Sask. auditor calls for improved criminal rehabilitation processes in jails

Serving a sentence is key to the punishment aspect of correctional centres, but these facilities also need to correct behaviour.

In her semi-annual report, Saskatchewan auditor Judy Ferguson provided her fourth update on recommendations to improve the process of inmate rehabilitation.

This kind of rehabilitation can be broad in scope, from addictions counselling to job and skills training.

“Research clearly shows rehabilitation does reduce recidivism. It clearly shows that,” Ferguson said.

According to Ministry of Corrections and Policing policy, an assessment of an inmate’s needs and risks should be completed within 28 days of their admission into a correctional facility.

The audit found that in nine of 30 inmate files reviewed, this assessment was completed 15 to 120 days later than expected. In seven of the 30 files, the inmates did not receive the identified rehabilitation programming before their release into the community.

Ferguson first tabled recommendations aimed at improving this process in 2008. Her report, released Dec. 11, was the fourth update of this file.

“We’re working hard to address that, not quite as quickly as we’d like to,” said Drew Wilby, ministry spokesperson.

Wilby added rehabilitation is a key focus of the ministry to help ensure inmates can successfully be reintegrated into the community.

He pointed to the Whitespruce Provincial Training Centre as a key part of the rehab strategy. The facility provides inmates with job training. Wilby said some have gone through the centre and are now in the process of furthering their training in trades like carpentry.

According to the auditor’s report, only one correctional centre currently has a process to track rates of inmates going through rehabilitation programs and re-offense rates. The ministry plans to expand that program province-wide by the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2019.

Wilby added that not all individuals in correctional centres can go through these programs. Currently, there are just over 1,800 prisoners in provincial jails. Eight hundred and forty are in remand, this means they have not been convicted and are in custody awaiting their day in court.

Inmates on remand are not eligible for these rehabilitation programs. Wilby said the time they are in custody can vary greatly, and with limited resources it’s better to focus on people with determined sentences. He said staying in remand can range from a day to five or six years.

In other cases, reasons for a lack of rehab programming are outside government control.

“Defense attorneys are reluctant to have their clients take programming, because often it can show guilt. So, they’ll ensure their clients don’t take programming so it doesn’t show that guilt,” Wilby explained.

Showing signs of guilt can be detrimental to prisoners looking to appeal their conviction.

Recently, police in Regina, Saskatoon and other communities have been tracking increases in crime.

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the government should be acting faster to implement these changes in an effort to reduce recidivism rates.

“We want these crimes to go away. The current approach of putting people in longer, giving them less help, treating them badly when they’re in prison is a recipe for our crime rates going up,” Meili said.

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