Canadians might be surprised to learn that many health and social services widely available in the community are not available in most of Canada's correctional facilities -- this needs to change. We are missing a critical window of opportunity to reframe the period of incarceration as a time to help people improve their health and well-being before returning to our communities.
Freedom of expression has cost my husband, Raif Badawi, his own freedom. As we speak, he is locked inside a small cell in a remote prison in Saudi Arabia; a country where censorship prevails. A country, my country, which views women as second class citizens. A country, my husband's country, that he so loves -- all of its land, its women and men, his love of his country, which extends right up to the doors of Shura, which is set on ruining the aspirations of an entire people. A country where the young are choking in a whisper that should be a scream.
The current system has tremendous shortcomings -- it abandons victims, leaving them to heal alone, at times powerless, and without any meaningful answers. There is a better way to help victims heal and to hold offenders accountable for their acts while empowering them to improve their lives. That alternative is restorative justice.
"Research shows the earlier and longer youth spend in the system, the worse the outcomes are," says Peter Leone, a professor at the University of Maryland who has studied juvenile justice measures around the world for more than 20 years. It costs approximately $100,000 a year to incarcerate one young person in Canada. If that individual becomes a hardened life-long criminal, the amount will exceed a staggering $2 million, according to a Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
I was a true believer in the war on drugs, but at the end of the day, as a physician, I have believe in an evidenced-based approach. The evidence shows that incarceration doesn't work, and decriminalization with offers of treatment do. It's time to ignore dogma and act in the best interests of Canadians. It's time to end this war.
It surprises most people to know that about one in 200 Canadians is detained or incarcerated in jail or prison every year, and that the average length of stay in these facilities is only a few weeks. Time spent in jail or prison can serve as an opportunity to improve health. But achieving this goal will require a change in attitudes about health care in custody and reforming health care in correctional facilities.
A media biz friend of mine recently forwarded to me a news report on "the world's hottest criminal," Ms. Stephanie Beaudoin; a 21 year old nursing student in Quebec. Complete with a fetching photo of Ms. Beaudoin on a boat in a bikini, the story mentions that she's facing 114 criminal charges for breaking into more than 40 homes last summer.
I was sitting on a bench inside the military court that day, accompanied by a military intelligence agent, waiting for my military judge to arrive in the courtroom. It was a spring day, in April 2011, just few months after the revolution started. It was the fifth time I was detained in Egypt because of my activism. It isn't that I can understand the situations of people facing injustice from afar, I can feel their pain, because it's my pain as well.
I use humour to deflect fear. The more freaked out I am, the more jokes I make. The day I went in to The Clink, I was hilarious, cracking jokes about what I should wear. And then I started comparing my job as a humourist to theirs. "Oh, you were part of a hostage-taking? That's nothing. I worked with Mike Bullard."
August 10 is International Prisoner's Justice Day, which began in Canada 37 years ago. In 1974 a Canadian man, Edward Nalon, died in the segregation unit of an Ontario prison, resulting in a day of mourning for prisoners across the country. This is an important day to consider how we treat people behind bars, and to remember the goals of incarceration. It is also a day for us to ask many questions about our prison system as a whole, and to assess how some of the recent actions of the Canadian government may affect these conditions
Canada has always been recognized as being one of the safest countries in the world, boasting exceptionally low murder and violent crime rates, particularly in comparison to our American counterparts. However, a recent rise in gun violence on the streets of Canada's largest city has left many Canadians concerned about how safe our communities truly are. This violence has left many Canadians wondering whether we should advance tough-on-crime agendas. But having worked with many vulnerable populations I firmly believe that our time and resources would be better spent in addressing the issue of youth violence by investing in long-term preventative solutions and programs.
After Statistics Canada reported that police-reported crime was at its lowest level in 40 years, Vic Toews tweeted "Crime rate down 6% -- shows CPC tough on crime is working." I couldn't really understand how Bill C-10, which doesn't even begin to come into force until August 9 of this year, could somehow be responsible for a drop in crime in previous years. But then I realized...Toews must be the MP version of The Terminator: "A human-looking, apparently unstoppable cyborg (or in this case, Public Safety Minister) is sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor (or in this case, crime)."
For those of us who understand exactly where Conrad Black has been (the big house) we understand. He is, at the end of the day, just a human being, the frailty of ones existence always hanging in the balance no matter how high up the ladder one finds oneself. And now an 11 person advisory council is considering revoking his Order of Canada?
Time for prisoners to start paying their own way, says the Minister for Public Safety, Vic Toews. This will invariably lead to the reduction of community corrections programs that have been shown to best promote successful rehabilitation and reintegration. What if instead of trying to break the cycle of poverty-to-prison-to-poverty, we actively embraced it?