Nova Scotia

N.S. auditor general finds flaws in program that monitors people serving community sentences

Officials with Nova Scotia’s Justice Department were unaware the company it contracts to provide electronic monitoring of people serving sentences in the community or on probation was not meeting the obligations of that contract until the province’s auditor general informed the department.

Company charged with electronic monitoring misrepresented its work

Kim Adair is Nova Scotia's auditor general. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Officials with Nova Scotia's Justice Department were unaware the company it contracts to provide electronic monitoring of people serving sentences in the community or on probation was not meeting contractual obligations until the province's auditor general informed the department.

Auditor General Kim Adair released a report Tuesday looking at oversight and management of people serving community-based sentences for the years 2019 and 2020.

The report includes the finding that the company that performs electronic supervision for the province would report to the department that it was following protocols when it would receive alerts of possible violation of conditions when, in fact, it didn't always do so.

Because the Justice Department did not verify those reports, it was unaware they were inaccurate.

"When we did our testing, that's when it came to light that [the company was] not following the protocols that they indicated they had been," Adair told reporters in Halifax.

"It was a failure in the department in overseeing the service provider in following the terms and conditions of the contract."

Service provider misrepresented work

Adair's office identified 20 out of 30 files tested where the service provider, which is paid $250,000 a year, did not follow alert response protocols despite indicating it had.

"In most of the cases, the service provider failed to contact the [person serving the sentence] or probation officer when the alert was received," the report says.

"We also found three instances where the police should have been, but were not, contacted."

A statement attributed to Justice Minister Brad Johns said department officials immediately contacted service provider Jemtec and the company has updated its quality assurance processes.

"Jemtec is an experienced company in the country with a good reputation for providing electronic services," the statement said. "They have been responsive by improving their quality assurance process. The contract continues until early 2023. Regular government procurement processes will be followed."

Other issues flagged

Adair's report highlights a list of other shortcomings. They include:

  • Probation officers failing to perform required monitoring of people serving community-based sentences.
  • Probation officers not meeting with those people as frequently as required.
  • Consequences not imposed when people violated conditions.
  • Poor documentation of changes to court-ordered conditions.
  • Inadequate oversight by management in reviewing files.
  • Incomplete training for some employees.

In the latter case, the report notes that training records for 22 recent hires showed none completed all 14 required courses. Those employees were missing anywhere from one to eight courses.

Meetings not happening when they should

Adair said she could not get adequate explanations for why some probation officers were not meeting as frequently as they should have been with some people. Such was the case in 26 out of 49 cases her office reviewed.

In one case, there was no contact between a probation officer and a person serving a sentence for six months, despite being required to meet every other month. In another case, meetings should have happened every other month and there was only one meeting in the span of eight months.

"Without these meetings, the Department of Justice is not upholding the requirements of the probation and conditional sentence orders or holding [people] accountable for their offences," the report says.

Adair's report highlights another case where, despite repeated requests from a probation officer for a person serving a sentence to check in, that person did not do so for five months. Despite the "clear violation" of the probation conditions, a breach was not issued.

Lack of consequences for breaches

In eight of 30 files reviewed, Adair's office found probation officers did not take timely enforcement action against people who violated their conditions. The report points to an example where no action was taken against someone who left the province without informing their probation officer ahead of time.

"A breach was only issued when the probation officer was told the [person] had been arrested in another province, approximately three weeks after the probation officer was first made aware" of the person leaving the province.

"The lack of consequences means [people] are not held accountable for their actions, may result in the inconsistent treatment of people and potentially undermine the effectiveness of the community corrections system," says the report.

Adair's office makes 10 recommendations, all of which the department accepted and has pledged to implement between 2023 and 2025.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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