ARCHIVED - Annual Report 2003-2004 Ministerial Recommendations

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1. ABORIGINAL OFFENDERS

Recommendation

I recommend that :

  • The Minister appoint a Deputy Commissioner Aboriginals specifically responsible for Aboriginal programming and liaison with Aboriginal communities, as a permanent voting member of all existing Senior Management Committees, to ensure an Aboriginal perspective and presence in CSC decision-making;
  • The Minister initiate an evaluation of CSC's policies, procedures and evaluation tools to ensure that existing discriminatory barriers to the timely reintegration of Aboriginal offenders are identified and addressed. This review should be undertaken independent of CSC, with the full support and involvement of Aboriginal organizations, and report by March 31, 2005.

Background :

Recommendation initially tabled with Correctional Services in 1998-1999 Annual Report.

Recommendation designed as a first step to bring a required focus to Aboriginal issues :

  • Ensure an Aboriginal presence and perspective at the Senior Management table and;
  • Cause an independent and informed review of policies and procedures as they relate to discriminatory barriers to timely reintegration.

Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Corrections and Conditional Release Act in their May 2000 Report presented similar recommendations concerning the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner Aboriginal Offenders and an Auditor General's evaluation of the reintegration process available to Aboriginal offenders.

Correctional Service has not accepted these recommendations.

Currently, while 41% of non-Aboriginal male offenders are on conditional release only 31% of Aboriginal offenders are serving their time in the community. For women offenders 57% of non-Aboriginals are on conditional release while only 38% of Aboriginal women are serving their sentence in the community. This gap has not significantly changed over the past decade.

2. WOMEN OFFENDERS

Recommendation

I recommend that :

  • the Minister mandate the early publication of a "final response plan" on Madame Justice Arbour's recommendations, followed by a consultation process involving all interested stakeholders;
  • the Department provide a public response to the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommendations by October 31, 2004.

Background :

Madame Justice Arbour's Commission of Inquiry into the events at the Prison for Women was a very public and very inclusive process. The Commission's report, issued in April 1996, was a landmark for corrections in this country. Its findings and recommendations focussed our collective attention not only on the potential for Women's Corrections but also on the requirement for openness, fairness and accountability in all correctional operations.

The Minister, in accepting the central premise of Justice Arbour's recommendations in June of 1996 indicated that :

  • a number of recommendations required further detailed study to determine the most effective means of achieving the objective that underlies the recommendation, and;
  • these recommendations would be dealt with as part of a final response plan.

No final response plan has ever been published.

The Office's initial recommendation concerning a public revisiting of Justice Arbour's Report was made in our 2000-2001 Annual Report.

The Service's response to our representations has been consistent: "CSC took decisive action on all 87 recommendations/sub-recommendations, with a few exceptions. These recommendations were implemented as written or accepted in principle. Four (4) recommendations/sub-recommendations were referred to Justice Canada for review". The four recommendations referred to Justice Canada in 1996 for review remain unaddressed.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission released a report in January 2004 entitled Protecting Their Rights - A Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for Federally Sentenced Women. The areas of concern identified and the recommendations made by the Human Rights Commission are for the most part consistent with those of Justice Arbour.

The continued currency of these areas of concern raises serious questions about the CSC's claim to having taken "decisive action" on the Arbour recommendations and speaks directly to our recommendation concerning the requirements for a thorough, public revisiting of Justice Arbour's report.

3. INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Recommendation

I recommend that :

  • CSC introduce, before March 31, 2005, a safe needle exchange program based on thorough consultation with medical and security experts, offenders, CSC staff and concerned community organizations;
  • failing a positive response from CSC, the Minister direct the introduction of such a program.

Background :

The Expert Committee on AIDS and Prisons (ECAP) recommended in 1994 the initiation of a pilot test needle exchange program in federal institutions. The Office was actively involved in the ECAP review and has publicly supported the Committee's recommendations since the release of their report.

The report on Health Care Needs Assessment of Federal Inmates in Canada, published in March 2004 and the January 2004 Canadian Human Rights Commission Report on Federally Sentenced Women both recommend the implementation of a pilot needle exchange program for federal offenders.

A further report, issued by the Canadian HIV - AIDS Legal Network in October of 2004 entitled Prison Needle Exchange, has again recommended the initiation of a needle exchange program in Canadian Penitentiaries. According to the latest report, the prevalence of HIV rates in prison are at least 10 times higher than in the general population and between 20% to 40% of prisoners are living with H.C.V. This is a public health issue.

The Correctional Service's response is "agree to explore". After ten years it is time for decisive action.

4. CSC POLICY ON CLASSIFICATION OF OFFENDERS SERVING LIFE SENTENCE
(2YR. RULE)

Recommendation

I recommend that :

  • the policy concerning the security classification of offenders serving life sentences be repealed;
  • the Minister initiate an immediate review on both the legality of the policy and its impact on individual offenders over the proceeding three years;
  • in the interim, CSC ensure that a revised review procedure for exemptions to maximum security classifications is implemented by August 31, 2004.

Background :

The "2yr. Rule" mandates the placement of all offenders serving a life sentence in a maximum security facility for a minimum two year period. This has been an issue of fundamental disagreement between this Office and CSC since the implementation of the policy in February of 2001. Our position from the outset has been that the policy is contrary to law, unreasonable and improperly discriminatory.

Recommendation was initially tabled with the Service in our 2001-2002 Annual Report. That report provided a detailing of the opposition to this policy from :

- John Howard Society of Canada,

- Church Council on Justice and Corrections,

- Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, and

- St Leonard's Society of Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission Report of January 2004 further recommended that the policy "be rescinded immediately in favour of a fair and balanced individual assessment".