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What is the role of alternate corrections systems

The figures for Milner Ridge, Stony Mountain, and Rockwood are lower than their actual populations because, in the case of Milner Ridge, many of its inmates are transferred from other institutions and only appear in the admission statistics of their former institutions, and in the cases of Stony Mountain and Rockwood, many of the inmates were admitted in years previous to 1989 but remain in population serving their sentences.

A single day count on October 1, 1990 showed 44 Aboriginal and 74 non-Aboriginal inmates at Milner Ridge, 25 Aboriginal and 43 non-Aboriginal inmates at Rockwood, and 156 Aboriginal and 186 non-Aboriginal inmates at Stony Mountain. Our own studies have what is the role of alternate corrections systems that the official statistics on Aboriginal admissions underestimate the true extent of Aboriginal over-representation.

Most systems rely on self-identification at time of admission. Our staff, through interviews with inmates, concluded that Aboriginal inmates often do not identify themselves as being Aboriginal.

As a result, the true rate of Aboriginal incarceration is higher than the official statistics indicate. The disproportionate incarceration of Aboriginal people is a growing phenomenon. When one considers the high number of admissions relative to the size of the Aboriginal population, very serious concerns are raised. Indeed, one study done in Saskatchewan in the mid-1970s estimated that, compared to the general population, Indian men were 37 times more likely to be incarcerated, while Indian women were 131 times more likely to be incarcerated.

Effectiveness The original philosophy was that a correctional institution would provide a sanctuary where offenders could contemplate their wrongdoing and reform their behaviour.

Indeed, the term "penitentiary" is derived from the word "penitence. Countless studies have shown that jails do not rehabilitate offenders. A Canadian parliamentary subcommittee concluded: Society has spent millions of dollars over the years to create and maintain the proven failure of prisons.

Not surprisingly, on the basis of this and other data, the commission concluded that there was little evidence to suggest that incarceration was effective in reducing crime. Given the ineffectiveness of the current system, we believe that the apparent public demand for longer sentences requires a thoughtful response. While we can understand the anger at crime that motivates this reaction, we know that longer sentences will not reduce crime.

We are firmly of the view that it is more important to determine what has caused a person to act in an inappropriate way, and to deal with the cause of the behaviour, than it is to sentence a person for longer periods to satisfy a public demand for punishment or retribution.

  • Not surprisingly, on the basis of this and other data, the commission concluded that there was little evidence to suggest that incarceration was effective in reducing crime;
  • Implications of Current Practices for Aboriginal People The over-reliance on incarceration and lack of judicial imagination weighs most heavily on Aboriginal people, who are convicted of crimes in numbers far out of proportion to their presence in society;
  • The Role of Appellate Courts in Standardizing Sentences Provincial appellate courts frequently deal with "sentence appeals;
  • Traditionally, when we have thought about the relative merits of our justice system and others operating in the world, most notably that south of the border, we have been almost smug in our belief that Canada is a safer and more civilized country with a superior system of justice;
  • When it examined sentencing and corrections issues, the focus group study found that most people believe the criminal justice system is good in theory but flawed in practice.

As well, we fear that a response to public demands for longer sentences will have a more adverse impact upon Aboriginal people, who are charged and convicted at higher rates, but for less serious crimes, than upon non-Aboriginal people.

Developing Dependency in Offenders Rather than encouraging reform and rehabilitation, the crowded, highly regimented and imposed nature of correctional institutions often creates bitterness, anger and a desire to "get even.

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Correctional institutions do not teach responsibility, but dependency. Those who have been institutionalized have had every aspect of their lives regulated. Therefore, they are ill-equipped to cope in society without a sustained period of reintegration, and some, it is argued, actually seek to return to the institution because it is the life they know.

We consider the treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Manitoba prisons to be particularly inhumane. Not only do Aboriginal people suffer the same indignities as those applicable to other inmates, they also suffer from physical isolation and cultural deprivation. Because Aboriginal people are not afforded alternatives to imprisonment in their local communities, they are removed from their families and communities to be incarcerated in a distant institution that is completely insensitive to their culture and background.

Costs In examining sentencing practices in Manitoba, and Canada generally, one is struck immediately by the focus on jails. The Criminal Code mentions jail as a penalty for virtually every offence. Sentences that do not involve jail are confined to their own small section in the back of the Code, with the clear reminders that these are not appropriate for serious offences.

From the emphasis in the Code, we go to the allocation of resources by governments. A total of 1,206. Of these positions, a significant amount of time is devoted to preparing pre-sentence reports.

In other words, five and a half times more money is spent on jails than on other forms of sentences in Manitoba. A similar picture emerges when one examines the number of people receiving each type of sentence.

  • It would be reasonable to return the case to the judge for further consideration;
  • The level of confidence in the justice system among Canadians is affected by a strong sense that the system does not abide by fundamental principles, such as fairness;
  • When focus group participants were questioned about the issues surrounding parole, their responses were largely negative.

There were 287 young offenders held in custody on any given day in 1988, including 89 in temporary custody, 83 in secure custody and 115 in open custody. There were approximately 800 adults in provincial jails on any given day in 1988, including 168 in the Remand Centre. There are approximately 550 inmates in federal institutions on a given day. This means there are approximately 1,655 persons in jail on any given day in Manitoba, and approximately one jail staff person for every 1.

This calculation does not include the 60 parole staff. For alternatives to incarceration, the 165. The most demanding of these is the supervision of offenders who have been placed on probation.

  • While the concept of a pre-sentence report certainly is sound, extremely high caseloads usually prevent the probation officer who prepared the report from attending court to discuss the findings or recommendations with the accused or with the judge;
  • A number of suggestions for reform of the prison system emerged from the national focus group study.

In 1988 there were 3,200 probation supervisions, 3,000 youths admitted into alternative measures programs, 2,500 reports written, 9,000 new registrants for the fine option program, 1,600 new community service orders, 1,400 interim release supervisions and 600 persons sent to prison with periods of probation to follow their jail sentences. Clearly, the extraordinary expenses involved in running a jail system take resources away from community programs.

We strongly encourage these developments. But these efforts are being jeopardized and inhibited by a lack of resources, and especially by an inappropriate allocation of resources between jails and community sanctions. TOP TOP Both in Canada and in other countries, the need to move away from the imprisonment of offenders to a more socially productive approach to sentencing has been well accepted at an official level for many years.

Many organizations and government task forces have made this recommendation. Moreover, in Canada, the public appears to accept the idea that community programs are appropriate for many offenders who currently are being incarcerated. Yet, Canada continues to record high incarceration rates and Aboriginal people continue to be locked up in disproportionate numbers.

In order to account for the current practices, it is necessary to examine the factors that influence sentencing patterns in Canada. It is also necessary to examine the specific factors that affect the sentencing of Aboriginal people.

General Considerations The reasons for the continued reliance on incarceration in Canada are varied and complex, but what is the role of alternate corrections systems conclusion we have reached is that despite all the political rhetoric about reform and rehabilitation, our justice system continues to lock people up for no better reason than the force of habit and the weight of tradition. There has been no deliberate and systematic attempt to change these practices.

Anthony Doob, a member of the Canadian Sentencing Commission, summarized the problem this way: In order to implement a policy of reduced use of imprisonment, two of the necessary conditions appear to be an enactment by Parliament of a coherent sentencing policy that endorses the use of community sanctions and a method of providing authoritative and unambiguous guidance on sentencing to judges.

These two conditions, combined with a program of well run community sanctions, are necessary to accomplish a goal that has been accepted in Canada for half a century. The Lack of Pre-Sentence Information Courts are provided with remarkably little information to assist them in making sentencing decisions.

Ideally, there are Crown and defence attorneys who can speak knowledgeably to sentence, and police reports that describe the particulars of the offence in question. Ideally, the judge has gleaned much information about the offence and the offender from the trial. The reality, however, is far from the ideal. The vast majority of people appearing before the courts do not have their cases proceed to trial; they simply plead guilty. Whether or not there is a trial, there is usually no pre-sentence report.

What is the role of alternate corrections systems reports typically are cursory and provide only the bare facts. Owing to high caseloads, neither the Crown nor defence attorneys have an opportunity to develop any more than a passing familiarity with the case, with the offender or with various community sanctions. In other words, very little information is available to the courts to assist them in making sentencing decisions. This is particularly true where accused plead guilty on first appearance or do not have a lawyer other than duty counsel.

The practice in recent years has been for courts to use probation officers to gather information to assist judges in making sentencing decisions. Without them, judges may not have all the information about the background of the accused, or the circumstances of the offence.

Our Inquiry leads us to the conclusion that most reports are inadequate and still leave the judge without much vital information. While the concept of a pre-sentence report certainly is sound, extremely high caseloads usually prevent the probation officer who prepared the report from attending court to discuss the findings or recommendations with the accused or with the judge.

Lack of Knowledge of the Effectiveness of Various Sanctions Judges require "case specific" information, but they also require other types of information for sentencing purposes. They need to receive feedback about the sentences they and their colleagues have imposed in the past.

They need to know, for example, how particular individuals fared in particular programs and whether any went on to commit further crimes. More generally, they need information about the effectiveness of the various sentencing options.

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Regrettably, this information is not collected or made available. While judges receive reports from some probation officers, there is no formal system to provide them with feedback on the effectiveness of sentences they have imposed.

In fact, the courts often do not receive adequate information about the sentencing options that are available to them. How do judges make sentencing decisions in the absence of the important information they need? Unfortunately, judges have no say as to the facilities to which a sentenced adult offender should go. Currently, judges impose sentences and it is up to the correctional authorities to decide where the offender will serve that sentence. During the course of our Inquiry, we came across individuals who were incarcerated in correctional institutions, but, we believe, should have been in psychiatric facilities.

We suggest that judges should be entitled to designate the place of custody. There is little sense in a judge passing sentence, believing that the accused will be treated in a certain fashion, only to have the accused treated in a different fashion. We recognize that those who operate correctional facilities may later conclude that what is the role of alternate corrections systems offender should be moved or that it may not be possible to accommodate the offender in a particular institution.

It would be reasonable to return the case to the judge for further consideration. The Role of Appellate Courts in Standardizing Sentences Provincial appellate courts frequently deal with "sentence appeals.

While we believe it is necessary for appellate courts to provide sentencing guidelines to ensure a certain degree of fairness and uniformity, we are concerned that the present system has gone too far in attempting to standardize what ought not to be, and cannot be, standardized. At the same time, too little attention is paid to the total picture of each case. Courts of appeal have the details of the offence and the criminal history of the offender, but may not know the support services available in specific communities and thus do not examine the full range of sentencing options.

One rather more disturbing aspect of appellate sentencing appears to occur frequently. That is the tendency of appellate courts simply to impose their own sentence in place of that of the lower court, instead of reviewing the lower court decision to ensure that it complies with established principles of sound sentencing practices. The guidelines derived from appellate court judgments tend to limit the discretion of trial judges, particularly when it comes to the use of innovative sentences.

As a consequence, a very traditional and conservative approach to sentencing has evolved. Past practices that rely on the use of incarceration are enshrined in appellate court judgments.

In the absence of deliberate measures to change past practices, they continue unabated. As the Canadian Sentencing Commission has pointed out: Courts of Appeal are not.

They are not organized nationally; hence there is no obvious way of creating a national policy. They do not have the means and resources required to gather all the necessary information to create policy on the appropriate levels of sanctions.