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Irvin Waller
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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—
Dave Shipman
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Dave Shipman
2010-05-06 16:09
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for providing me this opportunity to speak before you on this important issue.
My name is Dave Shipman. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and I currently I live in a rural setting just outside the city. I feel qualified to attend at this hearing as a result of my life experience and involvement in law enforcement from the age of 19 to the present.
I spent 25 years with the Winnipeg Police Service and nearly 19 of those years investigating violent crimes in the homicide robbery division. During 16 of those years I was also a member of the special weapons team and a team leader on the entry team.
I retired 10 years ago and immediately took up a position as investigator in charge of the organized crime/gang unit with Manitoba Public Insurance, where I remain so employed.
I've been involved with the criminal intelligence service in Manitoba during these 10 years as well. For those who are not familiar with it, each province has its own criminal intelligence service with the federal governing body, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
The CISM includes all law enforcement and investigative bodies in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. The nature of my work, investigating organized crime and gang activity as it relates to organized insurance fraud, and my involvement with CISM, puts me in contact with serving police officers on a continual basis.
My experience in dealing with violent criminals and gang members is probably far more involved than that of the average police officer. Believe me when I tell you that I have put hundreds and hundreds of dangerous violent men in prison over the years, often for unspeakable crimes, including rape, robbery, home invasions, and murder.
It is in the arrest and interviewing of these men and their associates that I've obtained a good working knowledge of their mindset. First and foremost, let me say that a vast majority of violent attacks, attempted homicides, and homicides committed domestically involve weapons other than firearms--knives being the preferred weapon.
Of the few domestic homicides I can recall that involved long guns, committed by either sex on the spouse, they were long guns that were legally owned and there had been no previous encounters with the law. No amount of gun registry would have stopped lives from being taken.
I have watched the long-gun registry with interest, both as a serving police officer and a gun owner/hunter. First, and it has been said time and time again, criminals do not register guns. The guns they seek out and use to commit violent crimes are most profoundly smuggled or stolen handguns and, to a lesser extent, stolen and cut-down shotguns or rifles. Firearms that are capable of firing at an automatic rate are smuggled in from the U.S., and drug dealers and gangs--the two intertwined--are the favourite customers. None of these situations can be corrected by a long-gun registry.
Handguns have always enjoyed a restricted status, and ownership brought significant restrictions as to how and where the firearm could be possessed. Automatic weapons were always illegal to possess, with the exception of law enforcement and legitimate grandfathered collectors. The national gun registry has done nothing to deter illegal possession of these guns.
Again, criminals intent on procuring and possessing these guns are not about to register them. So how does the gun registry assist the police in preventing gun crime? It simply does not, and it offers nothing to protect our citizenry from being victims of gun crime perpetrated by well-armed criminals.
I'm not against licensing of gun owners. The possession and/or acquisition of firearms should be a licensed, controlled process to prevent criminals and otherwise unstable or dangerous individuals from legally obtaining and owning firearms. But the registry is really only about counting guns--guns belonging to people who have chosen to involve themselves in the system.
Civil disobedience to the registry has been rampant, with entire provinces refusing to enforce the failure to register and attorneys general announcing refusal to prosecute. Amnesties that have lasted for years have been put into place. Thousands and thousands of legal guns remain in our country outside of the registry, and many thousands of illegal guns are stolen or smuggled into the hands of criminals whose last worry is the gun registry.
I've heard from proponents of the registry that it assists police officers because they can check with the gun registry to determine if guns are registered to the person they are interested in or the residence or location they are attending. While this check can certainly be done, I've yet to talk to a serving street cop--I'm talking about the average constable attending call after call after call--who has checked the registry, even a single time, or who even knows how to use it. In checking with the supervisor officers of the major crimes unit, the homicide unit, and the organized crime unit, not one can ever recall using the registry before going to make an arrest.
I spoke to the head of the Winnipeg Police Service tactical support team, which is the new term for the old SWAT team that we were on. This is a 24/7 support unit that, from its inception to the level of coverage two years ago, has been involved in several hundred planned operations, mostly high-risk warrant service, drug warrants, Criminal Code firearm search warrants, and the like. He indicated that the gun registry is worthless in preventing gun crime. He did advise that, by protocol, members of his unit confer with the registry when planning tactical operations, but their experience was that the registry has been only sometimes accurate, only sometimes up to date, and largely ineffective—and I quote—“because we all know that criminals don't register their guns”.
By way of history, upon the inception of Bill C-68, the Winnipeg Police Association membership voted by way of referendum that they were strongly opposed to the long-gun registry. Identically, the Manitoba Police Association also opposed the long-barrel registry, after taking the issue to a vote by the membership. And so it went for the police associations in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Then-WPA president, Loren Schinkel, now with Manitoba Justice as coordinator of aboriginal and municipal law enforcement, often referenced Premier Gary Doer's line about the Government of Manitoba not supporting the bill, saying that we need to get tough on gangs and restricted guns, not turn goose hunters into criminals.
If the long-gun registry was going to be such a significant crime-fighting tool, does anybody believe that entire police services would fail to embrace it wholeheartedly? Yes, fragments of police services utilize the registry by way of protocol, but with criminals not registering their stolen or smuggled handguns or cut-down stolen firearms, previously legally registered or not, it is of little use. Because of the hit-and-miss situation of any individual actually registering legal guns, because the registry does not keep up with the movement of individuals from place to place, because criminals do not register, no police officer could ever rely on a check against the registry to determine if a danger did or did not exist. A police officer must be ever vigilant, no matter the circumstance, and the fact that the registry might indicate that an individual or an address does or does not reflect legal gun registration is of little assistance, all things considered. The old possession and acquisition certificate did as much, without the arithmetic of counting guns.
The most alarming area of gun use escalation surrounds the ever-increasing street gang activity tied dramatically to the drug trade. As I deal on a daily basis with gang members in my current occupation and monitor their other criminal activities through my involvement with serving police officers in the criminal intelligence service, I can tell you first hand that gun crime is escalating and that handguns are far and away the weapon of choice of these criminals to enforce their piece of the drug trade pie. Anytime I get a gang member in my office, I turn to the subject of guns somewhere along the way, and it is not unusual for the gang banger to brag, “I've got a nine; I've got a Glock.”
Shots ringing out in certain parts of Winnipeg have become commonplace activity, and drive-by shootings of individuals and residences the same. The registry is not the answer to stopping this.
The long-gun registry was an ill-thought-out piece of legislation in answer to the tragedy at École Polytechnique in 1989. It did not stop another similar tragedy at Dawson College in 2006. It will not stop the next deranged individual from attempting a similar attack in the future.
Holding the long-gun registry out as a protector of women is simply not valid. It is a lie. We must do better to protect women and the citizenry of our country by putting meaningful consequences in place for criminal offences and concentrate on stopping the flow of illegal gun traffic over our border into the hands of criminals.
A minimum sentence for gun crimes with minimum time served would serve as a far better solution than the long-gun registry. It is said that the abolishment of the two-for-one sentencing issue will increase incarceration and associated costs an additional $2 billion, roughly what we've spent on the registry already. Having only registered six million to seven million, with an estimated 17 million total guns in Canada, if that is correct, I wonder how much more money that would cost us. I would rather put the $2 billion towards keeping those criminals in jail and making sure they could not hurt anybody else.
Thank you for offering me this time to speak to you. I sincerely hope that what I've said will assist you in making an informed decision.
Ruth Martin
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Ruth Martin
2010-03-16 15:41
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for inviting me to be a witness.
I come wearing three hats. I juggle a few hats, but these are the ones I'm wearing today.
As a prison family physician, I've worked in corrections systems for 16 years, mostly with women and mostly in the provincial system, but I do have some experience with men's facilities and federal systems.
The second hat I wear is as a clinical professor in the UBC department of family practice. Amber has talked about some of the research in which I'm involved.
My third hat, more recently acquired, is as director of the Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education. It is a group of academics and community organizations--actually anybody who wants to join--that is looking at ways to facilitate collaborative opportunities for health education research service and advocacy for people in custody, their families, and communities.
I'd like to share with you five personal reflections that I formulated about mental health, primarily in female corrections. These personal reflections are consistent with prison health publications, which I've footnoted in my written submission to you. I'd be happy to supply any of the documents to you if you'd like to read them further at a later stage. Don't hesitate to ask me.
It's well established that prison populations throughout the world suffer more ill health than the general population, and that female prison populations suffer more ill health than male prison populations. As a prison physician I've witnessed this over the years. As I've witnessed women cycle in and out of the system over the years, I've come to learn that most women are incarcerated because of crimes due to their disordered health and social lives. Therefore I've come to realize and reflect that the key to women's successful reintegration into society lies with figuring out how to empower incarcerated women to improve their health.
The second reflection pertains to the aboriginal people, who are tragically overrepresented in our systems. Over the years I've listened to aboriginal patients and aboriginal colleagues explain to me about their understanding of health. They've taught me that mental health is not a stand-alone thing. It is closely interwoven with a person's physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I realize that I started off in my career with a very Eurocentric or western-centric view of health, and I've come to appreciate that in order to engage incarcerated people to improve their health, we all need to improve our cultural knowledge and sensitivity.
My third reflection that I wish to share with you is that women with incarceration experience are experts about their own health. This was reinforced for me during this participatory health research project that we started in prison. I thought we would focus our research on HIV, hepatitis C, and addictions, but in fact when we asked women in prison what they would like to research in order to improve their health they told us they wanted to become better mothers. They wanted to become involved in meaningful work. They wanted to improve their community support and have safe housing.
The goals that women in prison identified that were important to improving their health were very similar to my own goals and probably to your goals. They are consistent with the public literature that pertains to mental health, social inclusion, and health promotion. All of these published studies agree that in order to improve the mental health of a population we have to affirm people's self-confidence, engage people in decision-making processes, and focus on people's strengths rather than their deficits. Doing so will enhance their sense of hope and their belief that they can succeed and change.
A fourth reflection that I've learned through my work with the collaborating centre is that numerous multi-sector organizations are keen and eager to collaborate with prisons to foster health. In fact, they recognize that they should be playing a role, particularly in two components of service.
First, individuals in prison should be offered the best multidisciplinary, patient-centred prison services that we can, including health. The second component is that during their transition to the outside community, individuals should be offered well-coordinated continuity of care. I can share three examples of that: inter-ministerial collaborations in other countries on health, academic collaborations on health, and collaborations at the local prison community level, if you wish.
The final reflection I wish to address is that most of the incarcerated people I've met are not mentally healthy. The prevalence rates, as you know, vary, depending on how you diagnose mental illness or how you measure it. In the literature it varies from 12% up to between 76% and 80%, and you've heard those figures in the statements of your previous witnesses.
Most of the women I see in prison clinics do not fall into a mentally ill psychiatric diagnosis, nor do they warrant transfer to a psychiatric hospital or treatment centre. However, the majority of people I have met in prison suffer from mental health difficulties such as anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks to previous trauma, depressive episodes, interpersonal conflicts, and poor impulse control. Many also have substance dependence, which is associated with their mental health difficulties. Some may be related to an under-diagnosed or under-screened condition such as a learning difficulty or fetal alcohol syndrome.
Regardless, women in prison across the board tell me that if they could figure out how to improve their mental health while they're inside prison, they will have a better chance of succeeding when they leave prison. I have reflected on about six suggestions--probably more--over my experience of working with people in prison, and also reading the prison literature.
The first one would be that incarceration in this country should be viewed as an opportunity for individuals to improve their mental health and to turn their lives around. Therefore, we should be doing everything we can to nurture processes inside prison that demonstrate success in improving health.
The second one is that we should be incorporating into every correctional system participatory processes that listen to and act upon the voice of individuals with incarceration experience about ways to improve mental health.
The third one is that prisons are really stressful places to work. There's a real tension that staff experience between nurture versus security and it's very wearing on prison staff. The mental health of inmates is really influenced and impacted by the morale of prison staff. Therefore, prisons should adopt what the literature calls a “whole prison settings approach” for health promotion that engages staff and inmates, because then prisons will become more effective in helping the mental health of inmates.
The fourth suggestion is that healthy prison environments should be fostered, because healthy environments will reinforce the educational benefits of inmates who participate in prison educational programs. By contrast, unhealthy prison environments will negate and undermine the benefits of these programs.
The fifth one is that prisons that use creative alternatives to solitary confinement foster healthier mental health both for the staff and for the incarcerated individuals. The use of solitary confinement does not enhance an individual's mental health. It worsens it, especially among those with pre-existing mental health difficulties. In Canada, therefore, we should support and commend prison management teams that do not use solitary confinement. In fact, we should discourage the use of solitary confinement in Canada.
The sixth suggestion is that because the overall prison ethos influences the mental health of inmates and staff, we should do everything we can, from top ministerial levels all the way down the chain, to support prison management teams that create and sustain a healthy prison ethos.
Thank you very much for listening to my reflections, and I welcome your questions.
Brenda Tole
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Brenda Tole
2010-03-16 15:49
Mr. Chair and committee members, I am very pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to speak to you regarding these very important issues within corrections.
My experience is in the British Columbia corrections system. I spent 36 years in this field, both in community and custody settings, and have worked with youth, men, and women. The last position I held was warden of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.
British Columbia has benefited over the years from its relationship with Correctional Service of Canada. CSC is generous and resourceful when sharing research and program and policy information. The provincial system houses remanded and sentenced offenders and immigration detainees. The maximum sentence length is two years less one day in the provincial system. However, people often spend long periods, sometimes several years, remanded and awaiting trial. All offenders who are admitted to CSC have been in the provincial correctional system prior to their admission. In B.C. there are approximately 2,500 in custody and 25,000 supervised in the community on bail or probation on any given day. The difference in sentence length has huge implications for program and service delivery and community reintegration, but both systems face many similar challenges. Corrections has a mandate to ensure public safety while exercising humane control. Balancing public attitudes to offenders with research and best correctional practice is a very difficult process.
This committee is focused on offenders with mental health disorders and offender programming. I'd like to talk a bit about interventions and initiatives that I have found to have a positive outcome for staff, contractors, and offenders in a custody setting. I'm going to focus on women offenders, which is the area of my most recent experience, but many of these issues are relevant to both populations.
Women make up approximately 10% of the custody population and due to the small numbers have been greatly influenced by the larger male population in areas of physical plant design, security, classification, risk needs assessment, and programs. When we opened Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, we had an opportunity to slowly move away from a model focused on security and control towards a more pro-social offender responsibility model. It is very difficult to move away from long-standing attitudes and ideas around safety and security. However, we found the more normalized environment made the centre safer for staff and inmates, and institutional violence and use of force incidents were greatly reduced.
I am mindful of time, so I will briefly list some of the factors I felt contributed to positive change at this centre.
The actual physical plant design and centre environment have a significant impact on staff and offenders, particularly those offenders suffering from mental health disorders. All benefit from access to natural light, fresh air, regular physical activity, and non-controlled movement whenever possible. It is important to note that this type of building is generally much cheaper to build and to maintain. Classification of women to the least restrictive setting needs to be a high priority. Women, particularly aboriginal women, tend to be classified to higher security levels than required. Placing people at the least restrictive setting using a good classification process immediately rather than making them apply for or earn the placement is a much more consistent and efficient process. All offenders, particularly those with mental health disorders, manage much better in a less restrictive and therapeutic setting.
For example, we had a number of offenders at Alouette who were on remand prior to moving to Correctional Services of Canada. They managed for periods of over a year at a medium open centre, which is what we had. When they were sentenced they moved to the federal system, and then were required to stay in a maximum security setting for two years due to policy. That's an example of how, from the viewpoint of classification, you can have a huge impact. Policy has no flexibility. It makes it very difficult to actually do what's in the best interests of everybody.
Offenders have a huge interest in programs and services in a correctional centre and if engaged can contribute to defining their needs. Open communication with staff and administration can reduce the development of a negative subculture, which often operates in a correctional centre. Offenders, supervised by staff, should be encouraged to take responsibility for appropriate aspects of programs and operations. Aboriginal women seem to be even more impacted by the isolation from their family and community. Programs that facilitate the return of these women to their community, under supervision of band or community justice components whenever possible, seem to present the most positive outcome. The ever-increasing over-representation of aboriginal women in custody continues to be of grave concern. It is a tragedy, and I do not think that more aboriginal programming and services within our present correctional environment will impact the situation.
Supporting aboriginal governments, organizations, and service providers to assume more responsibility for the management of aboriginal offenders presents the most promise.
Mutual respect between staff and offenders is critical for a safe and secure environment. Staff who engage offenders with respect and who focus on being professional and helpful contribute to an environment that is pro-social. A better working environment affects staff recruitment and retention and lowers rates of staff absenteeism. The positive aspects of good staff-offender relations are seen in program interest and participation. It needs to be recognized that the negative effects of being in custody increase with sentence length.
Good health services are one of the most important components of the correctional centre. Physical and mental health professionals who work in coordination with corrections in delivering consistent and timely health services, including preventive education, are essential. Providing health services to a community standard is an ongoing struggle. There is also a need for continuity of care upon reintegration into the community. Partnerships with provincial health authorities could provide continuity of care and community standards and would promote a “patient first, offender second” approach. Staff training from forensic mental health services has helped our staff, in the past, understand mental health symptoms and non-compliant behaviours from a different perspective. It has also exposed them to hospital model interventions for dealing with offenders who have mental health disorders.
The use of segregation, other than for serious disciplinary matters, has a very negative effect on offenders, particularly women and those with mental health disorders. I have not seen any benefit from isolating an individual from support, comforts, and human contact for extended periods of time. If anything, this procedure tends to escalate problem behaviours. What has benefited these offenders is not isolation but rather extra staff or contractors to engage with them and close attention from health professionals.
Self-harm is a very complex and difficult issue. In four years at Alouette, we had one minor incident of self-harm occur, and it was not repeated. I think it's important, when looking at self-harm, to see it not in isolation but to see it basically in the environment in which it happens. It's really a symptom of extreme emotional distress.
On women and their children, a high percentage of women in custody have dependent children. Women are often in centres that are large distances from their children and families. This should be a major consideration in any administrative transfer. Initiatives that promote and foster contact between women and their children is beneficial to both. These include enhanced visits, email, tapes, telephone calls, and letters. Research shows that the children of incarcerated women are more negatively impacted if the contact with their mothers is limited or absent. One of the most compelling factors for women to change their behaviour or lifestyle is pregnancy and having children. Having a supportive mother-baby program at Alouette had an amazing, positive impact on the mothers involved and on the other inmates and staff. This initiative was basically a health initiative, and it was done in conjunction with the Vancouver Women's Hospital, which had requested that we give consideration to it. They worked very closely with us on that program.
Of the 12 mothers who brought babies back from the hospital and were released to the community with their babies, 11 have remained out of custody. The initiative was also a partnership with several other ministries, community agencies, and women offenders and their families. It was based on the best interests of the child.
The one thing that is not in my notes that I would like to make a comment on is reintegration. Integration is really a combination of having the community involved inside the centre and with offenders outside the centre. The community is a very interested group that is quite willing to participate inside the centre. It will provide expertise and the standards of the community. That applies to a number of areas, including what Dr. Martin has talked about in terms of health, but also in terms of education and job preparation and vocational courses. There is an amazing source of information and program availability actually sitting right in the community.
I think it's really important for the community to have involvement in the centres. It's a way for the public to gain an education on what actually works for offenders and not necessarily the public perception we sometimes have, which is quite negative. It also reduces the fear factor.
In terms of increasing the number of temporary absences and the ability for offenders to return to the community, I think that supportive transitional housing in the community, particularly accommodation for women and children, is essential.
It's important to recognize that women tend to be associated with the same risk that men present to public safety, which is simply inaccurate. When it comes to release into the community, for that population, I think it presents an opportunity to really increase the access that women offenders have to the community.
I want to thank you for this opportunity. I'd be happy to answer questions the committee has.
Thank you.
Graham Stewart
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Graham Stewart
2009-10-27 11:12
Good morning.
I'm here today as a co-author of A Flawed Compass: A Human Rights Analysis of the Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety. A Flawed Compass is the work of Michael Jackson, professor of law at the University of British Columbia, and me alone.
Having retired over two years ago from the John Howard Society of Canada, I am not a representative of, nor do I speak for, the John Howard Society of Canada. Craig Jones has that responsibility.
Leading up to the adoption of the CCRA in 1992, the office of the Solicitor General produced nine important papers that explored issues facing Canadian prison law, particularly in the context of the new charter. Those papers formed the substance of eight years of active public consultation. It is worth noting that the correctional law review analysis was based on a human rights perspective.
In 2007, the Minister of Public Safety created a panel to advise the minister on various important issues facing the Correctional Service. Chaired by Rob Sampson, the panel's report, along with all its recommendations, was accepted immediately by the government, without public consultation. It is now the transformative agenda for CSC, the Correctional Service of Canada.
I should begin by stating that Michael Jackson and I agree with the recommendations of the Sampson report with respect to mental health. They largely endorse the mental health strategy developed by CSC in 2004, which we also support. The important observation, however, is that mental health services are very much part of, and are influenced by, the overall correctional setting. Other correctional policies and practices can completely undermine the best plans for mental health and the noblest intentions of staff. In that respect, many of the panel's recommendations for mental health are severely compromised by other recommendations. In part, the lack of coherence has occurred because the approach of the panel completely ignored human rights.
Why are human rights essential as the foundation of correctional policy? One reason is that the purpose of human rights is to protect all citizens from abuse by the state. A prison system that is not respectful of human rights is one that necessarily tolerates abuse. We know of no evidence that abusive, arbitrary, or unfair treatment improves a prisoner's prospects for success after release. Abuse teaches that might is right, the very values that often lead to criminal acts in the first place. Effective corrections cannot occur outside a human rights framework.
The road map ignored the report the CSC commissioned in 1997 by Max Yalden, former chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In doing so, it also ignored his caution. He said:
It is particularly important to recognize the fundamental nature of Canada's commitments in light of the fact that some members of Canadian society, including some CSC employees, do not necessarily share the values underlying the Service's human rights framework. In that context, it is essential to make it clear that the principles and provisions incorporated in the CCRA derive from universal human rights standards supported by all the advanced democracies with which Canada compares itself, that the Service holds itself accountable to those standards, and that it is actively committed to making them work in federal correctional institutions.
Yet this is the response given in a CFRB interview by Minister Van Loan to questions about the criticism contained in A Flawed Compass:
Prisoners have the full protection of the Charter of Rights. They have the Office of the Correctional Investigator to look into complaints. That's not the issue here. The issue is, how do we protect the rights of the people in the community, Canadians, to be safe from the threat of criminals?
There is no totalitarian regime in the world that does not espouse human rights, so long as they do not threaten whatever they define as public safety.
Our system invests tremendous resources in preserving the right to be free from crime through police, prosecution, courts, imprisonment, supervision, and so on, all without cost to the individual. But there is virtually no publicly supported mechanisms that help us preserve our right to be free from abuse by the state.
In real terms, the charter offers no significant protections in the face of a government that chooses to disregard human rights when it suits them. We need to know that our government understands human rights. We need to know that our leaders believe in human rights. We need to know that they appreciate that defence of our human rights is at the very core of democracy and, as such, it is their fundamental obligation to safeguard them, both in law and in practice. A road map for the future of corrections in Canada and its treatment of prisoners that cannot devote a single footnote to human rights, and a Minister of Public Safety who tells us that human rights are incompatible with public safety, is not a good start.
A human rights analysis of corrections and the treatment of the mentally ill within correctional settings leads to many fundamental questions that might guide the work of this committee. Some of those questions would include the following.
Can a system that is respectful of human rights and the decent treatment of those in its care place the severely mentally ill in segregation for long periods of time without even providing a thorough psychological assessment or treatment activity?
And could it refuse to implement the minimal safeguards of independent adjudication for those placed in administrative segregation or pretend that the charter and the correctional investigator could protect their human rights?
Would we tolerate a system where we pretend that the mentally ill have ready access to effective grievance and redress systems, particularly where their literacy and mental condition often make such grievances impossible to prepare?
Could a system that is respectful of human rights accept that while the Sampson panel is pending its recommendations to remove some of the residual rights for those in segregation, a 19-year-old mentally ill girl in segregation strangles herself to death in front of guards, who have instructions not to intervene unless she stops breathing?
Can we accept a correctional system that acknowledges that most of their population has serious mental health and/or addiction issues, and yet spends only 2% of revenue on programs?
Given that addictions in prisons consume most of the population and commonly co-exist with mental illness, can we accept that none of the Sampson panel recommendations relating to drugs addressed prevention, harm reduction, or treatment, while 13 recommendations would toughen enforcement, often by further restricting visits? Would we accept recommendations that see family and community support only as security problems, without any acknowledgement that both the prisoner and the family are entitled to visit and are dependent on those visits to maintain their crucial relationships?
Would a human rights approach allow for more correctional officers than nursing staff on psychiatric ranges? In contrast are the many community forensic facilities where there are no correctional staff on the ranges at all. Could we accept correctional treatment facilities that have a fraction of the treatment staff-to-patient ratios that community forensic facilities have? Could we accept huge waiting lists for programs while the Sampson panel asserts that we need to deprive people of their rights in order to motivate them to take these programs?
Could we endorse recommendations to abolish statutory release, the only gradual release option that is sometimes available to the mentally ill and the otherwise disadvantaged, while knowing that thousands would be released to the community without support, supervision, resource, or follow-up treatment? Could we tolerate a system that keeps seriously ill or disadvantaged people in prison as long as possible, all the while telling them and the public that they can earn parole?
Would we accept broad-ranging, indeed dramatic, changes to corrections without evidence of effectiveness, and in the face of contrary evidence posted on the ministry's own website?
Would we tolerate the removal from the CCRA of the long-held principle of least restrictive measure for the use of criminal sanctions in administration of prisons?
Would we accept vague promises for improvements to our prisons, when sentencing and gradual release policies will inevitably strangle the capacity of the system to deliver on them through huge population increases, inadequate space, and shortage of adequately trained staff?
Would we accept the recommendations that CSC build super-prisons, a complex of prisons within prisons, containing all levels of security and special populations, without justifying carefully how it is possible to actually deliver diverse environments and programs in such a monolithic structure?
If we were concerned about the decent and effective treatment of people in our institutions, would we turn over the planning for the future of federal corrections to a panel of non-experts chaired by an obviously politically partisan chair, with an all-embracing mandate, minimal resources, an impossible 50-day timeframe, and no provision for public consultation on their recommendations? Would we do that with defence, health, or policing?
Would we accept a correctional transformation agenda that is based on a report that never mentions human rights or acknowledges the necessity for human rights to be at the foundation of effective corrections?
We believe strongly that the important work of this committee will fail if it does not reflect in its principles, decisions, and recommendations an unequivocal endorsement of human rights as the foundation for effective corrections and for the treatment of the mentally ill in prisons.
Thank you for your attention.
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