"JAIL NOT BAIL" - What's Wrong with this Slogan?
The limitations of Tough on Crime Policies
Amidst the escalating issues of homelessness, substance use, and petty crime, there's a noticeable shift towards "tough-on-crime" policies. Remarkably, this inclination is evident across various political parties, regardless of their positioning on the political spectrum.
A slogan that succinctly captures this sentiment is the “Jail not Bail,” championed by the Federal Conservative Party.
A prevailing sentiment among many Canadians is that our penal system is perhaps too indulgent towards offenders. There's a growing belief that adopting a stricter stance might be the key to resolving many pressing concerns.
Such sentiments resonate deeply within communities. In my own locality, for instance, it's not uncommon to witness bike thefts, trespassers pilfering items from backyards, and conspicuous substance use in public areas. The overarching perception is one of stagnation and a lack of tangible improvement.
However, at the provincial level in British Columbia, the governing NDP, and at the federal level, the Liberals, both lean towards a more compassionate approach. They advocate for understanding and offering support to individuals grappling with challenges such as mental health issues, substance dependence, and homelessness.
“Health Canada granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to the Province of British Columbia From January 31, 2023 until January 31, 2026, adults in B.C. are not subject to criminal charges for the personal possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs”.
There's a growing belief that by decriminalizing possession of small quantities of drugs, we can discourage covert drug consumption and, consequently, diminish overdose incidents. More than just a legal adjustment, it's an effort to mitigate the stigma surrounding drug use, thereby motivating individuals to pursue treatment and engage in recovery programs.
Many nations have already reaped the benefits of this method. Academics often spotlight Portugal as the quintessential illustration of drug decriminalization done right. The key to their success? They frame addiction as a medical concern rather than a criminal act.
However, in Canada, and more specifically in British Columbia, we're hitting a stumbling block. While we've made strides in decriminalizing, we haven't laid down a robust infrastructure of easily accessible treatment centers, counseling amenities, educational initiatives, and rehabilitation homes. It seems we've been hasty in deploying the first part of our strategy, Decriminalization, without a solid framework for the second, Treatment.
This brings us to the contention fronted by figures like Pierre Poilievre, the NDP, and other advocates of a tough-on-crime doctrine. Presently, we stand at a crossroads. One path leads back to the familiar approach championed by Stephen Harper. The other beckons us towards uncharted territories.
Following Pierre's doctrine would see us reverting to the old mantra of “Jail not Bail.”
On the other hand, Benjamin Perrin advocates for a more progressive approach. He urges us to navigate through this transitional phase with resilience, keeping faith in the “With Jail we Fail” philosophy, and steering towards a system where addiction is addressed as a health challenge.
Today, in my role as a Native Courtworker, I'm confronted with a painful reality: I cannot consistently secure spots for my clients in effective treatment and safe recovery facilities. It's not just an oversight—it's a profound tragedy.
These clients don't require extended stints behind bars. What they truly need is compassionate assistance, resources, and a supportive framework that enables them to reclaim their lives and realize their fullest potential.
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