A start……….

It wasn’t until August 1 that the Globe and Mail reported that Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Rabould had organized a meeting that took place on May 19 and 20 with sitting judges, criminal lawyers, and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell to discuss what should be next on her agenda after the assisted-death bill had passed.

The group concluded her first priority should be to reduce the numbers of men and women in this country’s jails and prisons.  “There wasn’t one person who felt that what’s happened in the last 10 years in criminal justice is healthy,” according to a participant. While that was the consensus around the table, a confidentiality clause prevents disclosure of specific accounts. Justin Trudeau mandated this review of the previous government’s punitive agenda, and the May meeting summary stressed a core need to help individuals avoid conflict with the law. “The criminal justice system is rarely the answer and should function as a last resort.”

Sean Fine’s “Private meeting convened by justice minister decides focus should be on prison reform” ran on the Globe’s front page that first day of August. It’s an interesting read. Four judges were a part of the panel, two currently serving, along with four criminal lawyers, the country’s chief statistician, and a strong aboriginal contingent, among others. There was only one police representative, no one to speak for victims, and one prosecutor, retired at that, and with a background in aboriginal justice to boot.

We noticed one particular weakness in the group…….the omission of anyone actually involved with the running of our federal prisons, or the monitoring of their operation.

August 8, 2016

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould,
Minister of Justice,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Private meeting convened by justice minister decides focus should be on prison reform. (Globe and Mail, Monday, August 1, 2016)

Dear Minister Wilson-Raybould:

Wonderful!

Your mandate to review criminal justice and reduce the numbers in Canadian jails is to be applauded. I suggest though this is somewhat like the sound of one shoe dropping.

Public Safety’s Ralph Goodale must be integral to progressive, sustainable reforms. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is past due for rewrite, as is the need to reboot Correctional Service of Canada.
Howard Sapers, Canada’s formidable Correctional Investigator, is a terrific resource to your end. He’s ready with a wealth of researched material on all aspects of our prison operation, from the use of solitary confinement, health care concerns, programming limitations, the self-serving withholding of information, the very necessary review of inmate pay scales, and much more.

As well, a study of prisons in any number of European countries would positively enhance the outcome of the project you’ve undertaken.

Be encouraged, Be creative. Be firm.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc Mssrs Trudeau, Goodale, Sapers

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