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BRIEF TO THE

STANDING COMMITTEE ON …

SENATE OF CANADA 41st Parliament, 2nd Session

AN ACT TO AMEND Corrections and Conditional Release Act

(Accountability of Offenders)

Bill C-350

May, 2014

Presented by the Canadian Criminal Justice Association

 

Background of Canadian Criminal Justice Association

The Canadian Criminal Justice Association (CCJA) welcomes the opportunity to present this brief to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) regarding Bill C-350,An Act to AmendCorrections and Conditional Release Act

(Accountability of Offenders). The CCJA has some concerns regarding C-350. We outline them here and look forward to your questions and comments.

The CCJA is one of the longest serving non-governmental organizations of professionals and individuals interested in criminal justice issues in Canada, having begun its work in 1919 and having testified before this committee on numerous occasions. Our association consists of nearly 800 members and publishes the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the Justice Report, the Justice Directory of Services, and the Directory of Services for Victims of Crime. We also organize the “Canadian Congress on Criminal Justice” every two years.

 

Brief Overview of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

Created in 1992, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act legislates the roles and responsibilities of federal corrections agencies including the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board. It also establishes the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

 

Current Proposal

Bill C350 adds a new clause to the section that outlines the goals of the correctional system:

3. The purpose of the federal correctional system is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by . . .

(c) encouraging the accountability and responsibility of offenders, with a view to ensuring that their obligations to society are addressed.

Currently Section 78 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) gives Correctional Service Canada (CSC) the ability to pay offenders to encourage them to participate in programs or to help with their reintegration back into the community.  CSC may make deductions in accordance to any Commissioner’s Directive, or to help reimburse costs of food/accommodation/clothing (not to exceed 30% of payment received).

The proposed bill adds the following:

78.1 (1) In view of the purpose of the federal correctional system referred to in paragraph 3(c), any debt owed to an offender as a result of a monetary award made to the offender by a court, tribunal or agency pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada, or an agent or employee of Her Majesty in the course of the performance of his or her duties, shall be satisfied by the payment of, in the order of priority set out below, the following amounts. . .

The list that follows includes: spousal/child support; restitution orders not paid; victim surcharge not paid; any other unpaid amount that has been ordered by a court. The inmate may keep any monies left over after these amounts have been paid.

 

Inmate Responsibilities 

The CCJA believes that prisoners should be responsible for payment of obligations. Paying restitution and meeting social responsibilities, such as child support, may be seen as part of the process of rehabilitation and reintegration. Making these payments may contribute to inmates’ ability to “make things right” and feel that they are able to become a contributing member of society upon their release from prison.

 

Monies Gained From Lawsuits

We believe that monies gained from lawsuits against the state should be treated in a similar way, with one caveat: While these monies should be used to cover child support and the other obligations listed in the suggested amendment, they should not be used to contribute funds to CSC through charges for “room and board” or other related fees. In other words, the prison system should not gain in any way from a successful lawsuit brought against it or any of its staff or representatives.

We further believe that monies gained from successful lawsuits should be garnisheed for the purpose of other financial obligations in the same way as applies to citizens who are not in prison.

The proposed wording in Bill C350, as it stands, penalizes offenders who pursue lawsuits differentially from those who receive income from other sources. The CCJA believes that, like any other citizen, prisoners have the right to sue the state. They should not be discouraged from taking these actions by having monies gained treated differently from other sources of income. Indeed, the proposed amendment to the Act is inconsistent with the Government’s own Accountability Act and with the Federal Tort Claims Act.

We believe the changes we have suggested would ensure inmate accountability without undermining their civil rights.

 

Recommendations

1. The existing wording in section 78 of the Act should be expanded to include the obligations laid out the proposed amendment (i.e., spousal/child support; restitution orders not paid; victim surcharge not paid; any other unpaid amount that has been ordered by a court). The section would widen the Act to include other sources of income. In this way, it is surmised that prisoners will be treated like other citizens who are required to meet financial obligations.

2. An exception should be included in the amended Act to prevent any gain by CSC, either directly or indirectly, for monies gained from successful lawsuits.

3. The amendment should include a provision such that courts decide where and how monies from successful lawsuits are distributed.

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