“Once Upon a Time…..”

…….a beginning for the fantasies we’d like to make reality.

For years, the home page of the Correctional Service of Canada’s web site highlighted a Mission Statement that hit all the right notes, committing the Service to the highest ideals for a prison agency prioritizing safe communities through progressive rehabilitation programming for the men and women offenders under its charge.

Well, web sites get updated, refreshed and refined. Somewhere along the way, that Mission Statement disappeared from the site. To CSC critics, it always had little connection to day to day real-life operations in Canada’s federal prisons.

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Anne Kelly replaced Don Head as commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada in July of this year. After 35 years of experience with CSC, she’s as aware of the Service’s strengths and weaknesses as her predecessor.

Nonetheless, to suggest “recommended areas of focus”, her political boss Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, wrote a long Commissioner’s Mandate Letter in September, unusual in that it was made public and published on the CSC web site.

Quoting a core paragraph, published in part in our ‘”Corrections” in Canada? Really?’ on September 30:-
“As Commissioner, you play a key role in ensuring that CSC protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people serving federal sentence. Your responsibility to Canadians is to ensure that when offenders return to their communities, they are well-prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives; your responsibility to CSC employees is to ensure that they have a safe and supportive workplace in which to carry out the Service’s mandate; your responsibility to victims of crime is to ensure that they receive the compassion, respect and information from CSC to which they are entitled; and your responsibility to the people in your custody is to ensure that they receive the programming, interventions and treatment they require, in an environment that is safe, secure and humane.”

A tall order…..and worth a read of the entire document. We wrote the minister:-

October 9, 2018

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa

Re: Commissioner’s mandate letter – 2018-09-05

Dear Minister Goodale:

I’m a Correctional Service of Canada ‘specialist’, and first took notice of our federal prison service about 50 years ago, tentatively stepped onto the field as an activist in the mid 1980s, and developed a concerned interest 21 years ago after leaving behind a business career.

A Mission Statement that once headed CSC’s web site home page disappeared long ago. Your September mandate letter to new Commissioner Anne Kelly is a noble and fearless directive, a worthy successor to the earlier undertaking. That your letter is published in its entirety on the CSC site is a bold endorsement of an enlightened future for the Service.

Unfortunately, over many years of CSC observation and research, the distance between the ideal and the practice is a chasm, making the Office of the Correctional Investigator a necessity. A firewall supported by special interests within the Service regrettably silences the voices of clients/patients/offenders whose input must be essential in measuring the efficacy of CSC’s work towards its better purpose.

By copy of this letter, I’m suggesting that Commissioner Kelly make your letter required reading by all CSC staff members, citing its goals as hard targets, and not whimsical options.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc Anne Kelly, Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Next time, we’ll begin to look at how fairy tales can be brought to life.

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