Good morning, Mr. Chair, and good morning, honourable members of the committee.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today as you embark on your study on advancing the inclusion and quality of life for Canadian seniors.
As you may be aware, the responsibility for delivering correctional services in Canada is shared federally, provincially and territorially. The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for administering court-imposed sentences of two years or more, including conditional release supervision of offenders in the community. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for offenders on remand, and serving sentences of less than two years, and they have the exclusive responsibility for offenders sentenced to probation as well as for young offenders.
The Correctional Service of Canada, as part of the criminal justice system, and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens while exercising reasonable, safe, secure, and humane control. CSC continually works to address challenges facing offenders in the federal correctional system, including changes in demographics, the over-representation of indigenous peoples, and the need to provide effective physical and mental health care.
During the past decade we've gained a greater understanding of the overall offender population profile and it has put new pressures on our organization. This includes an offender population that is older and aging under our care. As well, with changes to some sentencing provisions, we have individuals who will die in our correctional institutions.
The aging process for offenders is believed to be accelerated due to environmental and lifestyle factors that may have impacted their lives prior to their admission to federal custody, including smoking, poor nutrition, lack of health care, and lower socio-economic status. Approximately 22% of federal offenders are between the ages of 50 and 64 years, and approximately 7% of the federal offenders are aged 65 years and older. Currently the oldest individual in the institution is 93 years old, and in the community, under supervision, is 94 years old.
However, age is not the sole indicator of having additional needs. As such, not all offenders 50 years and older require a specialized environment or services. It is the combination of age and functional impairment, often related to the presence of multiple chronic diseases, that determine the unique needs of the older offender.
CSC's policies, programs, and practices attempt to address these special needs and as is the case for all offenders within our care, individual correctional plans and interventions are developed and implemented, which are continually assessed throughout each offender's sentence. A range of interventions are available for older offenders in CSC institutions. Offenders undergo a functional assessment to determine their ability to perform daily living activities upon admission to an institution. Throughout their sentences, they will continue to be assessed in terms of their ability to function in the environment, resulting in additional health care-related consultations, as well as special accommodations and services, as required.
With respect to health care, CSC faces similar challenges as Canadian communities do in terms of maintaining the level of care required for offenders in an environment of increasing costs and economic constraints. Offenders coming into the correctional system have health needs that are complex and include a higher than average incidence and prevalence of infectious diseases and mental illnesses, high rates of comorbidities, and chronic illnesses.
CSC's health services operate 53 health care centres across Canada that provide essential medical, dental and mental health care. Regional hospitals that provide post-surgical and palliative care, and mental health treatment centres that provide acute care, exist in all five of CSC's regions. CSC also relies on community services to provide other types of specialized care.
Although not exclusive to older offenders, CSC has processes in place for responding to the end-of-life health care needs of offenders. Palliative care within CSC aims to assist palliative offenders in relieving their suffering and improving their quality of living and dying. An offender can be provided palliative care in an institution with the assistance of community support such as volunteers, clergy, and palliative care specialists, or in a CSC regional hospital where nurses are available 24 hours a day.
In some cases the conditional release provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act may be utilized to facilitate care in the community.
As you may be aware, in response to a recommendation from the Office of the Correctional Investigator and to the 2015-16 annual report of that office, CSE is committed to implementing an older-offender strategy for federal corrections that would address the care and custody needs of offenders aged 50 or older. Work is under way to develop the strategy and to complete it prior to the end of this fiscal year.
In closing, I would like to assure the committee that the safety of all individuals, including staff, offenders, and visitors, in federal correctional facilities is of paramount importance to our organization.
Due to the limited time today, I'll conclude my remarks there, Mr. Chair. I welcome any questions that you or the honourable committee members may have later on.