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

Just as unit management provides the foundation for the way in which correctional staff are organized, correctional planning for prisoners is founded on the cognitive model of behavioural change. Every prisoner who receives a federal sentence goes through an assessment process. Over the course of several months, information about the prisoner is collected from various sources, including the court's reasons for sentence, police reports and correctional files (in cases where the prisoner has previously been imprisoned or on probation). In addition, the prisoner is interviewed by a team of correctional staff, including case management officers (now institutional parole officers) and prison psychologists. The purpose of this intake assessment is to provide "a complete profile of the offender's criminal and social history, including offence cycles, treatment outcomes and victim impacts; a rating of the static factors related to criminal re-offending; a prioritised listing of dynamic factors relating to reducing the risk of re-offending; a sentence-wide Correctional Plan; and a security classification and initial placement recommendation" ( Offender Intake Assessment and Correctional Planning, Standard Operating Practices [700-04] [Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada, January 29, 2001] [hereafter referred to as the Offender Intake Assessment manual] at 2).

From the perspective of case management the most important document prepared as a result of the intake assessment process is the Correctional Plan. As described by the Service

The objectives of sentence planning are as follows:

  • To employ the most effective intervention technique and supervision approach;
  • To address dynamic factors that contributed to criminal behaviour;
  • To ensure consistency and continuity in case management throughout an offender's sentence; and
  • To establish a base line from which to measure progress.

(Offender Intake Assessment manual at 25)

Earlier formulations of the correctional planning process focussed primarily on "criminogenic factors", but the current emphasis is upon "reintegration potential". Thus,

"A Correctional Plan is designed to address the factors which have been identified as contributing to a safe and timely reintegration. These factors must be prioritized so that interventions can be logical, sequenced and effective and ensure that the offender's progress can be evaluated during the offender's sentence." ( Offender Intake Assessment manual at 25)

The correctional plan typically will identify which of the "menu" of cognitive-based programs are necessary to address the prisoner's criminogenic needs, risk factors, and reintegration potential. (Articles on the cognitive model of correctional intervention and risk/needs assessment can be found in CSC's Forum on Corrections Research ).

It is apparent from even these brief extracts that correctional planning, as presently articulated by the Correctional Service of Canada, is conceived as a rational and logical system, based upon a scientific theory of needs analysis and risk assessment. This is situated within an integrated and interactive staff structure and is overarched by the vision of the Mission Document. Its core values commit the correctional establishment to respect the dignity of individuals, recognize that offenders have the potential to live as law-abiding individuals, acknowledge that human relationships are a cornerstone of the enterprise, and manage the correctional service with openness and integrity. From all of this, it would appear that the Canadian promise of a kinder, gentler, and more just society has indeed been achieved by the end of the twentieth century, and nowhere more so than inside its federal penitentiaries. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find another organization that has proclaimed its commitment to so many ideals and values. Certainly the law school in which I work makes no such commitment to my colleagues and me, our students, or the public.

In the chapters that follow, I will describe cases and events that measure the distance between the rhetoric and the reality, the ideology and the practice, the talk and the walk. The vital importance of stepping inside penitentiaries and proceeding beyond the framed copy of the Mission Statement, of probing deep into the daily operations of the practice of imprisonment and not just clicking through the pages of the Offender Intake Assessment manual, is well captured by David Garland:

If we wish to understand the cultural messages conveyed by punishment we need to study not just the grandiloquent public statements which are occasionally made but also the pragmatic repetitive routines of daily practice, for these routines contain within them distinctive patterns of meaning and symbolic forms which are enacted and expressed every time a particular procedure is adopted, a technical language used, or a specific sanction imposed. Despite the attention given to policy documents, commission reports, and philosophical statements, it is the daily routine of sanctioning and institutional practice which does the most to create a particular framework of meaning (Foucault would say a "regime of truth") in the penal realm, and it is to these practical routines that we should look first of all to discover the values, meanings, and conceptions which are embodied and expressed in penality. (at 255)

Some critics of the modern practice of punishment suggest that official statements professing a new correctional ideology are nothing more than rhetoric and should be treated as such. Andrew Scull, with reference to community corrections, has written, "The ideological proclamations of the proponents of current reforms are about as reliable a guide to the antecedents, characteristics and significance of what is happening in the real world as the collected works of the Brothers Grimm" (Andrew Scull, "Community Corrections: Panacea, Progress or Pretence?" in R. Abel, ed., The Politics of Informal Justice: Vol. 1. The American Experience [New York: Academic Press, 1982] at 100).

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