The administration of correctional services is described by Calverley (2010):
Adult offenders sentenced to custody terms of two years or more fall under the federal penitentiary system. Federal correctional services are provided by the Correctional Service Canada (CSC), an agency of Public Safety Canada. CSC is responsible for the administration of sentences and the supervision of offenders. The National Parole Board (NPB), which is also an agency of Public Safety Canada, makes decisions to grant, deny, cancel, terminate or revoke different forms of conditional release, such as parole. The NPB operates at the federal level and in the provinces and territories that do not have their own parole board (i.e., all jurisdictions except Ontario and Quebec).
Custody sentences of less than two years, remand (also known as custody before or during trial or sentencing) and community-based sanctions (such as probation and conditional sentences) are all the responsibility of the provinces and territories.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is the legislation governing federal corrections and the conditional release and detention of offenders; the accompanyingCorrections and Conditional Release Regulations determines the policies by which this legislation is implemented. Each province has its own series of statutes that provides regulations for adult correctional services.
While there are no definitive statistics regarding the number of FASD-affected individuals in each of these correctional systems, a study by Dr. Ann Streissguth (2004) found that as many as 60% of individuals living with FASD come into contact with the law and 35% experience incarceration. Understanding how some of the primary and secondary characteristics associated with FASD impact involvement with correctional services, both in the shorter-term with custodial remand and provincial corrections as well as with lengthier federal sentences, is crucial to identifying ways of supporting individuals living with FASD and their families and communities.
- A lack of impulse control and difficulty predicting the consequences of one’s actions may impair the FASD-affected individual’s sense of judgement, contributing to poor decision-making and involvement with the criminal justice system. This pattern may persist over time as the individual with FASD often has difficulty learning from past experiences, repeating the same mistake over and over again despite more severe penalties and longer periods of incarceration.
- Individuals with FASD may be vulnerable to peer pressure and engage in criminal behaviour to become “part of the group” or because they have been dared or threatened to do something. In an institutional setting, individuals with FASD may be sexually and physically abused and manipulated by other inmates. The negative impact of this victimization is compounded by dysmaturity, where the individual functions developmentally at a much younger level than his or her chronological age.
- The explosive emotional outbursts associated with FASD may be destructive and lead to criminal charges or reincarceration. An individual affected by FASD may also experience a “flight or fight” reaction when threatened or frightened, leading to risky confrontations or running off, both of which may result in additional charges.
- Persons with FASD may in fact break the law or the conditions of a sentence without really intending to do so. FASD is often associated with an inability to generalize information and difficulty in linking information from different settings, resulting in difficulty applying a learned rule in a new situation.
- Correctional interventions are important elements in an offender’s reintegration to his or her community; however FASD interferes with the success of these cognitively-based programs. Individuals affected by FASD often have difficulty setting goals and complying with therapeutic group rules and expectations. The slower cognitive pace that can be so frustrating to many FASD-affected individuals in school situations may also impair correctional program participation. Finally, individuals with FASD may truly not understand the impact that their behaviour may have on others, blocking any sense of responsibility or even remorse for one’s behaviour.
- Community correctional supervision such as parole or probation may also be impeded by the characteristics of FASD. Concerns with memory (missing appointments; forgetting to report activities), language and communication (confabulation or filling in the blanks; agreeing without understanding), and adaptability (poor coping skills; negative reactions to changes).
- Substance abuse, a secondary behaviour highly correlated with FASD, contributes to on-going associations with negative peer groups and impaired judgement, often creating a “revolving door” with the criminal justice system.
- In the same study by Streissguth (2004), it was discovered that more than 90% of individuals with FASD have co-existing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Suicide is of particular concern for individuals with FASD and is aggravated by some of the above-noted disabilities such as impulsivity, difficulty understanding consequences, experience of abuse, challenges in expressing oneself, etc. The stress of incarceration and conversely, anxiety associated with community release may contribute to an increased risk of suicidal ideation.
For further information regarding the primary and secondary disabilities associated with FASD, please consult the “Behaviour” tab on this web-site.