In a notice of civil claim, convicted criminals Wesley Devries and Yong Long Ye said they're not getting programs and counselling aimed at protecting the public and easing their release back into society.
"The large overarching question of all this is what's the purpose of prison?" said Christopher Terepocki, the lawyer for the prisoners.
"Is it just to warehouse inmates? Or is there a rehabilitative purpose, and is it in society's interest to have these folks be taking programming and rehabilitating?"
Known by victims as 'Hurricane Wes', Devries was sentenced to 34 months in 2013 for conning a string of Lower Mainland women out of money under the guise of romantic relationships.
Ye was handed an 18-year sentence in 2009 for masterminding a massive drug ring out of Canada, the U.S., Japan and Australia.
Terepocki said an inmate committee banded together to hire his law firm because the two men represent a part of the federal prison population that is allegedly not getting access to prison programs.
"For whatever reason, there's a certain segment of inmate population that just aren't receiving programming," Terepocki said. "We think it's a Charter infringement."
According to the claim, rehabilitative programs are crucial to an inmate's parole, security classification and chances of being transferred from higher security to lower security institutions.
Devries is at Mission Medium Institution, despite classification as a minimum security inmate. When he arrived at the prison, he claims he was told there would be no programs available before his eligibility to apply for day parole.
"He also learned that there were no resources available for counselling of psychiatric care with respect to Mr. Devries' underlying health conditions," the lawsuit reads.
As a result, Devries claims he didn't bother applying for day and full parole.
He says he wouldn't be able to show the parole board he had taken programming deemed necessary to mitigate his risk to the community: "Consequently, Mr. Devries will have spent his entire custodial sentence without any programming being made available to him."
Caught in a Catch 22
Ye is serving his time at Matsqui Institution, where he claims he's been caught in a Catch 22.
Ye say he wanted to take anti-violence programming in anticipation of an advanced parole program for which he was eligible in 2011.
But when he tried to sign up, Ye claims he was told as a low risk prisoner, he doesn't meet the criteria.
Ye claims he then applied for advanced parole, only to be told he was deemed a risk for violence – in part because he hadn't taken the anti-violence program.
The lawsuit claims the lack of programming breaches Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees "life, liberty and security of the person."
Terepocki says federal legislation guarantees prisoners the right to apply for freedoms like parole and a reduced security status.
The inmates are asking a judge to order the Correctional Service to provide "reasonable access to all inmates with respect to programming."
The Corrections Service of Canada said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case while it is before the courts.