Prison conditions have changed over time, and along with these were changes in treatment of offenders. New ideas emerged in regards to the treatment, the punishment and the reform of inmates.

In the beginning, inmates had no rights. Today’s inmates have more rights, which are provided for under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and regulations and the Commissioner’s Directives.

The inmate grievance system emerged in response to a growing concern for prisoner rights. If a federal inmate has a grievance, he/she should attempt to resolve the problem by first talking to correctional staff. If the inmate is still not satisfied, he/she can turn to an inmate grievance committee if one is available at the institution. If the inmate does not agree with the decision rendered by the committee, an appeal can be made to the warden of the institution. If the warden’s decision is not satisfactory in the eyes of the inmate, an appeal can be made to the Deputy Commissioner at Regional Headquarters and then to the Commissioner of Correctional Services Canada.

When a federal inmate is not satisfied with the decision which the internal inmate grievance process rendered, the inmate can enlist the aid of the Federal Correctional Investigator. The Correctional Investigator receives many complaints, and the most frequent complaints are related to the institution’s conditions, transfers, temporary absences and visits.

The grievance process is different for inmates in provincial institutions. Inmates must first place their grievance in writing to the Director of the institution. If the inmate does not agree with the Director’s decision, an appeal can be made to the provincial Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints against departments, boards and agencies of the provincial government, and does so independent of the government. The Ombudsman receives a large number of complaints about Correctional Services.