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.

My Prison Abolition Opinions

I am completely against the Conservative "tough on crime" bills and policies and would classify myself as a prison abolitionist. Reported crime and the severity of crime have been declining since 1991, yet the media creates the perception of an increasing "crime epidemic" by only reporting on random attacks, rare, violent and unusual crimes such as kidnapping, murders, etc. Property crimes account for the largest proportion of crime, yet they are rarely reported on. The reporting on violent crime and random attacks between strangers, instills a fear of crime and insecurity among the public, which is not warranted. Many believe that punishment through imprisonment can deliver public safety. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The government's tough on crime policies include more mandatory minimum sentences and the elimination of double time credit. Both of these policies, severely reduce judicial discretion and the ability for judges to consider all of the circumstances surrounding an offender and their crime. These policies also restrict judges in imposing community sanctions. 

In my opinion, there are only a small number of individuals that require incapacitation in prison. Only those who pose a significant danger to the community, should be imprisoned but most other conflicts and harms in the community should be dealt with in a more constructive manner. Prison should only be reserved as a last resort for the few very dangerous individuals in our society and should not be over-relied upon. Prison does not accomplish crime prevention, reduction or deterrence. Longer prison sentences have been proven to increase the chance of re-offending and reduce the likelihood of an offender reintegrating successfully into the community, which does not create safer communities as offenders are often released with little assistance in finding housing, employment and resources and programs. Prison also does little to address the root causes and contributing social and economic factors contributing to crime. The more time one spends in prison, the more likely they are to become institutionalized, where they become dependent on others and are less able to function in the outside world as they lack independence, life skills, problem solving and coping skills. Prisons are negative environments with negative influences and fail at facilitating and encouraging rehabilitation and reform. Sitting in a prison cell does not change an offender's thinking or behaviour. Gangs, drugs and pro-criminal attitudes and behaviours are prevalent in prisons and inmates are often negatively influenced by the prison subculture. With the over-reliance on prisons, more non-violent, drug and property offenders are incarcerated and they are much more likely to become further entrenched and involved in the criminal lifestyle, and in becoming more hardened criminals with better skills at dishonesty and concealing crimes.

Mandatory minimum sentencing and restrictions on conditional sentences, reduce judicial discretion and result in further prison overcrowding. Overcrowding has shown to increase levels of violence and riots, double bunking and deprivations in prisons. 

To reduce overcrowding and ensure public safety, I believe in the following solutions:
- Less reliance on prisons and more emphasis on addressing the root causes of crime such as unemployment, mental health issues, poverty, addictions, abuse, neglect, negative peer influences, poor neighbourhoods, etc. and more on community based sanctions such as conditional sentences, probation, residential facilities, treatment, programming, counseling, etc. 
- Prison should only be used as a last resort reserved for only the most dangerous and those who pose an actual and imminent danger to the safety of our communities and all other less restrictive sanctions should be considered first.
- Judges should be given more discretion in considering all the circumstances surrounding an offender by abolishing mandatory minimum sentences and re-instating double time credit. This would also reduce overcrowding. 
- Non violent, property and drug offenders should not be incarcerated and restorative and rehabilitative justice initiatives such as healing lodges/circles and culturally sensitive programs should be considered for all Aboriginal offenders.
- For offenders who have mental health disorders, behavioural or learning disabilities and problems or substance abuse issues, all other alternatives should be considered before prison, as mental health issues are likely to worsen in the prison environment.  
- Grant more people bail and only hold those in custody who pose a danger to society, to reduce overcrowding and poor conditions in remand facilities.

Increasing reliance on prisons is ineffective at reducing and preventing crime and is expensive. We over-rely on prison as a first response to a wide variety of complex conflicts and harms in our communities including mental health issues, poverty, addictions, family dysfunction and violence, unemployment, low levels of education. Imprisonment does not enhance public safety (ineffective at deterring, preventing and reducing crime) as prisons do not address the root causes of crime and longer sentences have been proven to increase recidivism. Increasing reliance on imprisonment is not an effective approach to addressing the causes of crime. Prison is a quick fix, not a long term solution. The only thing prison accomplishes is removing an individual from society and incapacitating them for a period of time. They do not accomplish deterrence, denunciation, or rehabilitation. Prisoners face too many deprivations and it negatively impacts prisoner's families and in maintaining relationships. We do not build better and safer communities by removing and incarcerating individuals without addressing the root causes of social and economic problems in communities plagued by poverty, unemployment, gangs, addictions, mental health issues, negative role models and crime. 

There are also long waiting lists for rehabilitation programming within federal prisons which prisoners need to safely reintegrate into society. In provincial prisons, few programs are offered and offenders are often in jail for too short a period to even benefit from or complete a program. Therefore, they are sitting in cell and not being productive or improving themselves. Rehab programs in prison are also underfunded and lack staff and volunteers to run them effectively. With overcrowding, there are less resources and programming to be distributed evenly among prisoners who need them most. There are also little mental health resources for inmates who suffer from mental health issues and who are more likely to suffer in prison and their conditions are more likely to worsen while in prison. 

Prison is an unimaginative, after the fact response to conflict that does little to prevent victimization or repair communities. Incarceration of an individual is an indication that we have failed as a society to effectively implement more meaningful early interventions in hopes of preventing crime. We need to enhance our efforts at crime prevention. Prison has little impact on crime reduction and prevention and on community safety. Here are my ideas for crime prevention:
- Monetary incentives for youth to graduate from high school. 
- Education scholarships for youth to attend college and university
- Employment assistance and resources to youth and adults, tips for interviews, resume writing, social skills and first impressions to help reduce unemployment.
- Affordable housing for those living in poverty
- Gang desistance and prevention programs for at-risk youth
- Positive role models for youth in inner cities such as mentors and tutors
- More variety of recreational activities and more facilities for at-risk youth
- Revitalization and cleaning of the inner cities such as removing graffiti and vandalism and upgrading buildings and businesses. 
- Parenting programs and family violence counseling.
- Better access and resources about substance abuse and mental health programs and treatments. 
- Education at inner city schools about the dangers and consequences of joining gangs and how to get out of gangs.
- More life skills, stress management skills, coping with life challenges, communication and social skills, problem solving and decision making skills, responsibility, independence, risk management, relapse prevention and morals for youths through programming. 
- Better access to abuse counseling. 
- Improved access to education for all. 
- Increasing minimum wage and creating affordable housing to help reduce poverty and making social assistance more accessible. 
- Eliminate income tax for those who make less than $20,000 a year
- Increased funding for restorative justice programs for non violent offenders. 
- Utilizing drug treatment court more often
- Developing support networks and mentoring programs for youth
- Emphasizing life skills preparation for youths in schools

- Decriminalizing victimless crimes to help free up the court system-- prostitution, possession of drugs, etc. 
- Abolish pre-trial detention for the majority of individuals except those who must be held in custody in order to protect society's safety.

Going to prison and the deprivations included such as the loss of freedom, are the punishment. Therefore, prisoners should not be deprived further of human rights which are supposed to be guaranteed to all Canadian citizens under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We need to promote and respect human rights of prisoners beyond the basics of food and shelter. These are the rights that I believe all prisoners should be entitled to: 
- the right to vote
- right to proper mental health services and resources
- right to practice religion of their choice 
- right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment or treatment
- right to regular visitation and home leaves
- right to healthy food
- right to personal property such as music, stationary, cosmetics, etc. 
- right to be protected from disease -- needle exchange programs, condoms, methadone, bleach kits. 
- right to safety
- right to humane living conditions
- right to medical care
- right to freedom of speech, expression, opinion and thought
- right not to be subjected to torture or abuse or assaults. 
- right to access education, work opportunities, reading materials
- right to conjugal visits from family
- right to be paid a reasonable wage for prison employment

Imprisonment should be a last resort. Alternatives to incarceration should be more fully implemented and utilized. We need to reduce our excessive reliance on prisons by making extensive use of alternatives to incarceration. Where some form of confinement appears necessary, halfway houses, residential treatment homes, minimum security prisons, group homes, intermittent sentences, and other means of keeping offenders within the community should be preferred to prison. Only the most dangerous should be held in secure custody. The conditions and deprivations and current lack of human rights and rehabilitation in prisons are inhumane. I believe that rehabilitative and restorative justice methods are more effective at reducing and preventing crime than prison. We need to focus less on punishment, retribution and vengeance. We need to restore and repair the harm done including the offender, victim and community. I advocate for the least amount of coercion, intervention and restrictions on an individual's life and the maximum amount of care, resources and services to all people in society. We need to decriminalize victimless crimes such as drug possession and prostitution and make greater use of community alternatives. We also need to abolish mandatory minimum sentences and reinstate double time credit. We need to abolish pre-trial detention except for the few individuals who must be held in custody in order to protect society. 

The prison abolition movement ultimately seeks to abolish prisons and the prison system. The movement advocates for the abolition of prisons and the prison system on the basis of it being inhumane. I believe that the criminal justice system is discriminatory and is racist, classist and sexist. Minorities are discriminated against and more likely to be denied bail, charged, convicted and sent to prison. Prisons are ineffective at rehabilitating and reforming criminals and also ineffective at reducing, preventing and deterring crime. Prisons currently, house too many non-violent offenders who are negatively influenced by the prison environment and subculture. In many cases, they become more hardened criminals. We need prison system reforms which would place more emphasis on rehabilitation programs and reform, have less deprivations, more prisoners' rights and more humane conditions with no bars or cells and more sunlight and family visits.