A follow-up audit from a 2008 report found that in seven of 30 files examined, offenders didn’t receive proper programming before being released back into the community
Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor is concerned that a trio of recommendations first made in 2008 regarding adult rehabilitation in provincial jails is still not implemented.
Recommendations to effectively monitor the proportion of offenders accessing programs and their re-offending rates, ensuring policies are followed surrounding new inmates’ needs assessments and then ensuring inmates have access to relevant rehabilitation programs were all marked as partially completed in a follow-up audit released Tuesday.
Auditor Judy Ferguson said the Ministry of Corrections and Policing made “little progress” towards implementing the remaining recommendations.
She found that while the ministry is tracking access to programming through a spreadsheet, that monitoring is insufficient and doesn’t take into account whether offenders re-offend after their term is up.
She also found that in nine of the 30 cases examined, risk and need assessments for new inmates were not conducted within 28 days.
Completing those assessments within 28 days is the province’s policy. Of those nine, seven offenders didn’t receive relevant programming before their sentence was up and they were released into society.
“If the ministry does not assess inmates’ needs within a reasonable period, it increases the risk of the Ministry not providing inmates with relevant rehabilitation programming before their release to the community,” Ferguson wrote in her report. “Inmates that do not receive relevant rehabilitation programming are at higher risk of re-offending.”
In a morning press conference, Ferguson said that the ministry has to “figure out what the needs are and do so on a consistent basis. Then, they need to track whether or not they’re fulfilling those needs. They’re not doing either consistently.”
She stressed that research shows inmates who receive proper programming are much less likely to re-offend.
Ferguson said it’s an admittedly complex topic. One of the concerns is a distribution of resources. About half of the inmates in the provincial system are remanded prisoners awaiting trial. Sometimes, as prison populations grow, rehabilitation spaces are converted into living quarters.
“It’s making sure you are providing rehabilitation space,” Ferguson said,” that you’re not using rehab space for sleeping quarters.”
Part of the solution involves trying to cut down on the number of people being held on remand.
“The Ministry is taking appropriate steps in terms of looking and doing a lot of research, taking a multifaceted approach in terms of engaging multiple parts of the system to try to come up with a solution,” she said. “We thought they made pretty good progress in a complex area. It’s rehabilitation where we were disappointed with the pace of change.”
Spokesperson Drew Wilby said the ministry isn’t pleased either.
“We have had that ongoing chapter for some time. We’re working hard to address that, not as quickly as we would like, he said.
“We’re going to work hard to try to fulfill those recommendations and we’re going to work hard with the auditor to do that. But having recommendations outstanding for the better course of eight to nine years, that’s not something we want to see.”
Wilby said rehabilitation is one of the core functions of the provincial corrections system.
“We would like to do more. If we could do more programming, that would be very important to us. But we need to balance what we have for space, what we have for resources, and the inmate population we have and try to frame the programming as best as possible with the case management we have available.”
Earlier this year, it was revealed that recreation spaces in Pine Grove, a women’s institution were being used to house overflow inmates from Prince Albert Correctional, the provincial men’s facility in town.
When inmate counts are high, that can happen.
We have converted program space into living space and particularly into dorm space for those because we do need that space due to high inmate counts,” Wilby said.
However, counts have since gone down. They often rise and fall due to seasonal factors. Through remand initiatives and by working with health and social services, Wilby said the ministry’s goal is to bring inmate counts down even further.