Can inmates attend funerals outside of prison?
- Kate Mitchell
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Federal inmates may be permitted to attend a funeral outside of prison.
Inmates need to apply for a temporary absence to do so, either an escorted temporary absence (ETA) or an unescorted temporary absence (UTA). On an ETA, inmates are accompanied by Correctional Service Canada staff and/or law enforcement.
Temporary absences can be granted for compassionate reasons, including to attend a funeral.
The funeral must be for a member of the inmate’s immediate family (or, for Aboriginal offenders, extended family) or someone that the inmate has a “close personal relationship” with. It’s up to CSC and, in some cases, the Parole Board of Canada, to decide if a “close personal relationship” exists.
Inmates must submit a temporary absence application to attend a funeral. A temporary absence to attend a funeral won’t be granted if the decision-maker concludes that the risks to society, staff, and/or the inmate are unmanageable. If the risk cannot be managed by two security escorts and restraint equipment, then the temporary absence will be denied. For example, this may be the case if there is a history of the inmate escaping while under escort, if there is reliable information that someone may help the inmate escape, if there is reliable information the inmate may be in danger, or there isn’t a secure facility to hold the inmate (if overnight travel would be required to attend the funeral).
Even if the inmate’s request to attend a funeral is denied, CSC may be able to offer other forms of contact. For example, video-conference may be used to allow an inmate to remotely observe or attend a funeral.
The timing can sometimes make it challenging for an inmate to attend a funeral, as it can take several days or weeks for CSC and, where necessary, the PBC to sign off. Where the timing prevents an inmate from attending a funeral, that inmate may still apply for a temporary absence to visit the grave site or participate in ceremonies related to the inmate’s culture, traditions, or spiritual practices.