Evidence of meeting #28 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was gps.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Larry Motiuk  Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada
  • Barbara Jackman  Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, As an Individual

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our committee.

This is meeting number 28 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

Today we are continuing our study of the use of electronic monitoring in both correctional and conditional release settings as well as in the immigration enforcement setting, with a view to determining effectiveness, cost efficiency, and implementation readiness.

In our first hour we have, from the Correctional Service of Canada, Larry Motiuk, special advisor to the infrastructure renewal team. He has worked with the Correctional Service of Canada on conditional release supervision standards, ex-offenders, and high-risk or violent offenders, as well as on assessment processes and treatment programs. Dr. Motiuk is a research professor at Carleton University and holds a Ph.D. in psychology.

Doctor, we welcome you to our committee, We thank you for being here. Certainly we have heard from the Correctional Service of Canada before, but I know in your testimony it's always something new, and we appreciate being able to get comments from someone who may have a little different perspective.

Could we invite you to make your opening statement?

3:35 p.m.

Dr. Larry Motiuk Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada

Thank you, Chair and members of the committee, for inviting me here today to talk to you about Correctional Service of Canada's efforts on electronic monitoring.

As mentioned, my name is Dr. Larry Motiuk, and I'm currently a special advisor on assignment with others on a transformation and renewal team in Correctional Service of Canada. I have a doctorate degree in psychology and a master's degree in clinical psychology.

Before this assignment, I served as the director general of the offender programs and reintegration from 2006 until 2010 at CSC national headquarters. In this position I provided advice on policies, planning, and legislation related to institutional, community, and operational management of offenders. It was during this time that I became involved with others in our management team in the establishment of the electronic monitoring pilot project.

As an employee of CSC for the past 25 years now, I also served as director general of research for 13 years, supervising and evaluating operational research projects on a national scale. These included national standards for conditional release supervision, mental health, sex offenders, risk management, and correctional program effectiveness.

Over the years I have published widely, and I have worked directly with various departments of corrections in jurisdictions abroad. Moreover, I served on the board of directors for the International Community Corrections Association from 1999 to 2005.

Similar to the study the standing committee is undertaking, in October 2007 the Correctional Service of Canada review panel examined the use of electronic monitoring in the community. They heard a variety of opinions on the matter, from applying this technology to all released offenders in the community to using it only for selected offenders under extended supervision by CSC.

Also around the same time, CSC was exploring the use of electronic monitoring, and I understand that you heard about the review of the literature on electronic monitoring conducted by the CSC research branch.

In response to the many observations and recommendations made by the panel, a transformation agenda, an ambitious initiative, was launched to improve CSC operations and enhance public safety for Canadians.

While the many initiatives established under the transformation agenda have been integrated into CSC's operations and plans, the work is not over and the transformation agenda continues to be of utmost importance to CSC. CSC continues to make progress on ongoing transformation agenda initiatives, which have better positioned CSC to effectively manage today's offender population and meet new challenges.

The interrelated initiatives fall under the following themes of enhancing offender accountability, eliminating drugs in institutions, enhancing correctional interventions and employment skills of offenders, modernizing the physical infrastructure, and strengthening community corrections.

The electronic monitoring pilot project was seen as supporting CSC's transformation agenda by enhancing community and staff safety while helping to strengthen offender accountability, a key component of the strengthening community corrections theme.

Correctional Service of Canada is now in phase three of its transformation agenda, which focuses on ensuring continued integration of transformation initiatives.

In September 2008, the electronic monitoring pilot project, EMPP, was implemented, and this had been done within a relatively short timeframe. A project proposal, project charter, concept of operations, and privacy impact assessments were completed. Guidelines and response protocols were drafted and developed to support the EMPP and approved. Numerous operational forms and documents were created to support the project and to mitigate risks.

Several working groups who were involved back then, involving internal stakeholders, were established, including the EM working group, the EMIS working group—our technology side for computers—and including access to information and privacy, ATIP. There were weekly referral committee meetings and an evaluation working group was formed.

Training of community parole officers took place in Hamilton, downtown Toronto, Toronto east, Toronto west, London, and Kingston, with 32 staff trained at that time.

Information sessions were completed at various institutions in the Ontario region and with placed partners in the metropolitan Toronto area. All external stakeholders were informed with personal letters and distribution of information pamphlets on the EMPP and all were invited to make any inquiries.

The pilot was initially implemented in the central Ontario district and was later expanded to include most of Ontario and Nunavut district.

Parole officers provided CSC with the capacity to monitor up to 30 offenders at one time. CSC obtained the services through a letter of agreement with the Government of Nova Scotia, which had provided expertise in technology.

The original agreement with the Government of Nova Scotia ended in September 2009, but the service for the pilot provided by Nova Scotia was extended for one year, ending in August 2010.

My direct involvement in the electronic monitoring pilot project ended in March 2009, with, at that time, 22 offenders having participated in the EMPP, all without significant incidents or concerns. Three offender participants had successfully completed the project and the bracelets were removed.

I would like to conclude my opening comments by saying that Canadians have always been able to take pride in being international leaders in corrections research and rehabilitation. From the creation of scientifically derived assessment tools for security classification, program assignment, and release risk to the development and delivery of state-of-the-art rehabilitative programs and supervision methods, Canadian correctional practitioners have always been at the vanguard of best practices.

Canada's advantage is primarily due to the talents and efforts of researchers and practitioners themselves. Building on our correctional technology and research advantage is more important than ever.

I look forward to the discussions here today. It is important that the correctional perspective is represented at these kinds of meetings, and that all the components of criminal justice continue to work together to achieve an effective and positive public safety outcome.

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Dr. Motiuk.

Now we will go into the first round of questioning.

We'll go to Ms. Hoeppner, please, for seven minutes.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Dr. Motiuk, for being here today.

At our last meeting we heard from one of your colleagues, who I believe also helped on this study, Dr. Brian Grant, and we got a little bit of a sense of what the study from 2007 entailed.

I'm wondering if you could begin by giving us an overview, based on your participation in bringing it all.... I understand the study was bringing literature and other studies together to come up with this report.

Based on that, and also based on your experience in terms of helping offenders to get back into the community and helping them become rehabilitated, can you tell us, in your opinion, what would be the benefits and the strengths of electronic monitoring? And what would be some of the negative aspects and parts that would not be as helpful when it comes to rehabilitating offenders and reducing recidivism?

3:40 p.m.

Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada

Dr. Larry Motiuk

In response to the first element of the question about the review of the literature that was done on electronic monitoring back in 2007 and published by the research branch, I'm quite familiar with that because it was actually launched while I was the director general of research.

During that time, we were always engaging in looking at new methods and technologies for the supervision of offenders, and the usual practice is to do a very systematic review of the available literature, explore a variety of questions, and anticipate concerns and whatnot about that. One of the things that was most noteworthy at that time back in 2006-07 was that we were not using electronic monitoring technology, whereas many other jurisdictions were around the world, and also domestically in some of the provincial jurisdictions.

There had been a fair amount of controversy at the time in terms of the technology and its application. Nevertheless, we undertook to do a thorough and systematic review. I understand that probably has been made available to you; it's available on the Internet, on the website for the CSC research branch. I would imagine that Dr. Grant would have summarized some of the highlights and observations.

One of the considerations that came out of the research was on the effectiveness of EM in meeting a lot of its objectives. It was basically equivocal and mixed throughout that literature review. Being equivocal and mixed means that one does not attempt to experiment or demonstrate or try to embrace the technology and see where we need to go. Drivers for implementation in that review of literature were, for the most part, reducing inmate populations in other jurisdictions or finding cost savings. From the review of the literature at that time, it said a lot of it had yet to be realized. It's not that it said it wouldn't be realized, but it was yet to be realized.

Also, which is a classic with a lot of reviews of literature, more methodologically sound research was required because it had to keep pace with a lot of the emerging technology. Rest assured that much of the technology was advancing considerably over recent years. By the time the evaluations come out or the research studies come out, it's extraordinary just how many advancements have been made.

The considerations at the time were the difference between looking at radio frequency technology versus GPS technology, and there was very little experience in that technology but certainly a lot of interest in exploring it. And there was also technology looking at a combination of both at the time. The bottom line was the understanding that we wanted to be as technologically advanced as possible and embrace the GPS technology approach. I thought that might become an interesting way to do a demonstration project or a pilot to test that technology.

To answer the question about what was the research telling us, we needed to do more research notwithstanding to keep abreast of emerging technology at the time and to be clear that we needed to understand what the value-added component of this technology would be associated with when we incorporated it into existing community supervision strategies.

That was the research review at the time. Subsequent to that question of what the review of the literature showed, I'll answer the question about the issues of community supervision and experiences with that.

One of my very first assignments when I joined the Correctional Service of Canada was the conditional release supervision standards project. At that time I had moved from the provincial system, where we were embracing offender risk/needs assessment technology to establish frequency of contact for supervision standards with probationers and parolees in the provincial system in Ontario, and we were looking to incorporate that as a standard of supervision—that we would establish levels of frequency of contact for federal offenders who were being supervised in the community.

Most of that work fell on the back of a major inquiry in the mid-1980s, the Ruygrok inquest, which made substantive recommendations about community supervision standards for offenders and looking at any ways or means by which we could improve supervision strategies. That has been our ongoing challenge for community corrections, to advance its standards and practices, look at how we can better address public safety concerns and reduce the likelihood of reoffending by offenders under supervision in the community, and promote safer reintegration and the transition from institutions into the community.

There have been numerous other initiatives in Correction Service Canada over time. I recall the community offender management strategies and the correctional strategy back in the early nineties that looked at integration right through the continuum of care for case management, from front-end intake assessment right through to institutional supervision and intervention while incarcerated, case preparation, release preparation, and then community supervision later on.

In each and every one of these areas, there have been major initiatives looking to find efficiencies, effectiveness, and improvements.

I would probably suggest that one of the main areas in which some of the most significant advances have been made is the correctional programming within Correction Service Canada. We have state-of-the-art correctional programs. They're scientifically based, evaluated and researched, internationally accredited, and have been demonstrated to bring about significant reductions in reoffending.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Our time is up. Maybe you'll be able to do a supplementary in a little bit here.

We'll now move to Mr. Chicoine.

You have seven minutes.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Motiuk, thank you very much for appearing today to share your experiences with us.

I would like you to go back to the benefits and the disadvantages. Most people who have come before the committee have had difficulty showing the benefits of electronic monitoring. It seems to be costly and does not seem to offer many benefits.

From your experience with the pilot projects, can you say that electronic monitoring offers clear benefits, or rather that the benefits are mixed, the way most people who came before the committee seem to think?

3:45 p.m.

Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada

Dr. Larry Motiuk

As you know, an evaluation was done of the pilot project, which examined a number of areas in this regard. I understand the committee has made available this document, which in great detail looks at things such as continued relevancy and whether or not the electronic monitoring technology would be consistent with government priorities in our mission document. It was deemed to be relevant to the government priorities of public protection and community safety and also to our mission document in terms of what we were trying to achieve.

In the implementation area, a number of areas were highlighted as technological challenges—everything from the battery and the weightiness of the device itself to drift in signals through to tamper alerts.

One of the main purposes of the pilot was to test the technology, to gather some experience with each one of these models in terms of battery life, signal drift, the awkwardness of carrying the bracelets and devices—everything from that to the tamper alerts and the false alarms that were given.

In gaining experience with this equipment, our operational folks became very experienced in learning to deal with it. This was a huge benefit from the pilot: finding technological solutions and being able to address them. From what I understand, there is better technology and there are better ways of dealing with it. From staff and the reports they gave to me when we were doing the pilot, I understand that most of these problems can be overcome, notwithstanding that there will continue to be certain issues. In dealing with the technological issues that many would highlight in this regard, that was one of them.

Concerning the success of the pilot, it was declared in the evaluation to be inconclusive, which is consistent with other research findings. The cost savings and whatnot have yet to be demonstrated. It was a pilot, and it was limited to a select group of individuals. The full cost savings would not be realized until you went to a national implementation and a broader group of individuals, whereby those benefits could be realized. The potential would still be there. Basically, this is one aspect that has yet to be demonstrated, but cannot be demonstrated unless we go further with the whole exercise.

There are some other unintended benefits that we found. Some of the offenders reported that they got personal benefits, in the sense that it supported their own reintegration potential and aided them in that area. During the evaluation they were interviewed and questioned about some of that. So there were some potential benefits in that area.

If there's one strength I see, it's that it's a real adjunct to the supervision tool. If anything, it modernizes our ability to monitor the whereabouts of individuals who have certain conditions imposed upon them for geographic areas—inclusion or exclusion zones, or where they are supposed to be. It also affects the amount of effort we would devote to looking around to provide any kind of intervention, should an alert go off.

We also know that it enhances what we would consider “offender accountability”. In the case of many offenders, offender accountability involves their attitude, their behaviours, an insight into themselves. Being monitored throughout that period of time, these offenders became very acutely aware that they were supervised as to their whereabouts and became highly accountable for them.

It can also have other potentials in the long run. We know that it may reduce the length of residency conditions. It could be used to strengthen community strategies and be integrated with such other things as parole officer engagement with the offender. We also know that it could be incorporated into a strategy that has community-based programming and other supports and could support that as well. We know too that it can provide an alternative, potentially, to suspension or revocation, depending on the situation of the particular case.

So are there benefits on that side of the house? Certainly. From the technological side, in terms of the cost, we know that costs come down with the expansion and the widening of our ability to address different kinds of offenders.

The pilot was limited to a certain kind of offender, mostly those we would consider to be at the lower-risk end of the continuum for federal offenders under supervision. It has not been applied to the higher-risk clientele, among whom there might be more dividends yielded in the future. Only a future evaluation would yield some sort of clarity on that question.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have about 40 seconds left.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

As you mentioned, the Correctional Service of Canada is a model for the whole world. Knowing that electronic monitoring has not been used much and that, according to the research, it is still very costly, would it not be preferable, as far as public safety is concerned, to keep investing in rehabilitation programs rather than in a technology that has not really been tested?

3:55 p.m.

Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada

Dr. Larry Motiuk

Concerning part of the question of investing in rehabilitation programs, the service and the Government of Canada provide resources and have invested in programming.

One of the major initiatives in the transformation agenda is intended to advance further our technology and develop an integrated correctional program model that is multifaceted, that advances us in the world in terms of how we deliver programs in a more efficient way—earlier starts in sentences, as well as the continuum out into the community for community maintenance. We are investing in that.

At the same time, we also need to invest in supervision tools that allow us, as an adjunct to our overall community strategy, to assist in monitoring offenders and providing feedback on selected cases on what we need to do, which is to comply with conditions.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

We'll now move back to the government side.

Mr. Norlock, please.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Through you, I thank the witness for appearing.

I'm going to try to keep the question short. You have answered some of it in different ways, but I need some point-blank answers.

When we first decided to study this program, I looked at it as a cost-effective tool. I'm a goal-oriented person, so I think the whole goal is as you described: to have more responsibility on the part of the person who needs correction while looking at cost-effectiveness.

I home in on that and concentrate on it because to me it made a lot of sense that this particular program appeared to save a lot of money. I think we heard some evidence that the per day cost was something like $20, whereas keeping someone in a prison cell costs between $100 and $200 a day. Right then and there, that tells me that we might better be doing some things on the outside.

Having said that, and with the results of your program being non-conclusive, I would imagine that having a national program—give it some time limits, because in this world of governments and opposition, you don't bring in a permanent program, if it doesn't give you the results.... Would a national program encompassing all reasonable types of offenders for a term—and I'll let you decide what term you think that should be, but I would think 18 months to two years should be sufficient—be a good idea for this committee to suggest as one of its recommendations, based on some of the things I've said?

3:55 p.m.

Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service of Canada

Dr. Larry Motiuk

First and foremost, national implementation of electronic monitoring and an evaluation of that two to three years out would be a very worthwhile exercise. It would allow us to widen the selection criteria beyond individuals who may be deemed to be lower risk and therefore you can't demonstrate much impact in terms of outcomes on conditional release because of that.

Recommendations on a nation-wide basis for Canada are an important aspect because of the geographic locations and the distance we have to provide supervision. It makes very, very good sense, from an operational perspective, and also from a methodological perspective.

With respect to timeframes, you're correct in inferring that we need time for the electronic monitoring initiative and implementation to take place. Usually about two to three years is ideal.

Evaluation cycles to look at what happens over time are pretty standard in our operational environment. They usually operate between three to five years for a program, or anything else. It has to be well designed and managed and incorporate various relevant outcomes. Certain outcomes would be very, very important. We would know to look at individuals who may have faced suspensions or revocations and had been put back into an institution; that might be one outcome that would be looked at.

Also, the issue of residency conditions that are imposed on offenders might be another outcome measure. The length of them might be reduced, which means that even out in the community the costs associated with putting somebody in a halfway house or a community correctional centre could be reduced as well.

So, yes, there are some benefits that could be seen from a national implementation.

From a technological perspective, we need to find devices and equipment, and to provide the resources to acquire that. I think the operational readiness, which was the test of the original pilot to say we can do it...but we also need to expand beyond the one area to truly test its impact. Going beyond one area, which was the Ontario region of our organization, would really provide a true test to see what the results would be.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

As you may know, at one of our last meetings we did talk to the folks who actually provide these devices and the technology. In the past five or six years that I've been a member of Parliament, there have been a whole lot of technical devices, which even our chair was playing with—I mean, working with—before the meeting.

I guess my question would be this. We've heard some of the problems concerning a person wearing devices going into a subway and things like that. I wonder if your previous study was able to determine—and I'm glad you mentioned the geographic realities of Canada—if there is a difference between the efficacy of using these devices between urban and rural areas. There are no subways in any of the communities I've lived in. It's mostly outdoors and there are not a lot of high-rise buildings.

Is there any difference experienced there? Could you expand on that?