*A note to readers: This is the fourth article in a series we are doing on EXCOM sub-committees. The first one was about the Safety and Security sub-committee, the second about the Mental Health sub-committee, and the third about the Effectiveness and Efficiency sub-committee. Maybe you have heard of these committees, maybe you haven’t, but they are making decisions that affect your work. That’s why we want to tell you more about them. As part of this process, we will be interviewing one co-chair from each committee about what exactly they are up to. We hope you find these informative and useful.
As the co-chair of the Aboriginal Corrections sub-committee, Senior Deputy Commissioner Anne Kelly is working with her CSC colleagues to identify specific actions that could improve results for Aboriginal offenders.
“There are a number of initiatives we are looking at right now,” she says. “Each of them directly impacts how we work with Aboriginal offenders so that we are providing the best for them as they rehabilitate and prepare for their safe reintegration into the community.”
The first involves improving case management decision making through practical Aboriginal social history training for senior executives in the regions. This training teaches them how to consider an offender’s Aboriginal social history when making decisions about their cases while incarcerated. “Whether it’s the impact of residential schools, such as abuse, neglect, foster care, or substance abuse, all of this should be taken into account”, says Anne.
“Our approach and policies changed as result of the Gladue decision, and subsequent decisions, requiring all parts of the justice system to consider a person’s Aboriginal social history,” she explains. “What we had found was that, while staff generally understood the need to capture Aboriginal social history, how exactly to utilize this information to impact a decision was not well understood. Over time, we have improved the training to make it more practical, and are noticing a significant difference thanks to the training we are offering to staff.
“Feedback on the training has been very positive so far. It has been offered to all Regional Management Committees across the country, as well as select staff in each region. Everyone has recommended expansion of this training to all staff groups. They hope to incorporate this training into the Parole Officer Continuous Development training in the future as well.
In addition to the efforts around Aboriginal social history training, the sub-committee is addressing other areas of need as well. They include looking at the number of Aboriginal offenders who have a minimum security classification, are past their parole eligibility date, and haven’t yet received a decision from the Parole Board of Canada.
“Out of a total of 550 offenders who fell into this category, when we looked at the numbers”, says Anne, “close to 160 of them were Aboriginal. This is a large proportion, and because the cost of keeping an offender who is deemed low risk in an institution versus in the community is significant, we decided to take a closer look. The issue is currently being explored in more detail by an assigned manager in the Prairie Region and a report will be produced with the findings. These findings will inform recommendations for the future”.
As well, says Anne, the committee has put a renewed focus on revitalizing the Pathways Initiatives, something that is near and dear to her heart.
“I have seen the evolution of Aboriginal Corrections at CSC over the years and the investments we have made in the Pathways Initiatives. Now we are setting some ambitious goals for ourselves to see how we can improve things even more for Aboriginal offenders. Specifically, we’d like to see that after a year in Pathways, Aboriginal offenders in maximum security would be prepared to transfer down to medium, and those in medium would move down to minimum, and those in minimum – we have set an ambitious goal of forty percent of them – would be granted a conditional release.”
For Anne, these initiatives and the many more taken on by the sub-committee are key areas of need that seek to find creative ways to close the gap in results between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders.
“The purpose of this sub-committee was to look at specific areas where we could make a difference and that were doable. We wanted to focus on specific challenges that we felt we could positively impact. We hope the recommendations that come forward will result in positive changes for Aboriginal offenders.”
Members of this committee include:
Co-Chair – Anne Kelly, Senior Deputy Commissioner
Co-Chair – Anuradha (Anu) Marisetti, Regional Deputy Commissioner, Pacific
Michele Brenning, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services
Peter Linkletter, Regional Deputy Commissioner, Prairie
Jennifer Wheatley, Regional Deputy Commissioner, Atlantic
Brigitte Bouchard, Warden, Edmonton Institution for Women
Ed Muise, Warden, Dorchester
Lisa Allgaier, Director General, Aboriginal Initiatives