In March, a group of CSC staff from across the country will start rolling out a new online tool that will help connect Indigenous offenders with their home communities.
The team proposed the idea for the tool during one of CSC’s Hackathons – an event that brings experts from various areas of CSC, including coders, together to develop new tools for employees to use in their work. Management invited employees to come forward with new, innovative ideas for finding efficiencies in tasks, or completely changing how something is done.
From their wealth of experience working within the Section 84 process, a number of staff saw gaps in how these cases are managed and formed a working group. While there is clear dedication to support Indigenous offenders in the Section 84 process, it was recognized that communication among case management team members could be enhanced along key points in the offender’s sentence.
“The process involves so many different staff members and it is important that everyone involved be on the same page with respect to case management of the offender,” says team member Kerry O’Flanagan. “We felt that an app would be able to assist in this process and keep all staff members up to date on the process.”
Section 84 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act gives Aboriginal communities the chance to become active partners in the release planning and supervision of Indigenous offenders. Release planning begins the moment an offender enters a CSC facility. This early planning helps increase the offender’s success once released. The community stays informed about the efforts the offender makes while incarcerated, encouraging the offender to continue their efforts. Section 84 is based on the premise that encouraging community participation in the reintegration of offenders is a way to restore balance and make reparation for harm done.
The Section 84 tool has been built to assist employees involved with case management of Indigenous offenders with the next steps of moving a Section 84 release forward. The app will send reminders and notification emails to these employees about the next step in the process. Employees will be able to access the tool on their desktop at work.
“That [reminder] could be something as simple as having a meeting with the inmate about their release plans, filling in a particular form, or talking with key contacts in the community,” says team member Gary Louden. “The Section 84 process has 17 steps in it, each of which involves several different people from several different departments within CSC. It’s a lot! Our challenge has been to take those steps and those roles and make a tool that helps users get all the work done in a clear, organized, and easy to use way for everyone involved.”
Team member Esther Blazenko says the system requires minimal effort on the part of the user and will track where an offender is in their Section 84 process.
“Additional efforts to locate information will be greatly reduced,” she says. “The system will also help staff understand their role and responsibilities in the process, improving communication and reducing demands on staff thanks to the improved ability to manage the information. The overall goal is to improve results for Indigenous offenders, which is in line with our Corporate Priorities.”
The team has experienced some challenges in creating a new Section 84 workflow program, such as making sure the tool is user friendly, and ensuring it reflects regional differences in managing Section 84 processes.
“I’d say the biggest challenge has been trying to strike a good balance between notifying users just enough without bombarding them with messages,” says team member Aaron Shepherd. “We want this tool to be helpful for employees, so we have made it our goal to keep it as user friendly as possible without going overboard.”
Roll out is set to start in the Pacific Region on March 7 with other regions to phase in the program throughout the following months.
“The ultimate goal is to have more Section 84 inmates who are ready to be released, released,” says Louden.
The most rewarding part of the project for team member Allana Warkentin is giving opportunities to Indigenous offenders who want to reconnect with their communities and spiritual/cultural ways of life.
“This will further assist with their successful reintegration, as well as healing for the offender, their family, and their community. This in turn will improve public safety – it’s a win-win situation.”