ARPA Submits Brief to Senate Committee on Reducing Recidivism
Bill C-228 seeks to address recidivism, or repeat offences, by people coming out of the Canadian prison system. Currently, recidivism rates are high for offenders being released from both Federal and Provincial prisons, and the existing process has not been able to effectively address the issue. Additionally, many offenders do not have access to necessary resources when their sentence has been completed. These resources can include help finding housing, education, counselling, employment, or other supports. Specifically, the Bill will encourage the government to focus on ways to help offenders effectively re-integrate into society and avoid falling back into criminal behaviour.
Ultimately, Bill C-228 requires the government to implement a federal framework that will help reduce recidivism. This will be done through consultation with Provincial governments, Indigenous organizations, non-profits, faith-based and private sector organizations. Through these consultations, the government can look at best practices within Canada and in other jurisdictions and establish pilot projects which focus on reducing recidivism in a Canadian context. Additionally, the government will be required to support faith-based and community programs which help provide resources for re-integration to those who are released from prison.
ARPA Canada’s submission focuses on three areas, particularly concerns within the justice system, principles of restorative justice, and the importance of non-government organizations.
First, our submission looks at the concerns within Canada’s justice system. The most recent Canadian data on recidivism is from 2012 and indicates that close to 25% of offenders re-offend within two years of release from prison. Recidivism data between the individual provinces and territories varies, but in Ontario, for example, the rate was over 35% in 2016. Both the high rates as well as the lack of consistent data show the need to track recidivism rates in order to reduce them. Bill C-228 will provide a way for the government to do this more consistently and effectively.
Next, our submission focuses on the use of restorative justice principles in the criminal justice system. It is critical for the justice system to point to the personal responsibility of those who commit crimes. Although individual circumstances may have some effect on a person’s behaviour, people are moral actors and are responsible for their moral choices. However, there should also be room for communities to be involved in the restoration and transformation of offenders when their sentence is complete.
It is not the role of the government to provide programs to restore and transform offenders. Faith-based organizations and community partners are in the best position to provide supports to offenders, including fostering relationships, encouraging a sense of responsibility and repentance, and providing any supports needed to become part of the community again. Additionally, to reduce vice in our society, we must also look at what increases virtue. There are multiple examples in Canada and around the world of non-government programs which seek to positively influence behaviour. Bill C-228 recognizes the importance of faith-based organizations in limiting criminal behaviour and reducing recidivism rates.
We are pleased to provide input to the Senate on this excellent bill and hope to see it move forward quickly.