The Enright Files on humanizing Canada's penal system

This month's edition of The Enright Files takes a hard look at Canada’s penal system and explores ideas about how prisons can keep society safe in the long run. Michael Enright speaks with some remarkable people who serve prisoners, and society, in special ways.
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Listen to the full episode53:59

Politicians and governments call it getting tough on crime, part of a law and order agenda. A government focus on victim rights, longer sentences and stripping away services and programs meant to improve the lives -- and life chances -- of inmates, has left Canada's penal system much more equipped to punish than to rehabilitate offenders.

The result is overcrowded, violent jails and penitentiaries. Mentally ill prisoners are often placed in solitary confinement instead of receiving the treatment they need. Minorities are vastly over-represented, particularly Indigenous and black people. 

There are signs of change. For example, the overuse of solitary confinement -- or, as it's known in bureaucratic circles, administrative segregation -- has come in for intense media scrutiny, pressuring governments to reconsider their reliance on it. 

Still, Canada's prisons remain places of despair, violence and drug abuse, as likely to entrench the criminality of inmates as it is rehabilitate them. 

This month's edition of The Enright Files takes a hard look at Canada's penal system and explores ideas about how prisons can keep society safe in the long run. Michael Enright speaks with some remarkable people who serve prisoners, and society, in special ways.


Guests in this episode:

  • Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada from 2004 until 2016.

  • Kate Johnson, the former chaplain of the Pittsburgh Institution, a minimum security prison near Kingston.

  • Sister Elaine MacInnes, the founder of Freeing the Human Spirit, a charity dedicated to healing inmates through meditation and yoga.
     
  • Marianne Vollan, the Director General of Correctional Services of Norway.

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