Prison not the only option for offenders: justice expert

The incarceration rate in Saskatchewan is rising, but some say it doesn't have to if alternative punishments are used.

Saskatchewan incarceration rates among highest in country

Overall imprisonment rates in Canada are falling, but they continue to rise in Saskatchewan. (Shutterstock)

In Saskatchewan, there's a good chance that if you commit a crime, you'll do the time. But a professor at the University of Regina says that shouldn't always be the case. 

CBC looked into the numbers provided by Statistics Canada.  It found that the rate of people behind bars in Saskatchewan is one of the highest in the country and continues to rise while the national rate falls. 

I think we've become very conditioned as a society into what one might call a 911 mentality.- Nick Jones, associate professor

In 2013-14, 195 people per 100,000 ended up in jail. Nationally the number sits at 87 per 100,000. Only Manitoba and the territories put more people per capita in jail. 

Nick Jones, associate professor in the Department of Justice Studies at the University of Regina, said the high rate is related to Saskatchewan's "Law and Order" approach to crime. 

"I think we've become very conditioned as a society into what one might call a 911 mentality," Jones said. 

Jones said this means that there is an inclination to believe that the criminal justice system needs to get involved. 

Alternatives to imprisonment

However, crime rates and incarceration rates don't have to go hand-in-hand, according to Jones. 

"In some circumstances incarceration is absolutely, 100 per cent needed. I think we need to rethink on what basis we turn to incarceration."

Jones said research shows there has been much success when the person who commits a crime -- helps repair the harm they caused, as it "can be empowering to them".

"It can create relationships, and it may have an effect on reducing future offending," he said. 

In order for this system to work, the offender and the victim need to give consent to being involved in the process. 

Jones said this type of system wouldn't work for everyone, but can help victims get answers to some of the questions they have about why the crime was committed. 

"If we were to actually look at crime a little differently and look at it as something that creates harm, then we might start looking at a different approach to how we then answer that question of what to do in the aftermath of crime," he said. 


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