Pavlov and Corrections

Ring a bell and the current government will salivate. Point out some perceived gap that appears to favour prisoners (whether it does or not) and, presto, new rules with little or no basis in good corrections!

The latest example – policy which effectively denies work releases to prisoners who have been refused temporary absences by the Parole Board of Canada (PBC).

For many offenders, those serving long sentences for serious offences, it is the PBC that must rule on whether they can be released for Unescorted Temporary Absences (UTA’s). UTA’s are normally for educational (“personal development”) purposes or other purposes such as medical care or necessary family interactions.

The same offenders, however, can be granted work releases for up to 60 days, by the Warden of the institution where they reside. This is because the drafters of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act believed that supervised work, whether inside or outside a prison, is  properly within the purview of corrections staff. It is  part of the normal routine and can be more than adequately controlled by the Correctional Service of Canada.

As is often the case, certain community advocates sent a rocket up to the Minster when a high-profile offender who had been turned down for UTA’s was subsequently granted a work release. The theme of the intervention was “how can it be that Correctional Service staff can grant a release when the almighty PBC has denied a very similar release?”

The Minister reacted quickly (as usual) in promising that this inequity would be remedied by legislation  so that the orders of the PBC would not be circumvented by mere Wardens [ I paraphrase a bit].

In the meantime, pending legislation, CSC was directed to change its policy to ensure that this principle of PBC paramountcy would be ensured. Presto! A new policy that requires all work release decisions to be submitted to Regional Deputy Commissioners for their “recommendations” and that required work release decisions to address and satisfy any  and all concerns that were raised by the PBC in denying a previous UTA application.

Never mind that a work release ( and renewals thereof) has often been going on successfully for months or years prior to the UTA decision. Never mind if the work release criteria were completely satisfied in the Warden’s previous decisions. Never mind that work releases specifically require supervised activities while UTA’s do not. Never mind that work releases provide important skills and useful income to support reintegration into the community. This hole in the dyke preventing the apocalypse must be plugged!


I’m sorry if this sounds a little flippant, but, unfortunately, sarcasm is often the  resort of the depressed.


One thought on “Pavlov and Corrections

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