The Many Faces of 'Corrections': A call for universal reform.

AuthorWinterdyk, John

In my study of our court and prison methods, I found... a great wastage of human lives--a failure to reclaim and utilize them. E.N. Foss, 1914

Perhaps the least understood part of our criminal justice system is the correctional or prison system. Why? Primarily because, while everyone knows that prisons are places where we detain those who have committed one or more serious crimes, very few people have been inside one. That is, aside from what we might see on TV shows (such as Orange is the New Black and Prison Break), the odd documentary (such as the 2016 Netflix series Inside the World's Toughest Prisons and the 1998 award-winning documentary The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison) or news articles. However, most of us have likely had some contact, for one reason or another, with the police (such as for a speeding ticket or traffic violation, reporting some type of property damage, etc.).

Many of us have been inside a courtroom, but few of us have been inside a prison. Of those who may have been inside a prison, it was likely to visit someone being detained. And in that case, we only had access to the visiting centre. It should be no surprise that what goes on in our prison system, and in systems around the world, remains 'hidden' from the public. Yet, according to the World Prison Brief, there are currently over 10 million inmates worldwide on any given day. According to data from the United Nations, over the last 20 years the number of individuals, whether in remand or serving sentences in prison, has increased in most countries. The consequence of this trend places a significant burden (i.e., economic & social) on all societies. And collectively it undermines the UN's Social Development Goal (SDG) number 16--to by 2030 achieve 'peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice and accountable institutions'.

Although there are several different legal systems worldwide, the structure of criminal justice systems internationally usually consists of three elements:

  1. law enforcement (the police)

  2. the courts

  3. corrections

    While there are different policing and court systems, there are even more variations of prison systems. For example, some of the primary prison systems globally include:

    * juvenile, minimum, medium, and high-security prisons

    * military prisons

    * psychiatric facilities

    * federal vs. provincial prisons

    * jails vs. prisons

    There is a respectable body of cross-cultural or comparative studies about policing and judicial systems. However, there is comparatively less...

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