Will the government invest in our communities or will they lock up public funds in prison?
The increased investment in prisons (an estimated $6 billion), and the emphasis on more and longer prison sentences, is not fiscally or socially responsible.
More than a third of prisoners in Canada have not even been convicted of a crime – they are awaiting trial. The majority of our inmates are serving a sentence for a non-violent offence (78% of prisoners in provincial jails and 31% of those in federal penitentiaries). Many repeat offenders are mentally ill and/or addicted – they require treatment, health services, education, housing and employment. It makes no sense to spend $800,000 per each new prison bed while denying them the services which have the most proven results in turning their lives away from crime.
Increased incarceration of offenders is an important issue for this election period as it directly affects how public funds are allocated. The Canadian government has recently made commitments to expand prisons even though crime rates are decreasing and social programs, schools and hospitals are in desperate need of funding.
Increased incarceration of offenders is also an important issue for churches and faith communities as we consider how we respond to those who are marginalized and in need. We are called to be healers and to be voices of compassion. Now is an opportunity to bear witness to our faith and call on our government to direct our criminal justice system in a way which honours our values and respects the human dignity of all.
Questions to ask candidates:
- Given that more than half of people in prison are non-violent and that more than a third have not been convicted of a crime, will you work toward safe and effective alternatives to costly imprisonment?
- How will you and your party reform the criminal justice system to be more fiscally responsible and to heal offenders, victims and communities?
CCJC has invited each of our national parties to respond to these questions.
Click here to view the response from the Green Party of Canada.
For more information
In December 2010, CCJC wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister regarding the increased investment in prisons. Read our letter in English and French.
Election Material from Member Denominations:
Anglican Church of Canada
The United Church of Canada
Election Material from Related Ecumenical Organizations.
The Canadian Council of Churches
Citizens for Public Justice
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives