Good Intentions, Disappointing Results:
A Progress Report on Federal Aboriginal Corrections

Michelle M. Mann


Introduction

  • Gaps in positive results for Aboriginal offenders across the spectrum of correctional outcomes.
  • Offending circumstances of Aboriginal offenders related to substance abuse, inter-generational abuse, residential schools, low levels of education, employment and income, substandard housing and health, etc.
  • Aboriginal offenders tend to be younger; more likely to have served previous sentences; incarcerated more often for a violent offence; have higher risk and need ratings; more gang affiliations and health problems, including FASD.
  • A holistic approach is needed; issues are inter-related.

Aboriginal Demographics

  • Growing overall Aboriginal population increasing by 20.1% from 2001 to 2006.
  • Aboriginal population much younger than Canadian. In 2006, median age of the Aboriginal population = 27; 13 years lower than for non-Aboriginals.
  • By 2017 Aboriginal young adult population (aged 20-29) will increase from 4.1% to 5.3% of all young adults.
  • Between 1998 and 2008, federally incarcerated Aboriginal population increased by 19.7%. Federally incarcerated Aboriginal women increased by 131%.
  • In 2007-2008 Aboriginals= 17.3% of the federal offender population, and 4% of Canadian adult population.  33.1% of women in federal penitentiaries were Aboriginal.
  • Admissions to federal jurisdiction in 2007-08: 49.4% of Aboriginal offenders were < age 30, compared to 38.6% of non-Aboriginal offenders.  
  • Median age of Aboriginal offenders at admission is 30, compared to 33 for non-Aboriginal offenders.
  • Projection that the 20-29 Aboriginal age group will increase by over 40%. More than 4X the projected growth rate of 9% for non-Aboriginal people.

Implications

  • Projected growth rates (particularly in ages 20-29) = continuing Aboriginal over-representation for CSC planning period 2009/10 to 2014/15.  
  • Stats Canada population projections to 2017 = Aboriginal over-representation among newly sentenced offenders continuing increase, particularly in the West and North.   
  • Further increases in Aboriginal incarceration may be expected related to amendments to the Criminal Code.  

CSC Commitments & Obligations

  • Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA)
  • Section 80 - CSC shall provide Aboriginal specific programs;
  • Section 81 - CSC may enter into agreements with Aboriginal communities for provision of correctional services to Aboriginal offenders;   
  • Section 82 - CSC shall establish a National Aboriginal Advisory Committee (NAAC) which shall provide advice to CSC; and
  • Section 84 - where an inmate applying for parole has expressed an interest in being released to an Aboriginal community, CSC shall give the Aboriginal community notice of the parole application and an opportunity to propose a plan for the inmate's release.
  • CSC Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Corrections 2006 - 2011
  • Outlines initiatives that CSC will undertake over five years to improve outcomes for Aboriginal offenders. 
  • Indicates that CSC executive performance agreements will include accountabilities for Aboriginal corrections.
  • Stresses the Continuum of Care model with spiritual and cultural interventions provided by Elders and national correctional programs based on their teachings.
  • This includes:
  • Enhancing delivery of Aboriginal correctional programs;
  • Expanding Pathways healing units to all regions; Implementation of the Healing Lodge Action Plan;
  • Developing a northern offender strategy;
  • Development and implementation of culturally sensitive classification and assessment tools for women; and
  • Development and implementation of culturally sensitive programs for Aboriginal women.
  • Draft Strategy for Aboriginal Corrections Accountability Framework March 2009
  • Intended to operationalize and update the Strategic Plan. Will identify successes and gaps within the Continuum; establish concrete actions with projected results; and establish levels of accountability in regards to deliverables.
  • The proposed five year Accountability Framework is intended to be directly related to annual, incremental and measurable results.
  • Commissioners Directive 702 - Aboriginal Corrections
  • Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Human Resource Management 2008-09 to 2010-2011
  • Transformation Agenda and CSC Review Panel Report
  • Special Projects: 1) Northern Correctional Framework 2)  Aboriginal Offender – Security Reclassification Scale

Progress Update

  • CSC has the opportunity and a mandate, arising from the CCRA, policies and Gladue principles to deliver programs addressing the different needs of Aboriginal offenders and to work with Aboriginal communities for reintegration.
  • Ongoing gaps in outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders raise serious questions as to whether CSC strategies are translating to results.

1. Programs

  • Little to hold CSC to account in the delivery of Aboriginal specific programming, no provisions for specific results. Strategies do not indicate how CSC will ensure timely access to Aboriginal programming regardless of classification and region.
  • Delays in the evaluation and national implementation of Aboriginal programming. 
  • Pathways units remain limited to medium-security institutions and discretionary for maximum and minimum security institutions, potentially leading to inconsistency.
  • Shortage of links to the Aboriginal community for offenders when they are released. 
  • Shortage of Elders providing guidance in institutions.
  • Shortage of program officers and facilitators to deliver Aboriginal programming.
  • Shortage of programming for Aboriginal women with the hiring and training process lagging without adequate rationale.
  • Strategy for management and intervention with Aboriginal gangs slow to evolve.  

2. Security and Classification

  • Questions pertaining to the cultural appropriateness of the CRS, the SRS and the over- classification of Aboriginal offenders persist.
  • The FASD assessment protocol has yet to be completed – related to appropriateness of security classification and reclassification scales.
  • Need details of how Gladue principles are to be applied to corrections decisions involving the liberty of Aboriginal offenders.  
  • Gangs are significant in Aboriginal administrative segregation admissions. CSC's development of a national gang management strategy is not Aboriginal specific.

3. Parole

  • Limited use of legislative provisions designed to enhance Aboriginal reintegration, despite being in place for 17 years.
  • Ongoing inconsistency in the use of section 84 release plans involving the Aboriginal community.
  • 12 ACDOs across Canada and no hard targets. With respect to section 84 utilization, may need more ACDO resources.
  • A shortage of and inconsistent access to Aboriginal specific programs contributes to delayed parole for Aboriginal offenders.
  • Cultural appropriateness of the CRS, SRS and over classification of Aboriginal offenders impact on their parole eligibility.

4. Data and Evaluation

  • Continued absence of statistical evidence of progress in the Services' mandate of managing Aboriginal offenders.
  • Milestones is prepared for the OCI and is not publicly available, raising questions pertaining to CSC's accountability.
  • Lack of monitoring of outcomes and progress arising from the Strategic Plan - in effect for 3 years and only now a Draft Strategy for Accountability Framework is being developed.
  • CSC needs to develop data tracking and evaluation processes to know what works in Aboriginal corrections.

5. Human Resources

  • Shortages in the Aboriginal correctional program delivery officers and psychologists.
  • Some institutions do not have an Elder and/or ALO for extended periods.
  • Unclear whether the Aboriginal Human Resource Strategy is producing results - no hard targets or provisions for monitoring implementation.
  • No clear statements about ongoing recruitment of ALOs.
  • Section 84 parole processes – do they require additional ACDOs? No hard targets for their hiring.
  • Unclear whether short term online or in class modules that do not appear Aboriginal specific will be adequate for CSC's cultural awareness commitments.
  • How are CSC staff to consider Gladue principles?
  • Accountabilities for the Aboriginal corrections agenda not implemented in substance into performance agreements for all CSC executives.

6.  Northern Corrections Framework

  • Three years later the strategy to address the needs of Northern offenders, including the Inuit, is still under development.

7. Healing Lodges

  • 17 years after section 81 of the CCRA came into effect, there are only 4 independent Aboriginal healing lodges in Canada. No section 81 healing lodges for women.
  • Existing section 81 healing lodges are not filled to capacity. Unclear why.
  • Healing lodge audit concluded that after 16 years, there is no CSC policy framework in place to support the establishment of section 81 healing lodges.
  • Inconsistency in the delivery of programs and services in healing lodges across the country. Appear to be no consistent performance measures. CSC healing lodge commitments are generally descriptive with no clear commitment to utilization.

Conclusion

  • Concern re. ongoing performance gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal corrections has turned into alarm.  
  • Previous good intentions by CSC have been inadequately operationalized, due to a lack of data tracking, clearly enumerated deliverables and accompanying accountabilities, leading to disappointing results.
  • Implementation of the Accountability Framework should further CSC's meeting its goals in Aboriginal corrections.  
  • Endorse the approach of setting-up tangible targets with timelines, performance indicators, strengthening accountability and clarifying responsibilities, enhanced monitoring, and public reporting.
  • Given the young and growing Aboriginal population, ongoing CSC failure in Aboriginal corrections will reverberate throughout the criminal justice system, Aboriginal communities and Canadian society for years to come.