Philippe Bensimon. Canadian custodial settings are divided into two categories: provincial/territorial correctional facilities (for sentences less than two years) and federal correctional facilities (for sentences of two years or greater). All prisoners, whether in provincial/territorial prisons or federal ones, can be assisted by a lawyer specialised in prison law to help them through certain procedures, in particular for parole, or to represent them during disciplinary hearings.
Mélanie Martel. The lawyer’s role is central in that very few other people – or associations – are authorised to enter the facilities. As a result, prisoners are often poorly informed of their rights, as no one is there to help or guide them. Only lawyers can inform prisoners of their rights, prepare them for parole requests, explain how to appeal a decision, etc., but no publication on prison law existed in French, and universities provide little instruction in the field. This made it very challenging for lawyers to educate themselves.
A lack of training among lawyers leads directly to a lack of information among prisoners. We hope that this book improves lawyers’ training, helping them better advise their clients.
PB. The concept of this tool is unique in that it combines law and criminology. Generally speaking, lawyers are unfamiliar with the operation of (actuarial tools), which are used by criminologists to assess the criminal profiles of convicted persons. This assessment determines, among other things, the type of facility the person will be sent to: maximum security, medium security, or minimum security. Depending on how they change while in detention, prisoners may later be transferred to a lower (or higher) security level. In this sense, sentence management is essentially carried out by criminologists, since it depends on their expertise.
MM. The challenge with correctional law is that it is social law with a criminological element. As lawyers, we are not involved in criminology processes like assessments, but it is critical to understand them in order to help prisoners. Otherwise, how can these assessments be contested? How can we know if the actuarial scales are well-constructed?