How often are federal prisoners’ security classifications reviewed?
- Kate Mitchell
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Each federal prisoner receives a security classification at intake, which is determined in the months after sentencing while the prisoner is in the assessment phase. A prisoner is rated as either minimum, medium, or maximum security. Once a prisoner has been assessed and placed in their home institution, this security classification can eventually be reassessed.
A Security Classification Review must be completed at least once every two years for prisoners in medium and maximum security. CSC uses the Security Reclassification Scale and Security Reclassification Scale for Women. Some prisoners may be reassessed only a few months after their last review, and others may have to wait the full two years.
For Aboriginal prisoners in medium or maximum security, a Security Classification Review is to be done within 30 days of the prisoner completing a main program. If an Aboriginal prisoner is participating in Pre-Pathways Interventions or Pathways, then a review is required at least every 6 months and within 30 days of the Pathways Progress Review Meeting. The only exceptions to these requirements are for prisoners serving life sentences for murder or a terrorism-offence, who are currently classified as maximum security and have not had their first Security Classification Review (unless supported by the Case Management Team).
However, if a prisoner has a confirmed release date within 90 days (on statutory release, warrant expiry, etc.), then no Security Classification Review is required.
A prisoner’s security classification must be reviewed prior to making a recommendation for any decision, including transfers, parole, temporary absences, etc. The results of the Security Classification Review are factored into the final decision, but they are not determinative. For example, a prisoner may be rated as minimum security on the Security Reclassification Scale, but nevertheless be classified as medium security. This is because security classifications are based on prisoners’ institutional adjustment, escape risk, and public safety scores. There are certain criteria that staff will consider when rating each metric, but the assessment is generally very subjective.
That said, a security classification can be reassessed at any time if there is a security issue or other reason that might require raising a prisoner’s security classification. In some cases, the prisoner will be involuntarily transferred on an emergency basis before the final decision is made on their security classification. In other cases, a prisoner may remain at their home institution and only be transferred if the Warden authorizes the involuntary transfer. In either case, the prisoner has the right to rebut their transfer and make submissions.
Security classification decisions depend on each prisoner’s unique circumstances. Some prisoners may cascade more quickly than others. It is not uncommon for prisoners to spend many years at the same security level, unable to gain support for a transfer to a lower security setting. A prisoner may be required to complete a program, remain charge-free for a certain period, or participate in certain interventions before they can gain support for a transfer to a lower security setting.
Prisoners have access to the grievance system to challenge security classification decisions (including involuntary transfers and refusals to transfer). They can also speak to a lawyer about whether they may have other options like filing a application.