Parole officers gave Parliamentarians a dose of reality on Indigenous incarceration Tuesday.
Zef Ordman said he rarely recommends Indigenous prisoners for early release because they don’t have the employment, training or housing to help ease their transition into the outside world.
“The white, middle-class, kid who’s got parents on the outside, and he’s 19 or 20, he’s got employment, he’s got education, he’s got housing,” Ordman told the House Committee of Public Safety and National Security.
“The Aboriginal kid doesn’t have any of that.”
Ordman said that won’t change unless Canada invests in Aboriginal-centred programs in health, education, employment and housing.
Committee members heard release can be denied for something as simple as not having proper identification, because Indigenous offenders often come to prison without health cards or driver’s licences.
“We had a job set up for (one inmate),” said Aura Andrews. “He couldn’t get it because he didn’t have his birth certificate or his (social insurance) card and he ended up failing.”
Andrews suggested the department of Indigenous Affairs and its provincial counterparts visit prisons to hold identification clinics before offenders are released.
The list of problems parole officers face is extensive, according to Andrews and Ordman.
Everything from backlogs of individuals approved for transfer to being swamped with paperwork.
“We need to be freed up to do our jobs, which is interacting with offenders,” Andrews said. “That is our job. So right now we’re so bogged down in paperwork and compliance issues that we can’t do our job.”
“It’s sort of organized mayhem,” added Ordman. “You’re managing 30-plus offenders, right? And you’re sort of the central person, as a parole officer, you’re the central person.”