I have often wondered why our prison system in Canada is called Corrections Canada when there seems to be little evidence of trying to re-habilitate prisoners while they serve their sentence. It would be too simple to compare our system with that of the USA where the emphasis seems to be on maximum sentences and at times about revenge as much as justice. There are even private prisons in the USA which are based on a profit-making business model where the more inmates the more revenue.
Aside from these observations lies the reality of crime and the need to incarcerate criminals in our institutions. While there is certainly a need in Canada and other countries to address failures in the system, I believe we must also focus on the human element of crime. The offenders, the victims and the families of both offender and victim are areas that have much work to be done. We can also extend this effort to examine why individuals commit crime. The answer(s) are varied, complicated and challenging.
There is also no doubt that poverty and crime are very closely related. In addition, the issue of racism can be a contributing factor. The ability of a person living in poverty to be able to afford bail, to hire competent legal representation and to receive a fair judgement can be seriously affected by the stigma and effects that poverty can have.
No one comes out of an act of crime in a better place. The victim will carry with them the memory of the criminal act forever, as will their families. The understandable feeling of hatred and revenge will likely always be there, but rather than help in the healing process they can only lead in the direction of despair and hopelessness. The family of the offender will have to live the rest of their lives in a similar life of trying to understand why their loved one resorted to the crime.
Finally, society must accept some blame for allowing the causes of crime to live and grow in what should be a part of the world that wants for little, shares fully with others and respects one another and recognizes the human dignity of all.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.