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Corrections innovation: Time is right | Lee Chappelle

Monday, March 21, 2022 @ 2:03 PM | By Lee Chapelle

Lee Chapelle %>
Lee Chapelle
We’ve all dealt with our share of adversities these past couple of years, and the COVID-19 pandemic itself has been one hell of wedge issue. Yet, most, have found innovative ways to adapt. And, now is the time for the Canadian criminal justice and correctional systems to follow suit.

Not placing blame here. It’s all been so fluid — the pandemic — and the hope was it would be long behind us by now. I for one, believe we are now headed that way, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s time to rethink crime and punishment, especially, our purpose and principles of sentencing.

It’s time to be innovative, not purely punitive, based upon, what has rapidly become, outdated case law and precedents. Clearly, these are unprecedented modern times and with the existent technology in today’s world, everything within and about our jails and prisons may as well be from the 1800s at this point,-specifically, infrastructure and philosophy.

Monitoring capabilities of charged and/or convicted criminals, along with information sharing within communities are far more advanced than ever. With the rapid advancements of technology over the past quarter-century, the damage done by the court of public opinion to one’s reputation is overwhelming, carrying a significant penalty in and of itself, acting as a true, extreme deterrent, in its own right. Reputation damage can carry greater, far-reaching impact than that of spending an underwhelming range of one to 24 months in a concrete box under inhumane conditions with no opportunity for reform.

This is particularly so when such sentences are rendered to first-time offenders, with post numerous years on bail, under stringent conditions, with full compliance. It’s simply nonsensical to continue to sentence people under these circumstances to low range custodial sentences, based solely upon what has abruptly, yet stealthily, become outdated precedents and case law.

Public safety needs to be the overriding principle right now. Dangerous violent people need to be locked up to keep our communities safe. No argument from me, there. I am not a “poor inmate” person. Rather, I’m a firm believer in personal responsibility. Yet, health and safety needs ought to be applicable to inmate and front-line correctional staff, also, and we’re failing.

Staff — namely front-line correctional officers — have been hit hard. They’ve been hit hard by contracting COVID-19, and they take the brunt of the frustrations from inmates and inmates’ families and loved ones. I’ve some young, resilient clients, incarcerated, who’ve been battling hard for their sanity right now and these are guys who can do time. The families and loved ones, of both staff and inmates, are increasingly worried about their physical and mental health.

As for the pandemic, I’m in agreement with the lifting of many of the restrictions in our communities — moving forward with the “learning to live with it’” approach. Individually and collectively, it appears, we’ve arrived at a point where we’re capable of applying daily personal risk assessments, accordingly. Conversely, our jails and prisons do not have access to the same tools, nor the space, so will not be able to remove restrictions in the same manner.

So, with that in mind — and a virus on the verge of turning from pandemic to endemic — that will linger in congregate settings — for years to come — it’s time to do a full re-evaluation. I’m no abolitionist, but the time to implement smart 21st-century justice is now. We possess far more tools (technology) to stop crime and to, effectively, monitor offenders, than ever before.

It isn’t rocket science, or epidemiology for that matter. Increase the use of electronic monitoring, more terms of house arrest, more rehabilitation — in the form of court ordered counselling, programs, treatment — in communities.

Consequently, this will allow corrections to get a handle on things within our jails and prisons by lowering the inmate population, with the reasonable, and, achievable, target of establishing single cells for all Canadian inmates.

Finally, introduce virtual programming and increase community-based programming, leading us to a correctional system capable of rehabilitation, or, warehousing, safely, if warranted. Thus, resulting in increased public safety and a far more humane approach to crime and punishment and better ROI for us all.

Lee Chapelle is founder and president of Canadian Prison Consulting Incorporated. Through extensive firsthand experience and knowledge of the justice system and correctional process, he provides a concentrated and comprehensive informational experience that assists clients prepare for the huge transition of serving time. He also builds proactive game plans designed to lower sentences and lay the foundation for early release.

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