B.C. audit says more work needed on community programs to reduce reoffending

More work to ensure reoffending reduced: audit

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s auditor general says most of the recommendations her office made in 2011 to improve supervision of offenders in the community and boost public safety have not been implemented.

Carol Bellringer looked at six of the eight recommendations and said B.C. Community Corrections has taken steps to implement only one of them.

That recommendation called on the division to publicly report its performance in reducing the rate of reoffending.

Bellringer said after releasing a progress report Tuesday that more work is needed to address the audit done five years ago because about 90 per cent of offenders are supervised in the community.

“The focus of community supervision is rehabilitation, and when offenders serve sentences in their own communities they have opportunities to stay connected with their families, remain employed and keep their housing,” she said.

“Serving a sentence in the community has also been shown to reduce the rate of reoffence,” Bellringer said, adding that option also costs less than keeping offenders behind bars.

“In 2011 when we did the original audit the difference was $7 in the community versus $194 a day for someone in jail.”

Bellringer said four of the remaining five recommendations have been partially implemented.

They called on the division to ensure probation officers complete the appropriate training before supervising offenders and thoroughly document how the needs of offenders would be addressed, Bellringer said.

More work also needs to be done to ensure that offenders receive and complete the interventions required in their case management plans, she said.

Corrections didn’t fully implement a recommendation to complete an impact assessment on staff caseload and it failed to take action to understand the effectiveness of contracted service providers and community programs in reducing reoffending, Bellringer said.

She’s concerned that the later two recommendations will not be implemented based on the division’s response that suggests “there is nothing more they can do,” she said in her report.

After the initial audit, Community Corrections followed up with self assessments and reported that it had fully or substantially implemented all six recommendations, Bellringer said.

However, she said the variation between the division’s action plan and the audit is due in part because of different understandings of the self-assessment process.

“The division reported its progress based on all the effort it put into addressing each recommendation, where the audit looked at whether the recommendation had been achieved.”

The NDP’s public safety critic Mike Farnworth said corrections gave an impression that far more was being done to follow the recommendations than was actually the case.

“If they were serious about it they would have made far more progress in the five years, particularly if you’re dealing with an aspect of the corrections system that is designed to make sure people stay on the right path and don’t reoffend.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said in a statement that offender needs and risks have been appropriately assessed and that almost 75 per cent of clients on probation and/or conditional sentences were not convicted of a new offence within two years.

However, the statement did not say what years that included, and Morris was not available for comment.

As of June 2015, organizations that have been audited must submit a detailed action plan that identifies the work they plan to do to meet each of the auditor general’s recommendations, along with a timeline.

Bellringer said progress audits are not done at random, and depend on various factors including the potential impact that recommendations have on the public.

Last year, Community Corrections staff supervised an average of about 21,500 people every day, her report said.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

The Canadian Press

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