"GOOD CORRECTIONS" -- ORGANIZATIONAL RENEWAL AND THE MISSION DOCUMENT
In the late 1980s the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) underwent
a major reorganization. What distinguished this reorganization from earlier
ones was its description, by those who animated it, as more than just
a contemporary analogue to the restructuring taking place in the private
sector, where the goals were primarily efficiency and economy. CSC's reorganization
was conceived on a plane of higher principles. In the metaphorical language
of a journey, what CSC embarked upon was a "journey of organizational
renewal . . . motivated by a desire to 'do good corrections' " (Jim Vantour,
"Foreword", in Jim Vantour, ed., Our Story: Organizational
Renewal in Federal Corrections, [Ottawa: Correctional Service of
Canada, 1991] at i).
Published a year before the 1992 proclamation of the Corrections
and Conditional Release Act, Our Story,
published by the CSC itself, provides an internal, self-defined reference
point against which to assess the actual practices of corrections in Canada
in the 1990s.
Before tracking the official statement of progressive reform, it is
worth reading the cautionary words of Stanley Cohen regarding the way
in which "social-control talk" is designed to give the appearance of change:
The language which the powerful use to deal with
chronic social problems like crime is very special in its banality. Invariably,
it tries to convey choice, change, progress, and rational decision-making.
Even if things stay much the same, social-control talk has to convey a
dramatic picture of breakthroughs, departures, innovations, milestones,
turning points -- continually changing strategies in the war against crime.
All social-policy talk has to give the impression of change even if nothing
new is happening at all . . .
All this is to give the impression that social problems . . . are somehow
not totally out of control . . . So magical is the power of the new languages
of systems theory, applied-behaviour analysis and psycho-babble, that
they can convey (even to their users) an effect opposite to the truth.
Cohen's further comment that the language of social control may represent
a "form of shamanism: a series of conjuring tricks in which agencies are
shuffled, new names invented, incantations recited, commissions, committees,
laws, programs and campaigns announced" (at 158) is particularly relevant
in the Canadian context, where all of these activities have proceeded
at an accelerated pace since the early 1990s.
In Canada, the official CSC history provides us with this account of
the motivation for organizational renewal and its culmination in the "Mission
The business of federal corrections is widely regarded
as one of drama and suffering. It is also one that touches at the very
core of two of our society's most fundamental values: human freedom and
public safety. Consequently, the Correctional Service of Canada must frequently
respond to political and public demands for assurance that we are doing
what is needed.
Given this situation, it seems that it would be difficult for us, the
managers and employees of the Correctional Service of Canada, to do any
more than to simply cope or to focus the bulk of our energy on just administering
the prison system. Indeed, it appears that it would be easy for us to
fall into the trap of believing that our fundamental object is to "stay
out of trouble."
Yet for many of us, simply staying out of trouble is not enough. We
really want to do the best job we possibly can. We want to do good corrections
-- to serve our Minister (the Solicitor General of Canada), the government,
and the people of Canada well. It is evident to us that we have to do
more than just administer the prison system. We believe that we have to
take the initiative to define what good corrections is and to chart a
course to make sure that good corrections is what we do. The predominance
of this sentiment among a significant number of us prompted us to develop
a clearly stated and highly integrated set of goals for the Correctional
Service of Canada. This set of goals became our Mission Document. ( Our
Story at 3)
According to Our Story, the intellectual
and organizational leadership for the Mission-related reforms came with
the arrival on the Canadian correctional stage of Ole Ingstrup. "A lawyer
and prison administrator in his native Denmark, Ingstrup had immigrated
to Canada in 1984 and had immediately begun work in an advisory capacity
to Donald Yeomans who was then the Commissioner of Corrections. Beginning
in 1984, he studied many aspects of the Service and proposed a course
for it to become a value-based, results-driven organization" (Our Story,
at 19). That initiative was not pursued, and in 1986 Mr. Ingstrup was
appointed Chairman of the National Parole Board. However, with his return
to CSC in 1988 as the new Commissioner of Corrections, he gained the authority
to bring to fruition his "value-based, results-driven" model of organizational
change. In a chapter of Our Story written
by the Commissioner himself, he describes his vision of "good corrections."
When we decided that we wanted to do good corrections,
it became evident that such a concept meant many things. It meant aligning
ourselves with the best current thinking in correctional research and
practice. It meant abiding by the values entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and related documents which reflect
the attitudes of Canadians with respect to freedom, safety and human dignity.
It meant doing well all the things that we commit ourselves to doing.
In the most narrow sense, it meant doing those things well which have
to do with the professional management of the offender's risk to society.
(Ole Ingstrup, "Deciding to Change," in Our Story
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