Here is a letter in opposition to Bill C-39: An Act to Amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. If passed, this bill could lead to serious human rights violations for prisoners, as well as making it much more difficult for people to be released on parole. This letter was written by Sandra Chu (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network) and Joan Ruzsa (Rittenhouse). Please use it as a template and send it to your MP, encouraging them to vote against this bill!
If you’re not sure who your MP is you can find out here:
Dear Honourable MP X,
I am writing to express my concerns about Bill C-39: An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which has been framed by the government as increasing “offender” accountability by tightening the rules around parole eligibility and statutory release, and increasing public safety by giving more power to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and more discretion to the police to arrest parolees who may be in breach of their conditions.
In reality, the changes proposed by this Bill could result in gross human rights violations for prisoners as a result of unprecedented discretion conferred to CSC (which was previously granted only to the judiciary), new institutional charges carrying harsher penalties and an increase of power for correctional staff coupled with a decrease in accountability and transparency.
In particular, the Bill removes language concerning rehabilitation and reintegration from the purpose of federal corrections in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, focusing solely on the “protection of society” as the “paramount consideration for the Service in the corrections process.” As things currently stand, there is very little effective programming or rehabilitation available to federally-incarcerated prisoners, especially those serving long sentences. If language related to rehabilitation or reintegration is removed from the Act, prisoners are even less likely to access crucial rehabilitative programming.
Moreover, the Bill amends language regarding the “least restrictive measures” in the correctional service’s treatment of prisoners to measures that are “consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders and that are limited to what is necessary and proportionate to the objective for which they are imposed.” This amendment could have disturbing consequences for how prisoners are treated because the language is so vague as to give correctional staff significant discretion with few checks on their authority.
Study after study has indicated that prisoners, particularly those who have served long sentences, have a much better chance of successfully reintegrating into the community if they are given a gradual release. Yet this Bill will make it significantly more difficult for prisoners to be released on parole by eliminating accelerated parole reviews, incarcerating more people past their statutory release dates, and increasing the waiting period for a subsequent parole review from six months to one year for someone who has been denied parole. By incarcerating more people until their warrant expiry date and thus releasing them to the street with no period of transition, this bill will increase the likelihood of people re-offending and being re-incarcerated.
This government keeps insisting that it needs to build more prisons, despite the fact that the crime rate in Canada has been dropping steadily since 1994. With this Bill and others like it, the government is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: there will be a need for more prisons, not because there are more “dangerous criminals” for society to be protected from, but because we won’t be letting anyone out.
As a Canadian who believes in human rights and second chances, I do not feel that Bill C-39 makes me or my community any safer, and I urge you not to support it in the House of Commons.