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Results: 1 - 15 of 154
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
Mr. Chair, 80% of offenders in our federal prisons have addictions. We know that mental illness is a significant and growing problem in our prisons. The Conservative government has said that there are people in prisons who shouldn't be there because they actually have health issues. Yet this budget doesn't say a word about increasing funding for mental health treatment or addictions treatment.
Given that these are some of the prime causes of crime, and dealing with these issues is an absolutely identified way to reduce recidivism and make our communities safer, can you please explain why?
View Vic Toews Profile
CPC (MB)
View Vic Toews Profile
2011-03-24 9:20
I can talk about some of the initiatives that our government has taken in funding, for example, that was never in place under the prior government to address issues of mental health. We've contributed significant millions of dollars to the issue of mental health in prisons.
This is an issue, Mr. Chair, that both the provincial and the federal institutions are facing as a result of the shift in policy in the provinces some number of years ago. I was a lawyer for a provincial government during the course of those occurrences that were essentially shutting down mental hospitals or asylums and putting these individuals out onto the street. In many cases, not only were they then out on the street with mental health problems, but they became prey to the drug dealers, so you had a double problem of mental health and drug addiction.
Essentially these--
View Vic Toews Profile
CPC (MB)
View Vic Toews Profile
2011-03-24 9:21
Essentially these individuals then find their way into the provincial jail system and the federal institutions. We have taken steps to address that, but I think we need a more vigorous discussion with provincial mental health authorities about what would be a more appropriate way of dealing with these individuals. The policies of the 1970s and 1980s in closing down these institutions have not worked, quite frankly, and what we're doing is developing--
Irvin Waller
View Irvin Waller Profile
Irvin Waller
2011-03-03 9:10
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
I've made available to the committee some materials in both English and French, first of all a book called Less Law, More Order: The Truth About Reducing Crime. This book is totally consistent with what Senator Hutchinson told you, but it adds to it information from studies in England and in the United States on what is in fact effective and cost-effective in reducing crime, and it actually talks about a strategy to move from overreliance on reactive criminal justice to a balance between smart criminal justice and effective prevention.
I've also made available to the committee a document in both official languages, called in English Making Cities Safer: Action Briefs for Municipal Stakeholders. This was funded by some of the money from the National Crime Prevention Centre and has been very widely used. We actually ran out of copies fairly soon after we produced them by cities from coast to coast. Probably the most interesting city to use this is the city of Edmonton, but it also talks about Montreal, Waterloo, and other cities.
I have been on the public record on a number of the issues here today, and I'd just like to remind you a little bit about how I got to where I am now.
I did the first and only independent evaluation of the prison and parole system in Canada in the seventies. I was a director general in the Ministry of Public Safety in the seventies. I won prizes for my work in getting the UN to adopt the declaration on rights for crime victims, colloquially known as the Magna Carta for crime victims, and I was the founding executive director of the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime affiliated with the UN and based in Montreal.
But more recently I've turned to writing two books for legislators and voters and taxpayers, and a lot of what is in these books is consistent with the right on crime website, but it has perhaps two major emphases that were not mentioned by Senator Hutchinson. One, I'm a crime victim advocate; nothing else. I've been head of the World Society of Victimology. I'm personally a victim of crime, and I currently head the International Organization for Victim Assistance. The main contribution that I make in the victim area is that I'm also a professional social scientist who looks at data and looks at standards and looks at what is in the best interests of victims, and I try to share my assessment with them.
This book does that, and I have a book that actually is already released in the United States and ran out in the first three weeks of its publication, called Rights for Victims of Crime.
Now, what I think is missing from what you shared with us today is a focus on.... If you go on the Right on Crime website, you will see they talk about protecting victims, and I think our public policy in Canada, both federally and provincially, should be totally focused on reducing harm to victims of crime. That means reducing the number of people who are victims of crime, and focusing on what can be done about that harm.
Justice Canada released about a week ago an updated study on the cost of crime to victims in Canada, talking about $85 billion as being the cost of pain and suffering to victims. They also, by the way, estimated the cost of criminal justice at $15 billion, and I guess it's because they're in Justice Canada that they're not following what is going on in the policing area in Canada. It's not just prison costs that Justin Piché talked about. It's also policing costs, and policing costs affect our taxes at the municipal level in this country. So I think we have to see this issue of prison construction in the context of rapidly expanding policing expenditures as well as these rapidly expanding correctional expenditures at the provincial level.
In my view, these expenditures are largely out of control, and there is a need for leadership. And the good news is that there is leadership in this country. The Province of Alberta in 2007 set up a task force to look at the best data from all over the world on what actually works to reduce harm to victims. That task force included the chief of police of Edmonton, an associate dean of law, a native, and so on and so forth.
There were 31 recommendations from the task force, and I'm going to divide them into four parts. First, part of them were about building remand cells because nobody has really come to grips with limiting the reaction to crime. They included some additional police officers. Alberta has fewer police officers per capita than Ontario and Quebec do. Second, it included stuff to deal with mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction. Third, it put into practice the sort of stuff that is in this book, and a number of other agencies. By the way, a lot of this research comes from the United States on what actually works to reduce crime. Fourth, and this is the most important thing for this committee, they established a long-term strategy, not reacting by saying we have to build now because there's going to be double-bunking and so on, but a strategy that says yes, we've got to deal with making sure we've got enough reactive capacity, but we've got to get to grips with the sorts of things that lead to this flood of people into our prison system, and we've got to prevent.
I know my time is limited, but I prepared a longer brief and I will be happy to share it with people in due course. What I've decided to do in the very limited time is to focus on a very brief history. I'm not going to go back 30 or 40 years, which I could do, to tell you about the history.
I just want to translate one thing that Senator Hutchinson told you. He said prisons are expensive. What that means is a taxpayer in the United States pays twice what a taxpayer in Canada does for the privilege of having that number of police, that number of lawyers, and an incredible number of people incarcerated. He said 2.3 million, but in my view it's very close to the population of Toronto that's incarcerated. He told you it was 23% of the recorded prison population in the world. You have to think about that.
While you're thinking about that, and it's a rate of 750 per 100,000, the aboriginal rate of incarceration in Canada is higher than that. If you go ahead with expanding penitentiaries, just think who is going to be incarcerated: aboriginal people, disproportionately; women, very disproportionately; men, disproportionately.
I have the privilege of having a PhD student working on how you solve that problem, and the answer is, you prevent. You focus on why there is so much violence, particularly among urban aboriginal people, and we know exactly what to do. By the way, we largely knew in 1993 when the Horner committee looked at these issues. We largely knew when the O'Shaughnessy committee looked at these issues in 1995. Since then, the World Health Organization in 2002 produced a report, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. This report basically tells you in its foreword, and I'll quote from Mandela, that violence is preventable.
You will not find any recommendation in that report that would give you any basis for expanding our prison population. It didn't talk about abolishing prisons. Clearly, we need prisons for the dangerous offenders. Part of what I did as a federal public servant was introduce the first dangerous offender legislation. I don't want Olson calling me up, and I don't want Bernardo being released, and I could mention several other cases. If you look at what Right On Crime says, basically it says to set priorities. You have a certain prison capacity, so use it for those people who are dangerous--I think that was your term, but I may be misquoting you.
The World Health Organization produced their report, and they also produced a major report on return on investment. For me, that's an Alberta term. I was doing a presentation to an American criminal justice group in Toronto yesterday, with the Alberta government, and what they talked about was social return on investment.
These guys in Alberta are smart. They're not just sitting there allowing this flood wave of policing increases and prison construction. They're saying they're going to protect victims; they're going to use taxpayers' money responsibly, which is a very similar line to the website, Right on Crime. The WHO brought that together.
In 2007 the current federal Conservative government doubled the budget for prevention, from $25 million or $30 million to $60 million. When they're spending $4 billion, it's not worth worrying about. Stockwell Day, who is very familiar with the victimization statistics, implied this was going to solve the crime problem. That sort of money for an experimental program will not solve the crime problem.
They've now cut back on that. They couldn't spend the money. There are people out there who could use that money, but they couldn't spend it.
For me, this is an incredible shame. Not only was it too little—limited to experimental—but they didn't spend the money. There are 14 cities in this country looking for $300,000 a year to multiply what works, and they were told there was no longer any money available. This is while we are talking in the press about $400 million.
I've mentioned the Alberta task force. I'm going to go to some bottom lines, and I—
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I also want to express my condolences to the victims for the suffering they've experienced.
I'm going to take a risk and say something that I think is on everybody's mind here. The prospect of seeing Earl Jones and Mr. Lacroix walk out of jail after serving one-sixth of their time--after two years of a 13-year sentence--is jarring to Canadians. But also at issue here is the wisdom or not of making a policy that applies to 1,000 people a year to target two people. So I'm going to direct my questions to that.
This committee did a mammoth study on the prevalence of mental illness and addictions in the federal prison system. We found that 80% of the people in federal institutions suffer from addictions or alcoholism, and a very high percentage--I don't even think we can settle on a number--suffer from mental illness. I know that getting access to timely and effective treatment for addictions or mental illness is woeful in our federal institutions right now.
Transferring those people who are eligible--first-time, non-violent offenders--into halfway houses in the community, where they have access to far broader community services like addictions treatment, mental health resources, reintegration, connections with their families, and work, is helpful to their reintegration and rehabilitation.
Does anybody disagree with me on that?
I also want to ask about cost. It's my understanding that it costs about $140,000 a year to keep a male prisoner in a federal institution. We heard Ms. Pate say it costs $185,000 for a female--
View Diane Bourgeois Profile
BQ (QC)
There is a correctional institution in my riding. It's in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines. There is a minimum-security unit, a maximum-security unit and a regional mental health unit.
I'd like to hear your opinion on the mental health unit. According to the correctional investigator, we are seeing more and more mental health problems. Tell me about the consequences of having two inmates with mental health problems in the same cell. Can you also tell me about the impact of the lack of services and programs inside the facility and the impact on the correctional officer who must then return to his family environment? I'd also like you to talk about the bargaining talks that are now under way. I think that you are currently in court against the government.
I would like you to tell me about these three aspects very quickly.
Pierre Mallette
View Pierre Mallette Profile
Pierre Mallette
2011-02-15 12:31
First, the data on mental health from recent years show us that the number of mental health-related problems has increased.
The Correctional Service of Canada has five centres across Canada: one in British Columbia, one in the Prairies, one in Quebec, one in Kingston and one in Dorchester, in the Maritimes. I'll tell you that the five centres are operating almost at full capacity.
Actually, we can't put two inmates in the same cell in a mental health unit. Putting people with mental health problems in the same cell would run a huge risk of a serious incident. Something could happen.
Mental health is an area where we, the correctional officers, are faced with serious debates. Is the institution a penitentiary or a hospital? Is the person an inmate or a patient?
There's an energy—
Kim Pate
View Kim Pate Profile
Kim Pate
2011-02-08 11:08
Thank you very much.
Thank you to the committee for inviting us to present. I'll keep my comments brief in the interest of being able to answer some of the questions from the committee. In reviewing some of the proceedings, I realized some questions have come up, so I will try to address those in a very broad way.
I want to start by acknowledging the traditional territory in which we have the privilege of meeting.
In my responsibilities working first with young people, then with men, and then for the last 19 years with women and girls in particular in the justice system, the impact of colonialization and contact becomes very clear when we see the number of indigenous young people--men, but most particularly women--in the prison system.
I also want to acknowledge that there are members of our organization whose interests I represent, particularly our 26 members across the country. They work with marginalized, victimized, criminalized, and institutionalized women and girls. We're best known for the work we do with women in prison, but we actually work with a full range of women. Some of our organizations are the only social service--the only women's service, the only victims' service--in some of their communities. That's part of the context.
I also recognize that I have the responsibility of bringing forth some of the voices of the women who can't be here because they are locked up or institutionalized. Some are in prison. Some are in other forms of detention, such as psychiatric detention and the like. I take that responsibility seriously.
We are now in a situation in which women are the fastest growing prison population in this country. They are also the fastest growing prison population in many other countries. In this country, they are particularly indigenous women, poor women, other racialized women, and women with mental health issues. Those percentages cover a range, except that it's very clear that women who have self-identified as being indigenous women are now more than a third of the federal jail population. More than a third of the women serving federal sentences, and almost half of the women serving sentences of two years or more in this country, are racialized women.
We also see, according to the latest statistics coming out of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, that as many as 45% of those women have significant mental health issues. Not surprisingly, when you look at the indigenous women, you see a significant number of those women, particularly among the women who are dealing with the 91% rate at which they have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse prior to being incarcerated. Their victimization is very clear. Many of them have been left without resources in the community and so have ended up having to self-medicate, in many cases, sometimes with legal and sometimes with illegal or illicit medication or drugs. They often are women who have very few fiscal or financial resources. They often have very few social and personal supports and end up very marginalized very quickly. We've seen cuts to social programs, cuts to health care, and cuts to educational services in this country, so it's not a big surprise that these are also the women who are most clearly impacted by those cuts.
When you look at violence against women generally, and the backlash we've had in this country over the last two decades to much of the important work that's been done on violence against women, again you see the disproportional impact on indigenous women and the way in which that trajectory feeds them right into the streets, where there are very few resources.
The only system that cannot turn its back on them is the criminal justice system. They can be criminalized for anything from being on the street to being seen as a nuisance. When they're being prostituted, often they'll be picked up on charges of armed robbery and robbery when they're actually trying to negotiate payment for the sex acts they've provided. They are often reported by the individual who refuses to pay. We have a number of women in prison, particularly indigenous women, in that situation.
We've seen police not come when they've been called when these women are experiencing violence. They have essentially been deputized by the state, but we've had the withdrawal of state support and then the invasion of state support when it comes to following up after they have been left to defend themselves or defend others.
You would know well many of the stories. You've been across the country and have heard some of the stories of 9-1-1 calls not being answered until there is something else besides the situation of a woman being beaten. If you need stories, I can give you stories of the number of women who talk about having called the police.
The police don't come when they're called as a result of a woman being battered; they come when they're told that the woman has actually had to defend herself, that she might have stabbed someone who has attacked her or that sort of thing.
You know about the issues of the decisions to prosecute even in situations in which there may be defences. I can also give you examples of the numbers of times women plead to charges even when they know they have not committed the offence for which they've been charged. That's for all kinds of reasons. They're expected to by their families. They're expected to by others. They don't want to sit in custody, waiting. Contrary to some of the rhetoric we hear, they don't actually want to sit on remand and in custody for extended periods of time.
Even after those situations have occurred, we also have situations in which we've succeeded in encouraging women to appeal their sentences. A woman successfully appealed as recently as last month. After winning an appeal after she had defended herself against an attacker, her sentence was overturned, the conviction was overturned, and a new trial was set. When she was asked to potentially go for bail, she could not put up any property because she and all of her family lived on-reserve, and on the reserve, of course, the band council owns the property. Even though I offered to put up my house as a surety, she refused that.
Everybody agreed that she had a very strong case for self-defence. Clearly the crown did too, because when she won her appeal, the crown immediately offered her a deal to plead. She initially had been convicted of second-degree murder, and the crown offered her a deal of manslaughter and time served. That's what she ended up agreeing to, because she didn't want to sit in jail for another year or two awaiting a new trial, even though there was a strong case of self-defence. She wanted to get back to her child and get back to the community.
There are many other examples. Suffice it to say that I'll look forward to the questions.
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
Unfortunately, c'est tout.
I will now be undertaking the questioning for the New Democratic Party, for seven minutes, and I would like to say welcome once again.
I'd like to pick up on Madam Simson's very good question regarding the article written by a member of Elizabeth Fry relating to the excessive incarceration of aboriginal, Métis, and Inuit women. According to the article, 30% of the female prison population is aboriginal, and 30% of those are experiencing issues with mental illness. I believe the article said that in terms of incarcerations, this represented an increase of 90% since about 2001.
I believe Madam's question was in regard to the cost to the women and their families and the broader community. I'd like to give you the opportunity to speak to that.
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell
View Jeannette Corbiere Lavell Profile
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell
2011-02-03 11:48
I would just like to make one final comment. It is on the lack of resources to get legal assistance. This is perpetuating that high number of our women who are incarcerated because they cannot get a lawyer. When they go to court, they obviously get the strictest sentence. If they had lawyers, they possibly would not receive this kind of sentence.
So there they are, then, within these prisons, and for a longer period of time, and where, because of lack of communication and I guess the cutbacks, they're not able to get this culturally relevant programming that should be in place to help them deal with the system while they're incarcerated. On top of all of that, their children have been taken away, and they have no resources and possibly no way of even finding out or knowing where they are.
This is all compounding for them, so no wonder they're having mental issues. I would be devastated if I had to go through something like that. You're dealing with what may be a legitimate case against you, or maybe not. That's the issue. If our women were able to get some legal resources, I don't think we'd have as many in there.
Another issue is poverty. They're there because they don't have the money and they have to provide...and I don't think that can be applied to other Canadian women like it can to our women. We have younger women with many children who are having to deal with this.
Don Head
View Don Head Profile
Don Head
2010-10-19 9:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for allowing me to appear at a later date than you originally requested. My schedule was quite full, but I'm glad to be here today.
Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to discuss how the freeze on departmental budget envelopes and government operations will affect the daily operations of the Correctional Service of Canada.
I'd also like to address the impact on CSC operations that can be expected from the legislation connected with the government's criminal justice initiatives, in particular the Truth in Sentencing Act and the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
The freeze on the Correctional Service of Canada's departmental budget envelope and operations applies to operating budgets only, as you know. Operating budgets will be frozen at the current levels, and the freeze will also apply to 2011-12 fiscal year and 2012-13 fiscal year reference levels.
There is no freeze on wages. CSC employees will receive the salary increase for this year resulting from collective agreements and set at 1.5% by the Expenditure Restraint Act. As with other departments, the Correctional Service of Canada will absorb this increase as well as any increases to salaries and wages in 2011-12 and 2012-13 that result from future collective agreements.
Work is well under way at CSC to improve efficiencies within our operations to pay for these increases. For instance, we have introduced new staff deployment standards at our penitentiaries for our correctional officers. We are also now using computerized rostering systems to ensure that we are efficiently staffing our facilities on a 24/7 basis. This is improving our effectiveness by ensuring that our people know when and where they will be working their shift rotations well in advance. It will also help to reduce our overtime expenditures by more efficiently replacing correctional officers who are absent on training or leave.
We've also improved our integrated human resources and business planning methods to more accurately forecast our staffing and recruitment needs going forward. Because our penitentiaries must be properly staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, we make every effort to maintain our staff complement at appropriate levels. This is an important part of minimizing the overtime that would otherwise be incurred to fill vacant posts in our facilities.
Personnel costs represent our largest expenditure. For fiscal year 2010-11, Correctional Service of Canada's main estimates are approximately $2.5 billion, and personnel expenditures, including salaries and benefits, represent approximately 61% of the budget, or $1.5 billion. The rest is dedicated to operating costs, which represent approximately 25%, $625 million, and capital investments at approximately 14%, $329 million.
It's important to note that 90% of CSC's budget is non-discretionary and quasi-statutory. CSC has fixed costs that it must fund on a continuous basis. These include the provision of food to offenders, the utility costs related to the maintenance of our accommodations, clothing for offenders, and uniforms for our staff. The remaining 10% provides us with some opportunity and flexibility to seek out ways for us to meet the freeze on operating costs. I am confident that we will continue to find improvements in our program delivery that will help us to absorb these costs.
The government's criminal justice initiatives will present some opportunities for CSC as well as some challenges. The primary impact of the legislation will be a significant and sustained increase to the federal offender population over time. This will be particularly evident in the short to mid term.
As the members will know, the Truth in Sentencing Act replaces the two for one credit for time in custody before sentencing to a maximum of one day of credit for each day served in provincial detention. Only under exceptional circumstances may a judge provide a 1.5-day credit. Consequently, many offenders who would have previously received a provincial sentence will now serve a federal sentence of two years or more, and those who would have received a federal sentence will now receive a longer federal sentence.
Normally we would have expected an incarcerated population of about 14,856 by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. This figure is a result of our projections for regular growth, which is set at about 1% for male offenders and about 2.8% for women offenders. However, we are expecting an additional 383 offenders by the end of the 2014 fiscal year as a result of Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act. And with the implementation of Bill C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act, our analysis is forecasting an increase of 3,445 more offenders, including 182 women, by 2013.
Mr. Chair, this is a considerable increase over such a short period of time. The additional 3,828 offenders resulting from Bill C-2 and Bill C-25, together with our normal projections, represents a total growth of 4,478 inmates in the 2014 fiscal year and an anticipated total penitentiary population of 18,684 offenders by March 31, 2014. This growth, Mr. Chair, well exceeds our existing capacity today.
We are moving quickly to identify the measures required to address these population increases, and we are taking a multi-faceted approach. Several measures are now being developed, including temporary accommodation measures such as double-bunking. We are also now in the process of tendering for the construction of new accommodation units, program space, and support services within existing Correctional Service Canada institutions.
Regarding the expanded use of shared accommodation, I should note that it will be aligned with greater offender accountability. We expect offenders to be out of their cells engaging in programs and making positive efforts to become law-abiding citizens who can contribute to safe communities for all Canadians when they are released. These temporary measures will be implemented in a way that will minimize any adverse impact on front-line service delivery at our institutions. I assure you that with the proper support, any steps we take around budget implications and capacity issues will not jeopardize public safety or the safety of staff or inmates.
With respect to the new units, we can expedite the design and construction process by using proven and refined designs. Furthermore, we are strategically planning expansions at institutions located where we expect the greatest increases. Beyond expanding our facilities, CSC will be improving our program delivery capacity to meet the needs of an increasingly complex and diverse offender population. This includes programming for offenders who require treatment for mental health disorders and addictions, or those who are trying to break from their affiliations with gangs, particularly among our aboriginal offender population.
I should note that we are expecting the largest increase in our prairie region, where we will need 726 more accommodation spaces. As this region is where a majority of our aboriginal offenders are housed, we are currently reviewing our aboriginal corrections strategy to improve our delivery of education and employment training. This will assist in the safe reintegration of our aboriginal offenders back to their home communities.
Of course, there is a cost to all of this. Our current estimates are approximately $2 billion over five years in order to provide sufficient resources to address the additional double-bunking that will occur and to get the new units up and running. This also includes funds to ensure that we continue to provide offenders under our supervision with access to programs.
The assessment of this legislation's impact on CSC will be a long and complex process. As we continually monitor this impact, we will continuously fine-tune our approach to accommodate population increases and adjust our service delivery. We will also seek to connect this short- and medium-term impact with future requirements associated with the aging and inadequate infrastructure at some of our older institutions.
A long-term accommodation plan that will provide a forecast to the year 2018 is expected to be presented for consideration by this spring. As we move forward, we will be consulting with our partners and the communities in which we are located across Canada to ensure that we proceed in a transparent and collaborative fashion.
Of course, with the short- and long-term accommodation measures I've mentioned above comes a necessary increase in our staff complement. As indicated in the most recent report on plans and priorities, CSC is planning to staff an additional 4,119 positions across Canada over the next three years. This increase will enhance our capacity to carry out our mandate, help in our work with offenders, and improve our public safety results. I am very sensitive to the possible effects of an offender population increase on the work and safety of my staff in our penitentiaries and parole offices, whether they are existing staff or new hires. But I'm also very aware of, and extremely confident in, the commitment and ability of my employees to deliver high-quality correctional services that produce good public safety results for Canadians. I am speaking about our correctional and parole officers, our vocational and program staff, our health care professionals, and our support staff and management teams across the country. These are dedicated people, and the additional staff who will be added over the coming years will significantly help those who are on the ground today working with offenders.
We have been modernizing the way we select and train our correctional officers and other staff, and we work together with our union partners to make sure we are hiring the best-suited people who are committed to making a difference in the lives of others and the safety of their communities.
While it's clear that the criminal justice legislation and the spending freeze will pose some challenges, I am confident that the Correctional Service of Canada will successfully adapt and continue to provide good public safety results for all Canadians.
Mr. Chair, in closing, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to speak to the committee, and I welcome any questions you may have today.
View Diane Bourgeois Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for being here, Mr. Head and Ms. Dumas-Sluyter. I am very grateful to you for your attendance. Thank you also for your patience at the start of the session.
As I listened to your presentation, I noticed that you were very familiar with the present situation in the penitentiaries. That puts you at a great advantage. Often witnesses we have had here were concerned with the bureaucratic aspects, but did not have the knowledge of the real situation that you do.
Mr. Head, I think we have to look at the present situation in the penitentiaries in order to be able to project and predict what will happen, given the two acts that you have to deal with and the increase in the numbers of offenders that will suddenly arrive at your door in the next few months.
At the moment, the situation is deplorable. I have in my hand some letters from CX employees, saying that their training has been greatly cut back. The training budget, which was more than $1 million, is to be reduced, in fact. So CX employees do not feel safe. They have to be trained to learn how to use their weapons, but that is not happening. That is the first thing.
Second, some institutions are overcrowded, which leads to a tense climate. Because of the overcrowding, inmates cannot get the hours of recreation to which they are entitled, in order to go into the yard, to take courses or work at their trades, or even to just do what they have to do—after all, there is some rehabilitation in prison. It all leads to climate of some tension.
Third, there is also a petition about CX employees that you received in 2010, I think.
So, this is the situation as we see it. We know that the two new acts are going to mean an increase in the number of inmates. We are aware that the correctional investigator has mentioned that the biggest population of people with psychiatric conditions are in federal prisons, precisely where the fewest psychiatric services are provided. You are telling us that you are aware of the problems and that the Correctional Service of Canada will be able to adapt. But, at the same time, the correctional investigator is saying that the Correctional Service of Canada is adapting, but it takes a long time to make any progress.
Mr. Head, what are we going to do to ensure the safety of the inmates in the Correctional Service of Canada's institutions, as well as the safety of the staff of those institutions and of those who reside in the vicinity, given the two new acts, the freeze in the budget envelopes and the fact that money is being used to build or expand inside? That is my question.
Don Head
View Don Head Profile
Don Head
2010-10-19 9:25
Thank you for that multi-level question.
I have a couple of comments. One of the things that we are ensuring as we move forward, as I mentioned in my opening comments, is that whatever we do, whether it's related to the changes in legislation, to departmental budget freezes, or to anything around our overall transformation agenda, is that the environment within which our staff work, our inmates live, and our visitors come to is safe and secure. That is paramount in all our decisions. We need to have a safe, secure environment for everybody who comes to those facilities.
We are, as you pointed out, very conscious of the impacts of an increased offender population coming into the facilities and what that could mean for the operating environment, the tension within the environment. We have had experience in facilities across the country where we have had double-bunking for periods of time in the past, so we do have some experience in managing that. But we are going to continue to monitor this very closely.
In terms of some of the other points you raised, I just want to mention that, as a result of budget increases in the last several years, we have been able to provide additional advanced or enhanced training to our staff, including our correctional officers. For example, we recently acquired new sidearms for our correctional officers and have just about completed the training of all staff on the new firearm.
Overall, our training budget has increased by about $24 million, so that's allowing us to provide training not only to our correctional officers but also to our health care staff, our parole officers, and our psychologists--the whole range of staff.
In terms of the mental health issues you raised and commented on, they are of concern to us, the number of offenders who are coming in with mental health disorders and how we respond to them. We have received some increases in our budget over the last few years, but there's still a lot of work to do. As I mentioned at previous committee meetings, unfortunately, we have become the default mental health system in the country. That's not the place I want to be. I believe those with mental health problems need to be treated in other places. However, we have to respond to the decisions of the court, and we're trying to respond the best way we can, both for those who are in the institution and those who are under our supervision in the community.
Bernard Richard
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Bernard Richard
2010-06-10 11:10
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'm of course pleased to be taking part in this meeting and in your proceedings on Bill C-4.
I previously sent you a written submission, a brief, and I don't intend to read it or even provide an overview of it. I'm simply going to summarize my concerns about the bill, in order to allow my colleagues as much time as possible and to speak with committee members.
I just want to give you some background, if I could, on the work we do so that you know where we're coming from.
I'm a child and youth advocate, as well as the ombudsman in New Brunswick, and for the time being the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner as well. Hopefully, there will be a separate Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner soon.
Since about November 2006, I've been dealing with individual cases of youth and children, including youth who have been dealing with the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the justice system. So we have a very hands-on experience day in and day out. I have a number of people who work with me—some lawyers, some social workers, and others as well, with different areas of expertise. We intervene in different cases. We participate in case conferences and meet with families and the youth themselves. So it's very much an on-the-ground experience.
As well, we've published two reports fairly recently. Two years ago we published one report called Connecting the Dots, which really focused on youth with mental health issues and severe behavioural disorders and the experiences they and their families had with the service providers in New Brunswick. We made a series of recommendations. We followed seven youth and their families. The youth suffered from various ailments, including bipolar disorder, autism or autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia. Sadly, one committed suicide. But we followed the others over two years. We met with their families and we published a report with recommendations.
We also spent quite a bit of energy and resources reviewing the three years that Ashley Smith—whom you would be familiar with—spent in our New Brunswick Youth Centre. She spent three years in and out—mostly in—the New Brunswick Youth Centre. We reviewed 6,000 pages of documents and 40 hours of video. I assigned five investigators to that specific case. Tragically, as you know, she died in the federal system, but a lot of the issues there were very similar to those in the provincial system.
During those three years, Ashley spent two-thirds of her time in segregation--that is, in solitary confinement in an eight-by-ten cell, 23 hours a day more or less, with lights on 24 hours a day. If she didn't suffer from mental illness when she went in, she certainly did when she came out—and I would have, as well, Mr. Chairman, with respect.
She faced 501 institutional charges during those three years and 70 criminal charges during her lifetime, more than half for incidents inside the institution, not outside. She had 168 self-harm incidents, and she was tasered twice as a youth before she reached the age of 19 in an adult prison while waiting for transfer to a federal institution.
In that report, we made 25 recommendations.
I think we have a fairly good idea or view of how the system works on the ground. It's on that basis that I accepted your invitation to appear.
I know there is a broad range of opinions on the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In fact, in one meeting I heard it described that the Youth Criminal Justice Act, depending on your perspective, might stand for “you can justify anything”, YCJA, or “you can't jail anyone”. I think I'm situated somewhere outside of both of those definitions, but certainly, what I hope we know for sure is this. It's a new piece of legislation. It was meant to address a situation under the Young Offenders Act where Canada had the highest rate of youth incarceration in the world, I'm told. It was extremely high, in any event. At least today, it has worked. According to the research of Nicholas Bala and others, the trend is now definitely towards a reduction of youth crime. There is, as well, a reduction of youth incarceration. That translates to savings, savings financially, obviously, but also savings in emotional costs to families. All of these youth are somebody's son or daughter.
This experience, to me, is still early. It's been seven years in the lifetime of a piece of legislation. Recently I've been working with the Indian Act, which is much older than that; but seven years is a very short time, and I'm very concerned that these changes are premature.
There was a significant consultation in 2008. I participated in it and met Minister Nicholson in August 2008 in New Brunswick. I know that my participation was a small part of the participation nationwide. I have yet to receive the results of that consultation. I think it would be critical information for members of the committee to have access to that. It's hard for you to decide on a piece of legislation without knowing what thousands—well, certainly hundreds—of Canadians had to say about it. The session I attended in Moncton included police, psychiatrists, social workers, and prison guard associations. It was a really diverse group of people, and they had a lot to say. I think you would be very well advised to take advantage of that. Personally, I can say that I know there have been written reports, but none have been published. So I'd love to be able to see what was said during all of those consultations. There was a consultant hired to write a report and to facilitate the sessions. His name was Roger Bilodeau.
As well, we haven't done a really good job of making full use of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I think that's because it's still a very young piece of legislation.
In the case of New Brunswick, for example, the part of the act that permits the use of case conferences is really not used very much.
Justice Canada recently asked my office to conduct an analysis of the use of the act in New Brunswick to establish a model that would enable us to make better use of the elements that already exist but that are not very well known as a result of the recent nature of the act.
It seems to me we should further explore the opportunities afforded by the act as it currently stands before proceeding with changes that are quite significant.
I won't into the details because my main argument is that we are going way too fast. Instead we should analyze what has already been done and determine whether that's working or not. What interests committee members and the Canadian public, in my view, are the results at the end of the process.
What interests us are outcomes, very real concrete outcomes. So if you don't have the benefit of a complete analysis of what's happened so far under this piece of legislation, I think you take the risk of taking us back in time to the Young Offenders Act, the high incarceration rates, and here we go all over again. That is the concern I am expressing to the committee.
I have a lot of sympathy for Sébastien and his family and for others who are victims of crime. As ombudsman, I often am called upon to advocate on their behalf as well. My concern when I saw it was that it's a very tragic story. But by calling it “Sébastien's Law”, I guess the question I ask myself is when will we have “Ashley's Law”, a law for those who are victims of the criminal justice system? Ashley cried out for help and she became progressively worse while in contact with the system.
There are thousands of young Canadians out there who suffer from mental illness, from severe behaviour disorders, from addiction, who come in contact with the criminal justice system, and they should be diverted, directed towards treatment, not incarceration. Inevitably, incarceration makes their conditions worse. The justice system, including the prison system, is just not equipped to deal with these kinds of youth.
My fear is that while driving more of these youth towards incarceration, we're actually taking youth who are confused, sometimes suffering from all kinds of conditions, or who just make errors in judgment.... And I would say that outside of this room, likely most youth make errors of judgment sometimes, but not as severe as.... I know I have. Although I said “outside of this room”, I can confess that as a teenager.... And I have four sons who have been teenagers, and I am happy they're adults now, but they have made their own mistakes, yes.
I'll close on that, Mr. Chair.
I would ask you to carefully consider looking at where we've come from. I'm afraid that if we look at high-profile cases of violent crime by youth in order to change what I think is groundbreaking, very progressive legislation, we're proceeding on the wrong basis and we'll have the wrong results. That's my concern.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Fraser Macaulay
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Fraser Macaulay
2010-05-11 9:02
Good morning, Madam Chair and committee members. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today. I am also joined by my colleague Leslie MacLean, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services.
The Correctional Service of Canada is a federal agency within the Government of Canada's Public Safety portfolio. CSC contributes to public safety by administering court-imposed sentences of two years or more. This work involves managing institutions of various security levels, preparing inmates for safe and timely release, and supervising offenders under conditional release and long-term supervision orders in the community. CSC has approximately 16,400 employees. It is responsible for some 22,000 offenders, of whom about 13,280 are incarcerated and some 8,720 are supervised in the community.
CSC has a presence across the country, from large urban centres to remote communities across the North. CSC manages 57 institutions of various security levels; 16 community correctional centres; 84 parole offices; and four healing lodges.
As you know, CSC employs a diverse workforce comprised of correctional officers and parole officers, who, for the most part, are exclusive to CSC. The remainder of CSC's workforce reflects the variety of other skills required to operate institutions and community offices, from health professionals—such as from the fields of nursing, psychiatry, pharmacy, and psychology—to electricians and food service staff.
CSC staff routinely deal with high-need and high-risk offenders, whose needs are complex and diverse. These include mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and anger and violence issues. While these challenges are faced by a large percentage of CSC's workforce, for health care professionals joining CSC, this institutional work environment is unique and presents challenges not commonly confronted by their profession. Coupled with this unique work environment, when it is recruiting for health care professionals, CSC must respect Government of Canada policy, legislated budget direction, and the collective agreements governing these occupational groups. Together these factors, when combined with the remote location of many work sites, can limit our success in attracting and retaining health professionals.
In keeping with the most recent annual report of the Clerk of the Privy Council, CSC is strengthening its planning, recruitment, and employee development. This will enable human resources to build on its current foundation of sustaining its existing workforce, attracting new people, developing and retaining talent, and finalizing the implementation of our transformation agenda.
As part of public service renewal, CSC's human resource management function will need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its services in the organization if the organization is to remain competitive in its search for talent and deliver on its correctional results. In response to this need, the human resources section is committed to improving and simplifying its processes and systems. For example, CSC will be adopting common human resource processes, upgrading our HR management system, leveraging self-serve technology, and increasing the availability and use of strategic information by rolling out a dashboard to all regions and institutions. Together, these initiatives will allow CSC to strengthen its capacity to manage its workforce and to plan more proactively.
My colleague will elaborate on initiatives specific to health care professionals.
Throughout these various initiatives, our union partners have played a key role in identifying and working collaboratively to resolve issues affecting their membership. For example, CSC is working closely with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada to address barriers affecting the mobility of registered psychologists.
Meeting the challenges outlined in the Public Service Renewal and our Report on Plans and Priorities will require strong leadership and a sustained commitment. Our renewal must continue to evolve for CSC to sustain the high level of service that Canadians have come to expect.
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