USJE calls for the establishment of Joint review to examine volume and complexity of Parole work amid COVID pressures and public safety concerns at Joyceville Institution

As a result of repeated concerns arising from federal parole officers based out of Joyceville Institution (near Kingston, ON), USJE convened a special meeting last week between USJE President David Neufeld, CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly, Regional Vice President Bill Bailey, local president Richard Sweetman as well as several federal parole officers working at the federal penitentiary.  

During the meeting, the issues of high caseloads, condensed timelines to evaluate offender progress regarding rehabilitative outcomes, and the proper planning to ensure the successful re-integration of offenders back into the community, were raised by federal parole officers with the Commissioner.  

The unique pressures of a high volume of cases funnelled through the Joycevillle assessment unit, which evaluates offender needs and risk factors as they enter the facility, coupled with persistently high case management realities, reporting requirements and statutory release dates, has created sometimes untenable working conditions for parole officers and concerns about public safety.  

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has sometimes compounded the reality when, periodically, more offenders have been admitted to Joyceville than expected or realistic.   

“We know that CSC is working hard to address some of the structural challenges at Joyceville, but the reality is that we have been hearing about very unique pressures at Joyceville in particular for a number of years.  We are calling on CSC to conduct a joint six-month review with USJE where we meet regularly – and can work together to address how to resource the crucial rehabilitation and risk evaluation undertaken by CSC employees.”

“We recognize the leadership of the CSC Ontario Regional team which has made some short-term adjustments to the number of parole officers. To move forward, however, in an ultimately positive direction, USJE believes that it would be mutually beneficial to jointly address the complexities of identifying and addressing the needs of a variety of offenders, including indigenous offenders for which more time and care is often required,” added President Neufeld.    

Notably, in the context of this review, USJE is requesting the following: 

– a comprehensive review of how workloads are assigned and the nature of those caseloads;  

– the time allocated to review offender needs and requirements at the intake assessment unit;

– the pressures related to preparing for recommendations that are shared at PBC hearings which are sometimes regarded as premature;

– the challenges of preparing offender release plans for reintegration into the community when communities are not always willing to take them; 

– correctional plan updates that do not align with the offender’s capacity to demonstrate rehabilitative outcomes.

“The reality is that working in a federal correctional environment can be chaotic and fast paced, to say the least.  This is high stakes work.  USJE is deeply committed to improving the conditions under which federal parole officers at Joyceville work. We want to collaborate with CSC to create the optimal environment for strong public safety outcomes,” emphasized Neufeld.