Corrections and the political agenda in Canada: Toward an illuminated future or a walk in the darkness?

SJNC is pleased to feature a new article by seasoned correctional observer R. E. Bob Brown, who compares the criminal justice policies of the current Government of Canada with those in several European countries, the U.S. and a number of its states. It shows a 10-year decline in prisoner numbers achieved in several of these other jurisdictions, while the data presented for Canada show continuing increases in provincial/territorial jurisdictions and the federal prisoner population now at its highest level ever.

Brown draws a parallel with lessons learned from the trend that previously dominated U.S. crime-control policies: in 40 years, the prison population grew by 70 per cent. This rise was not due to rising crime rates but to the policy choices made by legislators to greatly increase the use of imprisonment as a response to crime—with the very measures now increasingly applied in Canada. In the U.S., however, this trend is now shifting downward, with the growing recognition of research-based alternatives that cut both crime and costs.

Not so in Canada. Brown’s review of the present government’s legislative agenda shows it using inflammatory language to convince the public that tougher measures are required to deal with crime. This makes Canada somewhat anomalous in the world in ignoring evidence from past results. His conclusion: The direction currently pursued in Canada has produced disastrous results elsewhere and is based on something other than community safety-related objectives. Positive results are now readily attainable, but only if supported by political leaders willing to base policy choices on proven knowledge.

Download the full article in PDF: Corrections and the political agenda in Canada