Parliamentary Passage of Bill C-83: Transforming corrections to focus on rehabilitation and mental healthcare

Backgrounder

Bill C-83, an Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, is currently awaiting Royal Assent. Once in effect, it will significantly strengthen our federal corrections system in a variety of important ways, including:

  • abolishing administrative and disciplinary segregation in all federal institutions;
  • increasing mental health services and supports for Indigenous persons; and,
  • bolstering independent oversight in the Canadian correctional system.

Structured Intervention Units (SIU) – The implementation of SIUs will accommodate offenders who cannot be managed safely within the general inmate population. SIUs will allow the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to address the safety and security risks of these inmates, while providing them with on-going meaningful human contact and interventions, programs, mental health care and social supports they need to safely return to the general inmate population as soon as possible and continue to make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.

Inmates in an SIU will receive:

  • interventions tailored to their specific needs, including mental health care services;
  • rehabilitative programming that includes educational and social programs; employment and skills training; volunteer programs and cultural and spiritual engagement with Elders and other spiritual and cultural staff;
  • an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside of their cell;
  • an opportunity for a minimum of two hours a day of meaningful human contact through interactions with staff, visitors, elders, behavioral counsellors, occupational therapists, chaplains, or other compatible inmates; and
  • support from a team of professionals including managers, parole officers, correctional program officers, Aboriginal Liaison Officers, Elders, Chaplains, teachers and correctional officers who will work with them seven days a week.

Independent External Oversight – Bill C-83 includes early and multiple review mechanisms when an inmate is placed in an SIU. In addition to independent internal reviews, the Act establishes independent external decision-makers (IEDM) to make decisions to the length and conditions of an SIU placement.

An IEDM case review will be triggered when:

  • an inmate in an SIU does not get their minimum hours out of a cell, or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five straight days, or for 15 out of 30 days;
  • a committee of senior staff members does not agree with the recommendation of a registered health care professional that the inmate should not remain in an SIU or that the conditions of the inmate’s confinement be altered; and,
  • an SIU placement lasts for 90 consecutive days, and subsequently, every thirty days beyond the CSC Commissioner’s legislated reviews, which begin at day 60 and continue every 60 days thereafter.

Mental Health Support and Governance for Inmates – Investments will support enhanced assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration; enhanced primary and acute mental health care; patient advocacy services; and 24/7 health care at designated institutions. This aims to make correctional institutions safer for staff and offenders and reduce incidents resulting from an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. CSC’s patient advocacy services will help inmates better understand their health care rights and responsibilities. This affirms CSC’s obligation to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence.

Decisions to place an inmate in an SIU will also consider the offender’s physical and mental health. Inmates will receive a daily visit by a registered health care professional employed or engaged by the CSC. In addition, the institutional head will be required to consider recommendations from a health care professional regarding the length and conditions of an SIU placement. If the institutional head disagrees with these recommendations, the case would be reviewed by a committee of senior officials (Regional Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner-Health). If this committee does not implement the recommendation, the case would then be referred to an IEDM.

Increased Support for Indigenous Offenders – The needs and interests of Indigenous persons will be supported by the legal requirement for CSC to consider systemic and background factors unique to Indigenous offenders in all correctional decision making and programs. This includes considering overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the correctional system and Indigenous culture and identity.

SIU Implementation Advisory Panel – An implementation advisory panel will be established by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to monitor and assess the progress of SIU implementation, ensure greater transparency, and identify and report on any challenges. Members may include individuals with a background in mental health, experience as an ombudsperson for offenders, corrections/operational experience, and Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, and women.

Body scan imaging technology – Body scan imaging technology will be authorized to help prevent contraband from entering correctional institutions, offering a safe, effective and less intrusive search alternative.

Supporting Victims in the Criminal Justice Process – Victims of federal offenders who attend a Parole Board of Canada hearing now have the right to access audio recordings of the hearing, allowing them to be better informed and improving their ability to meaningfully participate throughout the criminal justice process.


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