location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 1 / Chapter 2 "Good Corrections": Organizational Renewal and the Mission Statement


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. (at 157-58)

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 Document":

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 at 20-22).

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