COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: September 17, 2021

It is hard to believe that it is already mid-September! I hope everyone was able to take time to enjoy the summer. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some important updates from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

COVID-19

In March 2020, CSC’s Health Services, Communications and Web teams worked together to develop the inmate testing and case summary table to post the daily number of active cases of COVID-19 among inmates on our external website.

Since we began posting daily numbers, we have had approximately 215,000 ongoing visits to the page. We have moved to updating the numbers weekly instead of daily and will revise this practice as needed.

It is also very positive to know that over 74% of inmates have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and over 80% have received their first dose.

Our website also has up-to-date data on inmate vaccinations:

We have been working on different strategies to increase vaccination rates among demographics with lower uptake. This included engaging our National and Regional Ethnocultural Committees (NEAC) to speak to inmates if they have questions or concerns about getting the vaccine. We prepared a toolkit for them and handout for inmates with the photos and quotes of NEAC members.

Visits Resuming in Institutions

Given the increasing vaccination rates across the country, inmate visits have resumed at many sites across the country, with health and safety measures in place.

Visitors are required to:

at all times. 

Correctional programming has continued throughout the pandemic. CSC has continued to adjust and find ways to navigate the challenges associated with delivering correctional programs with health and safety measures in place. Elders and chaplains have also started returning to the sites to offer support.

have also started to return for in-person work where it is safe to do so. We are keeping our website up-to-date, which includes a list of sites currently open for visits.

CORCAN Personal Protective Equipment Update

I want to provide an update on the remarkable work CORCAN has been doing over the past 18 months. Since the onset of the pandemic, CORCAN, in collaboration with Health Services has produced personal protective equipment (PPE), including washable and disposable gowns and masks. To date, CORCAN has made more than 849,443 masks and 90,396 gowns for use by CSC and other departments.

CORCAN also produced:

for use at CSC sites.

They produced all of this while continuing to provide laundry services to external clients, including:

Upcoming Federal Election and the Caretaker Convention 

As you know, a federal election will take place on September 20, 2021. During the election period, the Caretaker Convention is in effect, when the government acts with restraint and confines itself to conducting only necessary government business.

CSC held elections for inmates in all institutions on September 8. Like all Canadian citizens, offenders have the right to vote, and CSC works closely with Elections Canada to make sure they can exercise their democratic right. This year, with the pandemic, we have been diligent in following infection prevention and control measures as we worked to facilitate the election in our institutions.

Renewed Structured Intervention Unit Implementation Advisory Panel

As part of the external oversight of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, announced the renewal of the SIU Implementation Advisory Panel (IAP) on July 23, 2021.

Howard Sapers, the former Correctional Investigator of Canada, will serve as Chair for a period of two years. Dr. Anthony Doob, chair of the original IAP has agreed to continue as a member of the renewed Panel. It is expected that additional members will be announced at a later date. The Panel will monitor, assess and report on issues related to the ongoing implementation and operation of SIUs. The Panel will monitor, assess and report on issues related to the ongoing implementation and operation of SIUs.

In addition, information about the Independent External Decision Makers (IEDM) is now available on Public Safety Canada’s website, including information about their role and their biographies. 

I know some of you had asked us for more information about this.

Renewing Agreements with Healing Lodges

I am pleased to report that we recently renewed agreements with Native Counselling Services of Alberta to operate two healing lodges for federal offenders:

in Edmonton, Alberta.

We have also renewed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nekaneet First Nation for the operation of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, for another 25 years.

Our collaboration with Native Counselling Service of Alberta, all Section 81 healing lodges, and the Nekaneet First Nation has been essential in the development and delivery of services to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis offender population. This helps to make a difference in helping offenders successfully reintegrate into the community.

Audit of CSC’s Organizational Culture

CSC has initiated an audit of its organizational culture and we expect it will be completed and presented to the Departmental Audit Committee in the fall of 2022, after which it will be publicly available. We will be consulting stakeholders and inmates as part of this audit. At this time, we are still in the planning phase and are still working on finalizing the audit methodology that will be used for the engagement. 

Transformational Effects of CSC’s Restorative Opportunities Program

The work of CSC’s Restorative Opportunities Program was showcased in a recently published article in the Journal of the American Probation and Parole Association, Perspectives, which highlights the voices and experiences of a victim, offender, and institutional parole officer who took part in our program.

CSC has applied restorative justice principles and provided mediation opportunities between victims and adult offenders since the early 1990s. We are very proud to have this article published alongside others exploring restorative justice approaches around the world. I invite you to read the  APPA article to learn more about this moving, first-hand experience.

As well, the Let’s Talk Express article shares more perspectives on restorative justice.

Beekeeping Program Helps Offenders

Did you know that CORCAN, as part of its agricultural program, maintains beekeeping operations at:

The program is one of many that provides offenders the opportunity to learn technical and essential skills that contribute to their ability to find employment upon release. Kudos to the instructors and volunteers who are inspiring inmates to find and develop interesting hobbies and vocations.

You can read more about the beekeeping initiative in:

Launch of Site Access Status for CSC Volunteers

Volunteers are a valued and integral part of the federal correctional system. Since the requirement of security screening was implemented for all CSC volunteers, we have listened to concerns that it creates challenges for volunteers. We are striving to reduce the burden on volunteers as much as possible, within the policies and standards set by Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada and the operating environment of corrections. I am pleased to announce the launch of a new option for security screening available called “site access status”.

Site access is a lower level of security status than the current requirement of reliability. It provides access to restricted or controlled government facilities for individuals external to government who do not require access to sensitive information. It will be available for all new CSC volunteers going forward, and for those whose clearance has expired. It requires only the fingerprint inquiry, whereas reliability status requires both fingerprint and financial inquiries.

CSC has made the corresponding changes to Commissioner’s Directives (CD) 564-1 Individual Security and CD 024 Management of CSC Volunteers to make this new status available, and we are also pleased to launch a new web page to provide information on security screening requirements for CSC volunteers.

Volunteering during COVID-19

In honour of National Volunteer Week 2021, an inmate at Matsqui Institution penned a heartfelt poem for volunteers entitled “Community”. Inmates and staff worked together to send each Matsqui volunteer a package that included a copy of the poem and seeds to grow poppies. It was a thoughtful way to show appreciation for volunteers.

You can read more about this in Let’s Talk Express:

Despite changes brought on by the pandemic, CSC volunteers have found ways to continue connecting with offenders and offering them support in our institutions. In the summer of 2020, CSC sent questionnaires to all institutions, parole offices, and volunteers. We received almost 1000 responses from CSC volunteers. With many thanks to all who responded, we are happy to present information on what we heard, what we are doing during the pandemic and our next steps on a new web page:

Lastly, I was pleased to be interviewed by Justice Trends this year and would like to share the link to the article with you, which you can find here:

Justice Trends is an international publication focused on criminal justice, corrections and citizen security matters published biannually.

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