One percent of the U.S. adult population is in prison. This is the highest rate in the world, even higher than Russia and China. Why are U.S. policymakers reconsidering their “tough on crime” approach? What lessons could Canadians learn from the United States about crime control, criminal justice policy and incarceration?
On May 6, 2008 CCJC and the John Howard Society of Canada co-hosted a public forum featuring Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. Sentencing Project. Mauer is the author of Race to Incarcerate, in which he explains how more incarceration may actually cause crime. He questioned why Canada wants to imitate criminal justice policies that have failed in the United States.
To promote this event, CCJC invited Martha and Howard to visit Ottawa and share their views on Canada’s “tough on crime” agenda.
Martha, Howard and their dog Skippy are plywood characters created by Stephen Goldsmith of the Urban Design Coalition in Salt Lake City, US. They were created to raise awareness about downtown problems and successes in 1989, and did a great job at calling media and public attention to the issues they were discussing (taped dialogues were played along with their display). They became the every-man-and-every-woman’s voice when issues of public interest were discussed by the media.
Martha and Howard were shocked to learn that Canada was adopting many of the measures that their government implemented about 30 years ago – now proven to be a huge failure. They could not help but express their confusion about the Canadian “tough on crime” agenda while they were doing their sight-seeing visits Rideau Street, downtown market, Sparks Street, City Hall, and while they were waiting for their bus at Billings Bridge and Hurdman stations.
To read on Martha and Howard’s conversations about the Canadian criminal justice agenda, please follow this link (pdf). Videos of Martha and Howard’s visit to Ottawa will soon be available through this page.
Also, see what Martha and Howard had to say about the issues at stake this Election during their visit to Ottawa. Watch their election videos: on victims; on youth crime; on effective solutions to crime; on alternatives to jail; on prison population; and on smart investments.