Letter to the Editor

Yukon topping the rise in  national incarceration rates The latest information from Statistics Canada shows a bleak performance in crime…

Yukon topping the rise in

 national incarceration rates

The latest information from Statistics Canada shows a bleak performance in crime prevention. The Yukon shows a whopping 33 per cent increase in incarceration rates, topping any other Canadian jurisdiction.

This substantial increase will likely add to the growing demand for capacity expansion of the Yukon correctional facilities and related services.

I disagree with the explanation this increase and the increased criminal offences in the Yukon are, or could be explained by more effective law-enforcement efforts alone.

According to findings of Statistics Canada in 2007, the rate of reported Criminal Code incidents in the Yukon was over three times the national average. The correlation between high crime rates and high incarceration rates may be evident.

The United States have the world’s highest incarceration rate of 750 per 100,000. According to the findings of the United Nations the United States overwhelmingly leads the Total Crimes by Country table.

It is hard to see the benefit of high incarceration levels with respect to safety. Canada, in comparison, has an incarceration rate of 117 per 100,000. Canada ranks eighth out of 82 countries.

According to the National Crime Prevention Council of Canada, Canadians are 50 per cent more likely than Europeans and 500 per cent more likely than Japanese to be victims of burglary, assault, sexual offences and robbery.

If there are solutions to be found to these problems then we certainly have to start asking ourselves these questions: “Why do some people commit these crimes against others”? And “Which factors stimulate or deter this criminal behaviour”? We have to search for the root causes and try to intervene at the point where it is most effective.

Too often we read about people who were hurt by others due to criminal activity or behaviour. The Yukon has had a notorious problem with crime for a long time and this situation remains largely unchanged.

Statistics clearly show Yukon crime rates are far above the national averages and contribute to the tremendous economic costs of crime in Canada.

The essence of the problem is not the money. It it is in the human suffering of our children, friends, families and fellow Yukoners who are being scarred by criminal behaviour day-in, day-out.

There is no adequate or proven cure to counter criminal behaviour.

Although, research shows clearly that a more effective strategy for preventing crime includes social-development programs that strengthen individuals, families and communities.

After-the-fact measures, such as judicial punishment, law enforcement and victim services, etc., are necessary, but do not prevent crimes or the creation of victims.

Many studies show enforcement, incarceration and rehabilitation efforts, although important, do not make communities much safer.

Stigmatization and community exclusion are factors that contribute to the decreased opportunity for offenders to rehabilitate. This may certainly be true for smaller communities, such as the Yukon.

We know what the symptoms of our social problems are, but we are not successful in preventing this social-crime disease. Driven by political currents we tend to focus on containment and treatment of criminal behaviour.

Neglecting concerted crime-prevention efforts in favour of problem-containment efforts will only feed the necessity of increasing treatment services.

The theory of problem solving, in this case, is actually quite simple. It is preferable to prevent people from causing hurt instead of treating hurt people.

Just as in the natural environment, social health plays a key role in deterring new and existing diseases from gaining ground.

Offenders are not the disease we are trying to identify and isolate from the community in order to correct their behaviour before returning them into society. The disease is the social environment that fails to prevent community members from becoming offenders that victimize fellow community members.

People commit crimes for many reasons. The burden of victims is often shrouded in a cloak of fear, embarrassment and silence.

It is simply unacceptable to tolerate criminal behaviour that causes human suffering and, in particular, violent crimes.

Public money should be used to prevent criminal behaviour before it starts and not simply at preventing offenders from repeating criminal behaviour.

Currently about 50 to 75 per cent of the world’s resources dedicated to dealing with crime are police resources, while another 20 to 25 per cent are dedicated to prisons and detainment.

The number of repeat offenders is high, and success rates in prevention of reoffending are not encouraging.

But society and politicians lack the will to make the needed changes.

Police are preferred to crime prevention through social development.

Social investment in crime prevention requires time, and is not conducive to short-term results.

This social approach may not synch with political agendas, regardless of whether it is scientifically proven to be more successful than traditional enforcement and “containment-of-the-problem” approaches.

We need to break the cycle of allowing our youngsters to wander off by making sure all our youth receive the attention and the support they need to grow into healthy responsible community members.

We have to take responsibility for creating a safe environment for children, one that offers social and economic opportunities for growth.

Long-term evaluation in the United States concludes that a $1 investment in quality preschool child care saves $7 down the road on welfare, policing, social services and prisons.

Social investments like these should not end there.

Not accepting the realities of crimes committed in the Yukon should be more than expecting authorities to enforce the strong-arm of law, or expecting our school teachers to teach our children values, competencies and skills.

Engagement and care is needed from all of us. After all, crime is a social problem.

Preventable human suffering should not be acceptable.

In failing to address these issues as adequately as we are able to, we, as a society, become responsible for crimes committed in our community.

If you would like to get involved in making our community safer, please contact us at Crime Prevention Yukon.

Ryn Bunicich, executive director, Crime Prevention Yukon

Whitehorse