Time to Move Beyond “Tough On Crime” Rhetoric

by Catherine Latimer, Executive Director, John Howard Society of Canada

Not since Governor Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential bid was derailed by attack ads about the dangerous inmate Willie Horton being released into the community has any well-briefed politician dared not to be “tough on crime.”

Longer and mandatory sentences, restrictions on judicial discretion, more police, tougher prison regimes, and limits on community-based corrections have since become key approaches for electoral success. This agenda has taken hold here in Canada too, despite the fact that crime rates have been declining for more than 20 years.

Evidence indicating that such approaches do not reduce crime is cavalierly dismissed. If principles of justice and human rights have to be sacrificed for the tough on crime agenda, so the logic goes, then this is a price worth paying. If prisons become overcrowded by the influx of prisoners and the costs of incarceration increase, so be it.

Humane and constructive prison policies have fallen by the wayside. Under the new punitive regime, any abuse in crime policy and prison conditions is tolerated as long as politicians can avoid the “soft on crime” label. READ THE FULL ARTICLE… Read More →

Today, as part of its new series, Ripple Effect, CBC’s “The Current”, with Anna Maria Tremonti, looks at the powerful impact of crimes — not only on the community, or on victims, but on the family members of those accused, and convicted.

The documentary “In Harm’s Way” was produced by author Shannon Moroney with The Current’s executive producer, Kathleen Goldhar. Joan Webber is The Current’s documentary editor.

Canada needs to address the failures in our corrections system that have been
the subject of criticism from international and domestic human rights bodies, correctional investigators, auditor generals, prisoners and the agencies and families across Canada supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners back into our communities.