As a Canadian, I am concerned that we, as a country, are trying to follow the U.S. down the rabbit hole of "if we build it, they will come" in terms of incarceration rates and the use of prisons for punishment instead of rehabilitation. I recognize that prisons (and jails) serve the societal purpose of maintaining order and the rule of law, but one has to wonder about the true intent of higher rates and longer terms, when inmate populations are so badly skewed in terms of ethnicity, both here and in the U.S.
According to the (U.S.) Bureau of Justice Statistics, there appears to have been a brief epiphany somewhere, such that there was a prison population decrease during 2012, the fourth consecutive year of decline in the U.S. correctional population. However, this was also reported to be the slowest rate of decline observed since 2009, when the population first decreased.
By comparison, (and I hope with some shame), the CBC recently noted that in the report prepared by Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers, overall spending in the Canadian justice system rose 23 per cent in the past decade. “During that same period, Canada’s crime rate fell by exactly the same proportion,” he said.
“The growth in the custody population appears to be policy, not crime driven. After all, crime rates are down while incarceration rates grow,” he said, adding that crime across Canada has been declining for more than a decade, long before the current government’s “tough on crime” agenda.
Sapers said the United States, with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, has changed course, having realized that more people in prison doesn’t mean safer streets. “If there was a relationship between public safety and incarceration, then the downtowns of the big American cities would be the safest environments in the world; they’re not,” he said.
Under Canadian law, prison is supposed to be seen as a last resort and should be used as little as possible for the shortest time necessary. As well, it says prisoners continue to have human rights and are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.
Sapers says recent changes by the (Canadian) government that see inmates serving longer sentences, cuts in prison pay and imposing austere conditions do little to improve public safety; instead, it makes it more difficult to rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into society upon their release." http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada-s-prison-population-at-all-time-high-1.2440039
Sometimes, "Made In America" is not a good thing; the over-use of prisons is one example.