Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

CANADA’S INJUSTICE SYSTEM

Posted by strattof on February 5, 2016

Canada’s crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 24 years and is now at its lowest level since 1973. At the same time, the number of prisoners has, for the last decade, been steadily rising.

Why are more Canadians spending time in prison? It’s not because of an increase in violent crimes. Most of the increase in imprisonment has been for non-violent offences. Rather it is because:

  • More people are being sent to prison for offences that once were punished in other ways.
  • Sentences are longer.

Who are we putting behind bars? Mainly Indigenous people.

CANADIAN INJUSTICE

Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in Canada’s prison population.

  • Indigenous people make up only 4% of Canada’s population. They constitute 25% of the federal prison population.
  • Indigenous people make up 17% of the population of Saskatchewan. They constitute
  • 80% of the youth in Saskatchewan jails.
  • 80 – 90% of the men in Saskatchewan jails.
  • Up to 90% of the women in Saskatchewan jails.

Indigenous people

  • Are also over-represented in segregation.
  • Have lower parole rates.
  • Are more likely to return to prison on revocation of parole, often for administrative reasons, not criminal violations.

SYSTEMIC RACISM

The over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons is directly linked to systemic racism against Indigenous peoples, which is itself rooted in settler colonialism. Almost everywhere in Canadian society, whiteness is an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage.

For example:

  • There is 22% – 34% less funding for First Nations child welfare services—as confirmed last week by the release of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that the federal government is racially discriminating against First Nations children.
  • A child who attends a First Nations school receives 33% – 50% less funding than a child in a provincial school.
  • The unemployment rate for Indigenous people aged 20 – 24 is 22.6%, compared to 14.4% for non-Indigenous people.

PRISON PRIVATIZATION

Bit by bit, the Wall government is privatizing provincial prisons.

PHONE SERVICES

In 2014, a contract was signed with Telmate, which turned prisoner-family phone contact into a for-profit enterprise.

A long distance call now costs $1 for the initial connection and 30 cents a minute. Many prisoners cannot afford to keep in contact with family and friends.

No prisoners should be cut off from family and community. It makes reintegration into society on release much more difficult and re-offense much more likely.

However, the Saskatchewan government’s privatization of prison phone services must also be seen in its particular cultural and historical context:

  1. The demographics of Saskatchewan’s prison population = 80% – 90% Indigenous.
  2. The relationship between the privatization of phone services and other white colonial settler society policies aimed at disrupting Indigenous families and communities: ►the residential school system ►the 60s scoop ►the underfunding of First Nations child and family services.
  3. The call of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for re-conciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

FOOD SERVICES

Since the Wall government contracted out prison food services to Compass Group in August 2015, prisoners at Regina’s Correctional Centre have gone on three hunger strikes, citing concerns about food quality and quantity. This is not surprising. Compass Group’s business is to make as big a profit as possible.

Brad Wall’s response to the prisoners’ concerns? “If you really don’t like the prison food, there’s one way to avoid it, and that’s don’t go to prison.”

Brad Wall would be well advised to read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

STOP PRISON PRIVATIZATION

  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you want his government to reverse its prison privatization policies. Also ask him to let you know how his government intends to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and remind him of recommendation #30—“Commit to eliminating the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody”: premier@gov.sk.ca or (306) 787-9433.
  • Make prison privatization an issue in the upcoming provincial election.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”–Nelson Mandela

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