Predictions: Crime & Punishment in 2013 – Slaw

Another year is in the history books as the creaking structure of the Canadian justice system stumbled along under the weight of crushing new legislation and in the face of chronic underfunding. What does 2013 portend? Read on for some predictions of trends to watch for in the New Year.

1. Prison Overcrowding

About a decade ago prison overcrowding was a major news headline in jurisdictions across the country as an under-funded system struggled to deal with a growing population and a steady increase in the number of incarcerated persons. A multi-faceted approach that included an increase in non-custodial sentences and the construction of new facilities bore fruit as 2000-2005 saw a drop in incarceration. 2005 marked the beginning of a return to a steady rise in prison populations – a trend no doubt hastened by the ‘tough-on-crime’ legislative agenda of the Harper Conservatives. With the recent closure of high-profile federal penitentiaries in Kingston, Ontario and Laval, Quebec, it is questionable whether new so-called “super-jails” will be able to keep up with the influx of prisoners. Vic Toews sparked a concern amongst inmates and prison guards alike when he famously suggested “double bunking” this past summer as the quick-fix to the overcrowding problem. The canaries in the coal mine of overcrowding are in fact the Provincial remand facilities where prisoners serving shorter sentences or awaiting trial are housed. Anecdotally, I am hearing disturbing reports of a return to the bad old days of three and four prisoners to a cell making the suggestion of double bunking seem like a pleasant sleepover opportunity. As new mandatory minimum legislation increasingly applies, these prisoners will be migrating to a Federal penitentiary system ill-equipped to handle the influx.  (Read more: Predictions: Crime & Punishment in 2013 – Slaw.)

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