Government to support safe reintegration of offenders under community supervision during COVID-19

From: Public Safety Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to keeping all Canadians safe and reducing the risks posed by COVID-19, including to federal offenders in our corrections system.

Today, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, announced the Government of Canada’s intention to provide up to $500,000 to five National Voluntary Organizations (NVOs) to develop pilot projects that will help reintegrate offenders under supervision at community-based residential facilities (halfway houses).

These funds will support the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, John Howard Society of Canada, National Associations Active in Criminal Justice, and St. Leonard’s Society of Canada. These organizations will draw on the expertise of their networks to identify and support innovative practices that have been successful at reducing the spread of COVID-19, while maintaining essential services for their clients. The lessons learned from these pilot projects will help halfway houses continue to deliver effective programs and services to offenders who are eligible for supervised release in the community and keep halfway house residents and surrounding communities safe during emergencies such as COVID-19.

These five NVOs were selected for their national profile and well-established capacity for bringing together regional perspectives and experiences from a broad range of service needs for people returning to the community following a period of incarceration.

In addition, to further help with increased costs to respond to COVID-19, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has been taking a more flexible financial approach that allows halfway houses to submit COVID-19-related expenses for review and reimbursement so that they can ensure a healthy environment for residents. This includes reimbursement for items such as personal protective equipment, additional cleaning supplies, adaptations to existing accommodations, and a 90-day bed hold as many have had to limit the number of residents they are able to accommodate.

Today’s announcement builds on the work CSC and the Parole Board of Canada have been doing to streamline case preparation for offenders. Since the onset of the pandemic, CSC has been proactively reviewing the individual situations of non-violent and lower-risk inmates, including those with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Quotes

“Our greatest responsibility during this public health crisis is keeping all Canadians safe and healthy – that includes supporting the transition of offenders released into the community. These funds will help support the important work of these NVOs and their networks as they continue to find creative solutions to respond to the crisis and adapt their services to provide a safe, secure and supportive environment for offenders under community supervision.”

– The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the challenges that the correctional system faces and forces us to adapt social and community reintegration services for offenders. The Association of Social Rehabilitation Services of Quebec welcomes the support of Public Safety Canada, which will allow the development of important initiatives to ensure that offenders under federal jurisdiction continue to receive community services despite the current public health environment.”

– Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made more visible massive gaps in our social safety net, and shown us that communities and governments can come together to fill these gaps when there is motivation to do so. This moment is critical for acting on the lessons learned from the innovation and creativity that was demonstrated by those providing vital support for criminalized people in community during the initial stages of the pandemic. It is also the time to identify and put in place best practices that will move us into a better future by rethinking what we mean by public safety. The expertise of our network, and people who have lived experience of incarceration will help guide us in this work”.

– Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

“The John Howard Society of Canada is grateful for the funding that will allow us to document and share the innovative practices used by our community corrections teams to accommodate successfully COVID-19 challenges and to test additional technological and other measures designed to improve communications among prisoners, former prisoners, community corrections staff, and community service providers.”

– John Howard Society of Canada

“The National Associations Active in Criminal Justice welcomes this opportunity to positively contribute to the health and safety of our communities by tapping into the knowledge, experiences and practices of its member organizations throughout the pandemic. With Public Safety Canada’s support, NAACJ will facilitate dialogue, gather information and innovative ideas, and identify promising practices from its community-based networks on the ground. By informing policies and services through this project, the federal government and NVOs will be better prepared to meet the emerging needs of our communities with resilience, flexibility and cross-sectoral cooperation.”

– National Associations Active in Criminal Justice

“St. Leonard’s Society of Canada (SLSC) is incredibly proud of the response to COVID-19 that has been demonstrated by our network – and indeed the sector at large – in the face of unprecedented challenges. SLSC welcomes today’s announcement and the opportunity to dedicate some timely focus towards lessons that can be shared, and exploring innovative solutions for navigating the way forward. This initial investment in better outcomes for people who are returning to our communities, and those who work hard to support them, will generate insight into systemic gaps so that we can continue to do better, together.”

– St. Leonard’s Society of Canada

Quick facts

  • Combined, the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec, Canadian Elizabeth Fry Societies, John Howard Society of Canada, and St. Leonard’s Society of Canada provide nearly half of the community beds across Canada.

  • These organizations provide case management services for their residents based on their specific needs and work with local community organizations to support the safe reintegration of offenders into society.

  • This funding will be delivered through Public Safety Canada’s Policy Development Contribution Program, which supports strategic projects that contribute to policy-making and improved service delivery in the areas of public safety and emergency management.

  • Halfway houses are funded through contracts with CSC to provide a variety of services including accommodation, counselling, programming, and supervision of offenders. CSC currently has approximately 200 contracts with such facilities across Canada.

  • Public Safety Canada also provides funding to NVOs active in the areas of corrections, conditional release and/or community reintegration through the Grants Program to National Voluntary Organizations.

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