Mr. Speaker, Bill C-83 has two main objectives.
First, it will allow federal inmates to be separated from the general prison population when necessary for security reasons. Second, it will ensure that these inmates have access to the interventions, programs and mental health care they need to safely return to the general prison population and make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.
The bill would achieve these objectives by replacing the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units. In SIUs, inmates will be entitled to twice as much time out of their cells, four hours daily instead of two, and two hours of meaningful human contact every day. We have allocated $448 million over six years to ensure that the correctional service has the resources to provide programs and interventions to inmates in SIUs and to implement this new safety system effectively. That funding includes $150 million for mental health care, both in SIUs and throughout the federal corrections system.
Bill C-83 was introduced last October. It was studied by the public safety committee in November and reported back to the House in December with a number of amendments. There were further amendments at report stage in February, including one from the member for Oakville North—Burlington, that added a system of binding external review. In recent months, hon. senators have been studying the bill and have now sent it back to us with proposed amendments of their own.
A high level of interest in Bill C-83 is indicative of the importance of the federal corrections system and of the laws and policies that govern it. Effective and humane corrections are essential to public safety. They are a statement of who we are as a country. In the words of Dostoyevsky, the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.
I extend my sincere thanks to all the intervenors who have provided testimony and written briefs over the course of the last nine months and to the parliamentarians in both chambers who have examined this legislation and made thoughtful and constructive suggestions.
Since the Senate social affairs committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of this bill a couple of weeks ago, the government has been carefully studying the committee's recommendations, all of which seek to achieve laudable objectives. We are proposing to accept several of the Senate's amendments as is or with small technical modifications.
First off, with minor adjustments, we agree with amendments that would require a mental health assessment of all inmates within 30 days of admission into federal custody and within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU. This fits with the focus on early diagnosis and treatment that would be facilitated by the major investments we are making in mental health care. We agree with the proposal to rearrange section 29 of the act, which deals with inmate transfers, to emphasize the possibility of transfers to external hospitals.
I thank the hon. senators for their efforts and contributions.