Canada’s prison system needs to provide more rehabilitation options for drug addiction

This article discusses addiction and may be triggering for some readers. 

Canada’s prison system provides too few resources or programs for people suffering from drug addiction—all it does is make the situation worse.

Prisons exist to punish those who’ve committed crimes and to prevent them from being a further harm to society. However, prisons also exist to rehabilitate prisoners and to deter them from offending again.

While Canada’s correctional system may fulfil the first two functions, they’re failing in the latter two.

Those currently within Canada’s prison system often aren’t dangerous murderers, but people suffering from drug addiction and mental illness. Their charges may include drug possession, theft, or property crime to fuel their addiction.

Let’s say an individual becomes addicted to crack cocaine. Like others addicted to hard drugs, they’re probably struggling with other issues, causing them to use and eventually abuse to cope. They often can’t fund their addiction, finding resources illegally through crime—usually minor property crimes, such as car break-ins.

The Canadian prison system can provide barely any treatment options for their addiction. Minor crimes mean entry into the provincial prison system, with a 60- to 90-day serving sentence.

Most of these people can’t make bail due to court order breach or a previous criminal record.

While they wait for their trial, they are put in remand centres until they plead out. Often, many end up finishing their sentence in the remand centre because of the complicated transfer process to a provincial prison.

Although provincial prisons offer very few resources for rehabilitation, remand centres offer absolutely nothing. The court even recognizes how awful remand centres are, mandating that 1.5 credit be given, meaning that a 15-day sentence would be shortened to 10, for example.

When they get out of prison or a remand centre, these folks have fewer job prospects than before due to their criminal record. While they may have been clean for the duration of their sentence, many people turn back to drug addiction and end up right back in prison.

The past decades saw the launch of Canadian drug treatment courts in response to the mass incarceration of offenders for drug-related offences. These courts create programs to support people suffering from drug addiction. While this initiative is a good starting point, the program doesn’t receive enough support or resources. Unfortunately, not many get to benefit from the program.

The circumstances create a never-ending cycle in which people suffering from drug addiction go in and out of prison, never given a proper chance to improve their condition. While it will be a long and difficult process, the Canadian government must take further steps towards providing more rehabilitation programs within the prison system.

Nathan is a third-year Film student and The Journal’s Senior Video Editor. 

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