Privatization of Canada’s part-time prison chaplains hurting inmates of minority faiths: Report

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Some inmates are struggling to practise their faith behind bars as a consequence of a choice to denationalise the part-time chaplains who principally serve prisoners who belong to minority faiths, says a scathing new report.

It’s a state of affairs one researcher says is “compromising a fundamental freedom that should be afforded to all people in Canada.”

The report, revealed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims in partnership with an Edmonton-based researcher, appears to be like at how religious providers delivered in prison to folks of minority faiths has modified since 2013, when the federal authorities laid off all of its 49 part-time chaplains and outsourced their contracts to a single firm.

At that point, it was reported that the change would save about $1.3 million yearly of the entire $6.4-million chaplaincy finances.

Previously, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) would supply part-time contracts to religion communities on a regional foundation, who would then rent, practice and oversee the work of their native chaplain.

Of the 71 remaining chaplains who remained on CSC’s payroll, solely two have been non-Christian, based on the report.

Adar Abdulkadir, analysis lead on the Islamic Family and Social Services Association and a justice teacher at NorQuest College, says she wished to analysis how providers have modified as a result of of studies that human rights complaints have drastically elevated beneath the non-public mannequin.

“What I did not know was that in an ostensible effort to save costs, it appeared we were compromising a fundamental freedom that should be afforded to all people in Canada, and that this compromise goes largely unnoticed by the public and the harms are largely felt by our most marginalized,” she writes within the report.

The CSC’s web site notes that prisoners are entitled to non secular lodging beneath the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act. According to a 2019-20 Public Safety Canada report, about 45 per cent of inmates recognized as Christian. The three subsequent largest teams have been “unknown” (16 per cent), no non secular affiliation at (15.3 per cent) and Muslim (7.5 per cent).

As half of her analysis, Abdulkadir interviewed 10 minority-faith chaplains from 4 completely different non secular traditions who labored beneath each private and non-private fashions. The complaints are comparable throughout the board — they stated the modifications have created a inflexible, restrictive system the place they’re not in a position to ship their religious providers successfully or in any respect.

One of the brand new guidelines is that prisons have to have a sure quantity of folks, usually three or extra, of the identical non secular group to ensure that a chaplain of that particular religion to go to the prison. In smaller or much less numerous communities that don’t meet this threshold, they’re provided to fulfill the institutional chaplain.

“An unintentional effect of that was a lot of the people I spoke with said ‘Oh, I haven’t been to a women’s prison in like two years,’ ” Abdulkadir stated.

The part-time chaplains should clock out and in and are solely compensated for time bodily spent within the prisons. Under the brand new mannequin, they don’t seem to be paid for any work or journey they do in the neighborhood to collect non secular supplies, similar to holy books or scripture that aren’t obtainable inside CSC’s establishments, the report says.

The result’s that it’s seemingly inmates belonging to minority faiths have diminished entry to non secular supplies which might be important to the apply of their religion, Abdulkadir stated.

Chaplains’ most important responsibility is to supply religious steering and counselling, however in addition they advocate for non secular lodging so the inmates can abide by their religion.

For instance, a Muslim inmate would want the power to inform the time of day as a result of they’re required to hope each day at 5 particular occasions. It’s not unusual in prisons for the incarcerated to haven’t any entry to a clock or home windows, Abdulkadir stated, so a chaplain may advocate for a wristwatch.

The lack of flexibility makes the roles of the chaplains tougher as effectively. For instance throughout Ramadan, the place Muslims quick from daybreak to nightfall, they aren’t allowed to change their hours to accommodate this, the report stated.

Furthermore, there are lots of lodging particular to minority faiths {that a} Christian chaplain will not be aware of, Abdulkadir stated.

“If you come from a Wiccan tradition, and candles are an important part of your practice, then that might not be something that you will have access to” in prison, she stated.

“So the important part of the chaplain is walking that line and facilitating, let’s say, for example, a candle isn’t allowed. Then maybe let’s try to find something else that our inmates can use?”

But she stated the chaplains are much less efficient at advocating beneath the non-public mannequin. They reported having far much less entry to sources and supplies. And the non-public, part-time mannequin has weaker job safety, which suggests they’re much less keen to push again.

“One of the problems is that Bridges of Canada (the contracting company) and private contractors have a vested interest in not pushing back against Correctional Service Canada,” in order that their contract is renewed, Abdulkadir stated.

In a brief assertion to the Star, Bridges of Canada stated it wasn’t conscious of the allegations relating to minority-faith chaplains and chaplains’ working situations.

“We have successfully been providing multi faith Chaplaincy Services for Correctional Services Canada for 6 years,” a spokesperson stated. “Bridges of Canada remains very passionate and committed to providing quality spiritual care for ALL individuals within CSC institutions across Canada.”

The Office of the Correctional Investigator, an ombudsman for federal inmates, stated about one per cent of the complaints it receives are associated to non secular lodging, however that features each chaplaincy providers and points associated to meals.

One of essentially the most vital modifications for the part-time chaplains is that they’re now not concerned in group reintegration of inmates after their launch, which Abdulkadir stated was explicitly half of the job description earlier than the mannequin modified. Some chaplains are nonetheless doing this work, however on their very own time.

“I feel like one of the chaplains I spoke with kind of summed it up perfectly. They had said ‘It really feels like before we were part of the rehabilitation process … now we’re just there to do the bare minimum, to make sure that people can’t complain that their charter right is being infringed on,’ ” Abdulkadir stated.

Many of the chaplains Abdulkadir spoke to are feeling burned out, ineffective and annoyed. They really feel they’re not in a position to meet their adherents’ wants and will not be pleased with Bridges of Canada’s working situations.

She stated one chaplain described the job as “Soul sucking.”

“The people who are in these roles actually really care about these (incarcerated) people’s well being. And so the idea that people are suffering and struggling and have less access to them … it’s quite demoralizing.”

The report requires CSC to not renew Bridges of Canada’s contract, which is up this yr, and return to the community-based public mannequin.

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