Indigenous offenders keep serving longer prison sentences, less likely to get parole: Auditor general

During 2015-2016 fiscal year 740 of 1,066 Indigenous offenders served until statutory release.

APTN National News
Indigenous offenders are less likely to be released on parole and when they do finally get out they’re more often being released into the community from a maximum or medium security institution according to the latest report from the federal auditor general.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson said the same doesn’t apply to non-Indigenous offenders serving time in prisons who get day parole easier and with more support.

Ferguson’s investigation into Correctional Service of Canada found during the 2015-2016 fiscal year 740 of 1,066 Indigenous offenders were passed over for parole and served time until their statutory release date.

“This is a significantly higher rate than for non-Indigenous offenders (about 18 per cent higher), and it has persisted over several years,” Ferguson said in his report.

By serving until their statutory release they were less likely to be part of a gradual release plan, such as day-parole in a supervised halfway house with programs to help offenders return to the community on their own.

Statutory release means the offender serves the final third of their sentence in the community like someone on full parole.

And many of them are being released directly into the community walking out of a maximum or medium security prison.

Ferguson found 102 came from maximum prisons, while 483 from medium.

He also from that CSC is less likely to look at reducing their security levels before release after successfully completing a correctional program.

Ferguson also found Indigenous inmates have a difficult time accessing cultural programs while in prison, and because of their security level they can’t be moved to one of nine healing lodges across the country. The lodges operate at minimum security, but 80 per cent of Indigenous inmates are in medium or maximum.

That’s leaving the lodges with beds empty as they operate at about 74 per cent capacity.

“CSC had not assessed the feasibility of expanding Healing Lodges to medium-security for men or to other regions,” Ferguson said.

He said CSC couldn’t document how offenders’ taking part in culturally specific programs contributed to their “successful” release into the community.

“As well, staff was not provided with sufficient guidance or training on how to apply Aboriginal social history factors in case management decisions,” he said.

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