Paula Mallea’s new book Beyond Incarceration: Safety and True Criminal Justice, makes a persuasive and compelling argument that Canada should radically overhaul its criminal and correctional systems and move away from its focus on incarceration as a means to deal with offending behaviours.
The book proposes that Canada adopt more compassionate, restorative alternatives, drawing from examples modeled in other countries like Finland and Norway. It offers a clear vision for a different approach. I commend the book to your attention: it is certainly worth a read.
While new technologies have lead to new crimes, such as cyberbullying and identity theft, overall, crime rates in Canada are lower now than in the 20th century, and in general, rates are decreasing.
But there are problems with our criminal justice and correctional systems. Even though crime rates are relatively low, incarceration rates are high. Prisons are necessary to protect society from dangerous individuals who have committed violent crimes. However many people in prison simply don’t fit this profile. For example, many people in prison are there for non-violent property crimes.
There are more people in Provincial custody awaiting trial than people who have been convicted of an offence. This is a pressing concern that must be addressed.
Most urgent is the need to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in the corrections system. This is a troubling legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system named in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and which Canada has been asked to address in the TRC Calls to Action.
Church partner, The Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC), is mandated to shine a light on restorative approaches to justice and corrections and seeks to encourage creative and innovative thinking about new approaches to justice and corrections.
CCJC is committed to supporting the process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada, and to intervening in exclusionary logics that make prisons seem like the only way to deal with offending behaviour. The CCJC’s theology is clearly consistent with the comments and alternative proposals articulated by Malleat in this brilliant new book.
Reviewed by Rebecca Bromwich. Dr. Bromwich teaches law at Carleton University and is a member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ottawa ON. She is president of the CCJC’s board.
Foreward by Catherine Latimer
Beyond Incarceration is a call to replace Canada’s incarceration model, which has proven destructive, discriminatory, expensive, counterproductive, and — most of all — unnecessary.
Imprisonment developed in the Western world as the punishment to suit all offences, from violent assault to victimless drug use. Centuries ago, incarcerating convicts represented progress on society’s part since it came as a replacement for capital punishment, maiming, and torture.
Our current model — taking away convicts’ freedom and holding them in degrading and unhealthy prison conditions — promotes recidivism and jeopardizes public safety. It is highly discriminatory, with disproportionate numbers of ethnic, indigenous, mentally ill, drug-dependent, poor, and otherwise marginalized people imprisoned. It is also ruinously expensive.
Elsewhere, alternative correctional systems successfully rehabilitate offenders while treating them with dignity and respect. This book lays out the case for a complete overhaul of Canada’s ineffective incarceration model of criminal justice and for a new approach.
How should a society punish? Paula Mallea answers this question in a challenging and eloquent way. Her sweeping critique of imprisonment is disturbing. Her plea for alternatives is compelling. Whatever your view Beyond Incarceration will force you to ask why we so frequently imprison when there are reasonable and justified alternatives to address crime and sanctions.
(W.A. Bogart, author of Off the Street)
In Beyond Incarceration, the insightful legal thinker makes a clear and compelling argument that our fundamental approach to justice is counterproductive for a majority of inmates and society as a whole. (Winnipeg Free Press)
About the Author
Paula Mallea practiced criminal law for fifteen years in Ontario and Manitoba. While in Kingston, she defended inmates in nine different penitentiaries, spending hundreds of hours at Millhaven’s Special Handling Unit, Kingston Penitentiary, and other institutions. She lives in Gore Bay, Ontario.