Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, it is a pleasure to appear before you today as the recently appointed commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, or CSC.
As you know, with me today is Fraser Macaulay, Acting Senior Deputy Commissioner, as well as Larry Motiuk, Assistant Commissioner of the Policy Sector.
While I have appeared before this committee as senior deputy commissioner as well as interim commissioner of CSC, I would like to take a brief moment to say a few words about my background.
First, I am absolutely honoured to have been appointed as the ninth commissioner of CSC.
I began my career in federal corrections in 1983 as a case management officer and have since had the great privilege of working alongside dedicated and hard-working correctional service employees.
Throughout my 35-year career in corrections, I have served in a variety of positions at the institutional, community and national levels, including as director general of offender programs and reintegration, deputy commissioner for women, regional deputy commissioner in the Pacific region, and senior deputy commissioner.
I have been lucky to witness the evolution of CSC and its approach to corrections as well as the considerable progress we have made in ensuring the effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of individuals serving a federal sentence. From this evolution, I have experienced the value of working alongside and listening to CSC's partners and stakeholders, both in government and in the community, to enhance our strategies, programs and services so that we can better meet our mandate priorities and ensure public safety.
On September 5, 2018, I received my mandate letter from the . This mandate provides CSC with a chance to reflect on what we have already accomplished and inspires us to continuously pursue excellence in corrections. The letter emphasizes CSC's key role in ensuring that when offenders return to their communities, they are well prepared to lead productive, law-abiding lives. It also identifies partnerships as a key theme and encourages working with volunteers, community members, and our many partner and stakeholder organizations. With their support, CSC will ensure that our offenders are better prepared and equipped to make appropriate choices and positive changes in their lives.
I have also learned first-hand the considerable importance of ensuring that CSC's correctional approach is tailored to the needs of our diverse offender population. Accordingly, the CSC offers a wide range of interventions to offenders, including programs and services that respond to their cultural, educational, employment, social, mental health, and crimogenic needs.
The mandate letter speaks to the importance of ongoing self-reflection. This is by no means new to CSC, and something we will continue to do. In fact, being open to change has allowed CSC to make progress in a number of key areas. I would like to highlight a few of these areas.
Nationally, there has been a steady decline in the incarcerated offender population, from over 15,000 in 2012-13 to just over 14,000 now; and a continuous increase in the number of offenders managed in the community, from approximately 7,500 in 2012-13 to over 9,200 at present. In 2017-18, we saw the highest number of day paroles reported since 2012-13, including for indigenous offenders and women offenders. This means the work our employees are doing is having a real and positive impact on getting offenders ready for release and successfully reintegrating into their communities.
In 2017-18, we also saw positive results of offenders upgrading their education. Approximately 72% of indigenous offenders and women offenders, and almost 67% of non-indigeneous offenders, upgraded their education before the end of their sentence. This is in comparison to between 50% and 53% of offenders who ungraded their education before the end of their sentence in 2012-13.
The announcement of the reopening of the penitentiary farms at the Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions in Kingston, Ontario, this year also presents an opportunity to support offenders in their reintegration through building meaningful employment and employability skills that are going to serve them well upon release.
As part of CSC's mandate, one of our key priorities is addressing the disproportionate incarceration of indigenous people and ensuring that our programs and interventions are culturally sensitive and contribute to their rehabilitation. CSC continues to enhance partnerships with indigenous peoples to create more opportunities for first nations, Métis and Inuit communities to participate in the care, custody and supervision of indigenous offenders, through sections 81 and 84 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
CSC is currently reviewing proposals from several indigenous communities who have expressed interest in entering into a section 81 agreement to establish a healing lodge facility for the care and custody of indigenous men and women offenders.
CSC has also established aboriginal intervention centres across the country at seven institutions for men and at all institutions for women. This initiative serves to strengthen indigenous offenders' timely access to culturally responsive programming in order to increase the potential for their successful reintegration into our communities.
With respect to mental health, as a result of funding through budgets 2017 and 2018, CSC has increased its intermediate mental health care capacity at some medium and maximum security levels at men's sites and at all women's facilities. CSC's health care model aligns with principles articulated by the World Health Organization, including primary care to provide early intervention in our mainstream institutions for those offenders with mild to moderate mental illness that promotes recovery; intermediate mental health care for offenders with more serious needs but who do not require admission to an in-patient hospital; and acute or hospital care at a regional treatment centre to stabilize offenders with the most severe symptoms and impairment.
With respect to administrative segregation, CSC revised its policies to ensure that specific groups of inmates, including inmates with a serious mental illness, or at risk of self-injury or suicide, are inadmissible to administrative segregation. We are spending considerable time ensuring that we are managing administrative segregation appropriately. Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, CSC observed a decrease in the use of administrative segregation, as total admissions decreased by 35% for men, and 42% for women.
As stated in my mandate letter, partnerships are key to our success, and CSC employees are my most important partners. Ensuring CSC's workplace is safe, respectful and supportive is absolutely critical to our success in achieving our mandate and priorities. I am committed to ensuring that we have a respectful workplace across the country, one that is safe for staff, offenders and visitors alike. It is my priority as commissioner to send a clear signal from the top that any form of disrespectful behaviour, be it in words or actions, is unacceptable.
Mr. Chair, it is clear to me that CSC's contributions to creating safer communities would not be possible without the dedication and passion of our staff, as well as our considerable volunteer base. As such, I will conclude my remarks by emphasizing how grateful I am for the work of our staff, partners and volunteers. I am honoured to serve as CSC's new commissioner and to be a beacon of good corrections. In the end, there is no greater responsibility than having the care and custody of other human beings, and therefore we must carry out these responsibilities with the highest level of integrity and professionalism. To be a member of CSC is more than a job; it is a vocation that can have a profound impact on the lives of offenders, their families and society as a whole. As my favourite quote says, “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence, always”.
Thank you once again for this opportunity to appear before you today, and we will be pleased to answer your questions.
I was happy that in your opening statement you talked about the reopening of prison farms, and the next issue, which I am particularly interested in, is about food.
I was looking at the annual report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator for 2016-17, and in it there's mention of a riot that took place at a Saskatchewan penitentiary in 2016. Food was one of the issues that they locate as one of the causes that gave rise to it. It's mentioned that each inmate is given 2,600 calories, which, according to Canada's food guide is sufficient for a low-activity male, age 31 to 50. I was looking at another report from 2017 about young adults who are incarcerated in federal penitentiaries, and it pointed out that for young active males, the calorie requirement is much higher, 3,000 to 3,300, so it pointed to a need to review the food policy, and that was in fact one of the recommendations that was made by the investigator.
The Correctional Service of Canada's response to the investigator's recommendations mentioned that an internal audit of food services was planned for fiscal year 2017-18 and was to be published during the second half of 2018. I'm wondering if you could provide me with an update as to that report. Where is that at, and what have you found?
First, thank you for that.
I do want to recognize the staff who are here. In my 35-year career with CSC, one thing I can say is that the staff in the Correctional Service are passionate and believe in what they do. It's an incredibly challenging job.
I am thinking of our correctional officers who are our first-line responders when there are incidents in the institutions. It's not always easy. They do it with professionalism. Our nurses as well respond to incidents, as well as our parole officers and our program officers, who work on rehabilitation and safe reintegration of our offenders; our elders; our aboriginal liaison officers; our tradespeople, and our chaplains—everybody in CSC.
It's a great organization. As I said, when we have visitors in CSC, the one thing they tell me is how passionate the staff are about what they do.
Again, in response to Mr. Dubé's question, we have launched a respectful workplace campaign to ensure that people have the kind of workplace and the kind of environment they deserve when they come to work. It's important.
We also want to ensure that when allegations are made of harassment, intimidation or bullying, they are immediately addressed. As I said, as executive committee members, we've put together a video, we've sent it out to all the regions, and we've received good feedback on it. It denounces harassment and bullying, so that's one thing in terms of a safe and supportive work environment.
We also ensure that our staff are properly equipped to do their jobs, that they have the training they require to do their jobs, and also that they have the support they require when they are unfortunately responding to incidents. Sometimes it can have an impact on our employees who are first-line responders.
I think all of us are concerned about public safety, and that's the number one priority. It is important for us to remember that almost all of the people who are in prison today will get out and become our neighbour, our co-worker. That's just a fact.
If I'm looking at public safety, what I would like to see is people being rehabilitated and not reoffending when they are released into society, so that the person living next door to me is not engaging in criminal behaviours.
I'm sure you've read the two studies that we've done. A lot of that had to do with the good work being done by employees in prisons in ensuring that these people are being released and being successful.
I want to flag one thing for you. It's the availability of identification. It's not a federal responsibility, but the issue is that when people are being released from prison, they don't have a health card, a driver's licence, picture ID, so they can't find a place to live or find a job, and it can take months. I don't expect you to necessarily answer it today, Commissioner Kelly, but it's something....
I recently was at Willow Cree, and I heard it there. I heard it from the safety and justice employees. It's a huge stumbling block to people being able to have success when they're released. I don't know if you're aware of it.
Do you want to briefly comment on what we can perhaps do to work with our provincial counterparts on it? In this day and age, we can do things online. As Scott Brison said, it seems like being Blockbuster in a Netflix world.
They have photo ID when they're in corrections. How can we work with our provincial counterparts to get that ID done before they're released, and without their having to be escorted?