Inmate-release problems said to be jeopardizing public safety

An internal audit of the federal prison system's process for releasing inmates finds problems that jeopardize public safety and compromise successful reintegration of offenders back into society.

Sloppy paperwork, poor communication cited in internal report

Prisoner release problems

Power and Politics

8 years ago
MPs Candice Bergen, Rangall Garrison and Wayne Easter comment on a report that flags serious problems with how inmates are released from custody 11:21

Shoddy paperwork, poor communications and haphazard help for inmates are jeopardizing public safety and compromising the successful reintegration of prisoners back to the street, an internal audit has found.

The review of Correctional Service of Canada's release process flags a number of problems and policy breaches when offenders — including high-profile and high-risk criminals — are released from custody, such as the proper notification of key stakeholders such as parole officers, police and victims.

While protocols are in place to ensure the "adequate and effective release" of offenders, they aren’t always followed. The audit reveals widespread problems ranging from crucial information missing from files to offenders being released without the resources or documentation that would facilitate a successful transition.

An internal audit of the federal prison system's process for releasing inmates has found problems that jeopardize public safety and compromise successful reintegration of offenders back into society. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

"Without proper resources such as medication supplies or proper documentation, such as identification card or health insurance card, offenders’ reintegration into the community may be jeopardized," the audit warns.

Victims not notified on time

The report also noted that victims were notified of the offender’s release in 95 per cent of cases, but in nearly a quarter of cases, the victims weren’t notified before or on the day of release as is required by CSC policy.

For high-profile offenders, a memo that is to be sent to various stakeholders such as police and victims was not created; and in memos that were created, key information such as classification history, community dynamics and concerns raised by interested parties was missing in nearly half of the files.

The audit also reveals problems with offenders being released on Warrant Expiry Date — the last possible day people sentenced to prison can be held in custody. This can include those considered such a threat to public safety that they have been denied parole.

In 12 per cent of cases, there was no evidence that the required information packages were sent to police, and only 42 per cent were sent before the mandated 90 days. In more than a third of the files reviewed, there was no sign the information was sent to the local parole office, and in more than two-thirds of the cases, information was not sent to the Parole Board of Canada.

"When critical information is not sent to police and other stakeholders concerning the release of offenders at risk of recommitting offences, there is an increase in the risk to the safety of the population," the audit concludes.

In 2012-2013, CSC spent $733 million on correctional interventions and community supervision activities out of a budget of $3 billion, according to the report which was completed in November 2012 and recently posted to CSC's website.

Speaking on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Candice Bergen, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety, said CSC has accepted all the audit’s recommendations and is now putting protocols in place to ensure police, parole officers and victims get the right information in a timely fashion.

"Victims do need to be a top priority," she told host Evan Solomon.

System 'overstressed'

Bergen did not say whether more funds would be allocated to address the lapses in the report, but NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said greater investment is required to close the gaps.

"I think what this indicates is a system that’s overstressed. We've got a continuing problem of more inmates and fewer resources in the correctional system to deal with them," Garrison said. "So I think the audit reveals a severe problem that’s only going to get worse because we’re looking forward to cutbacks in the corrections budget again this year."

Liberal MP Wayne Easter said there is no question CSC is "falling down" but insisted the stretched corrections system needs adequate resources and a more comprehensive approach to do the job properly.

"Yes we have to inform victims but as well, we have to make sure the offenders are rehabilitated in prison and don’t come out better criminals than when they came in," he said. "And the government has not looked at the total justice – they’ve only looked at revenge."