Department of Justice     


4. Correctional Services

(a) The Framework Requirements for Correctional Services

The Framework for Action states the following with regard to Corrections:(1)

  • Corrections officers shall ensure that victims are informed about the terms of probation orders and conditional release and that they know how to contact corrections staff in the event of a breach of the order;
  • Pre-sentence reports will include results of victim interviews, wherever possible;
  • Probation officers will identify for the court the availability of intervention programs for perpetrators of family violence;...
  • Victims shall be contacted when the conditional release of an inmate from custody is being contemplated (or when an inmate is unlawfully at large);
  • Probation order conditions shall be carefully monitored and all violations reported immediately to the Crown; and
  • Police shall be informed in advance of any release of an inmate who is known to be a perpetrator of family violence.

(b) The 1999 Evaluation Report

The 1999 Evaluation Report cites some instances of inconsistent application of the Framework: for instance, in some parts of Nova Scotia, safety plans were discussed with victims during preparation of the pre-sentence report; in other areas, this was seen as a task for Victims' Services. Most probation officers, on becoming aware that a probation order had been breached, informed the police and Crown; however, notification of Victims' Services was less consistent. Probation officers suggested that all domestic violence files should be flagged so that Corrections Services could apply Framework policies.

A number of those who spoke to the Committee preparing the 1999 Evaluation Report raised "serious concerns about the use of conditional sentences for spousal/partner violence offenders."(2)

These concerns appear to have reflected both a suggestion that incarceration should be used more frequently for such offences(3) and a recognition that there is insufficient community supervision of probation orders:

Probation staff were of the view that current procedures were probably not effective to monitor the offender's behaviour in the community. Community corrections staff are carrying very high caseloads and close monitoring of offenders is not possible.... [However,] [p]robation officers in smaller communities were generally satisfied with monitoring of the offender in the community as this is done by police.(4)

Problems noted in the 1999 Evaluation Report with regard to offenders serving custodial sentences included: staff of correctional institutions were rarely notified of the fact that an offender had committed an offence involving intimate partner violence or of the existence of "no-contact" orders; not all institutions were able to monitor offender/ victim contact; smaller institutions did not provide any spousal assault treatment programs; and there were inconsistencies in practice regarding contact of victims where an offender was being considered for a temporary absence program, and regarding parole release.

(c) 2001 Review

During the present review, focus group participants did not provide a great deal of commentary on Corrections Services; however, what discussion there was reiterated two of the themes from the 1999 Evaluation Report. Victims in particular pointed out that some perpetrators are not likely to pay much attention to probation orders, particularly if the consequence of a breach of probation is simply another probation order. We also heard a number of times, from probation officers and others, that Corrections staff simply do not have enough resources to monitor probation orders effectively. Comments from representatives of community organizations included: "Corrections staff are overworked and cannot adequately supervise breaches of probation" and "Corrections are not always adequately supervising and responding to breaches of probation conditions. It seems as though some offenders are given repeated chances to breach their conditions until they are finally charged."

(d) Conclusions and Recommendations Regarding Correctional Services

Given that probation is frequently used as a sentence for crimes involving intimate partner violence, it seems particularly important that probation orders be structured, monitored and enforced so as to provide as much protection as possible for victims, and as much deterrence as possible for perpetrators. The question of whether probation should be used in a particular case, and what conditions should be attached, and the question of the appropriate sentence to be imposed for breaches of probation relate to issues raised above in the discussion of courts. However, issues of supervision and victim notification fall within the purview of Corrections Services.

Focus group discussion of Corrections Services centred on the lack of adequate monitoring due to excessive caseloads for probation officers and, to some extent, inconsistencies in the application of the Framework. This discussion would seem to highlight issues of resources and training.

It is recommended, therefore, that Corrections Services receive adequate funding so as to reduce caseloads to the point that probation officers can realistically be expected to implement the Framework requirements of supervision and notification.
Implementation would include liaison with victims in terms of preparation of pre-sentence reports and discussion of safety plans; informing victims of the terms of probation orders or the date of release where a perpetrator has received a custodial sentence; close monitoring of perpetrator compliance with conditions attached to probation orders; and immediate notification of Crowns and Victims' Services when violations occur.
It is further recommended that Corrections Services staff receive training on the effective and consistent application of the Framework. Finally, it is recommended that procedures be put in place to flag all files involving intimate partner violence, so that Corrections Services can apply Framework policies.

1. Supra note 10 at 5.

2. Supra note 14 at 35.

3. Supra at 85.

4. Supra note 14 at 33-34.


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