Evidence of meeting #38 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 offender.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Howard Sapers  Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator
  • Marie-France Kingsley  Director of Investigations, Office of the Correctional Investigator
  • Catherine Kane  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Elissa Lieff  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

3:55 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

You know, I'm not sure.

In this case, the cheque would be cut by the crown to the offender. The offender doesn't have access to the bank the way you and I would, or frankly, even the way an offender might if he were on conditional release in the community. An in-custody offender would have a different circumstance from an offender serving a similar sentence for a similar crime, but only he had now been released on day parole or full parole.

In any case, if the offender is in custody, they have very different access to their account, and CSC controls that. If it weren't CSC being administratively involved, it begs the question, who would be? The court can't reach into that offender's account. The creditor obviously can't, or they would already have done so if there were a mechanism for them to do that. The cheque gets deposited on the offender's behalf, but administratively, CSC is looking after that offender's bank account.

It's not like you and me just going to a chartered bank or to an ATM.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Randall Garrison

Be very brief, Mr. Leef.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

That makes sense. The way you're describing it makes sense, but the section reads that the balance is paid out. The balance, after all debt is paid, is then paid out. I didn't see the full amount going to the inmate and then the inmate paying it back. It seems like the debt's paid and then the balance goes into the inmate's CSC account. That's the way it reads to me.

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

That's why I said I'm not sure who's missing something. I'm not sure it's you. In the drafting of the bill, I'm concerned that there may be a bit of a gap in logic. I'm not aware of any other mechanism, other than if it's a claim against the crown that's successful, the money is paid to the offender. Otherwise some other authority would have to have access to a registry of all of that information and then be able to parcel out the funds according to this schedule or some other schedule.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Randall Garrison

Thank you very much, Mr. Sapers.

Since we don't have a Liberal member present in the room, that concludes the first round. We'll move to the second round, beginning with Monsieur Rousseau for five minutes.

May 8th, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thank you.

Thank you for being with us, Mr. Sapers.

I would like you to comment on something you said: “I question whether we want or expect the federal correctional authority to be mandated to become part of a debt collection scheme.”

Why should the federal correctional authority not take part in this initiative?

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

Well, the specific reference was to the creation and maintenance and policing of that kind of a registry process, responsible for both documenting the monetary awards and also the payments out. Please read that in the larger context, which was also to assist an offender to satisfy all of their obligations, which is very much the purpose of the Correctional Service of Canada. But it may not be practical for the Correctional Service of Canada to then become directly involved in transferring funds or making payments on behalf of an offender to creditors.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Does it have to do with a lack of financial and human resources, which can jeopardize the rehabilitation of certain inmates?

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

My primary concern is really the administrative burden that would be placed on the Correctional Service of Canada and whether that is an appropriate undertaking for them to be involved in, given the resource implications.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

I want to know whether you believe this could create an additional burden and jeopardize the rehabilitation of some individuals. You said that your focus was really rehabilitation. Could imposing additional obligations on inmates jeopardize their rehabilitation?

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

An offender facing release is facing many barriers and many challenges in the community and one of those challenges is often accumulated debt. I think any good reintegration plan has to take that into account and any good correctional scheme should also be cautious in adding to that debt or burden.

I don't think I could make an across-the-board statement and say this would be hurtful in all cases or that this would be helpful in all cases, but it's quite common for offenders coming out of prison to be facing both employment barriers and debt issues. We would have to take that reality into account if we were going to change the way that offenders who win a monetary award—in other words those who have been deserving of a claim—have that award disbursed to them.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Do I still have time?

Oh, all right.

If we could amend this bill to make it acceptable, what would you propose?

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

I'm sorry, I really didn't contemplate amendments. The bill itself is very short. As I said, it seems to me that we may find more success in looking at administrative and regulatory changes through commissioner's directives in terms of debt counselling, family support, and satisfaction of things such as victim fine surcharges.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

If I understand correctly, it's the mechanics that you find problematic as far as implementing this bill goes.

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

Well, I find the bill addresses an important issue that has merit but presents a solution that could end up being very problematic, because it could become very cumbersome and expensive. It could also present some fairness issues in determining who is the most deserving recipient of funds.