A distorted up vision of justice – McGill Daily

by aanationtalk on November 12, 2012599 Views

NOVEMBER 12TH, 2012

Three weeks ago, a man charged with a drug-related offence was given a reduced sentence by Quebec Judge Isabelle Rheault. The justification used by the judge was not related to the facts of the case, nor the prisoner’s behaviour. Instead, she argued, the conditions at the inmate’s detention center – Bordeaux Prison in northwest Montreal – were so bad that time spent there should be considered as more punishing than the norm. Rheault cited an infestation of “rats and vermin,” the prevalence of gangs, and a high rate of drug consumption in her reasoning. Stephane Lemaire, head of the union of correctional officers in Quebec, commented that, due to the conditions in the jail, “at Bordeaux, we can’t [rehabilitate].”

The idea that prisons should primarily serve as rehabilitation centres is a liberal idea that dates to the nineteenth century. While Canada’s prison system has never fully succeeded in this goal, the very concept of rehabilitation is increasingly ignored, while already appalling conditions in prisons are worsening. The Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10), passed by Parliament last March, is a deliberate effort to move Canada’s justice system toward the more punitive model long used in the United States. Some of the most detrimental stipulations in the bill are the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences, tougher penalties for drug-related penalties, serious limitations on government-issued criminal pardons, and longer sentences for young offenders. Canada’s prison population has reached an all-time high, and has seen huge growth in the prairie provinces and among Aboriginal peoples, who are already overrepresented among inmates by a ratio of nearly seven to one.

Read more: http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2012/11/a-distorted-up-vision-of-justice/

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