Conservatives push to restrict temporary releases of federal prisoners

29 July 2013Opinion

Douglas Quan reporting for Postmedia News via the Edmonton Journal:

The Harper government says it is pushing forward with plans to place more restrictions on temporary releases of federal inmates, even as an internal Correctional Service of Canada briefing document highlights their benefits.

Further evidence of a worrying trend.

Commenting on the subject, the Public Safety Minister’s communications director had the following to say:

“We strive to have a justice system that respects victims and holds offenders to account and we will continue to take steps to achieve this end. Individuals deemed ineligible for parole should not be given conditional release that is tantamount to parole through the back door,” Carmichael said via email.

Contrast this with:

A November 2012 briefing document sent to then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and obtained under access-to-information legislation said temporary absences play an important role in helping offenders re-integrate into society. It cites the “low rate of failure” arising from temporary absences and notes that offenders who participate in the program are less likely to be re-admitted following release on full parole.

“A gradual, structured, and supervised release process represents an effective means of contributing to public safety,” the document said.

By ignoring established facts in the pursuit of justice, the government is contributing to further overcrowding in prisons and removing an important rehabilitation tool that has been proven to be effective. The U.S. experience proves that simply getting tough on crime doesn’t work – getting smart on crime is necessary. As that country actually starts to learn from its mistakes, it appears that Canada is just beginning a costly experiment of its own.