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The prison

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Introduction: Issues and discussions surrounding aboriginal over representation

        The prison, for many people it is seen as a place of punishment, segregation, and humiliation but there is more than meets the eye. Prisons in Canada have gone through a significant revolution since its creation in Canada.  Unfortunately there is still a large over representation of minorities in prison especially aboriginals. Minorities and aboriginals are over represented in the prison and legal system, due to both systemic and direct discrimination from the legal system and the authorities which govern the system. There are several explanations for this over-representation, but through the use of three specific critical analyses the issue at hand will be better understood from an academic stand point. The first critical analysis that will be explored is the history of aboriginal over representation, in this section a brief history of important facts will be exposed to better understand the issue. The next analysis will be one that outlines the causes and possible remedies that need to be associated with aboriginal over representation. Finally there will be a comparison done between blacks in America and Canadian aboriginals, this will be done to showcase commonalities between the two groups.

History: evolution of aboriginal prison over representation

        To define, over representation means being represented in excessive or disproportionately large numbers.[1] This is the issue that one will encounter when examining the offender population both in prison and throughout the Canadian legal system. To better understand the issue at hand their needs to be a review of the history of corrections in Canada. Prior to the 1800s prison was really only used for people who were awaiting trial or individuals who had not paid fines. The aim of prisons in Canada before 1960 was to punish the prisoner physically. In this era most punishment was directed toward the body by whippings and lashings for example.[2] This method of corrections was not meant to rehabilitate the offender but to cause pain, with the hope that this would deter others from engaging in illegal activity. In the 1960s and 70s however there was a major change in correctional ideology, this is because the focus shifted from physical punishment to rehabilitation for the offender.[3] The idea behind rehabilitation is to help the prisoner reintegrate successfully back into society without reoffending when they reenter. Collins bay, situated near Kingston offered the first “gradual release program” which allowed inmates to work outside prison walls but return in the evening.[4]  The idea behind post 1960s prison systems was that prison should be used to remove criminals from society and reform them, not to physically abuse them. The prison and correction system in Canada began to experience a positive change with the creation of the correctional service of Canada (CSC), which was created on December 21, 1978 authorized by Queen Elizabeth.[5] CSC was created with one mission in mind and that is to “as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control”.[6] This statement is very reflective of what CSC is actually executing with present offenders by offering options such as parole, probation and prisoner education programs to name a few. One the first prisons created for women was located in Kingston, it opened in 1934.[7]  The opening of this prison signified that the Canadian governmnet had understood the benefits of the penal system in Canada for both men and women; furthermore the penal system understood that women in prison need different standards than men due to gender.  

Critical analysis: causes and explanations for high aboriginal imprisonment

        The prison system through all its advancements and tools has unfortunately seen an overrepresentation of one minority group more than any other; aboriginals. The facts are stunning when it comes to aboriginal overrepresentation, research shows that aboriginals make up 3 percent of the general population and 17 percent of the prison population.[8] The problem is not the amount of aboriginals in jail; it is that such a high number of their general population end up behind bars.

National crime rates for Indian bands are available from the Department of Indian Affairs. According to the department, the national crime rate is 92.7 per 1,000 population, while the crime rate for Indian bands is 165.6 per 1,000 population (1.8 times the national rate). Nationally, the violent crime rate is 9.0 per 1,000, while for Indian bands the violent crime rate is 33.1 per 1,000 (3.67 times the national rate). Departmental figures also make it clear that members of Indian bands are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than other Canadians.[9]

As it highlighted above aboriginals engage in more crime when enclosed on reserves or aboriginal communities .The factors that attribute to these alarming prison rates are police discrimination, lack of knowledge by aboriginals with respects to the legal system and high crime rates on reserves. Aboriginals have been discriminated against by state authorities for many decades. Since the forceful dispossession of their land and resources aboriginals have been rebelling against the powers of the state thus causing them difficulties with the law. It is difficult for aboriginals to comprehend the legal system due to their own beliefs about law. Traditionally the goal of Aboriginal communities after an incident of harm against someone or their possessions was to resolve the dispute through healing wounds, restoring social harmony and maintaining a balance among the people in the community. The legal system today has tried to reflect this justice goal by introducing circle sentencing and mediation, as an alternative to the traditional legal process.[10] It is not that aboriginal do not respect the law, they just have other methods of dealing with criminal behavior in their tradition.

It is not merely that the justice system has failed Aboriginal people, but justice has also been denied to them. For more than a century, the Commissioners found, the rights of Aboriginal people have been ignored and eroded. The result of this denial has been injustice of the most profound kind. Poverty and powerlessness have been the Canadian legacy to a people who once governed their own affairs in full self-sufficiency.[11]

Due to alternate interpretations of law aboriginals have encountered various problems in society especially contact from the police. Aboriginals are arrested and come in contact with the police more frequently than any other members of the Canadian population.[12] The main point that should be understood here is that aboriginal peoples do want to abide by the law, but culturally want and seek greater control over policing services. Aboriginals seek this control in order to monitor and disciple their own members in a more traditional way rather than in a modern legal justice form. Both provincial and federal jail systems understand that aboriginal incarceration rates in Canada are a major issue, because of this they have created section 718.2 (e) of the criminal code.[13] Section 718.2(e), enacted in 1996 as part of a comprehensive review of sentencing policy in Canada, directs a sentencing judge to consider "all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.".[14]This section is important because it does two things with respects to aboriginals justice. First section 718.2(e) recognizes that aboriginals have different legal traditions and cultural life styles, therefore when sentencing aboriginal individuals “special” considerations must be taken in order to accommodate their culture. The final matter that section 718.2(e) handles well is the progressive use of circle sentencing and other forms of sentencing which are not traditionally used in mainstream legal justice.[15] This point is important because without the inclusion of section 718.2(e) the only form of sentencing and dispute resolution would be through traditional legal and penal systems in Canada. One of the best known advocates for aboriginal incarceration is the John Howard society and the Elizabeth Fry Society.[16]

In 1957 The John Howard and Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba was created by an amalgamation of the Elizabeth Fry Society and the Prisoners Aid Group in Winnipeg. It was established to provide services to offenders, ex-offenders and their families, and to provide an opportunity for the community to become involved in the criminal justice system. In the late 1950's a local group of individuals in Brandon initiated discussion regarding the establishment of a John Howard Society Branch to serve the needs of Southwestern Manitoba. On May 29, 1958 Mr. Moore of the John Howard Society of Manitoba stated that he visited the Chief of Police in Brandon who "is very interested in rehabilitation work." Money was to be made available by the Rotary Club and the Ministerial Association for this work in Brandon. "The Police were very interested in having our society offer service." At a September 11, 1959 Board Meeting of the John Howard Society of Manitoba the following was recorded.[17]

The focus of these two groups is to find the causes of crime and responded in a just and humane way towards these crimes.[18]The two groups have worked extensively with aboriginal inmates and youth that are in trouble with the law, in order to help aboriginals attain fair treatment and rights under the law.

Comparative analysis: United States versus Canada

There is a striking resemblance with respects to over representation of aboriginals in the Canadian prison systems and Blacks in the United States of America. The statistics show that blacks comprise 13 percent of the national population, but 30 percent of people arrested, 41 percent of people in jail, and 49 percent of those in prison.[19]The statistics for aboriginals regarding incarceration are similar due to the fact that their overall population is fairly small, but they have more individuals in that population who are incarcerated than any other race in Canada. These two groups also face the same social challenges such as low income, alcohol/drug abuse and violence. These disadvantages have been nurtured by systemic discrimination both in society and in the legal system. Aboriginals were force fully deprived of their lands and their resources by white European explores, while black were transported from Africa to America by whites in order to be made slaves. This oppression of blacks by the dominant white majority is one of the leading causes for high incarceration rates of aboriginals and blacks in North America. Another commonality between blacks in the USA and Canadian aboriginals is that they both have special legal processes that address over representation in their respective groups. Take aboriginals for example, they have special legal processes in which they can resolve their dispute through circle sentencing and healing circles for example. In the United States we have seen the extensive use of probation and parole as a means to keep blacks out of prison. It is evident that both Canada and the United states have incarceration issues with minorities; the solution thus far has been to send these individuals to prison. This method of discipline has not been useful, the solution may be that helping better the living standards, education level and other social issue these individuals it will alleviate crime caused by these groups.

Conclusion

        Aboriginal over representation and incarceration is a major societal issue in Canada. The issue has stemmed from poor living condition, police discrimination, low education and other social issues to cause an alarming epidemic of aboriginal over incarceration. Many advocacy groups have tried to address this issue such as the John Howard society and the Elizabeth Fry Society. With the help of these groups different types of legislation have been created to counter discrimination and over-representation. The question society must ask themselves is why is aboriginal over incarceration accepted throughout the legal and policing system

Table of contents

 1……..…………Introduction: Issues and discussions surrounding aboriginal over representation

2-3…………………………………….History: evolution of aboriginal prison over representation

4-7…………………..Critical analysis: causes and explanations for high aboriginal imprisonment

8-9…………………………………………...Comparative analysis: United States versus Canada

10……………………………………………………………………………………….Conclusion

Bibliography

Anderson, George M. "Elizabeth Fry: timeless reformer." America 173 (Fall 1995): 22-3.

BJS, 1998 Sourcebook, Table 4.10 (arrests), Table 6.28 (jail inmates); Allen J. Beck and Christopher J. Mumola, "Prisoners in 1998," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (August 1999).

Neufeld, Roger, 'Cabals, quarrels, strikes, and impudence: Kingston Penitentiary, 1890-1914', Histoire Sociale / Social History 31 (1998).

White, Vernon. (2007) Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian Criminal Legal System,[lecture 3] 10 October.

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s.718 (e)

Correctional Service Canada.  http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/ (28 october2007).

John Howard. The John Howard Society of Canada. 22 October 2007 <http://www.johnhoward.ca/>

Summary; Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba; Volume 1; The justice System and Aboriginal People, Hamilton, A.C. and Sinclair, C.M

Test your knowledge. “correctional service Canada.                                                                                                  http://www.history-histoire.csc-scc.gc.ca/quiz/test7_e.shtml (20 October 2007).

Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2002.

"Abolition of Corporal Punishment."Correctional Service Canada. http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/rights/50yrs/50yrs-05_e.shtml (31 october2007).

“Indians Policing Reserves,” background information for Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development news release 1–9157, “Federal Government Funds Plan to Improve Policing Services for Indian Reserves,” 27 June 1991.

Legal Reform

                                                                                Ubong Mike Akpan

                                                                                           100661643

                                                                                Rosemary Warskett


[1]Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2002.

[2] "Abolition of Corporal Punishment."Correctional Service Canada. http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/rights/50yrs/50yrs-05_e.shtml (31 october2007).

[3] "Abolition of Corporal Punishment."Correctional Service Canada. http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/rights/50yrs/50yrs-05_e.shtml (31 october2007).

[4] “Test your knowledge. “correctional service Canada.                                                                                                  http://www.history-histoire.csc-scc.gc.ca/quiz/test7_e.shtml (20 October 2007).

[5]Correctional Service Canada.  http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/ (28 october2007)

[6]Correctional Service Canada.  http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/ (28 october2007)

[7]Neufeld, Roger, 'Cabals, quarrels, strikes, and impudence: Kingston Penitentiary, 1890-1914', Histoire Sociale / Social History 31 (1998).

[8] White, Vernon. (2007) Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian Criminal Legal System,[lecture 3] 10 October.

[9] “Indians Policing Reserves,” background information for Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development news release 1–9157, “Federal Government Funds Plan to Improve Policing Services for Indian Reserves,” 27 June 1991.

[10] “Indians Policing Reserves,” background information for Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development news release 1–9157, “Federal Government Funds Plan to Improve Policing Services for Indian Reserves,” 27 June 1991.

[11] Summary; Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba; Volume 1; The justice System and Aboriginal People, Hamilton, A.C. and Sinclair, C.M

[12]Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s.718 (e)

[13]Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s.718 (e).

[14]Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s.718 (e).

[15]John Howard. The John Howard Society of Canada. 22 October 2007 <http://www.johnhoward.ca/>

[16]John Howard. The John Howard Society of Canada. 22 October 2007 <http://www.johnhoward.ca/>

[17] Anderson, George M. "Elizabeth Fry: timeless reformer." America 173 (Fall 1995): 22-3.

[18] Anderson, George M. "Elizabeth Fry: timeless reformer." America 173 (Fall 1995): 22-3.

[19] BJS, 1998 Sourcebook, Table 4.10 (arrests), Table 6.28 (jail inmates); Allen J. Beck and Christopher J. Mumola, "Prisoners in 1998," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (August 1999).

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