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Despite soaring Indigenous incarceration, minimum sentencing persists – Policy Options

by ahnationtalk on January 27, 2020137 Views

Inflexible sentencing is a pipeline to federal prisons for Indigenous offenders. As over-representation soars, it’s puzzling why the laws remain unchanged.

It is impossible to know how hard the federal government is working to address Indigenous over-representation in Canada’s federal prisons, but it is clear it is not working very effectively. Indigenous people now make up 30 percent of the inmates in federal prisons, the troubling figure newly announced by Canada’s Correctional Investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, who acts as an ombudsman for federally sentenced offenders. The investigator provides oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada. He says if the trend continues, three years from now, fully one-third of all inmates in federal prisons will be Indigenous. He calls the trend “disturbing and entrenched.”

Jordan Crosby, director of parliamentary affairs for the minister of public safety, has reacted by calling it an “unacceptable situation that we are working very hard to address.”

It is important to acknowledge that the causes of Indigenous over-representation are complex. They stem from the impacts of previous government policies such as the residential school system and are compounded by the current challenges that many Indigenous people face in accessing basic necessities such as clean water and a decent education. While progress is being made on those fronts, it is slow.

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