Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the study showed that out of 308 lifers given full parole for the first time, only 20 per cent were incarcerated again for committing new offences, none of which involved any loss of life. The failure rate was only 6.5 per cent, less than half the average rate of 15 per cent.
These conclusions do not diminish the seriousness of the crimes of which these individuals were convicted, nor do they question the appropriateness of the severe sentences they were given. However, they do indicate it may not be advisable to earmark what would probably be very considerable sums of money for the construction of maximum security penitentiaries in remote areas, specifically for this group of inmates.
Maximum Security Prison
With respect to the small minority in that group of exceptionally dangerous inmates, the Correctional Service has very appropriate means to control their behaviour. Canada's maximum security institutions are second to none in the world. Using modern technology, the Correctional Service has improved or will soon improve security around the main institutions. In addition, the establishment of special detention units is one more way to isolate and control the more violent inmates in an institution.
Even though it is not urgent at this time to take special security measures concerning lifers and other inmates serving long sentences, the Solicitor General's department remains concerned about their particular needs and the problems they cause.
The question of long jail sentences was the focus of attention in 1976 after the adoption of Criminal code amendments and the introduction of the concept of first- and second-degree murder.
As Hon. Members surely know, first degree murder now results in a mandatory life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
As to second-degree murder, it also calls for a life sentence, but in that case the inmate may be paroled after a minimum of ten years, although the courts can raise that minimum to 25 years.
Mr. Speaker, such lengthy jail sentences have given a new dimension to the correctional system. Before that, an inmate would seldom serve that much time behind bars. It seems that those sentences might have a new impact on both the inmate population and the correctional system.
Some people have been wondering whether long sentences might not make inmates desperate and more dangerous since they would conclude that since they have nothing to lose, they can resort to violence in the institution or even attempt to escape. Fortunately, I can say with confidence that, so far, nothing has given currency to that belief.
On the other hand, some people fear that such harsh sentences, whether they are served by lifers or by inmates with long sentences of limited duration, might have demoralizing consequences on prisoners on the psychological, social and even physical levels. That issue has been under consideration and research is continuing, although the findings so far are equivocal: although they do not dismiss the possibility of demoralizing consequences, they do not confirm that they are inevitable, nor do they predict their exact nature.
We are therefore faced with many important questions which still remain answered about the nature of the problems these inmates will have to face in the prison system. These questions will become increasingly relevant as the number of prisoners, especially lifers, increases as it certainly will. Since it is inevitable that the number of lifers will increase, our
November 29, 1984
Maximum Security Prison
prisons should house at least 2,000 murderers in the first degree by the year 2000.
The Government, and especially the Solicitor General, is considering these issues actively as well as some initiatives which would solve problems before they occur. Special establishments with limited access and high security or simply specialized correctional facilities, are among the options available. We shall continue to examine schemes such as those mentioned in the motion, but for the moment, we are far from being in agreement about the merit of such an approach.
The Department of the Solicitor General has created a departmental committee on lengthy incarceration made up of representatives of the Correctional Service Canada, the National Parole Board, as well as the Research and Corrections Policy Divisions of the Ministry Secretariat. This committee must consider every operational alternative. In addition, it coordinates the extremely varied activities of the Department with a view to studying the problems facing this group of inmates and to take the necessary action to prevent and solve these problems. The committee will publish, in the very near future in fact, its first working paper which for the first time will give out information on this group of inmates and which will be used to develop the necessary guidelines and programs. 1 also wish to draw the attention of Hon. Members to the October 1984 issue of the Canadian Criminology Review. That special issue deals exclusively with present research on longterm imprisonment. It reflects the interest generated by the review the Solicitor General initiated. The articles and studies in that periodical provide useful information on that very important matter and remind us that we have still much to learn.
In the Department of the Solicitor General, research is made on various important points, namely the adjustment of prisoners to long sentences, their behaviour in jail, the problems they face, the difficulties met by institutions which must make proper programs available to lifers and possible housing alternatives within institutions and special facilities.
Mr. Speaker, as a result of those efforts, steps will be taken to continue to protect the public, and the staff and prisoners in Canadian penitentiaries. If special facilities such as those mentioned in the motion or any other kind of institution are felt to be necessary, action will be taken in due time, but that time has not come yet.
I suggest that this interesting proposal put forward by the Hon. Member be considered as an alternative by the government. Considering the research and the high costs involved by such a proposal, it should not be considered offhand as the only alternative available.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS