Sask. auditor warns Ministry of Justice could be creating repeat offenders

Saskatchewan's provincial auditor says the Ministry of Justice is increasing the risk of repeat crimes by current offenders by not following its recommendations.

Auditor Judy Ferguson says Justice workers not consistently monitoring offenders once released

Dale McFee, the deputy minister responsible for corrections and policing, says typically a risk assessment takes 20 to 30 hours to complete.

Saskatchewan's provincial auditor says the Ministry of Justice is increasing the risk of repeat crimes by current offenders by not following its recommendations. 

Four recommendations originally made in 2011 have yet to be implemented. This includes consistently:

  • completing risk assessments and case plans for adults within six weeks of starting a community sentence.
  • coordinating rehabilitation strategies between the community and provincial correctional centres.
  • making high-risk adult offenders in the community have required contacts with probation officers or alternatives.
  • preparing regular progress reports on adult offenders in the community. 

"Unfortunately, staff aren't following them in a significant way," said auditor Judy Ferguson. "They've got huge gaps in terms of the use of these policies," said Ferguson.

During 2017 the Ministry of Justice reviewed a number of files from cases at the Regina Community Corrections Office to see if it was following its case management policies. 

Three out of seven

Dale McFee, deputy minister responsible for corrections and policing, said the ministry has taken steps like improving its IT systems to help meet the rest of these recommendations.

"Although these are not complete we are very confident within the next year we will make progress and achieve that suite of the number of these assessments that need to be done," said McFee.

He says that a risk assessment typically takes 20 to 30 hours to complete. 

"Would we have liked to have all of them done? Yes," said McFee of the recommendations. "When we're seeing a growth in remand and growth in bail. It's like anything else, it takes some time."

The auditor's report states that if risk assessments and case plans are not completed in a timely manner "rehabilitation may not be as effective, since many offenders move back and forth between the community and correctional centres." 

The report states "about half the case files it reviewed" did not meet the six week time frame to complete risk assessment and case plans.

Judy Ferguson, provincial auditor, says these recommendations one of many ways to alleviate the taxed justice system. (CBC News)

In over three-quarters of the case files, reviewed regular progress reports were not completed. 

Ferguson said the recommendations exist to better guide the ministry and to ensure offenders are able to access the services they need to, ideally, not re-offend and stay out of jail

"It is their rehabilitation program. That's the backbone and the framework for the rehabilitation. So if you're not following your policies and implementing your policies, your then program isn't being rolled out as it's been designed," she said.

"Your risk is you increase the chances of people repeating offences and crimes."

Optimism going forward

There are 8,000 people in corrections on any given day according to McFee, which means the IT systems are an increasingly crucial part of their work.

"It's pretty important our IT systems are up to date," he said. "So our folks in the field can actually track this and realize who's due for an assessment, who's due to be met with, and without an IT system this is a hopeless cause."

McFee said that despite the auditor specifically looking at a Regina centre he felt the auditor's assessment was accurate province wide.

Staff at the corrections centre told the ministry that the workload they faced made it difficult to meet all the requirements of all seven of the original recommendations.

As such, by March 31, 2018 the ministry will begin an assessment on the workload of these staff members. McFee says it's too early to tell whether corrections are in need of more staff.

"I'm confident within this time next year, our numbers will go up considerably and as we've knocked off three of the seven now," said McFee.

According to the report in corrections the ministry successfully:

  • monitors if high-risk offenders have timely access to priority rehabilitation programs.
  • uses its criteria to asses rehabilitation programs in the community and if high-risk offenders benefit from its services.
  • established a policy to evaluate community rehabilitation programs for high-risk adult offenders. 

With files from Stefani Langenegger and ICI Saskatchewan