Legal practice and the federal correctional system

Laura Penney is counsel with the Department of Justice Canada and provides legal services to Correctional Service Canada

My name is Laura Penney and I work as counsel with the Departmental Legal Services Unit for the Correctional Service of Canada.

The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for the custody of any offender who’s sentenced to two years or more. I provide a lot of legal advice to wardens and to different members of the client when they have operational issues that arise.

It was through law school that I started to develop an interest in criminal law. I went to law school on the east coast, Dalhousie, then came back to Ottawa. My first job as counsel was with the Correctional Service of Canada.

I like to think of myself as sort of like an in-house counsel for the department. Every government department has their own little group of specialized lawyers that really focus in on the areas of law that matter for that department. So, for the Correctional Service of Canada, we focus a lot on labour issues because there’s a big labour force. There’s a lot of litigation support with habeus corpus applications, charter challenges, human rights issues, and tort cases. There’s also a lot of policy development because the enabling legislation is very prescriptive.

When there was legislative changes around that area, I helped them with their drafting of the legislation and then whenever they need legal advice on that area of law, I help them out. We really focus in on those issues and we sort of specialize in those issues.

From dealing with Charter challenges, to helping draft legislation, Laura Penney’s work as Legal Counsel for the Departmental Legal Services Unit for the Correctional Service of Canada exposes her to a wide range of engaging legal issues. In this video, Ms. Penney describes her role as counsel for the department and her experience working on the legal issues most relevant to correctional services.

Drawing upon her education at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, Ms. Penney exercises her diverse legal skills in a variety of ways. She is frequently involved in litigation support, dealing with habeas corpus applications, human rights issues and tort cases; she works on policy development, providing legal advice to legislators.

The Correctional Service of Canada is the Canadian federal government agency responsible for the incarceration and rehabilitation of convicted criminal offenders sentenced to two years or more. It is headquartered in Ottawa.

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