By Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Many inmates don’t have health cards, identification and birth certificates when they’re released from prison, according to the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s Annual Report released Feb. 18.
Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada, said five years ago he recommended Correctional Services Canada develop a system to help offenders obtain identification prior to their release.
“I am troubled that this remains a systemic issue today,” he said.
In his report, Zinger said some offenders were facing difficulties trying to get their official identification such as a Canadian birth certificate when they were released.
Zinger recommended that each Regional Headquarters dedicate a resource/contact person to work with respective provincial government counterparts to coordinate the retention and acquisition of official documentation such as health cards, identification and birth certificates for federal offenders before they’re released into the community.
Stan Tu’Inkuafe from STR8 UP, a Saskatoon-based non-profit that works with gang members trying to leave the lifestyle said inmates coming out of prison without proper identification often don’t have money to get identification and this hinders their ability to obtain employment and leave a life of crime.
“Now they want to be a responsible citizen but they need a SIN card first. But before they can get a SIN card they need a birth certificate. If he doesn’t have any money who is paying for it? Even if he might have money for a birth certificate he’s still waiting three to four weeks for the ID.”
Anne Kelly, Commissioner of CSC, welcomed the Annual Report from the Office of the Correctional Investigator on Feb. 18. CSC says it continues to work collaboratively with stakeholders to prepare inmates for their release with proper identification. In 2019 they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indigenous Services Canada to collaborate on successful discharge planning for incarcerated Indigenous individuals. CSC added that parole officers are required to collaborate with inmates to review current identification and document the inmate’s plan to obtain the necessary identification. To facilitate this, a specific Casework Record was created in the Offender Management System for POs to document the actions taken.