Corrections and Parole Issues
Transforming Federal Corrections (Bill C-83)
- The Government of Canada has taken important steps to transform the federal correctional system.
- We are investing $448 million in support of Bill C-83, which amended the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to eliminate the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation, and replace it with a new correctional interventions model that promotes rehabilitation in a humane and secure environment.
- Of those funds, $150 million will be devoted to strengthening mental health care to support the early diagnosis and treatment of inmates with mental health needs.
- The Government of Canada is focused on ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and the protection of the public.
- In the 2018 Fall Economic Statement, the Government announced $448 million over six years, and over $140 million ongoing, to transform federal corrections.
- On October 16, 2018, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act. It received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019 and provisions came into force on November 30, 2019 to eliminate administrative and disciplinary segregation and to implement a new correctional interventions model. The reforms in C-83 also strengthen health care governance; better support victims in the criminal justice system; and consider the specific needs of Indigenous offenders.
- Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) have been established to provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety and security risks of inmates who cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. Inmates in a SIU will:
- receive structured interventions and programming tailored to address their specific needs which brought them into the structured intervention unit to begin with;
- have an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside of their cell; and,
- have an opportunity for a minimum of two hours a day of interaction with others.
- Independent External Decision Makers (12) have been appointed by the previous Minister of Public Safety to decide cases of inmates placed in SIUs. The creation of these new positions respond to feedback received from stakeholders about the importance of external and independent oversight of the new SIU approach.
- Further Improving Mental Health Supports for Inmates: Of the $448 million announced in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement, more than $150 million over six years and $70 million ongoing thereafter will be used for improved mental health care within federal correctional institutions. These investments will support enhanced assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhanced mental health care, support for patient advocacy services and 24/7 health care at designated institutions.
- Considering Factors Unique to Indigenous Offenders – Bill C-83 introduces a legislated requirement for the CSC to ensure that systemic and background factors unique to Indigenous offenders are considered in all correctional decision-making.
- Supporting Victims in the Criminal Justice Process – Bill C-83 provides for better support to victims in the criminal justice system by allowing victims who attend a Parole Board of Canada hearing to access audio recordings of the hearing.
- Strengthening Health Care Governance – The proposed reforms would affirm Correctional Service of Canada's obligation to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence.
Litigation Against The Government Of Canada
Canadian Civil Liberties Association V. Canada (Ccla)
- The Canadian Civil Liberties Association challenged the constitutionality of the administrative segregation scheme in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). In December 2017, the Ontario Superior Court declared that ss. 31 to 37 of the CCRA are unconstitutional pursuant to s. 7 of the Charterto the extent that they authorize administrative segregation after the fifth working day without review by an independent internal decision-maker. The Court suspended this declaration for one year to allow time for the government to implement a new framework for inmates that cannot be managed in the mainstream inmate population.
- SCC: Section 7 of the Charter - 5 Day Independent Review (Extension decision)
- Canada sought a further extension of the suspension of declaration of invalidity. In April 2019, the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) only granted the extension until June 17, 2019. In June 2019, Canada sought leave to appeal the ONCA's order with the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). In June 2019, the SCC granted an interim stay and interim extension until it determines the motion for an extension and stay.
- SCC: Section 12 of the Charter - 15 Day Hard Cap (Appeal and Extension decision)
- The CCLA appealed the trial court's decision. In March 2019, the ONCA allowed the appeal in part and issued a declaration that ss. 31 to 37 of the CCRAunjustifiably infringe s. 12 of the Charter to the extent that it provides for administrative segregation longer than 15 consecutive days; it suspended its declaration of invalidity for 15 days. In April 2019, Canada filed an application for leave to appeal the decision with the SCC and sought a stay. The SCC granted Canada an interim-interim stay until the SCC makes a decision on the interim stay. In June 2019, CCLA requested leave to cross-appeal; Canada opposes this request.
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and John Howard Society of Canada V. Canada (BCCLA)
- The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada challenged the constitutionality of administrative segregation in correctional facilities. In June 2019, the BCCA upheld the lower court's declaration of invalidity striking down the provisions authorizing administrative segregation in the CCRA. The BCCA found that the legislation violates s. 7 of the Charter as it allows for prolonged indefinite administrative segregation and does not require external review starting at the fifth working day. The declaration of unconstitutionality was extended until November 30, 2019. In September 2019, Canada filed submissions seeking leave to appeal the decision of the BCCA with the SCC. Canada argues that there are issues of public importance and an opportunity to clarify the law. The respondents seek to cross-appeal to the SCC on various grounds including what time limits should be imposed on the use of solitary confinement given the conflicting appellate decisions.
- On November 27, 2019, Canada filed their joint reply and response to the application for leave to cross-appeal. Canada refutes the allegation that the appeal would be largely moot by arguing that there are issues of public importance. Canada opposes the application for leave to cross-appeal on the grounds that the respondents do not raise issues of public importance and it is improper for the respondents to seek guidance on Bill C-83 when it is not yet in force and is not the subject of these proceedings
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Source: [e.g.] QP Note on Transforming Federal Corrections, 2019-12-02
- A criminal record can create barriers to reintegration including the ability to access employment, housing and education.
- Removing the stigma of a criminal record encourages reintegration and enhances public safety for all Canadians.
- On August 1, 2019, Bill C-93, An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis, came into force.
- This legislation amended the Criminal Records Act to provide an expedited record suspension process for those convicted only of simple possession of cannabis. These changes waive record suspension application fees and wait periods for those previously convicted only of the simple possession of cannabis.
- In support of this initiative, the Government invested $2.19 million to support the Parole Board of Canada and Royal Canadian Mounted Police to implement this expedited process.
Expungements vs. Pardons (If pressed):
- Expungement is an extraordinary measure reserved for exceptional cases, such as where the criminalization of the activity violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is not the case for convictions for simple possession of cannabis. Record suspensions are the appropriate recourse for these convictions.
- On October 17, 2018 the Cannabis Act, came into force. This Act created a process to regulate the production, distribution and possession of cannabis. Recreational possession of cannabis was previously an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
- The Government of Canada committed to making things fairer for those with convictions for simple possession of cannabis. On June 21, 2019, Bill C-93, An Act to provide a no-cost expedited record suspension process for simple possession of cannabis, received Royal Assent. This Act, which came into force August 1, 2019, modifies the Criminal Records Act to waive record suspension application wait periods and application fees for those convicted only of simple possession of cannabis. The Act creates an administrative review process where the application is considered by a Parole Board of Canada (PBC) staff member as opposed to a discretionary review by PBC Board Members. The record suspension will be ordered so long as the individual can show that their only convictions are for simple possession of cannabis.
- The Act also offers recourse for those with other convictions on their record by ensuring that simple possession of cannabis convictions will not impact their ability to obtain a record suspension. That is, simple possession of cannabis will not extend a pardon ineligibility period and will not be considered in reviewing good conduct or disrepute. Finally, the Act ensures that the inability to pay a fine associated with a conviction for simple possession of cannabis will not prevent someone from accessing a record suspension. There is no longer a requirement to pay these fines before applying.
- To ensure identity, verify the convictions on record and determine that the applicant has completed their sentence, applicants may still be required to provide fingerprints and records from local police and local courts, which would have potential costs of about $200.00.
- Since the coming into force of this Act, the Parole Board of Canada has received approximately 200 applications for a record suspension for the simple possession of cannabis. Of those, 97 record suspensions have been ordered.
Record Suspension or Expungement
- During the previous parliamentary session there was a debate about whether pardons or expungement was the proper way forward on this issue. After careful consideration it was determined that expungement was not the appropriate recourse for individuals with convictions for simple possession of cannabis. Expungement is intended for use in extraordinary circumstances where the criminalization of an activity was historically unjust, such as where a law violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is the not the case for convictions for simple possession of cannabis, which reflect a shift in Canadian Values.
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Source: [e.g.] QP Note on Cannabis Pardons, 2019-11-25
Offenders with Gender Considerations
- CSC is committed to ensuring a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone including, offenders, staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors.
- CSC ensures that offenders who identify as transgender or gender diverse are given the same protections, dignity and treatment as others.
- CSC continues to assess the feedback received from consultations with stakeholders to incorporate lessons learned and best practices into relevant CSC policy.
- In June 2017, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, came into force. The amendments included the addition of "gender identity or expression" as an "identifiable group."
- In December 2017, the CSC promulgated the Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression. This interim policy document outlines the high-level principles and changes to operational practice, and overrides any direction currently found in Commissioner's Directives or Guidelines.
- As a result of legislative changes, CSC has adopted new operational practices to:
- allow offenders to be placed in an institution according to their gender identity, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns;
- allow purchases of authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health or security concerns according to the security level of the institution;
- allow offenders to choose whether strip and frisk searches and urinalysis testing are conducted by a male or a female employee;and
- allow offenders to determine their preferred name and pronoun.
Government / Departmental Priorities
- CSC is committed to ensuring a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone including, offenders, staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors.
- As a result of legislative changes, CSC has adopted new operational practices to allow:
- offenders to be placed in an institution according to their gender identity, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns;
- purchases of authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health, or security concerns according to the security level of the institution;
- offenders to choose whether strip and frisk searches and urinalysis testing are conducted by a male or a female employee; and
- offenders to determine their preferred name and pronoun.
Correctional Service of Canada Structured Intervention Units
- Our Government has eliminated segregation.
- Unlike segregation, SIUs offer:
- the opportunity for a minimum of four hours out of cell, including two hours of meaningful interaction with others;
- access to evidence-based interventions, programs and services;
- enhanced mental health care; and o external oversight (12 members), independent of CSC, whose decisions are binding.
If pressed about judicial oversight
- All decisions by the external oversight body are appealable to the federal court.
- The use of administrative segregation was challenged through several court actions. These legal challenges are ongoing.
- Administrative segregation only provided for 2 hours outside the cell with limited access to programming.
- The SIU provisions of Bill C-83 came into force on November 30, 2019. Bill C-83, among other things, eliminates segregation and creates SIUs.
- All five women's institutions and 10 men's institutions will have an SIU. To date, no women offenders have been placed in an SIU.
Details – Structured Intervention Units
- CSC will always have the need to separate some inmates from the mainstream inmate population for their own safety and that of others, as well as for the overall security of the institution.
- SIUs give inmates access to targeted and structured interventions and programming in a safe and secure environment to address their specific risks and needs that contribute to their challenges within the mainstream population.
- The goal of the interventions is to provide the inmates with the pro-social tools they need to reintegrate into a mainstream inmate population and not return to the SIU. It is therefore expected that these environments provide for improved correctional outcomes with reduced incidents resulting in safer and more secure institutions.
Health Care in SIUs
- Inmates transferred to an SIU continue to have access to essential health services.
- On a daily basis, a registered health care professional engages in a meaningful clinical encounter (observe and speak to each inmate directly) with each individual in an SIU to review their physical and mental health.
- Healthcare professionals monitor and address inmate health care concerns and administer medication as required.
- A registered health care professional can make recommendations to the institutional head to alter conditions of confinement or to release individuals from an SIU for health reasons.
- Within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU, an inmate is referred to Health Services for a mental health assessment.
Independent External Oversight
- The Act allows for the creation of an external, independent oversight body in the Independent External Decision Maker that monitors the use of SIUs and can make decisions that are final.
- An Advisory Panel has been appointed by the Minister of Public Safety to provide ongoing feedback to the CSC Commissioner and alert the Minister directly about any problems or concerns related to the implementation of the new system.
Escapes from Correctional Service of Canada Institutions
- Our government takes escapes very seriously and public safety remains the paramount consideration.
- In the event of an escape from a federal penitentiary CSC notifies the police and the public, and works closely with local police to locate the inmate as quickly as possible.
- CSC thoroughly examines the circumstances of the escape and makes any adjustments as required to prevent similar incidents.
- CSC regularly assesses all offenders' security classification to ensure that they are placed at the appropriate security level.
- The majority of the escapes are from minimum-security institution.
- Most offenders who escape are safely recaptured within an average of three days.
Details – Procedures Following The Capture Of An Inmate
- Following the capture of an inmate who has escaped or who was unlawfully at large, they will be detained at an institution, at the appropriate security level, in the region of the arrest. The region in which the inmate is recaptured is responsible for determining the appropriate placement and security level. Readmission procedures may differ by region.
- Offenders who escape can be criminally charged for that escape, as stated in Section 145 of the Criminal Code. Additionally, pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, offenders can be institutionally charged for doing anything for the purpose of escaping or assisting another offender to escape.
- In addition to potential disciplinary charges, CSC will consider security reclassification for the offender, based on information that they were involved in an escape attempt/escape or assisted another offender to escape/attempt to escape.
Security Classification and Security Levels
- CSC is responsible for managing the risk inmates present. Since different inmates require different degrees of control, CSC operates institutions at three levels of security: maximum, medium and minimum. Institutional adjustment, escape risk and public safety ratings are considered in all placement decisions as part of the security classification procedure.
- All inmates entering federal custody undergo a full assessment and referral process to identify their program and security needs. Only those offenders who are assessed as having a low risk to public safety are placed in a minimum-security institution.
- One of the major factors that CSC takes into account when considering the transfer of inmates to lower-security level facilities is the progress made in addressing the needs identified in their correctional plan, which outlines what they must do to address the factors that led to their criminal behavior. All transfers of inmates to lower levels of security occur only after CSC has duly considered public safety.
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Source: Ministerial Transition Binder [Escapes from CSC Institution], 2019
Correctional Service of Canada Prison Needle Exchange Program
- The Prison Needle Exchange Program (PNEP) forms part of CSC's suite of harm reduction measures to limit the spread of infectious diseases, and therefore protect inmates, employees and the Canadian public.
- A Threat Risk Assessment model, similar to the one in effect for EpiPens and insulin needles, is used to determine which inmates can participate.
- Since the program was implemented, there have been no reported assaults involving needles at any of the approved sites.
- To date, PNEP has been implemented at eight federal institutions.
- The PNEP will help mitigate the harms caused by illicit drug use, without in any way impeding CSC's efforts to combat drug use in correctional institutions.
Details Substance Use Disorder in Offender Population
- Substance use disorder in the offender population is a serious and pervasive problem.
- Approximately 75% of offenders have some problem with alcohol or drugs at time of admission, with a sizable proportion of this group misusing more than one drug at a time.
- Furthermore, like much of Canadian society, CSC is experiencing the effect of Canada's opioid crisis. To address this issue, CSC has implemented programs to decrease drug use and the spread of infectious diseases.
- In June 2019, CSC implemented the Overdose Prevention Service (OPS) at Drumheller Institution. Drumheller Institution was selected based on the findings from a review of overdose incidents at CSC between fiscal years 2012-2013 and 2016-2017.
- The OPS provides an opportunity for participants who use illicit substances to do so in a safe environment. The OPS includes consumption rooms within, and run by, CSC Health Services, where health care staff, including nurses, are available to provide health teaching, counselling and emergency response in the event of a medical crisis.
- A Threat Risk Assessment model similar to the one currently in effect for EpiPens and insulin needles will be used to determine which offenders can participate. Health and security factors, such as an inmate's past involvement in security-related incidents are reviewed.
- The institutional head or deputy warden will confirm if there are security concerns that would prevent the offender from participating in the program. Staff training and ongoing engagement with bargaining agents and other partners will help ensure safe and successful implementation.
Illicit Drug Use
- PNEP participants are in no way exempt from rules against the possession and consumption of illicit drugs.
- With the introduction of the PNEP, CSC now offers all harm reduction measures recommended by the United Nations.
Security Classification and Transfers
- Keeping Canadians safe is the cornerstone of the work done at CSC every day.
- The vast majority of offenders will eventually be released into the community and become our neighbours.
- Research shows that a gradual and structured release, including transfers to lower security, is most conducive to public safety.
- All offenders entering CSC undergo a comprehensive assessment to determine the appropriate placement, security level and programming required for each offender.
- Only offenders who present a low probability of escape, low risk to public safety and who require a low degree of institutional supervision are transferred to minimum security.
If pressed regarding Tori Stafford (victim) and inmate McClintic
- Our hearts go out to Tori's family
- At the time, CSC conducted a comprehensive review, as directed by the former Minister of Public Safety, and amended its policies to ensure they were responsive to an evolving environment.
- Due to privacy reasons, all I can share is that both inmates involved in the murder of Tori Stafford are in custody in a secure environment.
- Registered victims are notified when an offender is transferred from one institution to another and from one security level to another. Some victims have been vocal in the media.
- In recent years, CSC has also updated its policies, improved assessment and referral criteria to correctional programs, and updated staff training to ensure that offenders are receiving access to interventions that help prepare them for safely and successfully returning to the community.
Details Security Classification
- Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, CSC is required to assign a security classification of maximum, medium, or minimum to each offender admitted to its institutions.
- As is the case for all offenders, security classification reviews can be undertaken at any time during their sentence.
- A review of an inmate's security classification will be completed prior to making a recommendation for any decision (e.g. transfer, temporary absence, work release or parole).
- One of the major factors that CSC takes into account when considering the transfer of inmates to lower-security level facilities is the progress made in addressing the needs identified in their correctional plan, which outlines what they must do to address the factors that led to their criminal behaviour.
- All transfers of inmates to lower levels of security occur only after CSC has duly considered public safety. An inmate must present a low probability of escape and a low risk to the safety of the public.
- The inmate must also require a low degree of supervision and control within the institution.
Version 1; 2019-12-06
QP Note on Security Classification and Transfers
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