770 words; 3 minutes to read
Audio summary by volunteer Averi Brailey
It’s hard to find anyone outside the government that is a fan of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), which operates federal prisons and parole. Previous posts have described the many criticisms by the Correctional Investigator of the organization’s apparent unwillingness or inability to improve its operations or to meet its statutory obligations. Previous reports by the Auditor General have also described the ways in which CSC has failed, for example, to provide timely access to programs, services and to parole – again despite statutory requirements. The report of the Senate Committee on Human Rights concluded that the organization needed a radical overhaul.
Now comes a new report from the Auditor General that again concludes that CSC failed again in important respects– many of them pointed out in previous reports years ago. Most of this post is quoted directly from their report.
…Correctional Service Canada failed to address and eliminate the systemic barriers that persistently disadvantaged certain groups of offenders in custody…It also failed to develop a plan for its workforce to better reflect the diversity of the offender population. As a result, Indigenous and Black offenders faced greater barriers to a safe and gradual reintegration into society than other incarcerated groups.
Moreover, as the chart shows, the proportion of prisoners who are non-White, and especially Indigenous, is steadily increasing, so these issues are increasingly important.
Disparities are present from the moment offenders enter federal institutions. …assigning security classifications… results in disproportionately high numbers of Indigenous and Black offenders being placed in maximum‑security institutions…. fact, Indigenous and Black men were placed at maximum-security institutions at twice the rate of other offenders and made up 51% of maximum-security placements
Indigenous and Black offenders remained in custody longer and at higher levels of security before release…For Indigenous men, corrections staff overrode up 46% of minimum-security placements to higher levels, compared with 33% for non‑Indigenous offenders. Only 10% of medium-security placements were overridden down for Indigenous offenders, compared with 19% for non‑Indigenous offenders.
Access to programs
…We reported in 2015, 2016, and 2017 that timely access to … programs was a problem for offenders. We found that Correctional Service Canada had not adequately addressed this long‑standing situation… Of men serving sentences of 2 to 4 years who were released from April to December 2021, 94% had not completed the correctional programs they needed before they were first eligible to apply for day parole…
We found that few offenders were prepared for release when they were first eligible: only 16% of men and 31% of women offenders on average from April 2018 to December 2021. Moreover, we found that over these 4 years, both men and women Indigenous offenders were persistently released when first eligible at lower rates.
We also found that offenders were prepared for release on parole at later points in their sentence. Over our audit period, men offenders were released an average of 6 months after their first eligibility date. Women offenders were released an average of 4 months after their first eligibility date.
Diversity in the workforce
Correctional Service Canada’s efforts to support greater equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace fell short, leaving persistent barriers unresolved… [such as] Indigenous representation gaps among correctional officers…, Black representation gaps among program and parole officers at institutions with a high number of Black offenders, and gender representation gaps among correctional officers at women’s institutions.
At one maximum security facility, 41% of offenders identified as Black, but only 2% of front-line correctional officers and no front-line parole or programs officers identified as Black
Allocation of resources
The criticisms of CSC on these issues are not the only fascinating findings in this report. The Correctional Investigator has previously pointed out how many staff CSC employs to do its work. This report indicates that CSC has 17,000 staff to manage just over 21,000 people in prison or on patrol. A staff to ‘client’ ratio that would be the envy of any child care centre or school.
Of those staff, the Auditor reports that ‘within its institutions, CSC had approximately 7,000 front-line correctional officers and 2,700 front-line parole and programs officers’. More than twice as many staff are involved with keeping people confined as with helping prisoners live better lives.
Similarly, CSC Spent just under $500 million to deliver correctional programs to offenders in custody, which represented 18% of its $2.8 billion operational budget billion.
A dismal track record
These numbers only reinforce what is already clear to anyone who looks – that our prisons are first and foremost about punishing people and only to a much smaller extent concerned with rehabilitation.
There is not a single positive comment about CSC in this report. It has failed on every promise to improve, many of them made multiple times over quite a few years. This is not the record of an institution in which any Canadian can have confidence.