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SUB-COMMITTEE ON CORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE ACT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
SOUS-COMITÉ SUR LA LOI SUR LE SYSTÈME CORRECTIONNEL ET LA MISE EN LIBERTÉ SOUS CONDITION DU COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA JUSTICE ET DES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Monday, November 22, 1999
The Chair (Mr. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Lib.)): I call this session of the Sub-Committee on Corrections and Conditional Release Act, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to order.
Committee members will know that we are interested in receiving some more testimony and thoughts specifically surrounding the issue of statutory release. That's the purpose of our session here today and the forum that we'll be holding this evening.
I'd like to welcome our witnesses. We have Mr. Ole Ingstrup, the commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada, who's with us, I understand at some inconvenience to his schedule. He was planning to be abroad at this time, but we appreciate your adjusting your schedule, Commissioner.
We also have Mr. Willie Gibbs, the chairman of the National Parole Board.
Welcome, Mr. Gibbs.
We have Monsieur Jean Fournier, the deputy solicitor general.
The witnesses have agreed to let Mr. Fournier go first, followed by Mr. Gibbs and then Commissioner Ingstrup. Each witness will have ten minutes to make his presentation, and then we will go to questions. Thank you.
Mr. Jean T. Fournier (Deputy Solicitor General, Solicitor General of Canada): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me begin with the general statement that the Canadian criminal justice system has as one of its main pillars that the supervised, controlled release of inmates is the safest way to return these offenders to society.
Controlled reintegration is indeed the best way to achieve public safety. This commitment is based on research. It's based on years of experience. It's also based on a Canadian value system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and that recognizes that gradual reintegration is the best short-term and long-term protection of society.
Statutory release is indeed an important part of this program of gradual controlled reintegration, in place since 1992 in its present form. It is indeed appropriate and timely, but this subcommittee should be considering matters relating to statutory release.
Statutory release is indeed working well. But that is not to say there cannot be some improvements, some refinements, or some adjustments. As Mr. MacAulay said on May 31 when he appeared before this sub-committee, I assure you that I am open to suggestions that will help make the correctional system even more effective.
Let me briefly recap how statutory release works. First, not every inmate is eligible for statutory release. Offenders serving life sentences or indeterminant sentences as dangerous offenders are not eligible. This is approximately 20% of the inmate population, 2,700 out of 13,000.
Only offenders who are serving definite sentences are eligible. These are inmates who are serving sentences of a fixed length and who therefore by definition are going to be returning to the community. This is an important point, because it means the central question to keep in mind is how do we best manage that return to the community. Of the eligible population, approximately 4,200 in 1998-99, not all will be released.
CSC case management teams systematically review eligible cases prior to statutory release and refer to the parole board those who present a risk of violence or serious drug offending. Those with a demonstrated history of and potential for violence or serious drug offending can be detained in custody by the parole board until the end of sentence. Last year, for example, 233 detention orders were issued by the parole board.
All those who are released, approximately 4,000, go out under a range of conditions, the most stringent of which is residency conditions. Such offenders are required to serve a portion or all of their statutory release period under close supervision in community-based residential facilities. Last year some 800 offenders were released with such a residency condition.
Parole supervisors, either CSC employees or agents such as community associations, are there to provide support and assistance, whether than means getting them into settled accommodation, getting them out looking for a job or at least stabilized with social assistance, getting them into AA programs or other treatment, and checking up on who they are spending their time with. This can be contrasted with an offender who would otherwise walk out of a medium or maximum security cellblock onto the street at the end of sentence, with no support or supervision.
The other important aspect of the parole supervisor's job is to ensure that the offender is complying with the conditions of the release, and to intervene when there are signs that the offender's behaviour may be deteriorating.
How well do statutory release cases do? Fully 60.5% of the releases are completed without incident. Another 25.6% are returned to custody for a breach of condition. In these cases, no new offence has been committed; instead, the parole supervisor has been able to intervene and manage the case. Thus fully 86% of statutory releases are completed successfully with no new offence. This is indeed a substantial contribution to public safety.
We can always do better, but this is indeed a high rate of successful completion. Of statutory releases, 11.4% are revoked with a non-violent offence, representing approximately 550 offenders.
In 1998-99, 2.6%, representing 124 offenders, were returned to custody with a violent offence. This 2.6% was down from 4% in 1994-95 and 1995-96, 3.1% in 1996-97, and 2.9% in 1997-98. So there is a downward trend that is indeed quite positive over the last five years.
If we want to improve statutory release, and I understand this is a matter this committee is focusing on, this is the group we need to focus on—that is, the 2.6%, or the 124. Possible approaches include, for example, more intensive community supervision and support on the street, or more intensive intervention in custody in the early part of the sentence, including improved treatment and risk assessment. Possible approaches include, as well, more or better programming for aboriginal offenders, which we all know are overrepresented in our prison system, representing as they do some 3% of the population of Canada and some 16% or 17% of our prison population. And they represent an even higher percent of the prison population on statutory release, or working toward it.
But if we did not have statutory release because of these 124 offenders in 1998-99, that could potentially result in keeping many of the other 4,000 statutory releases behind bars until the end of sentence, at great financial cost and at reduced public safety in the long run, when they are released cold out into our streets and communities.
Before leaving the statistics, let me also note that they represent a marked improvement over the numbers from a decade or so ago, prior to the enactment of the CCRA. A follow-up of mandatory supervision releases as of 1987, some 12 years ago, for example, showed 19% being revoked with a new offence, compared with the 11% for 1998-99 that I just noted.
Going further back some 23 years ago, to 1976, the rate was 26%, and in 1977 it was 24%. So while clearly we can continue, and need to continue, to do better, the trend in the program has been one of continuous improvement. The statutory release program is not getting worse.
The issue first and foremost is one of public safety. As I said a moment ago, controlled reintegration is the best way to achieve public safety. Cold release without support is the least effective way.
Cold release is not only the least effective way, it is also the most expensive. We do not have to look far for a prime example of the potential cost of that risk. The United States have taken a lock them up and throw away the key approach that has cost billions of dollars. In some states, spending of taxpayers dollars on prisons now exceeds spending on education. Prison construction has quadrupled in recent years, and still can't keep up. The incarceration rate is at an unprecedented high of 672 per 100,000.
As I noted at the outset, we know from the research that appropriate community-based treatment is more effective than institutional treatment. In a 1990 study, institutional treatment was shown to effect a 20% decrease in recidivism, while community-based treatment was shown to effect a 35% decrease in recidivism. A 1998 study demonstrated that treatment is two times more effective if delivered in the community instead of in institutions.
I am no expert in these research studies, but my officials, along with CSC and parole board officials, will be pleased to provide the committee with any additional information it might need.
In conclusion, overall the present system, including statutory release, works well, and it does not need major transformation at this time. As noted earlier, the violent offence rate for statutory release has gone down for the past five years. As well, we heard from over 200 respondents in response to the discussion paper that was distributed a couple of years ago, and that was their view as well.
Is there room for improvement? Of course. This could include such things as better programming; improved risk assessment; enhanced supervision in the community; more, better and more effective partnerships with community groups; and greater attention to the special needs of aboriginals, women, seniors, and individuals who are victims of substance abuse, etc.
Public safety is our number one objective, and statutory release can and does make an important contribution. We are already seeing tangible results of this today and we look forward to your committee's suggestions for continued improvement. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Fournier.
We will now hear for the next ten minutes from Mr. Gibbs, the Chairman of the National Parole Board.
Mr. Willie Gibbs (Chairman, National Parole Board): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
When I appeared before this group last May, I was asked to comment on the conditional release system vis-à-vis statutory release. I gave at that time a very brief history, and since that time I have been able to review the background material, so I can provide you with a few more details today, details that I think are important to this discussion.
Statutory release had its origin in the concept of remission, that is, time off the sentence for good behaviour in prison. Over the years, remission has been administered in different ways. In 1961, for example, the Penitentiary Act was amended to include two forms of remission: statutory and earned remission.
Through statutory remission, one-quarter of the sentence was credited to the inmate at the outset of the sentence but could be lost for serious institutional offences, such as participating in a riot or escaping custody. Earned remission, on the other hand, provided the inmate with an opportunity to earn three additional days of remission every month for good behaviour, good conduct in prison. Once earned, these additional days could not be lost. In combination, statutory and earned remission could amount to about one-third of the sentence. At that point in time, the inmates' release as a result of remission was not supervised in the community.
In 1970, in response to the recommendations of the Ouimet report, the Parole Act was amended to require offenders released on remission credits to be supervised in the community. This type of release became known as mandatory supervision, or MS. Under the revised Parole Act, the National Parole Board was given the authority to set conditions for release on MS and to revoke release for breaches of these conditions.
The rationale behind MS was basically that if the cases granted parole were in need of supervision and support, those who were not granted parole or who had failed on parole had an even greater need.
Remission and mandatory supervision attracted a great deal of public attention throughout the 1970s and 1980s. There were growing concerns that some offenders released on MS were presenting a clear danger to public safety.
These issues were echoed in a number of important studies such as the Task Force Report on the Release of Offenders in 1973 and the Report of the Committee on Mandatory Supervision in 1981. These studies recognized the value of community supervision for offenders released on MS, but identified serious concerns about offenders who posed an imminent danger to public safety and who had to be released by law.
During this period, the legal and policy framework around remission and MS continued to evolve. In 1977, statutory remission was abolished, and replaced by an equivalent amount of earned remission.
In 1982, to address the release of high risk offenders on MS, the National Parole Board began “gating” offenders considered dangerous. In these cases, the offender was released on MS, but upon reaching the gate of the institution, a warrant of apprehension and suspension was executed, thereby suspending the mandatory supervision and returning the offender to custody.
In 1983, after eleven offenders were gated, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against this practice, stating that the Board's power to suspend an offender's release must relate to post-release conduct, not to conduct prior to release.
In 1986, Parliament enacted the detention provisions to address concerns about offenders who posed an imminent danger to the community, but who had to be released on MS. This legislation provided the Board with the authority to detain an offender beyond the MS date, to expiry of the sentence in cases where the offender was serving a sentence for a violent offence and where there were reasonable grounds to believe that the offender was likely, before the end of the sentence, to commit an offence involving death or serious harm.
In 1992, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act abolished remission of sentence and mandatory supervision and introduced statutory release. This shift acknowledged the principle that the gradual release of offenders contributes to public safety. It also reflected the realities of correctional practice at the time. Remission had become a very complex program to administer, and practically all offenders were being credited with all remission, leading to their release at two-thirds of sentence.
In addition, in 1996 the law was amended to provide the board with the authority to impose residency as a condition of release on statutory release in cases that demonstrated potential for violent reoffending.
This history I have just given you demonstrates the longstanding and active involvement of legislators, policy-makers, and the public with statutory release and its predecessor, mandatory supervision. In this context it is quite natural for this committee and some of the witnesses it has heard to raise questions about statutory release. After all, the group of offenders released on statutory release present one of the most complex challenges that we face in administrating the corrections and conditional release system.
Despite these difficulties, a substantial proportion of offenders released on SR reach warrant expiry in the community under supervision without reoffending or breaching the conditions of their release. Many remain crime free after the end of their sentence. These facts must be considered carefully in any discussion of statutory release, and must be set against the potential difficulties for the offender and the community that are associated with “cold turkey” release, as we often refer to it, at the end of the sentence.
We must not forget that we have convincing evidence that gradual release is very effective for safe reintegration of offenders.
For the past 40 years, legislators have devoted a great deal of time and effort to creating a legislative framework which addresses the needs of this group and the needs of the communities to which they will return.
I am convinced, however, that the legislative framework is only part of the key to success. What is equally important is the effort of the National Parole Board and the Correctional Service in applying an effective corrections approach for the SR group. By effective corrections, I mean that CSC, the Board and the community must work together to ensure offenders receive the best possible program and treatment interventions, the best possible risk and needs assessment throughout the sentence, and the best possible supervision and support in the community.
For me, this is the greatest challenge for the SR group of offenders, and the most effective strategy for public safety. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Gibbs.
Now Mr. Ingstrup, the Commissioner from Correctional Service of Canada.
Commissioner Ole Ingstrup (Correctional Service of Canada): Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and committee members. Thank you very much. I'm very pleased to be here today to be part of the discussion about statutory release and, to the extent it's possible, to answer questions committee members may have as part of your study.
I would like to begin, Mr. Chairman, by outlining what I see as the key question in this whole discussion. The key question is really quite simple, as I see it, namely, how do we best manage the last third of an offender's sentence? It should not, as demonstrated by the work of the committee, be a question of personal belief. The bottom line is a question of public safety—specifically, whether or not offenders are committing more or less crime.
In a speech in June 1999, the Auditor General of Canada stated that this kind of information about whether people commit more or less crime after a certain program is what allows Parliament and its committees to make a judgment about how well correctional services, and I could add the National Parole Board obviously, is contributing to the safety of the Canadian public.
Mr. Chairman, the second issue that I would like to address is what portion of our offender population is eligible for statutory release. These are not our worst offenders. Two very serious groups are already excluded. Offenders serving life and offenders serving indeterminate sentences are not eligible. In 1998-99, this group consisted of approximately 2,700 offenders, or 20 per cent of the entire incarcerated population. That's a substantial figure, Mr. Chairman.
Many criticize the presumptive release nature of statutory release, arguing that the system can do nothing by stand idly by while offenders are automatically released.
I would argue the following, Mr. Chairman. Today, statutory release is not a right or an automatic release. Let's remember that offenders serving a sentence for an offence listed in either Schedule I or Schedule II of the CCRA are automatically reviewed for detention until warrant expiry. In 1998-99, this represented 65 per cent of the inmate population. This leaves only 15 per cent of the inmate population who are serving sentences for non-violent offences.
For those who are not ordered detained, a further review is conducted of how best to manage their release. This includes consideration for residency, as the chairman of the National Parole Board mentioned, in a community-based residential facility, or for that matter in a psychiatric facility. Residency orders have, as a matter of fact, been used extensively. The number has escalated by more than 800% over the last three years, from less than 100 to almost 900 from 1995-96 to 1998-99.
This is not the end of the filtering process. If not detained or given a residency order, an offender is then evaluated for possible conditions to restrict his or her activities or behaviour while under supervision.
Even if the offender overcomes these barriers to release, statutory release is not full freedom. Of the more than 4,000 statutory releases that occurred in 1998-99, 52 per cent had three or more conditions imposed by the National Parole Board.
A few examples of constraints placed on an offender are: urinalysis testing, restrictions on people that offenders may associate with as well as unannounced visits by a parole officer to the place of employment or residence.
Let me now turn towards the outcomes of statutory release. How well is it performing overall?
There is a general misconception in Canada that offenders on statutory release are responsible for a large proportion of crime. This is not the case. During the calendar year 1998, the contribution to total crime in Canada by offenders on statutory release was 0.5%. This was at a time when we had 30% more offenders on statutory release than we had five years earlier.
Furthermore, we have seen a 28% reduction in revocations with a new offence and a 46% reduction in violent recidivism, all of which are good news in terms of contributing to the protection of society.
While some people argue that offenders on statutory release do not have the same success rate as with other forms of conditional release, as the chairman of the National Parole Board said, the majority of them do succeed in the community each year. Out of offenders who completed statutory release in the fiscal year 1998-99, 86% did not commit a new offence, and of the remaining 14%, 2.6% committed a violent offence.
Would we like to get these numbers down? Yes, obviously we would, and we're working hard to move in that direction. But relatively speaking, it is not a huge percentage of these people who engage in new offences.
With results of that calibre, Canada is, as a matter of fact, at the leading edge internationally in successfully reintegrating offenders safely, even those on statutory release. We continuously look around the world to see what we can learn, and we also look to see if there are other countries that can show better results than ours. At this point in time, we cannot find any system that has a lower recidivism rate when it comes to delivering correctional programs like ours.
Work begins as soon as offenders enter the correctional system through effective correctional programming that specifically addresses risk factors known to be linked to recidivism. Recent outcome studies on core programs have shown some remarkable results. For example, the Anger and Emotions Management Program produced a 69 per cent reduction in non-violent recidivism and an 86 per cent reduction in violent recidivism.
A follow-up of higher-risk sex offenders who participated in sex offender treatment showed a 59 per cent reduction in sexual recidivism. And these are just a few of the successes in correctional programming.
Once under supervision in the community, a variety of resources are available to assist the offenders there. Community-based relapse prevention programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, urinalysis testing, employment programs, and mental health counselling are just a few of the many programs designated to further enhance reintegration of offenders.
I'm pleased to inform you that since 1997-98, spending on offender programs in the community—where programs, as the deputy solicitor general mentioned, are more likely to have a higher success rate—has increased by 55%, from $8.4 million to $13 million.
In cases where the offender is having difficulty, strategies such as more frequent face-to-face meetings with the parole officer, intensive supervision and the imposition of more restrictive conditions on the offender's release are available. If all of these tools fail, the offender can be re-incarcerated.
As a matter of fact, in 1998-99, 26 per cent of all offenders on statutory release were re-incarcerated without having committed a new crime. If statutory release did not exist, essential correctional tools such as the provision of support and relapse prevention, supervision and the right to suspend and revoke release for between 2,2000 and 2,7000 offenders would be lost.
Our basic calculations have indicated that the financial repercussions would be very significant, because somewhere between 2,200 and 2,700 offenders would remain incarcerated on an ongoing basis. Of particular note is that over 60 additional women would be kept in custody, despite the fact that over the last two years, 90% of women on statutory release did not reoffend.
As well, close to an additional 600 aboriginal offenders would be kept in custody, further expanding the systemic discrimination and significantly increasing their overrepresentation in our correctional institutions. The picture is already very bleak as far as aboriginal offenders are concerned. It is projected that over the next eight to nine years, with the system as it is now, there will be a 48% increase of aboriginal offenders.
Finally, it would require close to $750 million in capital costs to build eight more penitentiaries, including one specifically for women, with an increase of approximately $125 million annually in operating costs.
But the real cost is to public safety. Between 2,200 and 2,700 offenders would be released annually with absolutely no or very little control over their activities or behaviour. If statutory release no longer existed, the best we could hope for would be a few quiet months, when the flow of offenders being released would be temporarily halted. This would be a one-shot reprieve, as a new flow would resume again shortly, with offenders being released at warrant expiry. The added cost of keeping these offenders would remain, although the benefit would cease to exist.
With your permission, Mr. Chairman, before I conclude my opening remarks, I'd like to make reference to the comments about societies made by Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson during her installation as Governor General of Canada. She said something that struck me, because of my profession, I guess, but also because of who she is. I quote:
There seem to be two kinds of societies in this world
today...punishing societies and forgiving societies. A society like
Canada's, with its four centuries of give-and-take, compromise and
acceptance, wrong-doing and redress, is basically a forgiving society.
We try...to forgive what is past. The punishing society never
forgets the wrongs of the past. The forgiving society works towards
the actions of the future. The forgiving society enables people to
behave well towards one another....
I like to believe the Governor General is right when she says Canada is a forgiving society that works to enable people to behave well towards one another. But we should also not forget that the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Gladue decision, offered a slightly more gloomy view when they stated:
Canada is a world leader in many fields, particularly in the areas of
progressive social policy and human rights. Unfortunately, our
country is also distinguished as being a world leader in putting
people in prison.
Mr. Chair and committee members, if statutory release ceased to exist, our current incarceration rate of 130 per 100,000 would most likely escalate to somewhere in the vicinity of 140 per 100,000 offenders, without any added public safety.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Ingstrup. Now we'll go to the questions, in rounds of seven minutes, starting with Mr. Gouk.
Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, Ref.): Thank you.
I'm still trying to add up all these figures I've been hearing, but they don't add up. We'll get to that.
I would like to start by making a very brief opening statement of my own. It consists of only one sentence, and that is that what we're contemplating doing—and, frankly, I still hope we do—isn't to not release offenders on parole; it's to not automatically release them.
Mr. Gibbs, you came to my office less than a year ago and expressed concerns specifically about statutory release, because the parole board, for all intents and purposes, didn't have any control over someone who you felt truly should not be released.
I'll ask you some very short questions, and I'd like to get through them so that I can turn to something else. They're very short, and I would hope that I'd get equally short answers.
Mr. Gibbs, is the National Parole Board a competent body?
Mr. Willie Gibbs: Is the National Parole Board competent? Yes.
Mr. Jim Gouk: Mr. Fournier, do you believe the National Parole Board is competent?
Mr. Jean Fournier: Yes, I do, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Jim Gouk: Mr. Ingstrup.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: I have confidence in the board.
Mr. Jim Gouk: Okay. Then I would like to know why the figures we're using suggest that if we revoke statutory release but still have parole consideration, these people who are perfectly safe to be let out on statutory release wouldn't be able to get parole consideration from the National Parole Board. Why are we looking at it that way? For you gentlemen who feel we can't do this because we're going to have all these people then kept in jail, why do you assume that the National Parole Board won't still grant parole to the majority of them if they're in fact safe to be let out? It's a 20-point toss-up. Go for it.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: I certainly would not agree that the parole board would not release at least some of those people. As I've said in giving the background of statutory release, I think it's quite clear that over the years we have had a much more definite and direct involvement in looking at the cases of potentially dangerous people. As I said, the detention provision has been in place in Canada since 1986, and since that time we at the National Parole Board have been able to put on any kind of necessary condition when a person is released on statutory release. So we have an involvement.
Since 1996 we have been given the authority to put the residency condition on people who we feel will go out and commit any kind of violent offence. In the last fiscal year, for example, we looked at about 800 cases that have come before the board for conditional release residency. We are already involved to a great extent.
Over the years those conditions were put in the office with a recommendation by Correctional Service Canada. We did not think that was sufficient. Now for any residency condition for statutory release, we have a hearing in the prison. We have gotten more and more involved, so I think we're improving as the years go by.
Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you. There are still quite a number of people who you've said don't get released on statutory release or who are kept in detention.
Some of those we saw while we were on our tour turned down parole. They want to walk out with nobody looking over their shoulder. According to the testimony of all three of you, that's not a desirable situation, this cold release.
One of the things we have considered, which has been mentioned to us a number of times, is that when there's a potential for automatic release, there's less requirement or motivation for an incarcerated offender to follow the rules, to take an active part in programs, and to really try to rehabilitate themselves.
Certainly, some of us are looking at the idea that if release has to be earned, then you might get better performance inside the facility. For these people who stay to warrant expiry, what would you say to an amendment to the sentencing act that says that everybody gets mandatory supervision for some period of time when they're released whether they qualify for parole, tear themselves apart and throw whatever at guards, get into fights, and everything else? When warrant expiry comes, you're still going to have supervision if you have not been rehabilitated. If you have not made enough of an effort to get parole, then you're at least going to go out under some supervision. What would you say to the potential of that, first of all, in terms of public safety in light of your own testimony that cold releases are not good, and, secondly, toward the idea of it causing offenders to behave better and participate in programs inside the prison?
The Chair: Mr. Ingstrup, we'd like an equally short answer to that short question.
Mr. Jim Gouk: I didn't say that all my questions would be short.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: There were actually two questions, Mr. Chairman.
One question was, why do we believe a significant number will stay in prison if statutory release is being abolished? At this point in time the parole board keeps about 60% of our offenders in through the full parole period. Those are the good risk cases. If they keep about 60% of the good risk cases, our assumption would be that it would be a little more, maybe 70% to 80%, for mandatory supervision, which are traditionally the heavier risk cases, and that's how we come to the number.
In my view, the other proposal you put forward, sir, is just an expansion of all sentences. That's all it is. It's really not an issue, then, of parole or conditional release, because you just move one-third of the sentence farther back, and it means we add one-third to the sentence. I really don't think that is—
Mr. Jim Gouk: That's not what I was saying, but we'll deal with that later.
I gather my time is up.
The Chair: Mr. Fournier.
Mr. Jean Fournier: If I may be allowed a very brief comment, Mr. Chair, on one of the points that was raised, I think it's fair to say—and Mr. Ingstrup may wish to add to this—that statutory release offenders who fail to participate in treatment and who continue to pose a risk for violent reoffending or committing a serious offence may be subject to a detention order until their end of sentence. On the other hand, those who do participate and show a willingness to benefit from treatment and programs enhance their chance of statutory release. I think the evidence would demonstrate that quite clearly.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Fournier.
You have seven minutes, Ms. Venne.
Ms. Pierrette Venne (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, Mr. Gibbs, in light of the important disclosure in today's edition of Le Droit, I'd like to ask you if it's in fact true, as reporter Michel Vastel contends, that you will be releasing Mr. Doucet's report within the next two weeks? I think this is an important issue and since we have you here, we'd appreciate your telling us if in fact there is any truth to this statement. If there is, how do you plan to proceed?
The Chairman: Ms. Venne, the issue on today's agenda is statutory release.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I realize that.
The Chairman: I was hoping we could stick to our agenda.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I understand, but this is an important issue, because we are talking about important disclosures. Since Mr. Gibbs is here, I think I'm certainly entitled, if members have no objections, to get an answer from him.
The Chairman: His answer would have to very brief, since we are here to examine another issue.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: A simple yes or no would suffice.
Mr. Jacques Saada (Brossard—La Prairie, Lib.): On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: Yes, Mr. Saada.
Mr. Jacques Saada: All we have is one afternoon and one evening to work on a major section of our report, namely statutory release. I have no objections to granting the witness one minute to provide a response to this question, but in so doing, we would be setting a precedent and as such, agreeing to allow members to put questions about matters other than statutory release to all of the witnesses.
I'd be very happy if Ms. Venne put the question to Mr. Gibbs at another time. I don't object in particular to her asking the question, but I'm concerned that we might be setting a precedent.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: Mr. Chairman, I'm disappointed that my colleagues aren't more willing to participate in the process of democracy, but I will bow to the wishes of the majority.
The Chairman: This meeting was convened for the sole purpose of discussing statutory release.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: A simple yes or no would have sufficed. However, since I'm not about to get an answer, I will move on, Mr. Gibbs. Some other time, perhaps.
Mr. Gibbs, can you tell me if some U.S. states have opted for a correctional system without statutory release provisions? If the answer is yes, can you give me your assessment of the results achieved and of the costs involved?
Mr. Willie Gibbs: To my knowledge there are several U.S. states with no such provisions in place, but the only one I know of for certain is Utah, where offenders serving a sentence are released when the Board, not the legislation, deems that they are eligible for parole. Until they have served their full sentence, the only way these offenders can be released is if they are granted parole.
According to information brought to my attention last week, the rate of recidivism is reported to be 50 per cent. These results don't necessarily mean that the system isn't working well, that parole board members are incompetent or that some offenders are particularly difficult, but the recidivism rate is much higher than it is in Canada. In this country, the incidence of recidivism among offenders on statutory release is much lower. That's the only state on which I have any kind of data.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I see. Thank you.
Commissioner Ingstrup, in the National Parole Board's performance report for 1998-1999, we note that from 1992 to the present, the rate of reincarceration was 4 per cent in the case of offenders released on full parole and 20 per cent in the case of statutory release offenders.
Earlier in your presentation, you stated that the situation was even worse this year, because in 1999, the rate of reincarceration had risen to 26 per cent. Could you explain this turn of events to me?
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: I'd be happy to.
The rate of recidivism is generally about 10 per cent per year for all types of releases. This higher rate is due in part to the fact that statutory release offenders are part of a group that poses a greater risk than the remaining offender population. We're talking about two separate groups.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I understand.
I'm also curious as to what impact you think the elimination of statutory release would have on the inmate population and on Correctional Service employees. In other words, is statutory release one way of maintaining discipline, a reward available to offenders for good behaviour? Would eliminating statutory release take away this power that the Correctional Service holds over offenders? After all, it is a form of power.
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: That's correct. As the Chairman of the National Parole Board explained in his presentation, statutory release was originally seen and used as a means of controlling the behaviour of the inmate population.
As a correctional services worker, I don't think we need this mechanism any more. There are many other means available to resolve behavioural problems among inmates. I couldn't recommend using parole or statutory release as a disciplinary measure. The positive thing I see now is the opportunity to continue assessing offenders on the basis of risk they present, not according to their behaviour while in prison.
The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Venne.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I'll continue later.
The Chairman: Mr. MacKay, you have seven minutes.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Thank you for being here, Mr. Ingstrup, Mr. Fournier, and Mr. Gibbs.
My first question is to you, Mr. Ingstrup. You mentioned in your opening remarks that statutory release is not a right.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Peter MacKay: I have a document called Sentence Calculation: How Does it Work?, which is a federal publication. It's a handbook for judges, lawyers, and correctional officials. It states clearly in one provision that “statutory release is a right rather than a privilege.” Are you familiar with that publication?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: I know it, yes.
Mr. Peter MacKay: So you emphatically deny that's the case.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: It's not a very good way of describing the phenomenon we are faced with, because a right means I can just go to you and say “I want” and you have to give it to me. That's not the case with statutory release.
As I said, 85% of the offenders will be reviewed, so for them it's certainly not a right. You could use the term “right” for the last 15%. But I'm a little reluctant to do that—although I'm not totally against it—because all these people also go through a review of residency conditions or other conditions, such as supervision, that can be revoked the day after.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Isn't it true that a person serving time for murder or a violent offence, who sits in their cell and does nothing—doesn't participate in a program or make any self-motivated attempts to rehabilitate or reform themselves—has the right to apply at the two-thirds mark of their sentence? It's in the standing orders or the provisions right now that they have a right to apply. That's not to say they'll get it, but they have a right to apply.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, they don't.
Mr. Peter MacKay: If Karla Homolka, after killing three people, applies four or five years into her twelve-year sentence, she will have a statutory right to release in eight years.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, she won't.
Mr. Peter MacKay: That's what's going to happen.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Absolutely not.
Mr. Peter MacKay: She's applying now. She will be given statutory release in eight years.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: In eight years she will have the right to be considered, but she could be detained. Anyone can be detained at that stage. Most murderers get life sentences—
Mr. Peter MacKay: In your presentation you gave us statistics—and these statistics are sometimes hard to follow—that 26% of all offenders on statutory release were reincarcerated without having committed new crimes.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right.
Mr. Peter MacKay: If not complying with the provisions of their release were a crime, they would have been incarcerated for a new crime, in the same way as a person would be incarcerated for a breach of probation. So perhaps we should have a provision for failing to comply with an order made by the National Parole Board. I say that because we know, from past appearances by you and others, that documents were circulated to this committee that suggested orders came from your office to not breach people for technical breaches.
The Chair: We're here for one purpose, and that's the statutory release. Can we restrict our discussion to that?
Mr. Peter MacKay: With respect, Mr. Chair, I think this is very much on topic.
The Chair: I know, but I don't want a repeat of the last time the commissioner was here, when we talked about one subject only.
Mr. Peter MacKay: If directions were being given to ignore technical breaches, what confidence can we have in these statistics?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: As I have explained before in reply to one of your questions, Mr. MacKay, there was no order to ignore violations of technical conditions at all—never. There was encouragement to be better at managing our population, and I think that's what good corrections are all about.
Obviously, if violation of conditions happened to be an offence, there would be.... But it's not an offence at this time. That means one in four people have been reincarcerated, with the help of the parole board, for behaviour that was not criminal behaviour, but behaviour not in accordance with the regulations issued. So we take these conditions seriously and request that the offenders take these conditions seriously. If they don't follow the conditions, they go back to jail.
Mr. Peter MacKay: That sounds a lot like the Solicitor General. If we have put conditions in place—stay away from a playground if you're a pedophile, don't drink because that leads you to get involved in more crime, don't associate with your former criminal associates—and those conditions are not complied with, doesn't that go against the whole principle of rehabilitation? If a person is not complying with those conditions, why wouldn't we want to make that a criminal offence? You speak of us as not being a punishing society, but aren't we supposed to be a protecting society?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right. I would suggest that in context there is no evidence that what you're suggesting will drive down that 0.5 of 1% of crime in Canada committed by those on statutory release. If we had evidence to suggest that more criminalization of inmates' behaviour in that area would lead to a lower level of crime, I think it ought to be considered, but there is no evidence to suggest that.
There is evidence to suggest that what we're doing doing now produces a very high level of contribution to the protection of society. About 1,400 new offences, of which most are not violent offences, committed by that group, out of 312,000 offences, is a pretty good result. That is a benchmark, in my view.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Mr. Gibbs, do you consider it would advance the protection of the public to have statutory review by the National Parole Board, as opposed to statutory release?
Mr. Willie Gibbs: Do you mean that with every case that arrived at two-thirds, the parole board would have to make a review as to whether or not the person should be released?
Mr. Peter MacKay: Automatically.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: That in itself would abolish statutory release.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Yes. That's what I'm suggesting.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: I don't think there's an in-between here, if we're going to make a decision on every case.
As I was saying a while ago, we have had 40 years of this, and the legislators have been involved in it at least two or three times in every decade over those 40 years. I'd be very cautious about giving all that back to the board or abolishing it.
We are involved in a fair number of cases as it is, and as of last month we're reviewing every residency on mandatory supervision. Last year there were 800. We're meeting face to face with these people, so we're involved on a fair number of cases, apart from detention cases. I'm adding to the detention cases we're involved in, and they're the ones of the most concern to you and the community.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gibbs.
Mr. Wappel, seven minutes.
Mr. Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, gentlemen, for coming this afternoon. My questions will be very short, and I would really appreciate it if your answers are short too.
Is it fair to say that all of your opening remarks were based on your assumption of the abolition of statutory release, without it being replaced by something else?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I will leave it to my colleagues to speak for themselves, but the purpose of my opening remarks was to explain how the system of statutory release worked, and make the point that over the years it has served us well. Overall, the results are good and are improving.
Secondly, I think I made the point, and my colleagues did as well, that it can be improved. There are a variety of ways I outline in my remarks under which statutory release can be improved, and indeed both the parole board and CSC are working on ways whereby we can make statutory release work even better.
The statistics I used show that over the last five years there has been progress in terms of a reduction in the rate of violent recidivism among statutory release. Those are facts, and that was the purpose of my presentation today.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Mr. Gibbs.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: If there are ways to improve the system of statutory release, I personally would be very open to it.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Mr. Ingstrup.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: My answer can be very short. My comments were based on the assumption that statutory release would be replaced by a system whereby the parole board would review every case also at two-thirds.
Mr. Tom Wappel: All right. I took some notes during your opening remarks. Mr. Fournier, perhaps these notes aren't accurate, but at one point you said 80% of inmates are eligible for statutory release and that this is a right and not a privilege. Is that an accurate statement of your comments?
Mr. Jean Fournier: No, I did not use the words “right” or “privilege”.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Is statutory release a right in your view as deputy solicitor general?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I refer you back to the discussion that took place a moment ago between Mr. MacKay—
Mr. Tom Wappel: I'm not interested in that discussion. I'm interested in the discussion between you and me. Is it a right in your opinion?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I think, as stated by the commissioner of corrections, it is a qualified right. It is not an absolute right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: He didn't say that. He said it wasn't a right. He said it was a privilege. You're saying it's a qualified right.
Mr. Jean Fournier: With respect, Mr. Chair, I don't think he said that, and I would say that it is. If one wants to go down that road, I think it is probably a qualified right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: He said, and I quote: “statutory release is not a right and it is not automatic”. That's a direct quote from his opening remarks.
Mr. Ingstrup, you did say that, didn't you?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: I said what you quoted, absolutely, and what I mean is it's a better way of describing statutory release to not use the word “right”, because there are so many qualifications that it makes little sense to call it a right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Let's have a look at section 127:
Subject to any provision of this Act, an offender sentenced, committed
or transferred to penitentiary is entitled to be released on the
They don't have to make an application, as Mr. MacKay said; they're entitled to be released on their statutory release date unless there are very specific circumstances that would allow the parole board to review the case, right?
So a B and E artist is going to be released whether or not the parole board thinks he's going to reoffend. It has to be serious harm that is perceived to occur before the parole board can hold these people back from their right to be released—from their “entitlement”, if I use the statutory term. Is that not correct?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: What I was trying—
Mr. Tom Wappel: Sir, is that not correct?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: It's correct what you read but—
Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Sir—
Mr. Tom Wappel: No, I have a few other questions and I have to get through them.
What's your profile of people who are on statutory release? Is it not true that those people are people who couldn't make earlier parole? Is that not true?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: There are people the Correctional Service of Canada or the National Parole Board did not—
Mr. Tom Wappel: They didn't make early parole.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: That's all I want to know.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: They didn't make parole earlier than two-thirds. That's right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: And so they're entitled to statutory release—
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, they're not.
Mr. Tom Wappel: —unless, under the section, the parole board finds that they have to be held back.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Tom Wappel: You said that the people on statutory release are not the highest-risk group.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Those are your direct words.
The highest-risk group I presume are the people the parole board won't release. The people who are of least risk to society presumably are the people who made parole. So these are the folks in between, aren't they?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Tom Wappel: These are people who couldn't make parole but aren't bad enough as far as serious harm is concerned to be kept back by the parole board.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: A guy could be a professional bank robber, he could be a professional break and enter artist, but he's going out. So you said “some people” argue that people on statutory release commit more offences. And you said that—at least the way I took it—in an incredulous way, like, how could people make such an argument?
...offenders on SR are about 1.5 times more likely than full parolees
to be readmitted to penitentiary prior to warrant expiry for a new
offence or a breach of conditions of release, and 3 to 4 times more
likely to be readmitted after warrant expiry for a new offence.
That's the National Parole Board's performance report, not “some people”. Do you agree with the National Parole Board's performance report?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Of course I agree with the performance report, but it's not what I was saying, Mr. Wappel. What I was saying was that there is a general misconception, and I quote myself, that in Canada the offenders on statutory release are responsible for a large proportion of crime. I'm saying this is not the case.
The proportion is one-half of one percent. Do they represent a higher level of crime than those on full parole and day parole? Yes, they do, because they are selected in such a way that they represent a higher risk. So it is our “higher end of the risk scale” part of the population.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Wappel. Your time is up.
We're now going to the second round of three minutes. Mr. Gouk.
Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you. Lots of statistics are coming out. We hear that 15% are all who really get considered, but if we turn down statutory release, we'll get up to 2,700 more people in prison. On page 1 of your presentation, Mr. Ingstrup, 2,700 is exactly the amount of offenders you referred to as 20% of the population.
If Mr. DeVillers, who is a very generous man, has you up to his office for a drink after this meeting is over, and being a generous man, he pours very large drinks and you have three of them, and you drive home and you aren't stopped by the police, have you committed a crime?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes, sir, of course I have.
Mr. Jim Gouk: Yes. One-half of one percent are apprehended for a crime. Do we have any statistics that tell us if the balance of those are good citizens? Does everybody who commits a crime get caught?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, they don't, but we have reason to believe that the proportion of people on any kind of conditional release are more likely to be caught if they commit a new offence—not completely, but more likely. And the reason for this is that they are much more in the eyes of the police and our own parole officers, and they are known usually in the community where they roam around. But they don't—
Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you. I want to get on, because it's a very short round this time.
I still have trouble with the whole general attitude of the concept that says that if you don't have something that automatically lets them out, except where the reverse onus goes to the parole board to prove that they're going to commit a serious or violent offence.... The onus of proof is now on the parole board. To suggest that if this is taken away, in terms of all these people who are okay to let out, the parole board is so vindictive—if that's the right word—that they won't let these people out on parole, why would somebody who is entitled and safe to be out under statutory release not qualify for regular consideration if an automatic review, only without the reverse onus, goes to the parole board?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: If 60% of the people are now reaching warrant expiry in statutory release without a new offence and without a breach of condition, I could not assure you that the parole board would release all those people. You're asking me why wouldn't the board release all those people. I can't assure you of that. We may release fewer, we may release more. I don't know.
Mr. Jim Gouk: We talk in terms of 15% of the population. Those are the figures Mr. Ingstrup used, the ones that we're really talking about—15% of the population. If this suddenly now comes to you and you have an opportunity to say whether these people really warrant having an early parole or not, the implication of the figures that were used suggest that you would turn down each and every one of them.
Now, you may turn down 10% of those, or you may let them all go out just the same. Do you feel that you would reject all or a significant majority of those people, and if so, why? Why are we saying it's safe to let them out now if the parole board, in its wisdom, won't let them out when they get the chance to consider it?
Mr. Willie Gibbs: We know that approximately half of the people who breach parole—if I have my statistics right here—go out on statutory release. What I should say is that half of the statutory release population have already gone out on parole and broken parole. We already tried them on parole, so to say whether at two-thirds we would try them again—and the rest of them who were never tried—is speculating to the point where I can't give you an answer.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Gibbs.
Mr. Saada, you have three minutes.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to be certain that I understand clearly the process were trying to change. Currently, in the case of offenders to have served two- thirds of their sentence, the Correctional Service opts to refer some to the National Parole Board, whereas the remainder receive a conditional release.
If the two-thirds provision were eliminated, in essence this would mean that the work now done by the Correctional Service would be entrusted to the National Parole Board. They would be dealing with the same cases, the same offenders, the same conditions and the same data.
Unlike Mr. Gouk, I trust the National Parole Board as much as I trust the Correctional Service, but I'm curious as to how the recidivism rate could be reduced to under 2.9 percent by shifting responsibility from one authority to the other.
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: Mr. Chairman, that's precisely the point I was trying to make. Currently, all offenders are assessed to determine whether they should be paroled. If we feel that some offenders should remain in custody, we refer them to the National Parole Board which then rules on the detention question.
As I've said on a number of occasions, under the current system, statutory release offenders are responsible for .5 per cent of all crimes committed in Canada. Although I can't be certain of it, I'm inclined to believe that by referring these offenders to the Parole Board, we could reduce this rate even further.
Mr. Jacques Saada: That wasn't exactly the question I had, so let me rephrase it.
All offender files are evaluated by the Correctional Service throughout the process. My question, essentially, is this: is the assessment done by the Correctional Service more or less meritorious than the one done by the National Parole Board in terms of providing assurances that the offender to be released presents, or does not present, a certain level of risk? Right now, and I'm waiting to see what happens, I don't have any evidence to indicate that one authority can guarantee the public's safety more than the other.
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: I agree with you.
Mr. Jean Fournier: So do I. You've raised an excellent point, one that, in my view, goes to the crux of the matter at hand. I see no clear advantage to replacing a system that works relatively well, one that has been around for a number of years, with another system, given the costs and the inevitable upheavals associated with a change of this nature.
As I was saying, the system in place works relatively well, judging from all of the evaluations and all of the research that has been done, both internal and external. Our foreign counterparts have come to see firsthand how Canada's system works and have determined that it is a good system. Can it be improved upon? Of course.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Briefly, I'd like to focus on these improvements in the few seconds I have remaining. Mr. Fournier, in your report....
The Chairman: Mr. Saada, your time is up. Ms. Venne is up next.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Will you be coming back to me later?
The Chairman: Yes, of course.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I'll be very quick, Mr. Saada. We'll get back to you in a few minutes.
Mr. Fournier, people are saying that they don't understand anything about the sentencing process and that in any event, when an offender is sentenced to eight years, that doesn't mean that he will in fact serve eight years, but perhaps two-thirds of his sentence or anywhere from six to eight years. I'm talking about the general public. For the sake of a transparent and easy-to- understand justice system, wouldn't you agree that a new approach is worth considering, one that would involve having the offender actually serve the full sentence handed down to him?
Mr. Jean Fournier: This is a popular approach in certain American states. Proposals like this have formed the basis of some election campaigns in the U.S. Here in Canada, our values are fundamentally different, and this is true equally of our correctional system and of our political system. To the extent that some confusion is possible, and I'm not denying that confusion can occur, all government programs, not only correctional programs, can be hard at times to understand.
We're trying to change that and I believe we're succeeding. We're working very closely with the Correctional Service and with the National Parole Board on educating people and enhancing public awareness through videos, television programming and so forth. I believe that by adopting this approach, we stand a better chance of increasing public trust in our correctional and criminal justice systems then we would by making changes for reasons that aren't obvious.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: Various submissions, including that of the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec, suggested that parole should be based more on the merit principle. I'd be interested in hearing your comments on this suggestion, Mr. Gibbs. Do you think parole could be granted on the basis of merit, rather than on the basis of the conditions now in place?
Mr. Willie Gibbs: Generally speaking, I believe that parole should be a function primarily of risk assessment. Assessing merit is another possible approach. The offender takes the required programs to minimize potential risk. That's fine for part of the sentence, but the fact remains that as the offender approaches the end of the sentence, he will still require supervision, monitoring and structure. At this point, merit is perhaps less important than it was earlier on.
The Chair: Mr. Grose, you have three minutes.
Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Being a rather simplistic fellow, I'll ask a simplistic question. Why are we arguing here about revising what the judge originally did? In my estimation, the judge looks at a fellow and says, “You need eight years, so I'll give you twelve because they're going to chop three off it.”
Why are we interfering that way? Why do we not say this is the sentence? Then the parole board decides whether or not you've been a good guy, and if it looks like you've turned your act around, they'll let you out early on a leash. This would make the whole thing much simpler. Now, I know you're going to come back and say, well, you guys enacted that. It wasn't us who did it.
But tell me what your opinion is on it. That's why you're here. That's what I want to know. Would it not be better if we simply took the sentence the judge gave, and then the parole board would act on that? Let's not fool around with statutory release at two-thirds of the sentence; because the judge said twelve, you get eight.
Give me your opinion, please, all three of you.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: It's always a good thing to look at ways of simplifying systems. I guess when you look at the history of mandatory supervision, the statutory release system, it really was a system that was supposed to work for most offenders so that two-thirds of the original sentence would be cut off.
Mr. Ivan Grose: It used to be called remission, or good time.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That was really a very different system from what we're looking at now, where we're looking not at what you did while you were in prison but at what you're likely to do when you go back to society. I think if we applied that rule exactly the same way all the way from one-third to the end of the sentence, we would see in reality a lengthening of our sentences. There's no reason to believe that in itself would lead to a higher level of public safety, and that is, to me, the benchmark.
You see, in many other countries they have a parole system as well, but I don't know of any system that doesn't have some cut-off dates. The reason for that is that the purpose of sentences is often twofold.
The first part of it is, as even the Roman law set out, because you did what you did—to punish, for no other reason than to punish. But then at a certain point in the sentence we're looking forward. What can we do to reduce the risk that person would represent once released? So there is this dual purpose in the sentences, and where the cut-off line should be differs from one country to the other. It's really a political decision.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Grose.
Mr. MacKay, you have three minutes.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I guess I can pose this to any one of you. It was mentioned, I believe it was in Mr. Ingstrup's presentation, that what we're talking about here with statutory release is the best way to manage the last third of the offender's sentence. I would suggest that in some cases, particularly those of the most violent offenders who are there for the most serious of reasons, the best object is to predict whether that person is going to kill, or rape, or maim again. That's what the decision has to come down to.
I'm not going to get into the issues of consecutive sentencing for those types of offences, or the faint hope clause that still exists. And I know implicit in your response is that human behaviour is not an exact science. I know that.
We're currently going through this process with the Young Offenders Act, separating violent from non-violent offences, and this is about an entire review of the system, so I'm throwing this out as perhaps a penetratingly obvious question. But I would like a response. Why do we not have a more specific schedule of offences for offenders, an expansive one that would include things like break and enter, and robbery with violence? We would simply say at the end of the day that no one is going to be released if they're on this certain schedule of offences without conditions or supervision, whether it's at statutory release or warrant expiry. Nobody goes out the door without a period of time of supervision.
Now, I know that will send shivers up the spines of the constitutional lawyers in the Department of Justice, but why can't we do that in this country?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes, it is primarily a legal question, at least the last part of it, where you are saying no matter when you are released—it could be at the end of the original warrant's expiry, and it would still include a period of supervision.
Mr. Peter MacKay: All of you have said that you don't want to send people out cold turkey.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right. As I understand it, although I can easily follow your reasoning, I think we are back to simply using the parole legislation to prolong the sentences. That's what we are doing. That's all we are doing. And I don't think, Mr. Chairman, Mr. MacKay, that we have any good evidence to suggest that longer sentences will reduce crime more than what we are doing now.
Mr. Peter MacKay: But longer supervision will.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Longer supervision is what the statutory release is meant to provide. It is a question of how long sentences should be. What amount of time should people be spending behind bars?
When you look at Canada's incarceration rate, at 130 or thereabouts, although we're not quite at the top of the scale—for instance, we're not at the level of the United States, South Africa, Russia, or some of the east bloc countries—I would suggest that we are still, in a western hemisphere context, very high.
So it's not as though we are not using incarceration quite extensively, especially if you compare it with the pattern of crime in Canada, which is basically at the same level as most of western Europe, and in some instances lower.
You asked, Mr. MacKay, about having a schedule for these particularly violent people. Certainly detention does exactly that. I didn't talk about that right here, because 65% of all our offenders are actually on schedule I or II, with most of them on schedule I.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Do you believe there are some who cannot be rehabilitated, regardless of the amount of time they're in, regardless of the amount of programming they're subjected to? Do you believe there are those we can keep there until hell freezes over and then release them and still, given the right circumstances and the fact that they might be physically able, they will kill again?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: These are two different questions, because “kill again” is one particular category.
Do I believe we can guarantee, ever, that rehabilitation will be 100%? No, I don't. The problem is, we only know afterwards, and it would be unreasonable to hold everybody because of that.
The Chair: We have to move on.
Mr. Wappel, you have three minutes.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you. I'll try to be very brief.
Just for the purposes of language, Mr. Ingstrup, in response to Mr. MacKay you said something to the effect that tinkering with the CCRA or parole would prolong a sentence. Surely what you mean is prolong incarceration. There's nothing that tinkering with the CCRA can do with respect to a sentence, which is meted out by a judge. You're referring to the length of incarceration, not the length of sentence, correct?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, because I was actually responding to Mr. MacKay's question of what if we put supervision after the period of incarceration that already exists, which means the person would be under sentence for a longer period.
Mr. Tom Wappel: After the sentence has expired.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Okay.
But you would agree with me that anything we did, or anything anybody did, under the CCRA would not prolong sentence. It might prolong incarceration.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, that would be a different story.
Mr. Tom Wappel: All right.
Mr. Fournier, in your opening remarks you said—and I hope I got this right, because I didn't last time, apparently—statutory release is working well. As well, in your response to Monsieur Saada, you said—and I quote—“The current system is working quite well”.
I would like to quote from the National Parole Board's performance report for the period ending March 31, 1999. It says:
Since introduction of the CCRA in 1992, the post-warrant
expiry recidivism rate for full parole has averaged 4%,
compared with an average rate of about 20% for SR.
Do you consider that “working quite well”?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I did say that the current system works reasonably well, and that this is not just my view. I think I indicated as well that this is a view shared by I think a number of people. Certainly those who responded to the discussion paper from coast to coast expressed that view as well.
I did say, in the same breath, that there was room for improvement, refinement, and adjustment. I did make the point that the current rate of violent-offence recidivism, which was 4% in 1994-95, had been brought down to 2.9% in 1997-98 and 2.6% in 1998-99.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Yes, but do you think—
Mr. Jean Fournier: This clearly is progress. No other country in the world has a system that matches or betters this one.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Do you think the system is working well if the recidivism rate for those on statutory release, post-warrant, is 20%, whereas for those on full parole the rate is 4%?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I'll leave that to Willie Gibbs here, because you're referring to his performance report. Although I'm generally conversant with the numbers you're referring to, I think I should leave it to him to respond specifically.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Sure, thank you.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: Mr. Wappel, since you're referring to this report, I think I should explain it.
Yes, we went back 12 years, as you can tell. We looked at all the people who had been released every year on either full parole or statutory release, and there is no doubt that there is a recidivism rate of between four and five times for statutory release.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Over 12 years.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: But one must not forget that the people who go out on statutory release are the ones who create for us the biggest challenges. I said that in my—
Mr. Tom Wappel: I can assure you, we haven't forgotten that.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: Right.
So it would surprise me if it were different from that. For the ones we have discretionary authority over, surely we're going to make the appropriate decisions, and the results are going to be what they are, whether it's short term or long term.
When it comes to that category, under statutory release, well, you're dealing with the ones who either didn't make parole at all or failed on parole. So it's not surprising that 10 to 12 years later, that's the case.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Okay.
One more question on statistics.
The Chair: On statistics.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Yes, on statistics. Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chair.
As the deputy minister, Monsieur Fournier, you're of course concerned about money and how much it costs to run the department. You said so in one of your answers to Mr. Saada.
Isn't it true that statutory release makes it possible to release between 25% and 33% of the inmate population of a federal penitentiary per year, which is a very good means of reducing the inmate population and turning it over? Isn't that true?
Mr. Jean Fournier: Yes, it is true.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.
The Chairman: Ms. Venne.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: I have no questions at the moment.
The Chair: Mr. MacKay, three minutes.
Mr. Peter MacKay: With regard to statistics, I don't want to get into all the nuances of what statistics may or may not represent, but one that does jump off the page at me concerns the revocation rate for breach of conditions, both full parole and statutory release.
For full parole, those who were revoked for breaching conditions—for instance, to stay away from playgrounds, stay off alcohol and drugs, and comply with reporting—it was 14.4%, and statutory release was 25.6%. So there was a 10% drop if the person was released on full parole.
For violent offenders, isn't it a laudable goal to try to have a 10% drop in that revocation of breach? Because most times, at least for a violent offender, that revocation of breach may be something that's going to lead to another violent offence.
I mean, if this statistic is correct—and I'm not saying it is—there's a 10% drop here.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, I think it's the other way, Mr. MacKay.
Mr. Peter MacKay: It's 14.4%—
Commr Ole Ingstrup: For full parole. That means those who are under full parole will usually be the people who have slightly fewer conditions than the higher-risk people under statutory release. As well, they are more likely than the statutory people to abide by the rules. That's really quite a natural thing.
Mr. Peter MacKay: My reading of this is that 25.6% of statutory releases were revoked.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Peter MacKay: If they were on full parole, only 14.4% were revoked.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes, but that is exactly why they are in a different category; they represent a higher risk. Therefore, the two numbers are actually an indication that the system works relatively well in discriminating between who should go out on statutory release and who should go out on parole. The lighter cases and those who are more likely to behave the way they're supposed to behave go out on full parole, as the system is supposed to work. Those who are more dicey will go out on statutory release later in the sentence.
Mr. Peter MacKay: I don't read it that way at all. I see it as 10% more people on statutory release were revoked than people on full parole.
Mr. Willie Gibbs: If I understand you correctly, Mr. MacKay, you're suggesting that if the people who make it to statutory release would be released earlier on parole, their breaches of conditions would be less, right? They would be on parole rather than on a statutory release. Well, my view would be if we were to do that, I think the percentage of breaches of conditions of parole would go up.
So it would look better, maybe, for the statutory release, but the result would not be as good for their full parole.
The Chair: Mr. Saada.
Mr. Jacques Saada: I think there is no question about the fact that all of us around this table here are trying to find a way of improving the situation. That's very clear. We have some dogmas, and sometimes we don't have dogmas, but we are still aiming at the same objective.
This question refers to the recommendation you are making, or the examples you are giving in terms of improvement. I'm maybe addressing this question to Mr. Fournier, but also to the other two if they want to intervene. You say, on page 2 of your presentation:
Possible approaches include, for example more intensive
supervision on the street, or more intensive intervention in custody
in the early part of the sentence.
Am I correct in assuming that these are recommendations made more on the administrative side of the operation of the Correctional Service and the National Parole Board than actual legislation changes required to recommend that?
Mr. Jean Fournier: That is right, Mr. Saada. These are essentially non-legislative changes, based on our observations as well as the country-wide consultations we've had, which essentially indicate there is a general view that the system is currently working well and, with some improvements, some enhancements, some adjustments, it could be made to work better. The kinds of suggestions or examples that have been given to us are, indeed, more and better and more intensive community supervision and support in the communities, in the street; more intensive programming, including treatment; better risk assessment in the institutions. That's the kind of message I was conveying in my earlier remarks.
Mr. Jacques Saada: In this case, would it be reasonable to assume—of course, if we leave aside the financial resources, it might not be required for that—that's something that could be implemented, notwithstanding the decisions we're making in terms of the general administration amendments? And if it is the case, would you recommend—and I'm not saying I would possibly agree to it, but I'm just thinking out loud with you—that this be part of the recommendation we would make, which is to implement these kinds of measures, and have them assessed at the next review we would make of the CRA?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I would strongly support that approach. I think it's pragmatic. I think it's incremental. I think it's consistent with the approach that has been taken over the last 10 to 25 years of gradually improving, based on experience and based on research.
To answer in a different way, if there were limited additional funds made available by the government, I would rather have those funds invested in more intensive community supervision, moneys going to community groups to help and assist the Correctional Service and the Parole Board, as opposed to building more institutions and more prisons in this country.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Do I have still some time?
The Chair: Yes, you do.
Mr. Jacques Saada: I've read or I've heard witnesses say that people who are released on stat sometimes overcrowd facilities or services that are available to all the population—who are on conditional release of some sort. In fact, they are preventing some other people who would like to have access to the services to have access to services. Do you think this is accurate or justified?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: I'm not sure I fully understand the question.
Mr. Jacques Saada: You have given resources in a given area.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Jacques Saada: When people come out from behind bars, on a—
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Technical.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Yes, on such a release, they go to these centres. They haven't shown so far they're really interested in improving their own situation. But at the same time, there is a demand for these services by people who are on conditional release of other sorts and who can't have access to them because of limitation of spaces. Is that accurate?
The Chair: I think Mr. Saada is making reference to evidence the subcommittee heard that statutory release with residency was putting a strain on the halfway houses, etc.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right. Yes, it is. That is very true. As I've said, we've increased the number of residencies by more than 800%, and the National Parole Board and the Correctional Service are looking together to see if they're necessary, if that's a good way of using the resources. We're seeing some changes over the last little while.
But what is more important is that we don't have much overcrowding in our prisons nowadays, because crime is going down in Canada. So the number of admissions is going down—a very encouraging thing.
The other thing is that we have, in certain program areas, a little bit of a shortage of programs. That's not because we don't have resources; it's because there's only so much expertise, there are only so many people who can do high-quality sex offender treatment, and we don't want to involve amateurs in this work. It has to be highly professional people. There we invest in the areas where we can get—
Mr. Jacques Saada: How about remote areas?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Remote areas? Well, that is more in the community, and what happens there is that our risk assessment in the context of release is based on what kind of community the person is going to go back to. Obviously it's a lot easier to manage the risk if there is an expert who can take care of the individual in the community where this person is being released. It goes into the assessment of risk that is presented to the parole board.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Jean Fournier: If I may be permitted, with your indulgence, Mr. Chairman—
The Chair: Yes.
Mr. Jean Fournier: —by answering Mr. Saada's questions in the way I did, by emphasizing effective corrections and the building up of community corrections, I did not mean to suggest that some of the concerns and indeed suggestions that, for example, Mr. Wappel has made in relation to break and enter ought not to be considered. These are serious issues that have been raised and they may well be part of future considerations in relation to either the criteria or some of the approaches the National Parole Board or CSC take.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Fournier.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: Some witnesses have said to the subcommittee that the real reason for statutory release is that this measure contributes significantly to reducing the overall inmate population. How do you feel about this argument? Are you going to tell me that there could be some basis to it?
A member: No.
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: Managing the size of the inmate population is not really the issue here, because if the legislation is amended, we will need to build more institutions. Right now, we have enough cells and enough beds for the inmates currently in custody.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: You mean under the current system.
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: That's right.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: Fine, but if it the system is changed....
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: If we overhaul the system, we will need to build new facilities.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: Therefore, if we follow this reasoning, we could argue that statutory release is one way of emptying our correctional facilities.
Commr. Ole Ingstrup: Not really. Currently, prison institutions across Canada are not full, but if the legislation is amended and our predictions are accurate, 80 per cent of offenders will not be paroled. In that case, we would need an additional 2,500 cells.
Ms. Pierrette Venne: You're saying the same thing, but two different ways. I understand. Thank you.
Would you care to elaborate on that, Mr. Fournier?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I'll only say that the correctional system as we currently know it is based on the belief that releasing inmates into the community with some form of supervision is the best approach and the best way of ensuring the public's safety. If our primary concern is to be the safety of the public and if we operate on the assumption that all inmates will be returned to the community sooner or later, then the sooner we reintegrate offenders into the community with some form of community supervision, that is by using existing community resources, the better it will ultimately be for the public.
The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Venne.
Mr. Ivan Grose: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm not going to bother you with percentages. As you know, as I sit here I change them.
I have a brief, blunt question, which is directed mainly to Mr. Gibbs, but I'd like to get an answer from the other two. Would it not be simpler if we left judging to the judges, who give the amount of sentence they figure is appropriate, and leave parole or early release to the National Parole Board? We're into this discussion here today only because we're mixing these two things together. Please give me an honest answer. If the system is wrong, you're not to blame. We are. So tell me, would it not be better if we could keep it simple?
Mr. Willie Gibbs: I suppose that under ideal conditions it might be worth looking at. But as I said several times—and I gave pretty well the history of statutory remission, earned remission, and mandatory supervision—I don't think we can forget 40 years of history and just do away with that. That's my view of it. Perhaps under ideal conditions that would be one way of doing it.
The Chair: Thank you. Does anyone else wish to comment?
Mr. Jean Fournier: I would simply add a repetition of what I said in my earlier statement. Generally speaking, the present system works well, and I think our encouragement is to try to work on improving the system, making it work better, and making Canadians feel more secure, as opposed to a radical transformation, which we don't feel is justified by the facts.
Mr. Ivan Grose: Mr. Ingstrup.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Since you insist on it, I would say that I don't think one can have a system—at least I've never seen it anywhere—that says that the judges can determine the sentence and that is good until the parole board decides something else. That doesn't exist. Somehow there has to be a reality in the sentence.
In most countries there is an eligibility date, which is the bottom line for the parole board. In Canada, because of the complex history, as Mr. Gibbs has outlined to us, there are two of these eligibility dates, depending on two different criteria. But that is a product of history. So really our system, apart from the difference in history compared with most other countries, is one that works much like any other system.
I think it's important to say, if I may finish on this note, Mr. Chairman, that one always has to bear in mind that any new legislative system has to compete with a performance of one-half of one percent and make that better.
Like Mr. Fournier, I think focusing on educating more people to deliver programs and continuing a very high level of investment in research that can enable us to open new doors is the way to go. We shouldn't forget that it's not because the government doesn't want to give us money to deliver more programs that we are at the level we're at, it's simply because that's as far as our insight into these human mechanisms can take us at this point in time. Research is going on to expand our borders.
Mr. Ivan Grose: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Grose.
We're almost out of time, but we'll turn briefly to Mr. MacKay, followed by Mr. Wappel, and then we'll have to wrap it up.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On that note of resource allocation, I would be very curious to know how familiar you are with the programming and what communication you have with program delivery. It's a no-brainer to say that if these programs are working correctly, if community supervision is working as it should, and if the John Howard Society and groups like that are working with offenders, this is what we all want.
In my personal practice I heard judges say in open court, this offender is going to comply with a treatment program, they're going to go to a sex offender program, and they're going to be under supervision in the community, and the sheriff would take the person out of the courtroom, and that was it; it never happened. The programs didn't exist in parts of rural Canada, or the offender never agreed. There's always that possibility that even though the program is there, they simply won't participate.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Mr. Chairman, Mr. MacKay, they really are there, but not to 100% of my personal satisfaction. There are always the limitations, as I mentioned.
There are lots of points. Ten or fifteen years ago we had two sex offender treatment programs. We have over 100 going now. Drug and alcohol programs and aboriginal programs are in virtually all institutions. We have a lot of research that shows remarkable reductions: for instance, basic adult education, a 21% reduction in recidivism; employment in prison, about 27%; substance abuse, a 31% reduction in recidivism; and on and on it goes. I think you have this material.
Another thing we are doing, which I think hits at the core of your question, is that as a result of some of the meetings of this committee, about two years ago I started to wonder how sure I could be that these sex offender programs, training programs, and what not really are thoroughly up to speed and the best we can do. Being a lawyer like you, I didn't feel too sure that I personally would know how to assess these programs. So we instituted an accreditation program where we have panels coming from outside the country to look at these programs and to assure me that the programs we deliver are up to speed, up to the knowledge level that exists, and are being delivered according to the program intent.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Ingstrup.
Mr. Wappel, there's time for a last question.
Mr. Tom Wappel: In response to Madame Venne, Mr. Ingstrup, you said that if the system were to be changed, we would have to build more prisons.
Now, that comment intrigues me, because to me it implies your assumption that if statutory release were somehow either abolished or changed, you naturally assume, as night follows day, that the parole board would not release certain people who are currently released under statutory release. However, section 102 of the act requires the parole board to grant parole if the offender will not, by reoffending, present an undue risk to society. So, theoretically, if your fear is true that the parole board would not be releasing these people who are otherwise released on statutory release, then surely they shouldn't be released, and by doing so you are endangering public safety.
That is the only way I can interpret your sentence that if the system were changed, we'd have to build more prisons. Am I right that you believe that if we were to somehow change statutory release, under its guidelines the parole board would not be releasing the people who are currently being released under statutory release?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: I think it is an absolutely fair way of describing my personal view that if we abolished the two-third limit and simply said that the parole board should exercise the same judgment as they do now under full parole, this would result in a significant increase in the prison population.
The reason for that, sir, is that it's always a lot more difficult for the parole board to assess in advance which of these people will commit a new offence than it is for us to say afterwards that it's a very small number. A larger number than those will naturally be incarcerated, because our level of ability to assess with that kind of certainty just doesn't exist. It's a judgment on the part of the parole board, and in order for them to do their job in a conscientious way, it will end up with more people in prison. My assumption is that it could be as many as 2,000 or thereabouts.
I don't know what the view is of the chairman of the National Parole Board, but his view certainly is—because he said it today—that there would be more people not being released.
Mr. Tom Wappel: And those are people who the National Parole Board, in its wisdom, believes shouldn't be released for the protection of society. Yet statutory release releases them without so much as a look, because they're entitled to it.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, sir, we are not releasing them without a look. We are looking at them, but it is—
Mr. Tom Wappel: You can't. Let's take the case of a man who is sentenced to six years for break and entry. He doesn't take part in any programs. He takes part in disruption in the prison. He has no history of violent offences or sex offences. He was sentenced to six years in jail. Four years go by, and he is out.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: But, sir—
Mr. Tom Wappel: There is no question about it. Isn't that correct?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Unless—
Mr. Tom Wappel: Whereas the parole board might say, we don't think this man is a good candidate because he is likely to reoffend, so we are not going to let him out. Statutory release has no ability to do that. It must let this man out.
Am I saying something incorrect on that case I just gave you?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Yes.
Mr. Tom Wappel: What?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: There is a provision in the act that if just prior to the release of the individual we believe this individual will go out and commit a very serious offence, not break and enter, but—
Mr. Tom Wappel: No, break and enter. I gave you the very specific case I'm talking about.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: No, we—
Mr. Tom Wappel: I'm right, aren't I? A person with break and enter serves four years of a six-year sentence, and they are out. Is that correct?
Commr Ole Ingstrup: Unless we believe he is going to commit a very serious offence.
Mr. Tom Wappel: But if you believe he is going to commit a break and enter, then he's out.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: That's right.
Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: And, sir, the result of that—
Mr. Tom Wappel: Thank you.
Commr Ole Ingstrup: —is what I gave you.
The Chair: Thank you. We're going to have to wrap it up now.
I thank the witnesses, Mr. Ingstrup, Monsieur Fournier, and Mr. Gibbs. Thank you for coming.
I'm aware that another committee is shortly going to be using this room, so I would ask people to clear the room as soon as possible.
We will resume our proceedings at 7:30 p.m. in room 209 of the West Block.
The meeting is adjourned.