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What programs are available for federal prisoners?

Prisoners in federal prisons may be able to take both core and voluntary programs.

Core programs are those implemented by Correctional Service Canada (“CSC”) that the prisoner’s Parole Officer recommends the prisoner to take. These programs are meant to help prisoners address their risk factors to reduce their risk of reoffending. Not all prisoners are recommended to take a core program.

CSC uses the Integrated Correctional Program Model (ICPM) for male prisoners, who may be referred to the multi-target stream, sex offender stream, or Aboriginal multi-target stream. Within each of these three streams, there is a high intensity and moderate intensity program.

Generally, male prisoners must first participate in a primer program before starting their core program. The primer is a shorter program that prepares prisoners for the longer core programs, which can take several months to complete. After a prisoner completes their core program, they can also be recommended to take maintenance programs (in prison and/or in the community).

Women prisoners may be referred to the Women’s Engagement Program (a low-intensity introductory program) and either the Women Offender Moderate Intensity Program, Women Offender High Intensity Program, or Women’s Sex Offender Program. They may also be referred for the Women Offender Self-Management Program and/or Women’s Modular Intervention.

A range of programs exist specifically for Indigenous men and women, as well as Inuit men.

Not every program is available at every institution, so prisoners may be moved to specific prisons to access recommended programs.

Completion of a program is not a requirement to get parole, but progress in programming (or the lack thereof) is a factor considered by the Parole Board of Canada. A prisoner who has failed to complete a recommended core program may be denied parole if the prisoner’s risk to the community is deemed unmanageable.

A variety of other voluntary programs and opportunities may also be available (for example Alcoholics Anonymous and religious studies). These can be very useful for prisoners, but they are not a substitute for the core programs recommended and run by CSC.

Due to COVID-19, certain core programs may have very long waitlists, and many voluntary programs are still suspended. This can present a challenge for prisoners trying to gain support for parole, especially if the prisoner does not expect to be done their program until close to their statutory release date. Contact us if you need assistance with parole.

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