The article presented on this paper reveals the problem of gangs and gang related violence in our nation’s institutions. Corrections Canada has seen a 44 per cent jump in gang members in federal prisons in the last five years, to 2,040 in 2012 from 1,421 in 2007, according to the documents obtained under access to information. The correctional service constructed a strategic framework for dealing with gangs in 2006, and implemented its gang management strategy in 2008, aiming to convince inmates to drop their affiliation and limit security risks.
Gang numbers have continued to rise, according to one correctional service management document. It raises a number of concerns, such as: power and control issues through intimidation, extortion and violence, incompatibilities or rivalries between various individuals and groups, illicit or illegal activities, such as drug distribution within correctional facilities, potential for manipulation, intimidation and corruption of staff, population management pressures, illicit or illegal activities while on conditional release.
“There is a considerable workload for the security intelligence department which has intensified in the past year with the proliferation of gangs and more complex population dynamics caused by double-bunking. “, a document regarding an executive committee conference call on a National Board of Investigation into the murder of an inmate has noted. Some measures taken to combat the gang problem include more training, more intelligence officers, more collaboration with police and justice partners and a prohibition of gang colours and paraphernalia.
Corrections Canada has also considered segregating certain gangs, for example a special unit in at the Edmonton Institution called STEP (Security Threat Elimination Program) was created to isolate game members from the general population. Gangs control the drug trade inside a large majority of institutions, which provokes violent confrontations between gangs trying to expand or preserve their customer base. Gang members in institutions recruit heavily and forge alliances to strengthen their power base and influence within the prison.
Candice Bergen, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, has stated the government’s “tough-on-crime” legislation has taken more gang members off the streets and put them behind bars. “We have good programs that are in place, but it’s a continual challenge,” she told host Evan Solomon. “There is some relief that at least these individuals are not on the street. If they’re going to be involved in illegal activity, it’s better that they’re in prison and we can deal with them in a very controlled setting.
” Bergen disregarded links between double-bunking and overcrowded conditions with violence and other issues behind bars. However, NDP Public Safety critic Randall Garrison believes overcrowding alongside fewer programs and rehabilitation increases violence and fuels gang affiliation. “There’s that old saying about idle hands and the devil’s work,” he said. “I think this actually helps to fuel that spike in gang activity. People aren’t getting the programming and treatment they need in prisons and they turn to other things.
” Liberal MP Wayne Easter said Conservative policies have turned a correctional system that once focused on rehabilitation and making people better citizens into a “warehouse for making better criminals. ” “I think we’re going the way of the Americans”, he said. Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers said the rise of gang numbers is instigated by more gang members being incarcerated, but also heavy recruitment behind bars. The federal government has invested $120 million in new technology, hardware and security intelligence officers, but spending meager amounts in programs for education, treatment and harm reduction.
“You have a lot of offenders who aren’t institutionally employed, they’re not in vocational programs, they have time on their hands,” Sapers said. “They interact with others; they may be in confined spaces, double-bunked with others – lots of opportunities for gang recruitment, lots of opportunities for illegal and contraband drug exchange. All that is driving the issue. ” I have no doubt that we are taking the wrong approach on how we are dealing with the situation of gangs and violence in Canada’s institutions. Some of the most prominent issues, in my opinion, stem from manipulation, intimidation and corruption.
This is something that is mentioned but not discussed in detail in the article, and I believe it should be. The article mentions that one of the solutions adopted to combat the problem is the recruitment of more officers; I personally feel this is not a good idea. Not only is this going to inconveniently cost more money, but the possibility of corruption will be greater with the introduction of more staff. Better training should be emphasized, because I believe a smaller and highly trained staff would be less likely to suffer from corruption.
With little or no corruption among prison staff, inmates will find it much more difficult to distribute drugs inside the correctional facility. To conclude, I must say that I disagree with Bergen’s argument that double-bunking and overcrowded prisons do not have a link, and lean more towards Garrison’s view on the subject. Most inmates incarcerated in a crowded facility would likely turn to gangs for personal security reasons. Prison is a hostile environment and knowing that they have others on their side for protection would be enough of a reason for inmates to confide in a gang.
However, if finances were to be redirected to educational, rehabilitation and treatment programs within correctional facilities, I believe many inmates would turn to these instead, which would effectively lower gang-related activities in our prisons. Fewer inmates would be turning to gangs if there was more to do in prison, since these programs would create a substantial and constructive time sink. If we embraced these solutions instead, I believe these programs can be very beneficial in assisting inmates with integrating back into society once they are released, and may prevent any criminal offenses in the future.