Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Expanding prisons is not a solution. We need less reliance on prisons!

The day before a massive rally by government workers over conditions in Manitoba’s overcrowded jails, the Selinger government Tuesday announced an 160-bed expansion to Milner Ridge Correctional Centre.
The new expansion to Milner is the fourth in four years and will increase capacity to 524 inmates.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union said Tuesday it expects hundreds of corrections and probations workers to protest what they say is the province’s inaction in addressing overcrowding at provincial jails, backlogs in dealing with accused offenders on remand and growing caseloads for workers dealing with individuals on probation.
"These issues are getting worse, not better, and the ripple effect on other government employees working with victims of crime and their families, at-risk youth, those involved in managing the judicial system, and those who provide protective services to children, is simply unmanageable," the union said in a release.
Protesters will march through the downtown at 2:15 p.m. beginning at the Winnipeg Convention Centre and proceed down St. Mary Avenue to Memorial Boulevard, and up Memorial Boulevard to the steps of the Manitoba Legislature.
In the past few years the province said it has added 172 cells to the Lac du Bonnet-area jail. Work is already underway on adding another 64 cells announced earlier this year. Modular construction is being used in that project to speed the construction process, making the beds available more quickly.
Design work is already underway on the 160-bed expansion, the province said in a release. The project will be tendered in fall 2010, with construction beginning spring 2011 and completion expected by fall 2012.
The province has said with recent federal changes, including the end of the two-for-one sentencing credit that judges grant offenders for time they’ve served in jail while awaiting trial, will put more offenders into the province’s jails.
The province says since 1999 when the NDP came to power, 419 beds have been added to Manitoba’s adult correctional system.
Attorney General Andrew Swan said in a statement that this year alone, work is underway to add 40 more beds at The Pas Correctional Centre and 80 at the Brandon Correctional Centre. Sixty-five news beds will be added to the women’s correctional system with the new women’s facility being built in Headingley to replace the Portage Women’s Correctional Centre.

Expanding prisons will not solve the problem of overcrowding. With double time credit eliminated and mandatory minimum sentences, more people will be imprisoned for longer periods. This will not create safer communities. Longer sentences have been shown to increase the rates of re-offending and decrease the likelihood of successful reintegration as offenders become institutionalized, dependent and are released with no rehabilitation and little assistance. Building more jails and more cells, will not reduce overcrowding or solve anything. The courts need less reliance on imprisonment as a sentence and need to impose more community alternatives. Prison should always be a last resort and should be reserved only for those who actually pose a danger to society. Prisons need to focus more on rehabilitation as opposed to punishment, deprivations and harsh conditions. We need to abolish mandatory minimum sentences, reinstate double time credit and allow judges more discretion in deciding upon an appropriate sentence by considering all of the circumstances of the offender. Property, drug, non-violent offenders should not be imprisoned, or those with addictions, mental health issues, families or aboriginals. 

Prisons do not address the root causes and contributing factors of crime. They do not facilitate or encourage rehabilitation or reform. Therefore, we need to rely more on proven methods of addressing the root causes such as community programs, rehabilitative and restorative justice initiatives. Prisons do not deter, reduce or prevent crime. 

We also need to grant more people bail, to reduce the amount of individuals in overcrowded remand facilities. These people are presumed innocent and should not be treated worse than those serving their sentences in prisons! They have no access to rehabilitation programs or recreational facilities. Is more jails really the answer to solve overcrowding? No. Can we not start addressing the root causes of crime? I think that is more of a long term solution as opposed to a quick fix. People in remand are presumed innocent and should not be subjected to "cruel and unusual punishments." That is a Charter violation. 

Prisons do not deter, prevent or reduce crime. They fail at rehabilitation and at addressing the root causes of crime. Longer and harsher sentences do not deter potential offenders, as most criminals are impulsive and not rational, cost-benefit weighing actors. Most criminals are not informed or educated about the penalties for certain crimes, so how exactly does that prevent and deter them? Our justice system is designed to perpetuate crime, not prevent it, currently. It should be designed to prevent and reduce crime. We need to reform our justice system.


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