March 6, 2019
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Planning
House of Commons
Ottawa, K1A 0A9
Re: Bill C-83 An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Dear Minister Goodale,
The Canadian Criminal Justice Association is celebrating its centenary this year as an independent, national, voluntary organization working for an improved criminal justice system in Canada. Over the course of the past 100 years we have often presented our views and advice regarding draft legislation during appearances in front of Parliamentary Committees and in direct correspondence with Ministers.
Until recently it was our intent to propose some significant changes to Bill C-83 in regards to the issue of segregation in federal penitentiaries. Suffice it to say that while we welcome the proposal to permit segregated inmates increased time out of their cells, along with more substantial interactions with staff and others, we do not believe that the change in terminology from segregation to Structured Intervention Unit will, by itself, promise a significant change in the conditions of these units. Most importantly, like many of our colleague voluntary associations, we strongly feel that the time has arrived to open the process to some level of independent, external review.
While many would argue for the total abolition of segregation, the reality is that a process of structured intervention is required not only for the safety and security of federal penitentiaries and their staff, but also for the very safety of its inmates. What is fundamental is a body of law and regulations that clearly spell out the procedural requirements that must be met before any inmate is placed in this level of confinement and what strict administrative reviews will follow the initial and subsequent decisions. The element most glaringly absent in the draft legislation was a measure of independent, external review.
We were therefore gratified to learn that amendments were brought forward at Report Stage in the House to respond to this long-standing need for independent, external oversight and that these amendments to the Bill were accepted by the House on February 26, 2019. Assuming Bill C-83, as amended at Report Stage, is passed by Parliament, we believe these changes will bring transparency and credibility to this problematic process.
Almost four decades ago, the institutional inmate disciplinary process was delegated to a group of independent, external chairpersons. We understand that these chairpersons have decision-making authority for inmate discipline, which used to rest with wardens in matters of serious disciplinary infractions. We believe that this process works well, especially perhaps because of the adherence to strict procedural safeguards.
It is our view that a truly independent, external decision-making body will ensure seriously needed and transparent improvements in CSC’s treatment of inmates separated from the general inmate population. We hasten to add that this will, however, require a great deal of care in the planning and monitoring of implementation.
What will be crucial for any success in reducing the use of segregation and developing a structured intervention approach, is a change in CSC’s institutional culture. While training will certainly assist in reinforcing a culture change and developing new skills among the staff, a cognitive shift in how staff view their work with the entire offender population is key. Further, a staged approach with corresponding benchmarks would likely be less disruptive to day-to-day operations during the implementation process. We also recommend scheduled independent audits of the change from segregation to structured intervention.
Regulations will need to be very specific and substantial training will also need to advance quickly. We cannot emphasize enough, however, that a failure to properly operationalize these amendments will not only bring serious legal challenges but, also sully the reputation of the Service and the Government.
We hope that we will soon see the adoption of Bill C-83 with the referenced amendments and the speedy implementation of the cultural and regulatory changes and training programs necessary to successfully implement this important change. We would be pleased to offer the expertise of our members in any way that would be of assistance to you.
cc. Minister of Justice, the Honourable David Lametti, P.C., M.P.
Commissioner, CSC, Anne Kelly