highlight many of the important dates we have recently marked.

COVID-19 update

In the past weeks, cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise in many parts of the country. We have had some cases of COVID-19 in some of our institutions during this second wave. In terms of active cases among inmates, the situation is improving. Currently, only Stony Mountain Institution (medium) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan Penitentiary (medium) in Saskatchewan have active cases with many having recovered.

Based on community transmission rates, we have heightened our measures in many institutions. We are working in close partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross [see the news release] and local public health authorities. We have appreciated their advice and recommendations to ensure we have the most effective infection prevention and control measures in place, based on the circumstances of each site.

We have also been working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to implement rapid testing for COVID-19 in our institutions. Our nurses have been trained to use the device and it gives us results in 15 minutes. As we receive more rapid testing devices, we will continue to roll them out across the country. This is one more tool to help us rapidly identify and contain COVID-19.

We are starting to hear encouraging news about a vaccine for Canadians. CSC is following advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations. We will provide more information in the coming weeks as we know more about plans and the rollout, including for offenders in our care.

There is a lot of information about our COVID-19 response online, including all messages to staff and inmates, and up-to-date inmate testing results.

Rour COVID-19 responseestorative Justice Week - November 15-22

Restorative Justice is a non-adversarial, non-retributive approach to justice that emphasizes healing for victims and accountability for offenders to create healthier, safer communities. The goal is to reach meaningful and fair outcomes through inclusion, open communication, and truth. During Restorative Justice Week 2020, CSC joined partners from across the country to celebrate the values and principles of restorative justice and how they can be applied in the criminal justice system, and beyond.

CSC is proud to have advanced work in Restorative Justice since 1996 in three main areas: victim-offender mediation, correctional environments, and criminal justice reform. Our Restorative Opportunities program receives around 150 referrals to the program annually. Since the program began, we have received 867 victim referrals and 1,576 institutional referrals requesting victim-offender mediation services.

I also wanted to share that CSC is exploring the development of a multi-media digital project to share experiences, through the written and spoken word, visual arts, video or other forms of personal expression, of people who have participated in our restorative justice program.

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2020 - November 22-28

During Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2020, CSC joined partners from across the country to celebrate the courage and commitment of victims of crime. This year marked several important milestones for victims, including the fifth anniversary of the coming into force of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. We have spent the last five years developing a very strong and effective victim services program, and are constantly making improvements to the services we provide to over 8,700 victims.

On November 25, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime released her five-year progress report on the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. This is an important report and we are looking at it closely.

Anniversary of Structured Intervention Units and Health Care Reforms - November 30

A little over a year ago, on November 30, 2019, we made a historic transformation to the federal correctional system by abolishing administrative segregation and implementing a new correctional model of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). We also saw the principles of quality, patient-centred and clinically independent health care delivery embedded in legislation for the first time.

This past year has been one of significant and ongoing change. All areas of our organization have played a role in implementing the new SIU model, including training, developing new policies and systems, communicating and working externally with partners. I remain highly committed to SIUs and sustaining this change over time.

This first anniversary of the implementation of SIUs is an important time for reflection, learning and continuous improvement. As with anything new, it takes time to instill cultural and transformative change and it is something to which we remain committed. As you know, we have external oversight bodies examining various aspects of SIUs. CSC will also be completing its own evaluation of our first year implementing SIUs to garner lessons learned and determine the enhancements needed.

We have also taken significant strides over the past year to realize improvements to health services. In support of autonomous clinical decision-making, CSC developed and implemented a process for clinical admission and discharges for designated health care units, starting first with Regional Treatment Centres. New processes were introduced to ensure timely and clinically appropriate mental health assessments on admission, at intake, and when in a SIU. A number of activities were also undertaken to support patient advocacy and patient-centred care. An example is the requirement for health professionals to make recommendations to the institutional head if they believe an offender in a SIU requires a change to their conditions of confinement or release from a SIU for health reasons. Many of the transformative aspects related to health care will continue to be implemented as new funding is received over the coming years.

There is more work to do and we will continue to forge ahead on making improvements and adjustments as we continue to implement SIUs.

International Volunteer Day - December 5

December 5 marked International Volunteer Day, which was an occasion to celebrate the contributions of thousands of Canadians who give their time to work with those in our care and custody. Despite the significant impact of the pandemic on volunteering in our institutions and community parole offices, I am grateful that we have found innovative ways to support inmates and those on conditional release in the community. I am also pleased to announce that Darryl McCullough is the winner of the 2019 Taylor Award for his 22 years of exceptional volunteer service.

Audit of CSC culture

CSC is committed to creating and maintaining a safe, healthy, respectful, and supportive work environment for our employees, partners, and offenders. As part of our 2019-2020 Departmental Plan, we are undertaking an audit of our culture. We are currently in the planning phase. Our Internal Audit Sector, with the support of our Departmental Audit Committee, will engage broadly with a number of stakeholders to conduct this audit. These include various subject matter experts, our National Advisory Committee on Ethics, external consultants, labour partners, and other federal government departments and organizations who have been undergoing culture change. This is an opportunity to examine all aspects of CSC's environment and ensure we are adopting the right approach moving forward.

Video visitation kiosks

I am happy to report that in response to the increased number of requests, more video visitation kiosks have been installed in institutions across the country. We also worked with Shared Services Canada to make improvements to our network infrastructure to meet the demands for video visits. We have almost doubled the number of kiosks available. The number of video visits increased from 41 calls per day in March to 223 calls per day in June. The additional kiosks have allowed inmates to maintain and interact with family and community support contacts throughout COVID-19.

CORCAN's winter highlight

I am delighted to announce that this year's CORCAN Winter Highlight is online. Historically, CORCAN's Annual Winter Highlight was an in-person opportunity to shop at specific sites for products made by Indigenous offenders through the offender employment and employability program. Having the items available in a virtual space means you can find and purchase amazing gifts—just in time for the holidays. Please have a look!

Building a house and skills for the future

Congratulations to the residents at Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for completing construction of their first house through the CORCAN Indigenous Offender Employment Initiative. The women built the home at the healing lodge, then (with Escorted Temporary Absences) prepared the site at the Nekaneet First Nation for its arrival. The house was moved to its permanent location on November 30. Through hard work constructing this home, the residents built new skills and confidence that will help them upon release to the community. This is amazing and a great way to give back to the community!

Thank you for your continued support and collaboration. I wish you festive holiday season. Stay safe and healthy.

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