A Flawed Compass: A Human Rights Analysis of the Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety

Faculty Author Type

Emeritus Faculty [Michael Jackson]

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date



Canada; Corrections


On April 20th, 2007, Canada's Minister of Public Safety announced the appointment of a Panel charged with the task of reviewing the operations of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). . The mandate of the Review Panel was to provide the Minister of Public Safety with advice on a broad range of complex topics that have been problematic for CSC over many years. The Review Panel presented its final report on October 31, 2007. The report entitled “A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, contains 109 recommendations organized around strengthening five key areas: 1) Offender Accountability; 2) Eliminating Drugs from Prison; 3) Employability / Employment; 4. Physical Infrastructure; and 5. Eliminating Statutory Release; Moving to Earned Parole. The Government officially responded to the Report in Budget 2008, investing $478.8 million over five years to initiate the implementation of a new vision and set the foundation to strengthen the federal correctional system and enable CSC to respond comprehensively to the Panel’s recommendations. Our purpose in writing this report is to subject the Roadmap’s recommendations and CSC's transformation agenda to the kind of scrutiny that such far-reaching changes in the Canadian federal correctional system demands and the Canadian public deserves. Our report is intended to present a counterpoint to the Roadmap, one marked by a review of correctional and legal history, a consideration of the relevant reports of royal commissions, task forces and academic research and an analysis of the human rights standards and jurisprudence applicable to correc-tions, all of which is entirely absent from the Roadmap. On the basis of what we consider a stronger historical and legal foundation, one anchored in an unwavering commitment to human rights in prison, we will discuss the merits, limitations and the true costs for both public safety and human dignity of implementation of the Panel’s recommendations for correctional pro-grams and services. We will show that the Panel's analysis reveals such fundamental misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the Canadian correctional context that both its observations and recommendations are indelibly flawed. The authors, Michael Jackson and Graham Stewart, consider the following issues in their critique of the Review Panel's Roadmap: a) Faulty Premises; Human Rights and Corrections; the Panel’s proposed Amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA); the Nature of Prisoners’ Rights; Conditions of Confinement; Segregation' Gangs; Drugs in Prison; Earned Parole; Employment and Employability; Education; Aboriginal Offenders; Physical Infrastructure and Regional Complexes; and finally, Rhetoric and Reality. The authors conclude the Roadmap was a dangerous exercise in creating major “transformative” policy virtually overnight by a largely unqualified group under a heavy cloud of political expediency. Surely these factors alone warrant that the report be set aside as a failed experiment in public policy. That it was accepted in its entirety without any apparent internal critical review or public consultation as the future for CSC is alarming. The Roadmap seeks to move the Correctional Service of Canada away from an unequivocal commitment to respect and protect the human rights of prisoners as the centerpiece of its operations. It is a flawed moral and legal compass. It points in the wrong direction; a direction that, tragically and inevitably, will bring yet more chapters in an already overburdened history of abuse and mismanagement of correctional authority through disregard of human dignity.