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Saskatchewan Penitentiary, Prince Albert.
Regina Leader-Post

“Corrections” is a generic term now used for what is sometimes termed the third segment of the criminal justice system - the first two being courts and police. Its meaning is quite broad and encompasses probation and parole services, prisons, and community-based services that can be provided to achieve preventive, ameliorative or integrative goals. Prior to 1870 only prison services were provided, and these were located either in England or, later, in the eastern parts of British North America. After 1870, North-West Mounted Police guardhouses served as detention centres and also as prisons for offenders serving sentences of less than two years. Guardhouses existed at police barracks in locations such as Maple Creek, Battleford, Prince Albert, Yorkton and Regina; and for most of the territorial period (1870-1905) they were the region's only prison facilities. Territorial jails were eventually built in Regina and Prince Albert, and many, though not all, of the prisoners held by the Mounted Police were transferred to them. Persons sentenced to two years or more, however, were commonly sent to Stony Mountain Penitentiary, a federal facility located in Manitoba. This was because at the time of Confederation in 1867, it had been decided that although provinces would be responsible for maintaining prisons for persons sentenced to less than two years, the national government would take responsibility for persons sentenced to two years or more. In 1905 Saskatchewan assumed full responsibility for those prisons located within the new provincial boundaries.

The objective of penal policy until 1946 was custody and punishment. Punishment was assumed to reform offenders and prevent their re-offending. From 1946 to 1966 the orientation, based on the Penal Reform Commission's recommendations, shifted to treatment and then in 1966 to rehabilitation. Rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders into society continued to be the orientation until 1982, and Saskatchewan was at the leading edge of prison and correctional reform and development from 1946 to 1982. From 1982 to 1992 there was a return to a modified custody and punishment orientation. This was largely the result of an influential book by Dr. Martinson (an American criminologist), who suggested that the new initiatives did not work to reduce recidivism. His views appealed to the province's Conservative government, and as a result there was a significant increase in the custody and safety orientation of provincial correction. But although there was retrenchment, the vision for community-centred approaches to corrections and reintegration of the offender was not entirely lost, and the construction in corrections facilities and programs reflected this orientation. In 1992 the decision was taken to once again emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration, although Saskatchewan is no longer considered to be in the forefront of correctional development.

The current mission of Adult Corrections is to promote safe communities by providing a range of controls and reintegration opportunities for offenders. The vision is to respect offenders as individuals, support them in victim/community reparations, and advocate community participation in corrections programs. The guiding principles include the use of the least restrictive controls because offenders retain all rights as members of society except those removed or restricted by law, and the duty to act fairly and have victims consulted in planning regarding offenders.

Federal penal policy also went through a process of reform after 1950, and a Federal Mission Statement identified five core values: the dignity of individuals, the rights of all members of society, and the potential for human growth and development; the offender has the potential to live as a law-abiding citizen; staff and human relationships are the cornerstone of the Mission's endeavour; ideas, knowledge, values and experience must be shared nationally and internationally to achieve the Mission; and Federal Corrections must be managed with openness, integrity and accountability.

Guiding principles and objectives have flowed from this, and include placing a strong emphasis on the reintegration of offenders into the community, ensuring the safety of the community, and providing a milieu in which offenders have the highest possibility of personal development.

There are four provincial correctional centres: three for men, located in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina; the centre for women is Pine Grove, in Prince Albert. In addition, there are two community correctional centres, the Battlefords Community Correctional Centre and the Buffalo Narrows Centre, and two correctional camps, at Besnard Lake and Saskatoon.

In 1885, plans were announced for construction of the “Regina Jail and Lunatic Asylum.” It was built on the shores of Wascana Lake and contained twenty-eight cells for male inmates, a ward for female prisoners, and a ward each for male and female “insane.” The building, however, stood empty for several years owing to poor construction, and did not admit prisoners until 1891. In 1905, Regina Jail was transferred from federal jurisdiction to the province, and served to house prisoners sentenced to less than two years. In 1906, legislation empowered the Department of Public Works to maintain the buildings and the provincial Attorney General to provide operational supervision. It appears that the Attorney General did not provide input, and in 1915 full responsibility for jails was given to Public Works.

In 1915 a new Regina jail opened, with accommodation for 150 prisoners; it was built northeast of Regina (its present site). The quality of construction was vastly superior to the previous building, and it included a 640-acre farm, since farming was a major activity for inmates and was seen as an important element in reforming prisoners. The 1946 Penal Commission recommendations had a major impact on the Regina Jail, as it did for the other institutions. It became known as the Regina Correctional Institution (later renamed Centre), with treatment and reeducation as its major objective. The transition was slow, but in the 1950s vocational training shops were built and a treatment staff unit added. Treatment staff consisted of social workers and a psychologist. A work camp was created at Kenosee as an initiative to assist in the movement of offenders back into the community. Leg irons, organ boots (iron boots used for prisoners who were likely to escape), the paddle, and other such items of corporal punishment were not allowed to be used after the Penal Commission recommendations were accepted. Guards had been armed, and this policy was also changed after the Commission recommendations. Stronger initiatives to move into a community corrections model were taken in 1967. A new Corrections Act made it possible for the development of community-based half-way houses, expansion of probation services, and involvement of volunteers in rehabilitation. New units were built at the Centre that were self-contained with a central living area. The objective was to develop within each unit a sense of community that would enhance the socialization of offender and assist in reintegration.

The change of government in 1982 was accompanied by a strong shift to more punitive and restrictive policies in human services, and this had a major impact on correctional centres. Resources for rehabilitation were more restricted, and focus shifted to greater emphasis on custody and security, even though the rehabilitation model was not withdrawn. Additional security fences were constructed, and the use of razor wire increased significantly. At the same time, vocational training facilities were cut back, as was programming for inmates. The shift to a less conservative orientation in the 1990s had only a slight effect on the policy focus, which continued to be more on security than on rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender.

The facility is located three miles northeast of Regina. The original design provided for the typical bank of cellblocks, and these continue in use for offenders on remand and new admissions. Administrative offices are still located in the old section of the Centre. Presently there are three cottage-like structures that are the most modern units in the Centre, and this is where the majority of sentenced inmates are housed; inside, individual cells encircle a common room where there is a pool table and several other leisure time facilities. The Centre offers programs and services such as courses on anger management, AA meetings, and addictions counseling. An Elder is available for Aboriginal inmates who desire Native spiritual services; and a chaplain is on contract to conduct services, Bible study, and personal counseling. Recreational and social programming is limited. At present (2004), over half the population of the Centre is of Aboriginal origin.

Prince Albert Jail was the second territorial jail that was built in what is now Saskatchewan. It was constructed in 1886, but was not open for reception of prisoners until 1898. The building served as both a jail and courthouse, and consisted of twenty cells. A new provincial jail was constructed in Prince Albert in 1921, on its present site, and included a farm of 272 acres. There was both a female and male section in the prison. Gallows and death row were part of the original prison construction; executions occurred in the provincial prisons since this was seen as a sentence of less than two years. With the shift to a treatment model after the Penal Commission, the government determined that they would not be obligated to carry out the death sentence in a provincial facility, and informed the federal government that they would not carry out such orders in a provincial prison. The gallows was finally dismantled in 1962.

From 1930 to 1941, women were moved from the Prince Albert jail to a renovated high school in Battleford because there had been an influx of women prisoners due to the Doukhobor troubles, and more space was needed than the Prince Albert jail could provide. Women were moved back to the Prince Albert jail in 1941, however, and a women's unit continued there until a new facility for women was built in 1967. In 1970, much of the farmland was sold to the city for city expansion. In 1981, a new prison was opened, based on the modern philosophy of cottages rather than cell blocks to house prisoners, and the old 1921 building was demolished. Programs and services are similar to those available at the Regina Centre; however, the potential for positive rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into the community - to which the building design lends itself - has not been entirely utilized.

A provincial jail was built in Moosomin in 1908 for male offenders only. It also had a farm attached. It was unique in that it had an orchard where apples and plums were grown. It was closed during the period of reform ushered in by the province's CCF government.

The Saskatoon Correctional Centre has the shortest history in that it was established in 1981. Similar to the Prince Albert Centre, it was built on the latest ideas of good correctional policy. Again, programs that are available are similar to those in the other two Centres, and do not maximize the potential. Political orientation in the 1980s in Saskatchewan was reflected in Corrections policy by shifting emphasis towards custody and safety; inertia has meant that reorientation towards a greater focus on reintegration has been slow.

The development of Community Training Residences and other “halfway house” resources was first initiated in the late 1960s. At present there are three such residences operated by the Saskatchewan Government, and other community-based residences have been established.

Correctional Services Canada has developed a system of maximum-, medium- and minimum-security institutions across Canada. It has also developed Community Correctional Centres from which it is easier for offenders to reintegrate into society in a positive way. In Saskatchewan the federal government has one medium-security institution (Saskatchewan Penitentiary, in Prince Albert, which was a maximum-security institution at one time), a minimum-security facility (the Farm Annex, also at Prince Albert), and a Community Correctional Centre (Oscana Centre in Regina). The regional headquarters of the Correction Service of Canada is located in Saskatoon, as is the Regional Psychiatric Centre operated by the Correction Service of Canada. This Centre is a fully accredited psychiatric facility; it is used for sentenced offenders from the prairie region who have mental disorders. In addition, there are parole offices in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.

“Stony” is the federal penitentiary located northwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba. During the nineteenth century it housed prisoners from the North-West Territories (which included Saskatchewan at the time) who had been sentenced to two years or more. Stony Mountain Penitentiary continued to be used for more serious offenders from the North West Territories and, after 1905, from Saskatchewan. After 1911, when the Saskatchewan Penitentiary was built in Prince Albert, more serious offenders from the province were sent to that facility.

The Saskatchewan Penitentiary, with a high surrounding wall and gun turrets at each corner, immediately became a major landmark at the western edge of Prince Albert. After its completion Saskatchewan persons sentenced to two years or more were no longer sent to Stony Mountain in Manitoba, but served their sentence here. The institution has served both maximum- and medium-risk offenders, and is presently rated with a capacity of 64 for maximum- and 499 for medium-security inmates. Early on the prison developed a farm to produce grain, beef, and dairy products, and the farm was used as a work and skill development place for inmates. Workshops for trades training were also built, and a variety of educational programs have been developed. When classification of prisoners became formal, the part of the institution which housed female prisoners was split from the main institution and became a separate entity, called Riverbend Institution.

Riverbend Institution is a minimum-security institution which allows for more flexibility and freedom of movement of inmates. It became a separate institution in 1962 and has a capacity of 126. It produces good quality agricultural products that provide dairy and beef for correctional institutions in the prairie region.

The Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon is a federal penitentiary and also a licensed psychiatric facility. It is part of the Correctional Service of Canada system, and provides a secure facility for prisoners who have psychiatric disorders or who need psychiatric assessment. It provides services for the Federal Prairie Region, and also has agreements signed with the three prairie provinces so that prisoners from any of them can obtain services from the Centre. It serves both men and women.

The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge (near Maple Creek) is a federal institution and was designed as a special facility for female Aboriginal offenders. An Aboriginal healing approach is used to assist the women to move back into the community. It was built in 1995 at a rated capacity of 28.

Nipisikopawiyiniwak Nanapawihokamik Healing Lodge, a healing lodge similar to Okimaw Ohci, was built for men on Beardy's First Nation at Duck Lake. It became operational in 2003.

Oscana Centre in Regina was opened in 1972. It is a community residence operated by the Correctional Service of Canada for offenders who are in the process of moving back into the community. Many inmates have day parole, and thus can go into the community to find employment. They can also attend educational programs in the community. Oscana is the last institutional phase of an offender's process of reintegration into the community and full parole. It is located on the edge of downtown Regina, close to most community services. There is a very active program of reintegration for each inmate, facilitated by a close working relationship between Oscana staff and parole service staff.

Prior to the introduction of probation services, when the offence was minor or when the judge deemed the offender did not need imprisonment the sentence would be suspended, although a number of conditions might be imposed; and if after a specified time the offender had not re-offended, the case would be closed. However, consistent with current corrections policy, Saskatchewan now has a probation service, and 80% of convicted offenders are sentenced to probation or to a range of community services. Probation services were initiated in Saskatchewan as a result of the Penal Commission recommendations. In the early 1950s the service began with one probation officer in Saskatoon, and one in Regina. Presently probation is available in the whole province. Other community-based sentences such as electronic monitoring and community service have also been developed

Parole services are provided by the federal government through the Correctional Service of Canada. Persons serving sentences are eligible to apply for parole after having served one-third of their sentence. If parole is granted - there is no guarantee that it will be - offenders are placed under the supervision of a parole officer, to whom they must report and be accountable for their actions. If offenders do not abide by the conditions of parole, it can be revoked and offenders sent back to prison. Almost one-half of offenders presently serving a sentence of two years or more are under parole supervision.

Community-based correctional services have proliferated since 1975. There are several important factors that promoted these developments. One is the momentum Restorative Justice has been gaining in society (see restorative justice and Aboriginal justice). Another is the study of victimology, which became a sub-discipline of criminology in the 1970s. A third element is the increased initiatives, particularly by Christian faith groups, in developing services based on their faith mandate; this was enhanced by the revitalization of chaplaincy services in the Correctional Service of Canada that provided leadership in developing community-based correctional services. The concept of rehabilitation, and particularly integration of offenders back into the community, has contributed immensely to community corrections initiatives.

Two organizations that have worked for decades with offenders in the community are the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society. These non-profit agencies have worked tirelessly with offenders released from prison, and also play an important advocacy role in calling on public institutions and governments to address corrections issues in society.

The Salvation Army has also played a historic role both in prisons and in the community by responding to the needs of offenders and ex-offenders. This service has taken many forms: providing lodging, clothing, food and other services on an emergency basis; operating facilities and services such as halfway houses; advocating for improved services; and providing spiritual services.

Other non-governmental organizations and church denominations provide volunteer services both in the institutions and in the community. Such services include personal visitation of long-term offenders who have no personal community or family contact, supporting chaplaincy service in and outside institutions, and providing support groups for ex-offenders. Examples of this include: the Person to Person Program, which was developed and maintained to provide visits by a person or a couple to long-term offenders at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, and is of great help in eventually reintegrating prisoners into society; community chaplaincy services in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, which provide services for persons returning to those centres and also provide an ongoing location for socialization and contact; “Friends on the Outside,” which provides a support base and friendship in Regina for persons coming from a prison; friendship centres, which provide an important support service for Aboriginal persons; and residences such as Waterton House, in Regina, which is maintained by the Salvation Army.

Circles of Support and Accountability are being developed for high-risk offenders who have served their sentences and are returning to the community. These circles were initiated in Ontario in the early 1990s, and have been developed in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina since 1998. By 2004, twelve circles had been established in these centres, many of which are still functioning. A high-risk person returning to the community from prison can request that a circle be formed for him or her in the community. The principles on which Circles of Support and Accountability are based are quite straightforward. At the outset, an agreement or covenant is signed by the core member (the person returning from prison) and the group of persons in the circle. It outlines the expectations and responsibilities of the core member and the other members. There are generally four to seven persons in one Circle, and Circles have been found to have a profound effect on successful reintegration into the community. The reason for this success is not difficult to find: everyone in society has a circle of family, friends and workmates - often augmented by church, club or society associations - so it is only logical that a person returning from prison, who either has no support base or a very negative base, needs a group of people who will be supportive and assist in accountability.

Otto H. Driedger

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