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Our Canadian Justice System is Failing (Part 5)

The purpose of a criminal justice system is threefold: to protect society, punish criminal offenders and rehabilitate criminals.   The two main goals of the justice system are to prevent crime and protect society.  The three main entities of the justice system are the courts, the police and corrections.  If we were to give Canada a grade on a scale of 1-100 on how successful our justice system is, where would you place it?  I would say our justice system is a huge, floundering monster that is very hungry and expensive to feed, that badly needs reform.   I would call the justice system in Canada a system that is not delivering any longer what it was designed initially to do.  Of course, this can be debated but just the common sense approach to what is going on today tells us something is wrong. In our seeming catch and release system of justice, convicted felons are in jail and back out in the public before their sentence times are expired. Crime is turning more violent by the month, gangs and drugs addictions and theft of all kinds seem out of control.  The prison system delivers an important element of the total justice system if it is done properly.  Now, before we go any further, there is no perfect justice system anywhere but there is one coming soon when Jesus returns.  Prison success is measured by recidivism which is: when an inmate once released returns to prison for another crime committed.   Our jail and prison systems in Canada cost each taxpayer about $550.00 per person, a total of about $5,000,000,000 (5 billion). The big challenges in the prison systems of Canada are retention of staff, recruitment and burnout of staff.   The prisons are overcrowded and those working in the prison systems are hoping for better answers and solutions for an improved system.  So far there are not many better answers but, in this article, I am going to try to deliver a couple of ideas for consideration. 

Prison institutions are designed for punishment of criminals and also to offer rehabilitation, so that recidivism is reduced.  However, it is no secret that recidivism is high in Canadian prisons. That reveals that something is wrong and needs attention.  What do we do about it is the big question and, of course, if left to the typical government system, will take millions of dollars and years to fix after umpteen studies. The first thing we need to do is look around the world and see  other countries with different prison systems that are working better than ours.  Norway has a system that is gaining attention for lowering recidivism significantly.  It is a system of corrective restorative justice.  They try to create incentives for inmates to stay out of prison by training and filling educational weaknesses before they are released.  The max sentence a Norway prisoner can get is 21 years but, regardless of the length of the prison sentence, the prison authorities have the power to extend the sentence of any inmate in 5 year increments indefinitely if the inmate is not showing sufficient progress to prove he is not going to reoffend or be a threat to public safety upon release. On the contrary, if the inmate is proving real progress, his sentence can be reduced and he released upon conditions similar to what we have here. As statistics reveal, there is reward and deterrence in the Norway system that yields better results than ours. I think it should be worth taking a serious look at.  

In my opinion, the elephant in the room of prison populations in Saskatchewan and Canada is alcohol and drugs. If somehow control of those two factors in society could be accomplished, the prison population would be reduced by probably as high as 90%. Within a few years, large numbers of guards and police officers would have to be laid off.  On another note, I truly believe that, in the millennial reign of Christ, the first thing to go will be the liquor stores and drugs dealers will be dealt with harshly. The world will discover they can have a better time without alcohol and drugs than with it.  Personally, I have not had a drink for many years and I don’t even think about it or miss it anymore.  Life is much better without it than with it. 


There is another prison reform model that I have been following for a few years and that is the Louisiana State Penitentiary called Angola Prison.  This is the largest federal state penitentiary in the USA with an inmate population of over 6000. When Burl Cain took over as director of the institution the prison was known for its toxic culture of murders and brutality.  Mr. Cain made one stipulation for him to take the job and that was that they let him use faith-based programming.  They hesitated to do so initially but eventually conceded.  Cain was the warden of the prison for 22 years and I believe still has an active emeritus role in policy and programming at Angola and helping other USA prisons follow the same model.  The Angola Prison story is a modern-day miracle.  If anyone wants proof that God is real and that Bible solutions work, then go to the worst, darkest prison in the USA and see it.  That is what happened at Angola.   I believe Angola prison is a modern-day example that our answer to the ills of our prison populations is Christ and the Bible. The Angola prison was totally changed through faith-based programming in the first 5 years during Burl Cain’s mentorship as warden.  It was not done with a little chapel service each Sunday. The prison was changed from a brutal, dangerous, hellish place to a prison where, if someone cussed on the grounds of Angola, one of the inmates would gently remind them that that language was not allowed there.   

Angola Prison sits on 18,000 acres of land and the institution now farms and has many businesses established on it.  The inmates also started a rodeo that attracts fans from all over the world annually.  It brings in revenue to help pay for the faith-based programming in the institution.  Is everything about Angola perfect? The answer is NO.   There are still situations that come up with a population of over 6000 inmates that are difficult but the stats of before the faith-based programs started and after are amazing to prove that there were huge drops in violent incidents, drug trafficking in the prison and deaths whether from assaults or suicides and reduced recidivism.

There is a book written called Angola Seminary that is a Baylor University study with stats on the reforms that happened during the time Burl Cain was warden of Angola. Over two thirds of the inmates at Angola Prison had life sentences. Over 25% of the inmates were sex offenders and there was a total transformation of the entire inmate population that is irrefutable.  A study done by Baylor regarding inmates who have been released from Angola after going through the faith-based programming showed that half were likely to reoffend and return to prison as before.  The recidivism rate was reduced by 50% in other institutions that adopted similar faith-based programming.  

The other interesting fact about Burl Cain’s reforms was all the funds for the chapel churches that were built in different places on the grounds, and also the rodeo grounds built, were all done with private and charitable donations.  The rodeo program alone now generates over 4 million dollars per year for the prison and is used to budget the faith-based programs.   The seminary has produced dozens of good preachers and now they are being sent to other prisons to help prisons all over the USA with faith-based reforms.  

Another created program that is bringing great results is Malachi Dads. This helps fathers in the prison system to influence their children and families outside of the prison so that they do not come into the prison system. 

The proof again is that God has answers to everything, including how we run prisons.  

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The content of this article is solely the personal opinions of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Prince Albert Shopper.

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Wednesday March 13, 2024