Posts Tagged ‘grievance procedure’

 We are fortunate to have a frequent commentator on this blog do a guest article. Joanne Kehayas is very knowledgeable about prison issues.

cutsIn its March 29 budget, the Conservative government announced it will cut $295.4 million from the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) annual expenditures over the next three years.

Here is a listing of some of the cuts that have been announced so far:

1.      The LifeLine program, funded through the Correctional Service of Canada and administered by the St. Leornard’s Society in Windsor ON has been in existence for over 20 years.  Funding for it will be cut in August 2012.  LifeLine offered a community connection to long-term offenders who, because of the length of their sentence, are often all but forgotten and abandoned by their friends and family.  It provided hope that re-integration was possible and reduced the effects of institutionalization by providing a connection to the outside world.  It was also one way that Long-term lifeline programoffenders could be granted escorted temporary absences and it provided meaningful employment for lifers who had been successfully on parole for ten or more years.

2.      The institutional grievance procedure had three levels.  Prisoners first complain to the department in question.  If as resolution is not reached, then a grievance is filed to the warden (1st level), then to Regional Headquarters (2nd level) if the complaint is not satisfactorily dealt with, then finally to National Headquarters (3rd level).  The government announced that the second level of grievance procedure would be eliminated.  It is unclear what effect this might have on the grievance system but it may mean that more grievances will make it to the National Headquarters where staff may not be able to keep up with the increased demand.  On the other hand, this may now be a more efficient process.

3.      The announced closure of Kingston and Leclerc Institutions, in addition to the Regional Treatment Center in Ontario, resulted in a significant backlash from staff at those institutions and across the country.  The question of where to house the up to 1045 prisoners who would be displaced, including many who have special needs, is one that has not been adequately answered.  Some of these would be sent to some of the new 96-cell facilities opening up within institutions throughout the country (a total of 2700 cells).  Of greatest concern, in my opinion, is the housing of the special needs prisoners, especially some high profile prisoners at Kingston and those who reside at the Regional Treatment Centre, a forensic psychiatric facility, of which there would only be 3 remaining in the country.  This means that prisoners with serious mental illness would have to either be housed in facilities where they would not receive optimal care or in other provinces, where they would be far from their community support.

cuts4.      Inmate pay has not increased in some 30 years (beginning in 2005, $4.00 is provided every two weeks to spend only on hygiene products).  People serving sentences rely on pay for many, many things not provided by the service, especially in this climate of cuts, where less and less is being provided (prisoners will be charged more for telephone calls, for example).  The reductions also mean that prisoners cannot save money to use upon release so they might not be a burden on taxpayers.  Not only will there not be an increase to cover costs that have risen with the cost of living, but recent announcements indicate that prisoners will be provided with even less money.  There are effectively three pay levels where prisoners are considered to be making money for employment.  The government has announced that those in the upper two levels would be paying 30% of their income for room and board.  Effectively, this means that all employed prisoners will make the same amount.  The government has eliminated incentives to take programs, to upgrade education, or to do a better job in one’s place of employment.  They have also, at the suggestion of CSC officials, eliminated incentive pay or those working for CORCAN (a corporation that allows prisoners to learn and use trades skills to provide labour for products sold for profit in the market).  CSC officials apparently said that there is a huge demand for CORCAN jobs, therefore a pay incentive (CORCAN workers currently make anywhere from $0.50 – $2.30 / hour)) is not necessary.  Many CORCAN workers would send the money they made back home to help support their families and to offset the costs of visits and telephone calls.

5.      There are other cuts being made within the Correctional Service of Canada aimed at trimming the budget that were not directly initiated by the government, but are being done to meet demands created by the shrinking budget.  These cuts may vary from region to region and institution to institution and therefore do not necessarily apply across the board.  Some of these include the elimination (or reduction) of librarian positions (this means that for many institutions there is no librarian, which means limited access to existing books and no new books coming in), the scrapping of the GED program in schools, the refusal to fund teachers for exam scrutineering (effectively preventing prisoners from taking most post-secondary courses, which they themselves pay for), a reduction in the hours that hobby shops are open, changes in food service menus and the elimination of self-serve items (e.g., salad bar; milk dispenser), a substantial increase in double bunking, whereby 4-6 cells on each range are being retro-fitted, as well as many if not all the new units having double-bunked or double-bunk-capable cells.

Vic Toews

Vic Toews
Public Safety Minister

Although these seem like substantial changes, together they account for perhaps just over half of the announced reduction in the budget over the next three years.  We are clearly going to have to brace ourselves for much more.

 

 

Images courtesy of:

  • viewoncanadianart.com
  • trainingjournal.com
  • theglobeandmail.com
  • ocsa.on.ca