Dear Commissioner Kelly:
Congratulations on your appointment as the ninth Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). The integrity and coherence of government activities depend strongly upon Ministers’ abilities to coordinate their portfolios in an integrated way while respecting any necessary operational independence, as recognized in Open and Accountable Government (2015). In exercising the authorities conferred upon me in Section 5 of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act and Section 6(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), I will rely on your advice and input to help me establish strategic priorities for the Correctional Service of Canada and to anticipate and manage issues that affect the soundness of the organization. I will also provide suggestions to you, as in this letter, about recommended areas of focus.
I acknowledge that some of these initiatives may require new policy authorities and/or funding, which we can work on together. I also want to applaud the progress already made in certain key areas such as reducing the use of administrative segregation, implementing safe needle exchanges and reintroducing prison farms as a therapeutic and rehabilitative tool.
As Commissioner, you play a key role in ensuring that CSC protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people serving a federal sentence. Your responsibility to Canadians is to ensure that when offenders return to their communities, they are well-prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives; your responsibility to CSC employees is to ensure that they have a safe and supportive workplace in which to carry out the Service’s mandate; your responsibility to victims of crime is to ensure that they receive the compassion, respect and information from CSC to which they are entitled; and your responsibility to the people in your custody is to ensure that they receive the programming, interventions and treatment they require, in an environment that is safe, secure and humane.
Your efforts in this regard will benefit greatly from the experience and expertise of CSC’s many partners, both in government and in the community. Establishing and strengthening these relationships, including through ongoing communications and funding agreements as appropriate, is an invaluable part of achieving successful rehabilitative and public safety outcomes.
Among CSC’s key partners are Indigenous peoples and organizations. While the socioeconomic factors that result in the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in federal custody must generally be addressed by other departments and agencies, your duty is to ensure that those who have come into conflict with the law find in CSC a real opportunity to turn their lives around. Given that I have a mandate from the Prime Minister to address gaps in service to Indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system, I encourage you to: work with Indigenous partners to increase the number of community-run healing lodges established under Section 81 of the CCRA, as well as the number of community-supported releases under Section 84; ensure that Indigenous offenders have timely access to effective, culturally-appropriate interventions developed in collaboration with Indigenous partners, so as to prepare them for successful and timely conditional release; and address the particular needs of Indigenous women within the corrections system. In addition, in consultation with Indigenous partners, I encourage you to re-examine CSC’s governance structure and the role of the National Aboriginal Advisory Committee in order to ensure greater integration of Indigenous needs and perspectives into CSC decisions at the senior level; I look forward to receiving an update from you on this process by December 2018, with implementation in 2019.
Other groups of offenders with particular needs and experiences include Black Canadians, women, young adults, LGBTQ2 people, seniors and people with disabilities. In the interest of effective rehabilitation, it is important that services, interventions, assessment tools and correctional approaches be tailored to address the full diversity of CSC’s population, and that this diversity be reflected in CSC’s staff and management. I encourage you to work with organizations active within these various communities to ensure that offenders’ particular needs are met, both within institutions and upon release. With regard to women in corrections, the principles outlined in the 1990 report Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women remain as relevant as ever, and provide guidance for progress.
For all offenders, it is critical to continually ensure that CSC’s rehabilitative programming is demonstrably effective, with both internal and external analysis and research to back it up. I encourage you to partner with and support community organizations and volunteers in order to provide a greater variety of programming alternatives, such as programs related to the arts, programs involving animals, and programs that include peer mentoring.
In many cases, appropriate intervention involves addressing issues related to physical health, mental health and addiction. Indeed, I have been specifically mandated by the Prime Minister to address gaps in service to people with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. As such, I encourage you to: enhance prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical and mental health conditions; continue progress toward lower rates of infectious diseases, including with harm reduction measures; ensure that addiction is viewed and treated primarily as a medical problem; provide nutrition adequate in quality and quantity to support well-being; do everything possible to keep individuals with mental health problems out of segregation, and continue to reduce the use of segregation generally; and collaborate with public health organizations and provincial and territorial medical services to ensure quality of care within institutions, and continuity of care upon release.
Rehabilitative success is also closely connected to education and employment. I therefore encourage you to prioritize completion of secondary education, make post-secondary education more available, and leverage community partnerships to connect people preparing for release with educational and employment opportunities. These efforts will involve exploring options related to distance learning and the supervised use of information technology. In addition, vocational programming should be focused on skills development linked to employability; a gender-based analysis of CORCAN programming will help achieve this objective.
I also encourage you to work closely with partners, including operators of Community-based Residential Facilities, to create the conditions for success for people on parole and statutory release. As part of supporting parole officers in their efforts to protect the public and reduce rates of revocation and recidivism, innovative approaches, such as the Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision, should be seriously considered.
Safe and successful reintegration is also greatly facilitated by family and community ties maintained or established during incarceration. I therefore encourage you to promote the development of these relationships by safely minimizing barriers to visits and communication, and exploring options for supervised use of e-mail. By providing ways of maintaining contact with the outside world, offenders’ friends and family can, in a sense, also be partners in effective preparation for release.
Of course, as Commissioner, your most important partners are CSC’s employees. Their hard work and dedication are fundamental to achieving positive correctional outcomes; ensuring that they have a safe and supportive work environment is a prerequisite for success. I know that you will engage constructively with CSC staff about issues of concern to them, and that you will make it an overriding priority to ensure that CSC is a workplace free from bullying, harassment and sexual violence.
Finally, I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection. This includes: regularly reviewing policies and operations to identify what works and change what does not; ensuring that use-of-force incidents are fully and transparently investigated, and lessons learned implemented; seeking out innovative ideas and approaches, informed by CSC’s own experiences and those of other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world; facilitating the work of independent researchers within CSC; and welcoming constructive, good-faith critiques as indispensable drivers of progress. In particular, every effort should be made to foster a collaborative working relationship with the Office of the Correctional Investigator in order to address and resolve matters of mutual concern.
With your 35 years of experience in the field of corrections, you know as well as anyone that the job you are taking on is immensely challenging and incredibly important. You will have my full support as you advance measures to address your mandate priorities and protect public safety, understanding that the public is best protected by safe, successful rehabilitation.
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness