“Hiring an offender” program clashes with tougher pardon rules, temporary release restrictions

“My record does not define me, nor does it change how I act with my residence or the type of work I do.  I just find too many employers look at criminal records like its all black and white, and they don’t know every story behind the situation.”

The Correctional Service of Canada website recently launched a video promoting its Hiring an Offender program – featuring a series of brief testimonials, including the above quote, from both former offenders and employers involved in the government-subsidized employment program. While the program underscores the Canadian government’s goals of fostering reintegration into the community for offenders leaving the corrections system, as the CBC News reports, “critics say it flies in the face of new federal rules that make it harder for ex-cons to clear their criminal record and overcome the biggest barrier to post-prison employment.”

In the spring of 2012, the Federal Conservatives effected changes to the rules governing pardons – now called criminal record suppressions – which increased waiting periods from 5 to 10 years for indictable offences, and from 3 to 5 years for summary charges.  The new rules also quadrupled the cost of an application.  The Globe and Mail reports that, as a result, pardon applications plummeted by over 40%.  Accordingly, “[t]he end result is a dramatic drop in the number of former convicts who are able to put their criminal past behind them and start anew.”

Similarly, the Federal Conservatives are reportedly in the process of implementing increased restrictions on prison temporary release programs.  This despite internal, Corrections Canada findings that “temporary absences play an important role in helping offenders re-integrate into society.”