Dear Canada,
It’s time to get smart on crime and to create a more powerful vision of justice.

I am concerned about the omnibus crime bill introduced by Canada’s conservative government. I spent a long time talking with national reporter Doug Quan and am thrilled to see his article published in major newspapers across the country.

imprisonmentPrime Minister Harper is pushing for a “get tough” approach. As a criminologist and having spent years in the US, I can tell you this is not the direction Canada should be going. Research shows that harsher punishments actually increase re-offending.

Do we really want to lock up more people, including non-violent offenders, at great cost to us all?

Please, let’s learn from the mistakes of our neighbour. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, imprisoning well over 2 million people.

imprisonment ratesThey experience serious overcrowding, high levels of re-offending and financial strains from spending billions of taxpayer’s dollars.

California, for example, just announced that it plans to release thousands of female inmates who have children in efforts to reduce the crushing impact of getting tough.

We must ask ourselves what is our vision for Canada? Do we want to be a punitive country, where it’s an eye for an eye? Do we really want to go blind?

Or do we want a society that holds people accountable in a meaningful way, supports victims in healing and strengthens communities?

Restorative justice offers a far more effective approach to crime and justice. Research shows that victims are more satisfied, symptoms of trauma are reduced, offenders are more likely to fulfill agreements of restitution, and people feel safer in their communities after participating in a restorative process. Restorative justice is also more cost effective. New Zealand estimates millions of dollars in savings when restorative justice is used.

What will you choose Canada? I sure hope you agree that it’s time to get smart.