Study of the Legal Services Provided to Penitentiary Inmates by Legal Aid Plans and Clinics in Canada

Appendix B: Interview Guide


The Department of Justice Canada, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, is developing a new legal aid and access to justice policy framework. This particular study focuses on the needs of federal prison inmates.

  1. For what types of legal matters have you provided legal advice or representation to prisoners in federal penitentiaries or on conditional release? (Probe for specific case examples, outcomes.)
  2. What legal aid needs do federal inmates have (consider all areas of law, including issues related to conditional release and types of cases, volume, as well as needs of equity groups (e.g., women, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities)? What needs are specific to their status as federal inmates?
  3. What methods does the Legal Aid Plan use to provide legal services to federal prison inmates (e.g., judicare, clinics)? What are the relevant policies and procedures? Does this differ from the way in which legal aid services are provided to the general population? If so, how?
  4. What is the application process for inmates used by the Legal Aid Plan? How can inmates make applications to obtain legal aid services? How does Legal Aid receive applications made by inmates?
  5. What is the Legal Aid Plan process for decision-making about eligibility for service for federal prison inmates? In your experience, how is discretion exercised in decision-making in those areas in which legal aid coverage is not mandatory? Under what circumstances is provision granted/denied? What effects does discretionary decision-making have on the ability to address federal prison inmates' legal issues and legal aid needs?
  6. In your experience, do federal inmates who have been denied legal aid appeal the decision? How frequently (volume, proportion denied)? What reasons are given for being denied legal aid? With what results?
  7. To what extent do institutional policies affect your ability to provide legal services to prisoners, either positively of negatively? (Probe for the nature of policies and procedures as well as the penitentiaries concerned.)
  8. What legal aid needs of federal inmates are unmet within the current coverage of the Legal Aid Plan? To your knowledge, are/can they be met in other ways? If so, how? What are the potential consequences of not meeting these needs for the prisoners involved, and the correctional system?
  9. What obstacles exist to meeting federal prisoners' legal aid needs? What impact do the obstacles have on the level and quality of legal services?
  10. How might unmet legal aid needs of federal prisoners be addressed? (Probe for financial, human and other resources required.)
  11. (For members of the private bar) Do you provide services to federal inmates who are not assisted by legal aid? If yes, approximately what proportion of your federal inmate clients are assisted by legal aid and what proportion are private clients? Who covers the cost of those not assisted by legal aid?
  12. Do you know of any relevant case law? List.
  13. Do you have any suggestions of other key informants within Legal Aid and/or affiliated clinics who should be interviewed about provision of legal services to federal prison inmates (names of clinics, lawyers, paralegals, Courtworkers specializing in prison law/prisoners, contact information)?



Total years in practice

Total years prison law


Private bar

Legal aid staff lawyer