Missed Opportunities: The Experience of Young Adults Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiaries - Final Report
August 31, 2017

Table of Contents

Opening Message
Introduction
Methodology
Context and Background
Legislative and Policy Framework
Youth Crime Statistics
Youth correctional statistics
Profile of Young Adults 18-21 years of age in Federal Custody
Findings
Trajectories: Life before federal custody
Family and Friends
Use of Drugs and Alcohol
Provincial Social Services
Education
Involvement in Youth Criminal Justice System
Missed Opportunities
The Federal Correctional Experience: Conditions of Confinement
“You can't act like a little kid”
Prison food
Segregation
Use of force
Health Care
Dental Care
Self-injury
Racialized Young Adults
Young Adult Indigenous Offenders
Gang Management
Rehabilitation efforts falling short of meeting the needs of young adults
Social Activities
Little support within the institution
Programming
The need for positive role models
Education
Employment
Correctional Outcomes: Release back into the community
Training for CSC staff
Discussion
Summary of Recommendations
References
Appendix A: Questionnaire


Opening Message

A unique aspect of this investigation was the opportunity for the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) to partner with the Ontario Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth in conducting this work.  This investigation demonstrates the essential arbitrariness of the distinction made between the youth and adult criminal justice systems.  Reaching the age of eighteen is not indicative of full physical and psychosocial development, but it is still the point at which the legal system designates full culpability and criminal responsibility as an adult.  Young people aged 18 who commit criminal offences must be treated as an adult by law.  Collaboration between the two Offices was essential to better understand how young people come into conflict/contact with the criminal justice system, their experience within the system and what happens when these individuals find themselves placed in the adult correctional system. 

Both Offices worked very closely in conducting interviews, extracting findings, reviewing reports and developing recommendations.  Recommendations were made by both Offices specific to their respective mandates.  One recommendation is jointly supported by both Offices as it is directed to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety in Canada.  Recommendations made by the Correctional Investigator directed to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) were informed by the views and expertise of the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

Mission Statements

The Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada (OCI) serves Canadians and contributes to safe, lawful and humane corrections through independent oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada by providing accessible, impartial and timely study of individual and systemic concerns.

The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (Ontario) serves youth in state care and the margins of state care through individual, systemic and policy advocacy.  The Office strives, at every level of its operation to be an exemplar of youth participation.

Too often governments work in silos, overlooking commonalities and areas of overlap.  This is unfortunate as criminal justice issues do not fall neatly into the mandate of one level of government.  For this reason, it is important to build partnerships and undertake studies together to ensure that findings and recommendations are relevant and appropriate at all levels of government.  It is common for sentenced individuals to be left behind or forgotten between the layers and levels of government or when they transition from one system to another.  Working in partnership breaks down jurisdictional boundaries and produces results that are more comprehensive, constructive and all-encompassing.  They also facilitate a continuum of appropriate programs and services for these individuals and their families. 

The benefit of this partnership was the ability to tell and understand the story of these individuals from childhood through to adolescence and their current experience in the federal adult correctional system.  This partnership is an innovative example of how different levels of government can successfully come together to examine an issue, report on findings and make recommendations that transcend the limits of jurisdictional boundaries. 

Photo Ivan Zinger, J.D. Ph.D., Correctional Investigator of Canada and Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
Photo of Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada and Photo of Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

Introduction

Young adult offenders are defined in this investigation as individuals eighteen to twenty-one years of age1 who are in federal custody serving a sentence of two years or more.  This age group comprised 2.7% (or 396) of the total federal inmate population (14,643) in 2015-16.  While this age cohort is small, it comes with significant implications.  Individuals 18-21 years of age are considered to be “emerging adults”2, in terms of overall development and maturity.  They have distinct needs and limited life experiences and it is only because they have reached the age of majority that they are serving a federal sentence in an adult institution.  This timeframe is a critical period in their life as they transition to adulthood and it can be an important point in which to positively intervene to potentially stop the cycle of criminal offending and movement into and out of the criminal justice system.  If the cycle can be disrupted early, these young people have an opportunity to become law-abiding citizens, thereby substantially reducing the social costs associated with offending.3

The issue of young adult offenders in federal penitentiaries is not unique to Canada.  Countries in the European Union and United Kingdom have identified problems and challenges housing youthful offenders with older, more seasoned inmates.  Some countries use separate institutions to house the young adult population, even those serving an adult sentence.  The Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) has highlighted in previous Annual Reports (2005-06 and 2013-14) that the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) does not provide adapted housing accommodations, programming, services or interventions specific or responsive to young people despite the fact that they are often vulnerable to segregation placements, subject to abuse and intimidation by other inmates, pressured into or recruited by gangs in prison and have poorer overall outcomes.  In 2013-14, the OCI recommended that CSC implement a National Strategy for young adult offenders to provide programs, interventions and services tailored to meet the needs of this population.  In 2013, the Coroner's jury examining the death of Ashley Smith made a number of recommendations for CSC regarding young adults, including among others, establishing separate and distinct programs and services as well as training for staff to recognize and respond to the specific issues faced by this age group in federal custody.4 

The Service's response to these recommendations over the years has been disappointing.  CSC continues to maintain that programming can be adapted to meet the needs of all offenders and that each correctional plan is developed on an individual basis and therefore addresses distinct or unique needs.  Given this intransigence and overall lack of progress in this area of corrections, the OCI, in partnership with the Ontario Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, conducted a national-level investigation between November 2016 and March 2017 focused on the following objectives: 

  1. Provide an overall profile and outcomes for young adults aged 18-21 in federal custody.
  2. Gather information about a young person's experiences and vulnerabilities in federal penitentiaries.
  3. Provide young incarcerated adults an opportunity to voice their concerns and identify programs and services that would be most helpful to them.
  4. Examine the trajectories and experiences of those transferred or who “graduated” to the adult system from the youth system.
  5. Assess and review policy, practice and actions taken by CSC to respond to the needs of this segment of the prison population.
  6. Benchmark CSC policy and practices with that of other countries.

Methodology

The investigation involved a research strategy which utilized the following:

  • A review of relevant literature.
  • Quantitative analysis of CSC data related to those 18-21 years of age serving a federal sentence (2 years or more) in a penitentiary.
  • A questionnaire was developed to guide individual interviews (See Appendix A).  The questionnaire consisted of eighteen questions that focused on areas such as family background, involvement in the youth justice system, education and experiences in the federal correctional system (health care, conditions of confinement, access to programs and services, use of force, segregation). 
  • Voluntary individual confidential interviews were conducted with 94 young adults 18-21 years of age, representing 24% of the population 18-21 years of age in federal institutions.  The sample consisted of 87 males and 7 females.5 
  • Interviews were conducted in four regions (Ontario: Collins Bay Institution and Joyceville Institution, Quebec: Cowansville Institution, Atlantic: Springhill Institution and Prairie: Edmonton Institution for Women and Stony Mountain Institution)6 and at all levels of security (maximum, medium and minimum). 
  • Prior to our visit to an institution, everyone 18-21 years of age residing within the institution was provided information explaining the study and inviting them to participate.  The response rate was high at 85% (94 interviews of possible 111; there were 17 refusals).
  • 15 CSC staff members were interviewed who have worked with young people at the following institutions: Joyceville, Collins Bay, Springhill, Edmonton Institution for Women and Stony Mountain.   
  • A review of policies and practices associated with how other countries manage younger offenders in adult correctional facilities was undertaken.  We received and reviewed responses from the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland. 

Context and Background

Legislative and Policy Framework

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and Regulations (CCRR)do not explicitly specify age (or youth) as one of the factors to consider in correctional programming, policies or decision-making.  Section 4(g) of the CCRA, however, speaks to the principles that should guide the Service.  It  states that “correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and are responsive to the special needs of women, aboriginal peoples, persons requiring mental health care and other groups” (emphasis added).  Despite the reference to “other groups”, CSC does not formally recognize young adults as a group that requires specialized or tailored programming, interventions or services.  There is no policy guidance (e.g. Commissioner's Directive) specific to young adults and no formal attempt to distinguish the needs of young adults from those of other inmates.  The Service largely considers chronological age as another piece of information related to criminogenic risk. 

Age is considered an important factor on actuarial tools7 (e.g. the Custody Rating Scale and the Recidivism Scale) where being younger increases a person's criminogenic risk and as a consequence, often their security classification.  For example, on the Custody Rating Scale (CRS) 8 individuals between the ages of 18 and 219 at the time of sentencing are given an additional 18 to 24 points on Institutional Adjustment scores and an additional 30 points on the Security Risk Rating scale10.  Generally, a higher score on the CRS will result in a higher security classification.  While a security classification can be overridden, and other factors are often considered when determining an inmate's security level, it is significant that a maximum security classification requires a score of 95 on Institutional Adjustment or 134 on the Security Risk dimension.11  Simply being younger garners enough points to move these individuals almost a quarter of the way toward obtaining the highest security classification.  Given the importance placed on an individual's age with respect to risk, it is noteworthy that age is not considered an important or relevant factor on a number of other correctional interventions and services.  

Youth Crime Statistics

The Canadian police-reported youth crime rate (boys and girls age 12-17) has been generally declining since peaking in 1991.  Likewise, the Youth Crime Severity Index, which measures both the volume and severity of crime involving youth accused (both charged and not charged)12, has steadily declined. 

Police-reported youth Crime Severity Indexes, Canada, 1998 to 2015

Graph showing the police reported youth crime severity index in Canada from 1998 to 2015

According to Statistics Canada13, while declining, young Canadian adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are still accused of crime at higher rates and have the highest criminal offending rate of any age group (rate per 100,000 population: young adults 18-24: 5,428, youth 12-17: 4,322, adults 25-29: 4,712, adults 30-34: 4,022).14 Research shows that criminal behaviour generally declines as individuals mature and progress into adulthood.  The prevalence of offending tends to increase from late childhood, peaks in adolescence (around 15-19) and then declines in the early 20s.  Life transitions such as completing education, securing employment, marriage and parenting  are known to reduce the likelihood of offending.15  Research based in the United States suggests that involvement in the criminal justice system can disrupt a young person's progression into adult roles that are generally associated with abstaining from crime, particularly for those serving long prison sentences during young adulthood.  Lengthy sentences and the negative effects of incarceration exacerbate repeat offending particularly for those within this age group.16

With respect to offence history, young adults 18-24 years of age in conflict with the law:17

  • Most often committed theft of $5,000 or under, common assault and mischief.
  • Nearly one-quarter of young adults accused of crime were accused of offences against the administration of justice (primarily failure to comply with the conditions of a sentence).  Among young adults accused of criminal offences, 28% were accused in violent incidents.
  • Had the highest police-reported accused rates for homicide, attempted murder and assault (levels 1, 2, and 3).
  • Had the highest rates of cannabis-related drug offences.

Youth correctional statistics 18

The youth incarceration rate (ages 12 to 17) has also been on a steady decline since 2004/2005.  In 2014/15, there were 7,966 youth aged 12 to 17 years being supervised in either custody or a community program on any given day in the nine reporting jurisdictions.  90% were supervised in the community.19

Youth in custody, eleven jurisdictions, 2004/2005 to 2014/2015

Graph depicting youth in custody from eleven jurisdictions in Canada from 2004/05 to 2014/15

Indigenous youth are grossly over-represented in youth corrections.  In 2014/15, there were over 5,700 Indigenous youth admitted to youth justice facilities in nine jurisdictions, representing 33% of all admissions.  Indigenous youth in the nine jurisdictions account for 7% of the youth population.  Young Indigenous girls fare even worse, accounting for 44% of all female youth admitted to the corrections system in Canada.     

Profile of Young Adults 18-21 years of age in Federal Custody 20

In 2015-16, young adults comprised 2.7% (or 396 individuals, 17 women and 379 men) of the total federal inmate population (14,643).  Over the past ten years, the number of young adult inmates in federal custody has declined by 40% after peaking at 661 inmates in 2010-11.  This corresponds to the general decline in the police-reported crime rate for both youth and young adults.21  Between 2006-07 and 2011-12, the number of young adults in federal custody fluctuated slightly, but still remained over 600.  However, by 2012-13, the numbers began to decline and have continued to drop each year.  Their representation varies across the country.  Young adults represent 5% of the federal inmate population in the Prairie region, 4% in the Atlantic region, 2% in the Quebec region and about 1% in each of the Ontario and Pacific regions.  The majority are male (95.7%).  Federally sentenced young adult women comprise 4.3% (17) of the young adult inmate population and the majority reside in two regions: Prairie: 4% and Quebec 3.5%. 

Number of Inmates in Federal Custody 18-21 years of age

Graph depicting the number of young adult offenders 18 to 21 years of age in federal custody from 2006/07 to 2015/16

Despite the overall decrease in actual numbers, there remain certain sub-populations that are over-represented.  In 2015-16, young Indigenous adults represented nearly 2 in 5 inmates 18-21 years of age (38.4%) in federal custody.  Young Black adults represented 12% of the young adult inmate population.    

When compared to other inmates, those 18-21 years of age serving a determinate sentence are more likely to:

  • Be serving a shorter sentence (41.7 versus 64.5 months).
  • Have education and employment needs and less likely to have marital and family needs.
  • Be convicted of a violent offence (robbery and assault most common).  As of March 31, 2017, 15 young adults were serving an indeterminate (life) sentence.
  • Have a gang affiliation22 (16.8% versus 8.3% for the rest of the population).  Just over one-quarter (26.3%) of young adult Indigenous inmates and 25% of young adult Black inmates were gang affiliated. 

In December 1991, Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Under this Convention, every child23 deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interests not to do so (Article 37(c)).  However, upon signing and ratification, Canada placed a reservation to the Convention that allowed children to be detained with adults when “appropriate” and “not feasible” to separate them.  The numbers of youth (those under the age of 18) in federal custody have historically been low.  These were usually limited to cases that could not be adequately or safely managed in a youth secure custody setting.  In some cases, a youth was transferred to federal adult custody to access programming or services not offered in the youth system. 

The passage of the Safe Streets and Communities Act (March 2012) amended the Youth Criminal Justice Act to prohibit any young person under the age of 18 from serving their sentence in an adult penitentiary.  CSC confirms that there are no youth (under the age of 18) currently serving a sentence in federal custody.  There are, however, specific instances in which a young person can serve their sentence in federal custody.  For example, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) allows judges to impose an adult sentence on a youth found guilty of a serious offence (e.g. murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault) who was fourteen years of age or older when the crime was committed (The YCJA allows provinces and territories to raise the age at which this obligation applies to 15 or 16).  Youth can be sentenced as adults and placed in a youth facility.  They may be moved by the provincial director of the youth facility to an adult facility at twenty years of age if the provincial director feels that youth custody is not in the best interests of the young person and would jeopardize the safety of others. 

A young person incarcerated in secure youth custody, with a youth sentence, can also be placed in an adult facility at eighteen years of age but only if it is ordered by the court.   Section 92(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act requires the Provincial Director to make a case that shows the court that the youth system no longer meets the needs of the youth and that the adult system has programs and services that will better meet the individual's needs.  A transfer to an adult facility must also be in the best interests of the youth or in the interest of the public. 

In the case of Ashley Smith, only a few months after her eighteenth birthday, the Superintendent of the New Brunswick Youth Centre made an application under section 92 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act to have her transferred to an adult facility after spending nearly five years in the youth justice system in New Brunswick.  It was argued that there were programs available in the adult system that could help her.  Ashley contested the transfer.  Ultimately she was transferred to Nova Institution, a regional women's facility in the federal correctional system.  Immediately upon entry to the federal system, she was placed on segregation status and was maintained on that status for her entire time under federal jurisdiction.  While in federal custody, Ashley engaged in self-harm.  In the 11.5 months she spent in federal custody, she was forcibly injected, the subject of over 150 security incidents and was transferred 17 times between three federal penitentiaries, two treatment centres, two external hospitals and one provincial correctional facility.  Ashley died at Grand Valley Institution for Women in October 2007 after staff failed to respond in a timely manner when she had tied a ligature around her neck.24

1. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC add a flag in the Offender Management System that would allow the Service to track individuals with a youth sentence transferred to an adult federal penitentiary.

Findings     

Trajectories: Life before federal custody

Family and Friends

As part of this investigation, respondents were asked about their life experiences before coming into federal custody as a means to better understand the path that led them there and to identify whether certain interventions or additional supports could have helped these individuals or their families.  Most young people interviewed for this investigation reported growing up in a “kind of” supportive family.  Some considered their connection to family still to be strong with family members continuing to visit during their incarceration.  Notwithstanding, several reported growing up in neighbourhoods that were considered poor or places where criminal and gang activity occurred.  Some indicated that they were a member of a gang at an early age; one at the age of eight.  Many maintained contact with grandparents and extended family (e.g. aunts, uncles, cousins).  A smaller, but still significant number had limited or no contact with family members citing parents who had substance abuse problems themselves.  One young person, who no longer had contact with his family, reported that his mother “…taught me how to smoke crack when I was 12…and my dad is addicted to pills”.  Many reported having supportive social networks, but admitted that their peers and friends were “not the best”, “not great” or “it was not a great scene with my friends”. 

Use of Drugs and Alcohol

Young adults were asked if there was any point in time where something could have been done to change their path.  Many talked about their involvement with drugs and alcohol.  One young adult indicated that he had his first drink at age four stating that “that's what everyone did.”  Most reported that they were involved with drugs or alcohol, however the level of involvement varied.  Many admitted smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol with friends on occasion; however, for some, involvement in drugs was part of their criminal offence history (selling drugs to make money or committing crimes to pay for drug use).  Many pointed to their involvement with drugs and alcohol as the reason they were currently incarcerated.

Provincial Social Services

Social Services were extensively involved in the lives of one-quarter of those interviewed (23 individuals representing 25% of those interviewed), typically foster and/or group homes.  One individual who was a crown ward in Manitoba reported living in a hotel (pseudo-group home) at the age of 12-13 and another estimated moving amongst foster and group homes upwards of fifty times stating that he “learned all the wrong things in group homes.”  Another young adult reported living in twenty-one foster homes.  Many who experienced time in foster care or group homes described their experience as negative with very little stability, support or assistance, unless, as one young adult stated, “You get lucky…I lived in a good foster home for a few years then the CAS put me in a hotel.  I was 12 and it went down from there.”  At least two reported that residing in a group home was where they “learned more and better criminal techniques” and one reported that this was where his life really began to deteriorate.  One young person stated that, “it is better to live here (referring to federal custody) than a lot of foster homes I have lived in”.  One interviewee reported that he had finally been adopted at the age of 10 only to be “given back” at the age of 12, where he was returned to another group home. 

Education

Only 20 respondents (21%) reported that they had graduated from high school.  Many stated that problems started to arise in early adolescence, around grades 7-8, which is the point at which many started “cutting classes” and dropping out of high school.  Some reported returning to school while incarcerated in the youth criminal justice system.  A few of those needing high school credits were enrolled in education classes in federal custody, however most were on a waitlist to attend.  At least three had seriously fallen through the cracks and did not have any high school credits.  One individual reported an educational attainment level of just grade four.  While all of those interviewed recognized the importance of having a high school education, many found it difficult going back to a school environment and focusing their attention for long periods of time after having been absent for so many years.  CSC teachers interviewed reported that while their students may have completed a certain grade level in the community, they often test below this level after being out of school for several years and thus are required to redo these levels.  Many young adults reported having to redo levels very frustrating.    

Involvement in Youth Criminal Justice System

Nearly 3 in 5 respondents (54 of 94 respondents or 57%) reported involvement with the youth criminal justice system, many having served time in secure youth custody.  A small number were involved in the youth criminal justice system as early as the age of twelve, but most were first involved in their mid-teen years.  Surprisingly, only a very few reported completing any programming (e.g. violence prevention, substance abuse, etc.) in the youth system other than education.  Despite the lack of programming, those who had spent time in the youth criminal justice system reported that there was significant support.  Many stated that those working in the youth system “actually talk to you”, “youth custody is social” and that “the way the youth system is, you are forced to build relationships” and “they didn't give up on you yet.”  By contrast, when asked about their experience in federal custody, one stated that “once you turn eighteen, they just forget about you” and another stated that “eighteen is a little young to be here”. 

Missed Opportunities

It would appear that there were points where interventions (programs, services, etc.) may have provided some much needed support to these individuals and their families.  When asked if something could have been done for them growing up that might have helped them or stopped them from coming to adult custody, some were very honest and reported that “nothing could have helped me”, going on to explain that they were young and at that time they felt like they did not need any help.  One young adult described his situation as “not starting from scratch, but starting from the negative side.”  Looking back however, many expressed that their attitude was responsible for their current situation.  For those who thought something could have helped them, they talked about things like staying in school, anger management and mental health counselling/programming, having different friends, not getting face tattoos, not moving out of their parent's house or someone to help their parents deal with their substance abuse problems.  One respondent stated that he should not have been “in such a rush to have stuff”.  Some even stated that many people, including school officials, tried to help, but they continued on the same path.  One young adult reflected, “I'm in prison and I did this to myself”. 

Currently, there are very few resources in the community to support families or their children, particularly in terms of mental health and substance abuse problems.  Only one individual spoke about going to a rehabilitation centre for substance abuse issues, though others thought this could have helped them.  Waiting lists are often very long with only a few beds available to help younger individuals.  The situation is very similar for those requiring mental health supports.  Families are left to fend for themselves trying to piece together services that are often not appropriate, sufficient or beyond financial reach.    

While the costs of crime are secondary to providing youth and adolescents with the support and interventions they require to be productive citizens, there is a substantial potential return on investment that can be achieved through early intervention.  A recent study examined the monetary cost of crimes committed by a sample of 386 high-risk male offenders in Ontario.25  The findings are significant.  Overall, the aggregate cost of crime for the sample was $2.26 billion or $5.86 million per person in the sample over the 15 year period examined.  The costs included tangible and intangible costs, victim-related costs, and disposition-related correctional costs.  The costs during adolescence were driven by the frequency of offending, whereas the costs incurred in adulthood were the result of the seriousness of the offence.    

Over the 15 year follow-up period, those 12-17 years of age cost a total of $1,041,312,573 (the average cost per person per year was $29, 981) compared to $1,218,840,048 for those 18 to 26 years of age (the average cost per person per year was $33,242).  The time period that was the most costly was between the ages of 15 and 17, during which time the sample of 386 offenders cost Ontario approximately $900 million, representing 40% of the total costs for the entire follow-up period.  Clearly, intervening early not only provides individuals with an opportunity to make changes and lead law-abiding lives, but has the potential to significantly reduce correctional costs.        

2. The Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth recommends that this report be shared with provincial/territorial counterparts, including Ministries responsible for community safety and correctional services and child and youth services in order to identify gaps (substance abuse, mental health, social services, education and crime prevention) and opportunities for improvement of provincial/territorial services.

The Federal Correctional Experience: Conditions of Confinement

“You can't act like a little kid”

All of the young adults were asked what it was like to live in a federal institution.  Many described an emotional and stressful environment with considerable “drama” and “politics”.  Most young people felt that “if you are young, you have to conduct yourself in a certain way” and “show respect for the lifers because this is their home.”  There was recognition of the need to adapt.  “I am sorry to say, you have to adapt to this place, you have to adapt and you can't show fear “and “you need to conduct yourself in a certain way, you need to give respect to get respect.  You can't act like a little kid.”  Those interviewed were acutely aware that they were incarcerated with others who were older and more experienced.  Many talked about the fact that the younger inmates have to “stand up for themselves” and “not let others push you around” admitting that they are often vulnerable and prone to experiencing bullying, muscling, intimidation and physical harm behind bars.  When asked about their safety within the institution, most responded with a sarcastic laugh stating “no one feels safe here”, “things could blow up at any time” and “you always have to be on your toes.”  Only three women interviewed reported feeling safe, while others did not feel safe at all.  Two women spoke of being bullied, another of moving living units because of attempts at gang recruitment and yet another discussed how she was threatened with gang violence.      

Positive interaction with front-line correctional staff seemed virtually non-existent.  All young adults indicated that the penitentiary culture prohibited them from talking to correctional officers.  The only ones who spoke with CSC security staff were range representatives and even then, it was only to discuss issues on the range.  Many felt that correctional officers tried to test or provoke them.  One respondent put it this way: “Staff make borderline comments, rude and unnecessary.  They seem to go out of their way to make a problem where there isn't one”.  Another, when asked about his relationship with the correctional staff stated that they were just waiting to “see if this guy snaps”.  Yet another reported that correctional officers made him feel like he could not ask them any questions and that he needed to figure things out for himself.  He stated that “…when you do ask them for something, they make it seem like you are asking them for the world.”  Many of those interviewed reported that they try very hard to ignore comments made by staff because “…the consequences of retaliating are too high.”  Among the women that were interviewed, only one spoke of a positive relationship with front-line staff.  One woman reported that “staff were rude”, another stated that “there is not really anyone on the range I can talk to” and another stated that “it's kind of tough because guards think they can take things away from you, they don't know how it is to live here.”

Inmate cell: Springhill  Institution Photo
Photo of an inmate cell at Springhill Institution

Prison food

Most of those interviewed regularly exercised and complained that they were not getting enough food, in particular they complained about not getting enough protein.  Many reported that they were constantly hungry and often bought items from canteen to supplement their nutrition needs.  This is concerning for a number of reasons:

  • Much of the food available through canteen is not fresh or healthy.  It is often processed packaged food.
  • Some of the items that inmates were relying on for additional protein (e.g. chicken burgers) had recently been removed from canteen.
  • Canteen items are costly.  The maximum pay an inmate can earn is $6.90/day and many young people are not employed so often earn much less.
  • Inmates are only allowed a maximum transfer of $750 into their current personal account per year.  Those that were interviewed in February and March were concerned that their money would run out before the end of the year and that they would not be able to purchase items from canteen.

Under the National Menu26, each federal inmate is allotted 2,600 calories per day, which according to Canada's Food Guide is enough for a low-activity male aged 31 to 50.  Most of the young men that were interviewed reported exercising in the gym most days, often for long periods of time (e.g. an hour or more each day).  According to Health Canada's Estimated Energy Requirements, an active27 male between the ages of nineteen and thirty requires 3,000 calories per day.  An active eighteen year old male requires 3,300 calories a day.28  This works out to a deficit of between 400 and 700 calories a day for many young adult men in federal institutions.  A few young men reported that, without intending to, they had lost weight during their incarceration.  One reported that the small food portions were starting to have a significant impact on him stating that “Food, after a while it is all you think about”.  During the review process, CSC indicated that if an inmate feels they require more nutrients than the National Menu provides because of genetics, body size or body composition, they can request a nutritional assessment by the dietician, who may or may not implement adjustments to the meal plan based on the results of their assessment.  While this option may be available, it is not well known among the prison population and as such rarely applied. 

It is important to understand the role food plays in an inmate's life as well as in the safety and security of an institution.  Food items have become a commodity within institutions where they can be traded in exchange for other items, including drugs or are simply taken/muscled from more vulnerable inmates.  The Service was recently reminded of this fact following the deadly Saskatchewan Penitentiary riot (December 2016) where food shortages and portion sizes were identified as one of the triggering factors.  At the very least, more healthy alternatives and supplements should be available through canteen.    

Inmate cell: Springhill  Institution Photo

Photo of an inmate meal under the National Menu

Segregation

Ten young adults interviewed for this study were in administrative segregation (solitary confinement), representing 10.6% of those interviewed.  At least two reported spending more than 60 days in segregation.  Both were waiting to be transferred to another region to alleviate their segregation status.  It is important to note that lengths of stay in segregation greater than 15 days are contrary to international standards.29  Those who had spent time in segregation reported durations anywhere from only a few days to up to 2 weeks in a segregation cell.  One respondent could not remember how long he had been in segregation responding simply, “It has been a while.” 

Segregation Statistics

According to CSC data, in 2015-16:

  • Young adults were over-represented in admissions to segregation, representing 6% of those admitted to segregation while comprising 2.7% of the federal incarcerated population.
  • Both young Indigenous and Black adults were over-represented in segregation (Indigenous: 7.1% and Black: 5.6%).*
  • Young federally sentenced women represented nearly 10% of all women segregated in 2015-16, while representing 2.5% of the federally sentenced women population.

* Young Indigenous adults comprise 4% of the total Indigenous population and young Black adults comprise 4% of the total Black inmate population. 

 

Segregation cell:  Springhill Institution Photo
Photo of a segregation range at Springhill Institution

Those who experienced segregation described their time there as “boring” with “not much to do”.  They did not speak with officers beyond formalities and they often did not have an opportunity to speak to other inmates, making segregation a very lonely experience.  There is a general consensus within the literature that extended periods of segregation can have harmful effects on inmates of any age, including younger offenders who often lack the coping skills, resilience or experience to help them deal with the negative effects of social isolation.30  Research in the U.S. (examining individuals under the age of eighteen in segregation) indicates that among young adults, the lack of developmental maturity can be compounded by mental health issues and/or histories of trauma, abuse and neglect where segregation has been found to trigger memories of past trauma, making it difficult for young adult offenders to cope with their circumstances.31  The interviews that took place with inmates in segregation were some of the longest conducted during the investigation. Discussions often went off topic and beyond the scope of the study indicating that perhaps many were lonely and would have benefited from having more social interaction during their stay in segregation.

Segregation cell:  Collins Bay institution
Photo of a segregation cell at Collins Bay Institution

 

The Impact of Segregation

One inmate, who had been in segregation for over a month, was showing signs of deterioration to the point that he/she would no longer speak to any staff members, not even the Warden who visited the segregation range on a daily basis.  The individual had also recently refused to shower.  This individual had been admitted to segregation following a fight where he/she was the youngest and smallest inmate on the range and had “fought back” after being the victim of intimidation and bullying.  The respondent reported being “depressed in segregation” and was upset that he/she would have to move to another region, away from family support, in order to alleviate his/her segregation status.  Given the deterioration of this young person noted by interviewers, this case was brought forward to the Warden and a call was immediately arranged for this inmate to speak with the OCI.

3. The Correctional Investigator recommends that federal corrections implement a presumptive prohibition on the use of administrative segregation for young adults under the age of 21.  This presumptive prohibition should be incorporated into law.

Use of force

The OCI reviews all use of force incidents occurring in CSC facilities.  As per policy, CSC is required to provide all use of force documentation to the OCI for review.32  The OCI recently conducted a pilot project to code all use of force incidents using a variety of indicators.33  Between October 2016 and May 2017, 871 use of force incidents were coded.  Of the 871 incidents, 67 (7.7%) involved at least one offender 18-21 years of age.  Of those incidents involving young adults 18-21 years of age:

  • 70% involved a young Indigenous person
  • 67% occurred in a maximum security institution (the remainder of the incidents occurred in medium security institutions)
  •  7.5% occurred in segregation (25% occurred in a cell, 25% in a common room, 27% on the range, 15.5% in “other” areas)
  • Reason force was used: Inmate Fight/Assault (42%), Behavioural (52%), Miscellaneous (4.5%), Staff assault (1.5%)
  • No injuries were sustained by young adults involved in the use of force incidents reviewed
  • 55% of incidents involved the use of inflammatory (pepper) spray as a means to gain compliance
  • 58% of the incidents occurred in the Prairie region (Atlantic: 15%, Quebec: 12%, Ontario: 9%, Pacific: 6%)
  • In the Prairie region:
    • Of the 39 total incidents in the Prairie region, 87% involved a young adult Indigenous offender.
    • 27 of the 39 incidents in the Prairie region occurred in maximum security institutions; 96% of incidents in maximum security institutions involved an Indigenous offender.

Findings from the OCI's use of force coding pilot project highlight the disproportionate involvement of young adult offenders in use of force interventions generally as well as the gross over-representation of young adult Indigenous offenders specifically.  Currently, CSC does not consider an inmate's age when force is used to manage a situation and it is not a factor in their training response model.        

The UK recently implemented a system called “Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint” for use in juvenile facilities. This system recognizes the importance of ensuring that the use of force on a young person is always viewed as the last available option, with de-escalation and diversion techniques and verbal communication being emphasized to minimize the use of restraint.  When force is necessary, it is crucial that the age and physical size of the offender be considered in the techniques that are used to minimize the risk of injury and that the inmate is properly de-briefed following a use of force incident.  If force is used, staff must be able to demonstrate why force was required and that the force was reasonable and proportionate.    

4. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC implement a mandatory review of use of force incidents involving young adults in federal custody.

5. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC incorporate best practices and lessons learned regarding using force on young adults into the use of force training for officers and into its use of force policy.

Health Care

Dental Care

Almost all respondents agreed that their health care needs, both physical and mental, were being met, though waiting lists to see the doctor could be lengthy.  A common issue raised by interviewees in terms of health care was the need to have their wisdom teeth extracted.  This issue is very common among individuals in this age cohort and while it is not something that usually requires emergency treatment, most reported a lengthy waiting period before their wisdom teeth were removed. A few reported infections and regular use of antibiotics to control infections while waiting to have their teeth extracted. 

Self-injury

CSC defines self-injury as the intentional, direct injuring of body tissue without suicidal intent.34  Self-injurious behaviour can involve acts such as cutting, slashing, burning, head banging, biting, pulling out hair, scratching or picking at sores on your skin.  Research suggests that “deliberate self-harm serves as a mechanism to regulate effect in stressful situations; communicate distress to others; coerce or compete with other self-injurers; resolve conflicts; release anger, tension, or emotional pain; provide a sense of security or control; punish oneself; generate intimacy; and serve as suicide alternative.”35  While self-injury can occur across the lifespan, young people often participate in this behaviour at disproportionately higher rates.  

Based on data from CSC, young adults were disproportionately involved in incidents of self-injury.  While the number of incidents of self-injury that involved young adults has dropped since 2013-14 (178 in 2013-14 to 79 in 2015-16), they still accounted for 10.3% of all incidents of self-injury in 2015-16.  Nearly half (46%) of all self-injurious incidents among young adults in 2015-16 involved a young Indigenous person, 56% involved a federally sentenced woman.  These numbers are troubling and indicate an area where age-appropriate interventions might be helpful.  Research has suggested the following practices when working with young adults who self-injure:

  • Group-based cognitive behaviour therapy interventions
  • Establishing a therapeutic relationship with young persons to facilitate trust, respect, and rapport
  • Training and awareness for those working with young adults who self-injure to enhance their ability to identify, assess, and manage

6. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC integrate best practices into staff training to help staff better understand and support young people in custody who engage in self-injurious behaviour.    

Racialized Young Adults

Similar to findings in the Office's Case Study of Diversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries, young Black adults interviewed for this study reported experiences of racial discrimination and prejudice within the prison environment, primarily from CSC staff members.  Some Black respondents felt as though CSC staff labelled them as gang members, while others reported inappropriate comments from CSC staff.  This type of staff behaviour was not only in relation to race.  One young adult Muslim reported being told by a CSC staff member to “go blow himself up”.  The continued presence of negative attitudes related to race, religion, ethnicity or country of origin or any other personal characteristic is troubling.  It can only lead to a hostile and unsafe environment for both inmates and staff. 

Young Adult Indigenous Offenders

Nearly all interviews (85% or 28 of 33 interviews) conducted at Stony Mountain Institution with persons 18-21 years of age were Indigenous.  In 2016-17, Indigenous offenders represented 49% of those incarcerated in the Prairie region (Atlantic: 14%, Quebec: 13%, Ontario: 15% and Pacific 32%).  Stony Mountain Institution had one of the largest proportions of Indigenous populations in the Prairie region.  Nearly two-thirds (62%) of those incarcerated at Stony Mountain Institution were Indigenous (Saskatchewan Penitentiary was the only institution with a larger proportion of Indigenous offenders at 64%).36  Gangs appear to be more of a problem in the Prairie region where nearly 1 in 5 inmates had a gang affiliation (19%).37  Nationally, Indigenous inmates are nearly two and half times more likely than their counterparts to have a gang affiliation (Indigenous: 20.9%, non-Indigenous: 8.5%).38  The interviews conducted at Stony Mountain Institution were, in some respects, qualitatively different than those conducted elsewhere primarily because of the sizable Indigenous population and the negative influence of gangs within the institution. 

Many of those interviewed were affiliated with a gang.  Some of those who were not affiliated reported that others had tried to recruit them while in prison.  Those who were not involved with gangs prior to coming to prison reported feeling unsafe, not knowing how to conduct themselves around gang members and finding it difficult to continue to refuse to join a gang.  Two young adults with no previous gang affiliation talked about being recruited into a gang while at Stony Mountain.  One reported joining a gang because he felt “overwhelmed” in prison and thought he would be safer, but later realized that “...it's not safe if you join a gang, you think it is safer but things happen.”  Significantly, both inmates were being held on a more ‘integrated' range for those who had disassociated from a gang at the time of interviewing.  One had been stabbed (in the neck) for disobeying a gang order and the other had been threatened with violence. 

Research supports the experience of these young people in federal custody.  “Gangs are attractive and, in many cases, at least initially, a necessity to young, scared, intimidated inmates who are not strong enough to stand on their own.  The gang provides protection.  Young people feel it's their only choice for safety and to be part of a ‘family type' group and supportive peers.”39  Significantly Indigenous gangs appear to have different causes and characteristics than other gangs in Canada:40

  • Recruitment processes are considerably more violent.  Other groups tend to “court” potential members by buying them gifts and showing them how lucrative gang life can be whereas Indigenous gangs subject new recruits to a “jumping in” process where the recruit is typically beaten by gang members for a set period of time.
  • They follow the “standard” of U.S. gangs, by using tattoos, hand symbols, and strict chains of command defining gang membership and function.
  • They evolve from specific social, institutional, and political contexts of discrimination and oppression.
  • They are well established in the prison system with strong links between street and prison gangs.

Several of those interviewed who were gang affiliated talked about having a supportive family growing up but they also reported family members who had substance abuse problems or who were involved in gang activity.  A few had even followed a parent into a gang.  Many reported being recruited at a very young age.  One joined a gang while in the sixth grade (around the age of 11), another in eighth grade and another reported joining at the age of nine when he started to “hang out with cousins” who were in a gang.  Most had extensive criminal histories, substance abuse issues and had not graduated from high school.  There was a sense from many that they did not look far into the future and perhaps did not really expect to live past a young age.  When asked about their safety, many expressed similar sentiments to one inmate who replied “as safe as I can make myself, I guess”.  One respondent was wearing four layers of clothing as a means to protect himself in the event that he is stabbed. 

Gang Management

CSC does not have a documented national strategy for managing gangs (i.e. security threat groups) within institutions despite the fact the Commissioner's Directive (CD) 568-3: Identification and Management of Security Threat Groups states that the Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Operations and Programs will “ensure there is a process in place for the identification and management of security threat groups and offenders affiliated to said groups” (emphasis added).  CD 568-3 is not a gang management strategy.  It simply details the responsibilities and accountabilities of various senior management positions with respect to security threat groups and identifies the procedures for the identification, assessment of affiliation and termination of affiliation for offenders.  

After reviewing the Office's report, CSC provided the following information regarding its national approach to address the presence of security threat groups (i.e. gangs) in the federal system:

  • CSC has developed a national approach to address the presence of security threat groups (i.e. gangs) in the federal correctional system.  This approach is based on three overarching elements: identification and verification, prevention and intervention; and termination of affiliation. 
  • The approach consists of the following:
    • Recognition that gangs pose serious safety and security threats to CSC's operations
    • To affirm CSC's intolerance for acts of violence and criminal activities by gang members or associates
    • To provide affiliates the opportunity to terminate their affiliation in order to address the requirements outlined in their correctional plans
    • CSC promotes integration among offenders and employs interventions at the site level.  Stony Mountain, for example, has implemented integrated ranges where they have brokered agreements to allow different gang-affiliated offenders to reside together.

While CSC's approach seems reasonable, it lacks specificity and does not have a national or strategic focus. 

Some practices that have been shown to be effective with gang members more generally include the following:

  • The focus should be on the individual first and the gang second.
  • Preventative programs focussing on youth at-risk and managing the precursors to gang involvement.
  • Dynamic intervention and security whereby correctional officers learn about the individuals they are working with and work in collaboration to establish guidelines to maintain integration and ensure a safe environment. 
  • Participation in correctional programming that targets criminogenic factors, education and employment skills training.
  • Programming focusing on areas such as conflict resolution, communication skills and anger management.
  • Staff training on gangs and gang management. 

While all young adults are vulnerable to gang recruitment, the unique experience and needs of young Indigenous offenders with or without gang affiliations must be considered.  Engaging with Indigenous offenders through spirituality and culture can be effective in reaching Indigenous gang members.41

7. The Correctional Investigator recommends that the Service develop a gang disaffiliation strategy.  This strategy should:

  1. Be responsive to the unique needs of young Indigenous and women offenders. 
  2. Ensure that non-gang affiliated young adult offenders are not placed on ranges where there are gang members who may attempt to recruit or intimidate them.
  3. Include opportunities (e.g. workshops, seminars, public speakers, etc.) where young adults can engage with their culture and/or spirituality.
  4. Incorporate best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions and other public safety domains (e.g. the police experience).

Rehabilitation efforts falling short of meeting the needs of young adults

Social Activities

Almost all of those interviewed reported doing very little during the day.  Most reported sitting in their cell watching television, playing cards or working out in the gym.  Most described living in prison as “very boring”.  The majority were not attending correctional programs or education classes (they were often waitlisted) and for those few who were working, they were often doing menial jobs such as cleaning the range.  Given that young adults tend to be serving shorter sentences, the focus should be on structuring their day, as much as possible, with constructive and productive activities.  At a minimum, they should attend education classes or be supported in cell studies to ensure they advance their education while incarcerated.  In one institution visited for this investigation, there was only one correctional program and one education class being conducted for the entire institution. 

Weight room:  Collins Bay Institution Photo
Photo of a weight room at Collins Bay Institution

Little support within the institution

According to Commissioner's Directive (CD) 710-1: Progress against the Correctional Plan, Parole Officers are responsible to “assist and support the inmate in actively participating in meeting the objectives of his/her Correctional Plan.”  On average, young adults interviewed for this investigation reported meeting with their Parole Officer about once every two months, though a number reported much longer time frames between meetings.  In one case, a respondent reported seeing his Parole Officer just three times in the last eighteen months and one of the visits was to provide information for this study.  This trend is concerning given that many of those interviewed were approaching their statutory release dates (several within 3-4 months).  Most reported that the only way to see their Parole Officer was to put in a written request which often took two weeks before they would meet to discuss their issues.  It did not appear that many Parole Officers proactively established regular meetings with their clientele; instead most waited until a written request was submitted before setting a time to meet. 

CD 710-1 states that following an initial case conference to review the Correctional Plan, “subsequent interviews by staff will occur on a pre-determined and structured basis and will be based upon the inmate's risk and needs, and will be documented.”  While there are no specific timeframes that Parole Officers are supposed to meet with their clientele, a meeting once every two months with a young individual set to be released in the next few months does not provide sufficient time to plan for their reintegration.  Regular structured meetings are essential to supporting individuals throughout their incarceration, but particularly when they are nearing their release date.  Many of those interviewed who were close to their statutory release date appeared unsure of their options or what they would do once released.  Some were not even sure where they would live once back in the community.  Parole Officers are an important resource offering support and advice and it is concerning that so many young adults did not appear to have the support they required. 

Similar to the situation with Parole Officers, most male inmates reported very few interactions with their Correctional Officer II (CX02).  Some did not even know the identity of the CX02 assigned to them.  Of the seven women interviewed, only one spoke about positive interactions with her Primary Worker.  CD 710-1 states that the Correctional Officer II/Primary Worker should “maintain regular interactions and interventions with the inmate in order to enhance and strengthen dynamic security.”42  Those who had met with their CX02 reported feeling like they were under constant surveillance and that the CX02 was “…just waiting for them to screw up” to add it to their file.  Only a few reported receiving any help or guidance from their Parole Officer or their CX02.              

This is a critical missed opportunity for CSC staff to connect with young people in their care and custody.  Many of these young individuals will spend a considerable part of their formative development in a prison environment.  Positive adult role models and mentors are key to helping young adults develop bonds and relationships to facilitate the transition from prison to the community.  At Springhill Institution, many reported a positive relationship with their Parole Officer and contact at least once a week and some nearly every day.  The difference at this institution was that the Parole Officers were located on the range, which meant that they would see their clientele during the day, giving them several chances each day/week to follow-up, ask/answer questions, or just generally check-in.  While it may not always be structurally feasible to have parole offices located on the range, there needs to be more specific timeframes that Parole Officers are required to meet their clients, particularly young adults who often seemed lost, forgotten, unsure of their next steps and in need of support and guidance.  During the course of the investigation, a number of respondents stated that the interviewers for this study were the first people they had spoken with in quite a while that appeared to “care”, were “cool” or as one put it “the first normal people I have talked to in a long time”.  These comments suggest that interactions with CSC staff may not be particularly productive or helpful.  This is significant particularly given the short period of time interviewers spent with inmates (on average approximately 30-45 minutes) and considering it was the first time inmates had met the interviewers. 

8. The Correctional Investigator recommends that some institutional and community Parole Officers, with a special aptitude and interest for working with young adults, be specially trained as youth care counsellors.  The role of the youth care counsellor includes: 

  1. Provide consistent guidance and support
  2. Provide basic counselling
  3. Develop a correctional/community plan tailored to the needs of the young adult
  4. Facilitate appropriate interventions and services (employment training, education, other services offered within the institution, the community and through other organizations)
  5.  Ensure the safety and well-being of the inmate

9. The Correctional Investigator recommends that those with the designated youth counsellor training be assigned to all cases involving young adults.

10. The Correctional Investigator recommends that Institutional Parole Officers with youth counsellor training meet with young adult offenders once a week for the first 6 months to ensure they are aware of and can assist with any adjustment issues.  Following this six month period, meetings should occur at least twice every month thereafter.   

11. The Correctional Investigator recommends that young adult offenders work with Community Parole Officers for at least the last six months of their sentence to ensure they have the support (employment, education, housing, social assistance, substance abuse, mental health, etc.) they require to successfully integrate back into the community. 

Programming

Whether an individual is 19 years old or 45 years old, the same correctional programming is provided in federal custody.  Correctional programs are not adapted or tailored in any way to meet the unique learning needs, interests or challenges of young adults.  Many researchers agree that the period of development from adolescence to adulthood is complex and that the brain undergoes a “rewiring” process beginning in puberty that is not complete until around twenty-five years of age.  Significant changes occur within the limbic system and the frontal lobes which impact self-control, decision-making, emotional regulation, risk-taking behaviours, and impulse control.  This research concludes that the brain is in an active state of maturation throughout the transition from adolescence to adulthood, with the frontal lobes being among the last areas to fully mature.  As such, “…the boundary typically drawn between juvenile and adult justice systems obscures the fact that individuals do not, from a developmental perspective, suddenly become adults simply because they reach a certain age or are processed in the adult criminal justice system.”43  “Instead, one should consider the transition from adolescence to adulthood as a process of ‘emerging adulthood', with young adults more closely resembling juveniles than adults with respect to their development, risk and needs.”44  

Among those interviewed who had participated in correctional programming, many reported that certain aspects of the programs were helpful (e.g. identifying their triggers), while other areas were too generic or general to be helpful.  Some of the programs did not seem to apply to them and some young adults found it difficult to relate the material to their own short lived experience.  CSC staff confirmed these perceptions and indicated that the Service could do a better job adapting programs to the needs of younger individuals.  Some staff took on this challenge themselves by closely working with younger persons to ensure the program was beneficial.  At one institution, respondents reported that programming staff would sit with them individually to go over their history and risk factors in order to better adapt the program to fit their needs and to discuss how the concepts learned within the program applied to their situation.  This was helpful as they moved through the various parts of the program and were able to link their learning to their own lives. Interviewees at all institutions spoke very highly of program staff and how they seemed to “care” and went out their way to try to help them succeed.

Several indicated that life skills programming would be beneficial.  One respondent thought that focusing so much on correctional programming was a problem because “I can't put anger management on a resume.”  Many indicated a willingness to take whatever programming CSC would offer them, but found that very little was available outside of formal correctional programming.  The young adults interviewed suggested the following programming that would benefit them and enable them to be successful once released: 

  • Programming and workshops focussing on “life skills” such as budgeting and finding affordable housing
  • Job search program
  • Accessing social services
  • Resume building
  • Basic skills such as cooking, cleaning and maintaining a household
  • Parenting skills

The majority of young adults interviewed lacked critical life experience as they had never held or searched for a job in the community and had not lived on their own or been financially independent.  Many also identified the need for programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to address their substance abuse problems.  Australia and New Zealand offer personalized programs targeted not only to the risk factors and needs of young offenders but also to their skills, goals and plans for their release back into the community. 

12. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop a separate Commissioner's Directive specific to young adult offenders which ensures that the specific needs and interests of this group, including racialized young adults, are identified and met through the provision of effective and culturally specific programs, services and interventions. 

13. The Correctional Investigator recommends that correctional program facilitators undertake specialized training for working with youth and young adults, including training specific to racialized youth and young adults.

14. The Correctional Investigator recommends that program facilitators work individually with young adult offenders in correctional programs to ensure each program is tailored to meet their specific needs.

The need for positive role models

Most of those interviewed felt that participating in correctional programming alongside older inmates was helpful and sometimes made them feel more comfortable asking questions.  It also allowed them to learn from the experiences of older inmates.  In one case, an older inmate was teaching a young individual to cook.  Another talked about his cousin, who had recently been released and was doing well in the community and how this helped him better understand what he needs to do while incarcerated in order to succeed upon release.  Another suggested that what might help young adults would be to have successful ex-offenders come to speak with them about their experiences and challenges and what worked for them. 

In the United Kingdom, The Mentoring for Progression: Prison Mentoring Project has been operating in a number of prisons and young offender institutions since 2006.  This program involves the mentor and mentee working together “…to explore ideas for their future, their existing strengths and weaknesses, their skills and experiences as well as future goals and the steps needed to achieve them.”45  An action plan is developed which details exactly how each of their objectives can be achieved.  This program is much more than a mentor providing general support, advice and guidance; it requires dedication and commitment to work with mentees to provide ongoing support and develop a comprehensive plan that establishes realistic and obtainable targets.  Research has demonstrated that in addition to the general value and benefit of mentoring, it can also play a specific role in reducing offending and re-offending. Mentoring is most successful when paired with other programs and interventions and when contact is frequent and sustained.46 

Mentoring programs have proven successful in other countries as well including the United States, Scotland and Australia:

  • In the United States (Arizona), Prison Experience Workshop Programs are conducted which consist of inmate-on-inmate peer-facilitated programming.  The program focuses on effective communication, integrity, work ethic and community betterment.  This program has been shown to reduce recidivism.47  
  • In Scotland, young adults are paired with peer mentors (individuals who are similar in age) as soon as they come into the system to help ease their transition and provide someone that can help answer their questions.48
  • Australia has an Adult Nucleus program that improves the performance and program engagement of young adults, encourages pro-social behaviours and facilitates greater communication between program participants and staff.49 

What makes a successful mentoring program?
Successful mentoring programs have the following characteristics:

  • The program and its components are tailored to each individual.
  • It is supported by external professionals.
  • Offenders are made accountable for their actions and behaviour.
  • It establishes realistic goals with a comprehensive plan of action to achieve them.
  • Offenders often identify with peers in a way they cannot identify with staff members.
  • Mentors are prisoners themselves and so they are often better positioned to understand a mentee's situation.
  • Mentors are former mentees and so they can act as positive role models and are proof of what is possible.
  • The focus is on the reality of a mentee's situation and what is possible based on their background, history and goals.

15. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop a pilot mentor program where older offenders can be trained and paired with younger offenders.  This program should be based on best practices from other countries and incorporate culturally appropriate training. 

16. The Correctional Investigator recommends that all young adult offenders be paired with a peer mentor, as part of the intake process and when penitentiary placed.

Education

As indicated earlier, about one-fifth of those interviewed had obtained their high school education.  Many had just a few high school credits (grade 9 or 10) and a few had none.  Very few young adults were participating in education classes while incarcerated and most were on a waiting list to attend.  At one institution, there was only one education class that was offered with just 10 students enrolled for the entire institution.  Education is key for young adult offenders as most have very little experience and limited skills to fall back on when released into the community.  CSC teachers interviewed provided the following suggestions:

  • Many regions are offering a high school equivalent education which does not allow individuals to apply to most colleges and universities.  Teachers believe that it would be more useful/practical for inmates to earn a high school diploma.   
  • All teachers were concerned that there are no special needs classrooms.  Teachers must try to accommodate students as best they can.  One teacher stated, “we make do, but it only goes so far”.  Another reported that they are “not allowed to do learning disability assessments because there is no money”, so she was trying to do her best to track those who have a learning disability to give them the extra help they need. 
  • The budget cuts to the education program over the years have had an impact on their ability to help inmates graduate.  Teachers require access to online resources and courses, upgraded computers, updated books and workbooks and libraries that have current resources.   
Education room:  Collins Bay Institution Photo
Photo of an education room at Collins Bay Institution

It was clear that CSC teachers, like many CSC Program facilitators, were going above and beyond to ensure the success of their students, despite the lack of support and resources.  CSC teachers offered several recommendations that would benefit their students:

  • Increased access to computers.  Computer skills are essential for young adults returning to the community looking for employment.  Computer access would also allow inmates to participate in many post-secondary programs that do not offer correspondence. 
  • Counselling and social work services in the school environment to help young adults address challenges and barriers they face in completing their education.
  • Information and assistance with college/university options and applications.
  • A renewed focus on education for young adult offenders.  The priority in federal corrections is generally on correctional programming which means that inmates are away from school for several months while they complete their correctional programming.  Correctional programming and education could be integrated so that inmates could continue to focus on their schooling while completing correctional programming.     

17. The Correctional Investigator recommends that young adult offenders serving a sentence of less than four years and who have not completed their high school education be prioritized for educational programming and benefit from weekly one-on-one sessions with a teacher to address their unique needs. 

Employment

Rule 98(2) Vocational training in useful trades shall be provided for prisoners able to profit thereby and especially for young prisoners (United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)).

Although a few young adults had jobs in the institution, they had jobs that required limited skills or knowledge such as cleaners or kitchen workers.   Despite these menial jobs, most were happy to be working and felt that even if they were not learning a new skill set, they were at least “building character, getting up and going to work.”  Only two reported working in jobs that provided them an opportunity to learn marketable skills.  One worked in CORCAN learning payroll and completing work orders and another was working periodically with an institutional maintenance technician completing small jobs around the institution. 

CORCAN operations:  Springhill Institution
Photo of CORCAN operations at Springhill Institution

Several CSC staff discussed issues with respect to motivating young adults to work during the day.  A number of young adults interviewed expressed wanting to change their lives so they did not come back into the system, but felt like they had to fight to obtain any job let alone work that would provide them with skills and knowledge post-prison.  The perceived lack of motivation may be symptomatic of the type of jobs being offered by CSC.  The OCI has highlighted on numerous occasions that there are not enough meaningful jobs that improve the skills and knowledge of inmates and many of the CORCAN jobs currently available do not necessarily match labour market realities and most certainly do not match the labour market interests of younger people.  Many young adults are interested in learning and training to work with computers and in the technology field.  At one time CSC offered training in the graphic design field; however, this program has been eliminated in most institutions.  There is room for CSC to better reflect the current and emerging labour market realities and, at the same time, capture the interests of young adult offenders.

18. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop special work opportunities for young adults that includes weekly one-on-one sessions with a vocational skills coordinator and an assessment to guide individuals in terms of which fields of work may best apply to their skill set and interest. 

Correctional Outcomes: Release back into the community

Most federal inmates will eventually return to the community.  A period of supervision in the community is safer than releasing offenders directly from prison at the end of a sentence without any period of community supervision.  Over the last five years (2012/13 to 2016/17), young adults were consistently under-represented in escorted and unescorted temporary absences.  In terms of parole, young adults were about as likely as the rest of the population to be released on day parole50 (young adults: 27.7% versus 27% for the rest of the population), full parole51 (young adults: 1.1% versus 2.2% for the rest of the population) and at statutory release52 (young adults: 71.2% versus 70.9% for the rest of the population).53  By contrast, young Indigenous and Black adults were more likely to be released at statutory release (All young adult inmates: 71.2%, Indigenous: 84%, Black: 75.5%) and less likely to be granted day parole (all young adult inmates: 27.7%, Indigenous: 15.7%, Black: 22.7%) or full parole (all young adult inmates: 2.2%, Indigenous: 0.3%, Black: 1.8%).  These disparate outcomes suggest that there are vulnerable sub-populations in the young adult population that do not fare as well.  As one young adult stated, “we need to be mentally prepared to go out.”      

Training for CSC staff

Many of the issues identified in this report highlight the need for staff training.  Interviews with staff confirmed that they had received no training specific to young adults.  Most staff expressed an interest in training to better understand the needs and challenges of this population.  The only resource available for CSC staff is an online “Young Offenders Resource Kit” found on its responsivity portal.   While this kit provides good evidence-based information and offers strategies to work more effectively with young adult offenders, it is not required training or reading for CSC staff.  This information should be expanded to include generational information (e.g. Millennial versus Generation X, Y, etc.) and best practices and be incorporated into regular training for Correctional, Parole and Program Officers.  Understanding the unique needs and challenges of this population may help CSC staff to more effectively interact with and support young adult offenders.  

19. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop training specific to young adults which would be part of the on-going training for staff.  This training should address the essential knowledge and skills for working with young adults, their associated needs and risks, skills for managing young adult offenders, sensitivity awareness and cultural competency and a review of best practices.    

Discussion

The findings of this investigation suggest that age and maturity should be considered important factors in correctional planning and programming.  It is clear to us that there is an important, though largely missed opportunity, to work closely with these individuals who, because of their young age and shorter sentences, represent a strong potential for success.  Provincial governments must do more to help youth before they end up in the adult system.  Investments in programs and services for at-risk youth, mental health and substance abuse are crucial to helping young people and their families.  Many of those who end up in the federal adult correctional system come with untreated or poorly managed complex mental health issues and/or serious substance abuse problems.  Moreover, while many of those interviewed had served a previous sentence in a youth facility, they seemed largely unprepared for life in an adult federal penitentiary.  By design, youth facilities are less prison-like and staff are encouraged to and do interact and work together with youth in their care. 

For those coming to the adult system, proactive efforts and regular contact with parole and correctional officers are key to engaging and supporting young adults who are often serving their first adult sentence.  They are vulnerable to gang recruitment and bullying and they lack the maturity, skills and experience that come with age.  We agree that these individuals need positive role models and mentors who can guide and support them and who understand where they come from. Their time in prison should be productively filled with rehabilitative interventions, correctional programming, education, life skills and employment skills that will provide them with the best possible opportunity to turn their life around as opposed to ‘putting in time' or further entrenching criminal attitudes and behaviours. 

It is difficult to imagine how programming that is tailored to the specific needs of this group would not be beneficial.  We know that there is no magic transformation that occurs when an individual turns eighteen, which is why we embarked on this investigation together.  This is a time when maturity and experience evolve and develop.  This transition period should be seen as an opportunity where accommodations and adjustments can be incorporated into correctional processes to ensure these individuals get the help and support they need to live a more productive and law-abiding life upon release.  CSC is currently squandering an opportunity to help turn a young person's life around.  Allowing more extensive contact and insertion into the justice system is costly and it prevents a young person from becoming a contributing member of society.

Finally, this investigation would not have been possible without the partnership between our two offices.  This report and the recommendations contained with it are a testament to what can be accomplished when partnerships are developed.  However, the reach of this investigation should not end here as there are implications for many other jurisdictions.  For this reason, we make one final joint recommendation.  

20. We recommend that the current study be brought forward to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety for review and consideration.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC add a flag in the Offender Management System that would allow the Service to track individuals with a youth sentence transferred to an adult federal penitentiary. 
  2. The Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth recommends that this report be shared with provincial/territorial counterparts, including Ministries responsible for community safety and correctional services and child and youth services in order to identify gaps (substance abuse, mental health, social services, education and crime prevention) and opportunities for improvement of provincial/territorial services.
  3. The Correctional Investigator recommends that federal corrections implement a presumptive prohibition on the use of administrative segregation for young adults under the age of 21.  This presumptive prohibition should be incorporated into law.
  4. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC implement a mandatory review of use of force incidents involving young adults in federal custody.
  5. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC incorporate best practices and lessons learned regarding using force on young adults into the use of force training for officers and into its use of force policy.
  6. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC integrate best practices into staff training to help staff better understand and support young people in custody who engage in self-injurious behaviour.  
  7. The Correctional Investigator recommends that the Service develop a gang disaffiliation strategy.  This strategy should:
    1. Be responsive to the unique needs of young Indigenous offenders and women offenders. 
    2. Ensure that non-gang affiliated young adult offenders are not placed on ranges where there are gang members who may attempt to recruit or intimidate them.
    3. Include opportunities (e.g. workshops, seminars, public speakers, etc.) where young adults can engage with their culture and/or spirituality.
    4. Incorporate best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions and other public safety domains (e.g. the police experience).
  8. The Correctional Investigator recommends that some institutional and community Parole Officers, with a special aptitude and interest for working with young adults, be specially trained as youth care counsellors.  The role of the youth care counsellor includes:
    1. Provide consistent guidance and support
    2. Provide basic counselling
    3. Develop a correctional/community plan tailored to the needs of the young adult
    4. Facilitate appropriate interventions and services (employment training, education, other services offered within the institution, the community and through other organizations)
    5. Ensure the safety and well-being of the inmate
  9. The Correctional Investigator recommends that those with the designated youth counsellor training be assigned to all cases involving young adults.
  10. The Correctional Investigator recommends that Institutional Parole Officers with youth counsellor training meet with young adult offenders once a week for the first 6 months to ensure they are aware of and can assist with any adjustment issues.  Following this six month period, meetings should occur at least twice every month thereafter.    
  11. The Correctional Investigator recommends that young adult offenders work with Community Parole Officers for at least the last six months of their sentence to ensure they have the support (employment, education, housing, social assistance, substance abuse, mental health, etc.) they require to successfully integrate back into the community. 
  12. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop a separate Commissioner's Directive specific to young adult offenders which ensures that the specific needs and interests of this group, including racialized young adults, are identified and met through the provision of effective and culturally specific programs, services and interventions. 
  13. The Correctional Investigator recommends that correctional program facilitators undertake specialized training for working with youth and young adults, including training specific to racialized youth and young adults.
  14. The Correctional Investigator recommends that program facilitators work individually with young adult offenders in correctional programs to ensure each program is tailored to meet their specific needs.
  15. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop a pilot mentor program where older offenders can be trained and paired with younger offenders.  This program should be based on best practices from other countries and incorporate culturally appropriate training. 
  16. The Correctional Investigator recommends that all young adult offenders be paired with a peer mentor, as part of the intake process and when penitentiary placed.
  17. The Correctional Investigator recommends that young adult offenders serving a sentence of less than four years and who have not completed their high school education be prioritized for educational programming and benefit from weekly one-on-one sessions with a teacher to address their unique needs. 
  18. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop special work opportunities for young adults that includes weekly one-on-one sessions with a vocational skills coordinator and an assessment to guide individuals in terms of which fields of work may best apply to their skill set and interest. 
  19. The Correctional Investigator recommends that CSC develop training specific to young adults which would be part of the on-going training for staff.  This training should address the essential knowledge and skills for working with young adults, their associated needs and risks, skills for managing young adult offenders, sensitivity awareness and cultural competency and a review of best practices.  
  20. We recommend that the current study be brought forward to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety for review and consideration.  

References

Abeling-Judge, David, “Different social influences and desistance from crime,” Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43(9), (2016): 1225-1241.

Arizona Prison Watch, “ASPC-Yuma: Prison Experience Workshop Program,”
www.arizonaprisonwatch.org/2010/09/aspc-yuma-prison-experience-workshop.html (2010).

Arnett, Jeffrey, “Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties,” American Psychologist, 55(5), 469-480 (2000).

Catledge, Courtney Brooks, Kathleen Scharer, and Sara Fuller, “Assessment and identification of deliberate self-harm in adolescents and young adults,” Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 8(4), (2012): 299. 

Cesaroni, Carla and Michele Peterson-Badali, “Report to the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Concerning the Death of Ashley Smith,”           Coroner's Inquest, (2013).

Corrado, Raymond R. and Irwin M. Cohen, CSC, “A Needs Profile of serious and/or violent Aboriginal youth in prison,” Forum on Corrections Research, 2002.

Farrington, David,  Rolf Loeber, and James C. Howell, “Young Adult Offenders: The Need for More Effective Legislative Options and Justice Processing,” Criminology and Public Policy. Vol. 11, no. 4. (2012): 729-750.

Day, David M., Christopher J. Loegl, Lianne Rossman and Sandra Oziel, “The Monetary Cost of Criminal Trajectories for an Ontario Sample of Offenders,”  Public Safety Canada (2015).

Grekul, Jana Marie, Patti LaBoucane-Benson, and Native Counselling Services of Alberta, Canada, “An study into the formation and recruitment processes of aboriginal gangs in western Canada,” Public  Safety Canada. Aboriginal  Corrections Policy Unit, (2007).

Holman, Barry and Jason Zeidenburg, “Dangers of detention: The impact of incarcerating youth in detention and other security facilities,” National Criminal         Justice Reference Series, No. 246294. Office of Justice Programs. (2013).

Huggins, Richard, “Mentoring for Progression: Prison Mentoring Project- Assessing Strength, Outcomes and Roll-out Potential,” (2010).

Ireland, Carol A., Jane L. Ireland, and Rebecca Boustead, “Coping style and psychological health among adolescent prisoners: A study of young and juvenile offenders. Journal of Adolescence Vol. 28, no. 3 (2005): 411-23.

James, Chrissy, Stams, Geert Jan J. M., Jessica J. Asscher, Anne Katrien De Roo, and Peter H. Van der Laan, “Aftercare programs for reducing recidivism among juvenile and young adult offenders: A meta-analytic review,” Clinical Psychology Review 33(2) (2013): 263-74.

Kysel, Ian, American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch (Organization), “Growing up locked down: Youth in solitary confinement in jails and prisons across the United States,” (New York, NY: 2012).

Massoglia, Michael and Christopher Uggen, “Settling down and aging out: Toward an interactionist theory of desistance and the transition to adulthood,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 116, no. 2. (2010).

Office of the Correctional Investigator, “A Preventable Death,” Office of the Correctional Investigator, (2008).

Office of the Correctional Investigator, “A Case Study of Diversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries,” Office of the Correctional Investigator (2013).

Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, “It's a Matter of Time: Systemic Review of secure isolation in Ontario youth justice facilities,” Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, (2015).

Skellington Orr, Kate, Elaine Wilson Smith, and Paul LeMasurier, “HM YOI Polmont: Evaluation of the Implementation and Early Impact of the Peer Learning Hub”, Scottish Prison Service, (2015).

Statistics Canada, “Youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2014-15,” (2016).

Statistics Canada, “Young adult offenders in Canada, 2014,” Catalogue no. 85-002-X (2016).

Sweeten, Gary, Alex R. Piquero, and Laurence Steinberg, “Age and the exploration of crime revisited,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence Vol. 42, no. 6 (2013).

Wilson, Holly A. and Robert D. Hoge, “The effect of youth diversion programs on recidivism: A meta-analytic review,” Criminal Justice and Behaviour. Vol. 40, no. 5   (2013).

Appendix A: Questionnaire

QUESTIONS: PRE-FEDERAL CUSTODY
We would like to start by asking you a few questions about your life and experience before coming to federal custody:   

Trajectories

  1. How long have you been here?
  2. Can you talk about your family life/experience growing up? 
    • Did you have a supportive family while growing up (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc)?  
    • What about your relationships with friends as you were growing up?
    • Did you have someone you could talk to about problems and concerns?
  3. Can you talk about any involvement you or your family may have had with youth social services? 
    • What organization(s) were you/your family involved with and was this helpful to you and your family?
    • Were you ever in the care of children's aid? foster care? Group home?  If yes, what was that experience like for you?  Did you stay in one place or did you move around while in care?
  4. Can you talk about your schooling? 
    • Did you attend school regularly? Did you finish high school? 
    • What was school like for you?  Did you have difficulties in school? 
  5. Can you talk about your experience with alcohol or drugs? 
    • Did you ever regularly use drugs or alcohol? 
    • How did you first get involved with drugs/alcohol?
  6. Were you ever involved in the youth criminal justice system? 
    • If yes, can you describe your experience in that system?
    • Did you complete programs while you were in the youth system?  Were the programs helpful?  How?
    • What else could have been offered to you while you were involved in the youth criminal justice system that might have helped you?
  7. How did you come to the adult federal system?  Were you sentenced as an adult or transferred from the youth system? 
    • Is this your first adult federal sentence?
    • In your opinion, what is/are the biggest difference(s) between the youth and adult systems?
  8. Thinking back, was there a point in time where something could have been done for you or your family that could have helped you and possibly prevented you from coming to federal custody? 
    • If yes, what could have been done for you or your family? 

QUESTIONS: FEDERAL CUSTODY

We would now like to ask you about your experiences while here in federal custody:

Education

  1. Have you completed any schooling (high school or post secondary) while incarcerated?
    • If yes, what is it like taking classes while incarcerated?  How would you describe your experience?
    • Is there someone that you can ask questions to or discuss issues with?
    • How often do you attend classes?
    • Do you feel comfortable interacting with the teacher?  Is the teacher helpful?
    • Do you interact with your classmates?  What is that like?

Correctional Programming

  1. Are you participating in any correctional programming?
    • If yes, is the program helpful?  How is it helpful? 
    • Was the programming specific to your needs?
    • Do you think that the correctional program you are taking/took could be improved to meet your needs (or the needs of younger offenders)?  If so, what improvements would you like to see?
    • Do you interact with staff delivering the program?  What is that like?
    • If you are not taking programming, why not?
  2. Were there other offenders, around the same age as you, in the program with you?
    • If yes, did that help you?  Does it matter?
    • If no, what was your experience being one of the younger participants?  Do you think it would have helped you (you would have gotten more out of it) to be with others who were a similar age?

 Employment

  1. Are you currently employed?  If not, why not?
    • What type of jobs have you held while incarcerated?
    • Do you have access to CORCAN jobs?  Do you have an interest in working in a CORCAN shop (Why or why not)?
    • Do you feel you are learning skills to help you succeed once released?
    • What else would you suggest that CSC could do to help you learn the skills you need to succeed once released?
  2. Are there other things that CSC could offer you, in terms of skills training, education, programming, etc. that you think would be helpful to you and to better prepare you for release back into the community?

Health Care

  1. Are you able to access health care services when required (both physical and mental health care services)?
    • Do you feel that your (a) physical health care needs and (b) mental health care needs are being met (as a younger offender)?
    • Are there health care services that you feel would be helpful to you (as a younger offender)?
    • If you have accessed either physical or mental health care services, what was your experience?  Do you feel that your needs were met? 

Institutional Environment

  1. What is it like to live here? 
    • Are you double bunked?  If yes, what is that like?  Are you double bunked with someone close to your age or someone who is older?
  2. Do you have someone on range (either another inmate or a correctional officer) you can talk to and that you can trust?
  3. What is your relationship like with your parole officer?  
    • How often do you meet with your PO? 
    • Do you feel like your PO is able to handle your concerns or your issues?
    • Do you feel you are being adequately prepared and supported for release?
  4. How do you get along with other inmates? 
    • Do you interact primarily with other inmates who are similar in age? 
  5. Do you feel safe on your range?
    • If no, why not?
    • Are there things that CSC could do to help you to feel safer?
  6. Have you ever been harassed, bullied or targeted by another inmate?  If yes, can you talk about your experience in terms of what happened and what was the outcome?
  7. Have you ever been approached to join a gang within the institution?  If yes, can you talk about what happened?
  8. Can you discuss your relationships with CSC staff on your range?  Do you regularly interact with them, what is that like for you?  Do you feel comfortable asking them questions?
  9. Have you ever been in segregation?  If yes, for how long? What was that experience like for you?
  10. Have you ever been involved in a use of force?  Can you talk about your experience?

General

  1. In your opinion, what has been the most helpful to you while incarcerated in terms of preparing you for release? 
  2. Do you have other concerns or issues with respect to your experiences within the institution that are related to this investigation that you would like to raise now?

Footnotes

1 The age range of 18-21 was chosen for this study to ensure a manageable sample size despite the fact that research indicates that brain development in particular generally continues until the age of 25. 

2 Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen (2000).

3 The annual average cost of keeping a male inmate incarcerated in a federal institution was $115,120 and $213,800 for a woman in 2014-15.

5 All interviews conducted with federally sentenced women took place at Edmonton Institution for Women (EIFW) as this was the institution with the highest concentration of young female adults.  As such, these interviews should not be considered as necessarily representative of all young women in federal custody.  Five of the seven women interviewed at EIFW were Indigenous. 

6Institutions were chosen where a significant number of offenders 18-21 years of age resided in order to maximum the potential sample size.  Interviews were not conducted in the Pacific region as no one institution had sufficient numbers of young adult offenders. 

7 An actuarial tool is a statistical method of estimating the risk of a particular event's occurrence (e.g., the risk of an offender committing a new offence).

8 The Custody Rating Scale (CRS) is an actuarial measure of institutional adjustment and security risk.  It is used to determine an inmate's initial security classification.

9* Those 18 years of age garner the most points at 24 on the institutional adjustment scale.  The number of points decreases by 2 each year until the age of 30, where an individual is not given any points based on their age.

10 Those under the age of 25 at the time of their first admission to federal custody are given 30 points.  The number of points decreases by 3 each year until the age of 35, where an individual is not given any points based on their age. 

11 See Commissioner's Directive 705-7: Security Classification and Penitentiary Placement for more information. 

12 Statistics Canada: measures of police-reported youth crime are based on the number of youth, aged 12-17 years, accused in a criminal incident by police.  The number of youth accused includes youth who were either charged or recommended for charging, as well as those who were cleared by other means including those diverted from the formal criminal justice system through the use of warnings, cautions, and referrals to community programs, and other diversion programs.

13 Statistics Canada, “Young adult offenders in Canada, 2014,” Catalogue no. 85-002-X (2016).

14 Statistics Canada defined young adult offenders as those 18-24 years of age in its study entitled “Young adult offenders in Canada, 2014”.  While this age distribution is different from that used by the Office (young adult offenders defined as those 18-21 years of age), the findings reported by Statistics Canada provide additional Canadian context for this report.

15For more information see: David Farrington, Rolf Loeber, and James C. Howell, (2012); Gary Sweeten, Alex Piquero and Laurence Steinberg. (2013); David Abeling-Judge, (2016).

16For more information see: Massoglia, Michael and Christopher Uggen. (2010).

17 Statistics Canada, “Young adult offenders in Canada, 2014” Catalogue no. 85-002-X (2016).

18 Statistics Canada “Youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2014-15,” (2016).

19 This count excludes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Alberta.

20 CSC Data Warehouse, fiscal year-end data (March 31, 2016).

21 Statistics Canada, “Young adult offenders in Canada, 2014,” Catalogue no. 85-002-X (2016).

22 Affiliation is assessed by CSC using the following criteria: reliable source identification (informants, community or institutional sources), law enforcement information as a result of observed ongoing association with a group,  tangible written or electronic evidence (e.g. pictures); self disclosure or admission, arrested while participating in a criminal activity with known associates, criminal involvement in a criminal organization activity, a judicial finding that the offender is  an associate, common and/or symbolic identification (e.g. tattoos); and observed behaviour that by its nature or association gives reasonable and probable grounds to believe the offender is affiliated.

23 A child means every individual below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

24 Office of the Correctional Investigator (2008).  A Preventable Death.

25 Day, David M., Christopher J. Loegl, Lianne Rossman and Sandra Oziel (2015). 

26 CSC recently implemented the food services modernization initiative.  Core elements of the initiative involved implementation of a National Menu and regional “cook chill” production centres where food is prepared, cooked and chilled in a centralized kitchen.  It is then shipped to institutions to be reheated.  Women classified as minimum and medium security prepare their own meals.  They receive a weekly food allowance and are responsible for budgeting and shopping for their groceries.  

27 According to Health Canada, active refers to a typical day that involves some physical activity and the accumulation of at least 2 ½ hours of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity each week.  Moderate to vigorous physical activity will make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster. 

29 See the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).  Moreover, in the United States there are currently 20 states that have banned punitive solitary confinement in juvenile facilities for those 18 years old and younger, primarily as a result of the detrimental effects of the practice. New York City took these measures even further and does not allow the solitary confinement of anyone aged twenty-one years or younger.  The Government of Canada has recently introduced legislation that would establish a presumptive time limit for inmates confined in administrative segregation to no longer than 15 days.  The legislation would provide independent external review of cases of inmates kept in administrative segregation beyond the presumptive release date, and for those who have, in the last calendar year, been in administrative segregation at least three times or for 90 cumulative days.

30 Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. (2015); Cesaroni and Peterson-Badali, (2013); Ireland, Carol A., Jane L. Ireland, and Rebecca Boustead (2005).

31 Kysel, Ian, American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch (Organization). (2012). 

32 Documentation typically includes: Use of Force Report, copy of the incident-related video recording, checklist for Health Services Review of Use of Force, Officer's Statement/Observation Report, offender's version of the events and an action plan to address deficiencies.   

33 Examples of indicators include: type of force used, where the incident occurred, age of inmates involved, race of inmates involved and security level where incident occurred.

34 Commissioner's Directive 843: Management of Self-injurious and Suicidal Behaviour

35 Catledge, Courtney Brooks, Kathleen Scharer, and Sara Fuller, (2012).   

36 Corporate Reporting System, May 26, 2017.

37 This compares to Pacific: 12.4%, Ontario: 8.7%, Quebec: 8.1% and Atlantic: 5.5%

38 At Stony Mountain, 27.4% of inmates have a gang affiliation, 76% were Indigenous.  At Edmonton Institution for Women, 6% (10) of women have a gang affiliation, all of whom were Indigenous women. 

39 Grekul, Jana Marie, Patti LaBoucane-Benson, and Native Counselling Services of Alberta, Canada, (2007).

40 ibid

41 Corrado, Raymond R. and Irwin M. Cohen, CSC, (2002).

42 CSC defines dynamic security as: regular and consistent interaction with offenders and timely analysis of information and sharing through observations and communications (e.g. rapport building, training, networking, intelligence gathering and strategic analysis).  Dynamic security is the action that contributes to the development of professional, positive relationships between staff and offenders and, is a key tool to assess an offender's adjustment and stability. 

43 James et al, (2013)

44 Arnett (2000)

45 Huggins, Richard (2010).

46 Huggins, Richard (2010).

47 Arizona Prison Watch, (2010).

48 Skellington Orr, Smith and Le Masuner. Scottish Prison Service, (2015).

49 Australia – response to the OCI's request for information.

50 Day parole is a type of conditional release granted by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) whereby offenders are permitted to participate in community-based activities in preparation for full parole or statutory release.  The conditions require offenders to return to a facility each night or at another specified interval.

51 Full parole is a type of conditional release granted by the Parole Board of Canada whereby the remainder of the sentence is served under supervision in the community.

52 Statutory release refers to a conditional release that is subject to supervision after the offender has served two-thirds of the sentence.

53 CSC Data warehouse (September 18, 2016).  The data include releases from April 1, 2012 to September 18, 2016.