Government’s crime tactics are “slogans and failed policies”

Mary CampbellThe Harper government has done a good job of silencing critics from within, bureaucratics and caucus members who disagree with the government’s often regressive and ideologically-driven policies on crime and justice. But the Cons face a formidable new foe who can’t be silenced or dismissed as a crackpot. Six months after retirement, a long-serving and universally admired architect of federal crime and justice measures, Mary Campbell (inset), has unleashed withering criticism of the Tories, calling their so called tough-on-crime measures a series of “slogans and failed policies” that reflect a “deep, visceral nastiness” and “do nothing to reduce or address crime.”

Campbell retired in April from her post as director general, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Public Safety Canada, the pinnacle of a distinguished public service career that spanned more than 25 years. She’s someone worth listening to, and the Tories can’t write her off as an academic with an agenda or a political opportunist. She is a dedicated public servant who has spent decades working from within to build a better criminal justice system, and now she’s clearly disgusted with the the direction it is being steered by the Harper government.

Doug Quan at Postmedia News appears to have the exclusive scoop on Campbell’s criticisms, in this story. Campbell was honoured three years ago with the Ed McIsaac Human Rights in Corrections Award. The citation praised her for:

In her current position as Director General, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Public Safety Canada, Ms. Campbell provides expert policy, program, legislative and research advice to support the Minister and Parliament. “For the past 25 years, Ms. Campbell has been at the forefront of legislative, criminal justice and sentencing policy reforms that have defined Canada’s correctional system,” said Mr. [Howard] Sapers. “Mary has served Canadians with unsurpassed integrity, conviction and distinction. Her achievements in the field of social justice, academia and correctional law and policy reform have been nothing short of extraordinary.” A lawyer by training, Ms. Campbell has spearheaded or was a member of major reforms of federal correctional law and related criminal justice statutes including creation and amendment of the National Sex Offender Registry in 2004 and 2010, guidelines for Dangerous Offender designation and enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992. Her publications in the areas of prisoners’ legal rights, sentencing reform and case law are standard reading in criminology courses and law departments across Canada.

Campbell has always been a voice of reason in the system, advocating what is reasonable and what makes the most sense, if our goal is to make society safer. A brief passage from a 2004 Parliamentary committee meeting illustrates the point. In this passage, Campbell is answering a question from a politician – a member of the committee – about the best way to reintegrate released criminals back into society:

First of all, the research indicates that people who come out under conditions do better than people who come out free and clear.

The second thing is, we see now in the U.S. a real shift back to a focus on prisoner re-entry—they’re now calling it re-entry, not parole—and a lot of recognition that this is the best way of bringing people back. All offenders who are coming back need some period of support and supervision.

That’s a lot of the thinking that’s going on at the two-thirds point in the sentence. I don’t think offenders get a free ride at that point in the sentence. Their past behaviour is very closely examined.

Why don’t we just go to a discretionary decision? Ultimately that’s a decision for Parliament to make. But the Canadian system has been founded on the view that if there are people who can be safely released at an earlier point, that’s the appropriate decision. By the time we’ve reached the two-thirds point, we have a warrant expiry date staring us in the face. What is the best way—and by that I mean for the protection of society—to re-integrate that person? For the majority of offenders, it will be through a very closely supervised release.

I came in at a time when people were released at the two-thirds point and were absolutely free and clear. There was no support, no supervision, nothing, at that point. The past 20 years have really just been a progression of tightening up that form of release to a point where it is quite restrictive now but still reflects the principle that people do better—and therefore society is safer—if they have that period.

Here’s the full text of Doug Quan’s Postmedia story,  which includes video of Campbell:

VANCOUVER – A former high-ranking public servant in Ottawa is ripping into the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime policies, saying they reflect a “deep, visceral nastiness” and actually “do nothing to reduce or address crime.”
Mary Campbell retired in April as director general of the corrections and criminal justice directorate at Public Safety Canada. In her role, she says she met almost weekly with the public safety minister or senior staff, giving advice on public policy, programs and research.
Twenty years ago, Canada was regarded as a “world leader” in the corrections field. Today, it has reached its “lowest point,” Campbell told Postmedia News in Vancouver, where she addressed a criminal justice conference Thursday.
“The current government has an approach that they like to call tough on crime. I say that’s the last thing it is. In fact it’s quite soft on crime because it’s really a lot of slogans and failed policies that do nothing to address crime or victimization.”
Some of the rhetoric, she said, was on display this summer when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new legislation for dealing with child-sex offenders.
“The fact is we don’t understand them and we don’t particularly care to. We understand only that they must be dealt with,” Harper said at the time.
Campbell said those remarks are “chilling when we think of them used with other groups of citizens today and in the past.”
“The deeply embedded nastiness of the current governing party is constantly displayed in their actions, whether it be creating even more punitive carceral conditions, erecting barriers to reintegration, never letting the offender be more than the worst thing they have ever done, using victims for political ends – the list is truly endless,” she wrote in her conference speaking notes.
Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said in an email Thursday that the government “unapologetically puts the needs of victims ahead of convicted criminals” and that “we will continue to do so above the objections of prisoner rights advocates.”
“Canada has a modern and humane correctional system,” he added.
Campbell, a public servant for almost 30 years, stressed she’s “not all about blaming the politicians.” In her speech and interview, she implored senior administrators in the criminal justice field to push for more “progressive” policies and evidence-based programs. Many changes do not require legislative changes, she said.
They could start, for instance, by focusing resources on dealing with high-risk offenders.
“We waste a lot of taxpayers’ hard–earned money on low-risk offenders. We know from the research that we shouldn’t do anything with them … Stop sending them automatically into halfway houses on day parole.”
Money instead could go, for instance, towards women offenders with severe mental illness, placing them in hospital treatment centres where they can get intensive psychiatric care, she said.
“So far that has not materialized and I think it’s frustrating to see the slow pace. You start to wonder what more is it going to take to get some of these agreements going? … The suffering and the harm that’s done is really shocking for a country like Canada.”
Off-site treatment was one of the recommendations in a report released this week by Canada’s prison watchdog, Howard Sapers, documenting the growing number of cases of chronic self-injury among women inmates.
Public safety memos obtained under access-to-information legislation show that the correctional service has been considering a pilot project with regional mental health facilities to address “acute” mental health needs of women inmates.
The memos point out, however, that providing them with in-patient psychiatric services will be more expensive than providing mental health services within the prison system.
Veronique Rioux, a spokeswoman for the Correctional Service of Canada, said this week that those partnerships are still being explored and community health experts are reviewing possible treatment plans.
Campbell also said there is an urgent need for more real-world job training for inmates that will make them marketable when they leave prison.
What exists now are “ad hoc, hit-and-miss contracts for low-grade work, nothing that’s training for a substantial job,” she said.
“Do the labour market analysis so we know where the gaps are and start matching up offenders to that training.”
She said it was “egregious” that women inmates at Joliette Institution in Quebec, for instance, were sewing underwear for male inmates.
“There is a garment industry in Quebec. But I see no evidence that men’s underwear is part of it,” she said. “C’mon, it’s a waste of time.”
Corrections officials said earlier this summer that they have developed a multi-year strategy to “align vocational training with current labour market data” and continue to look for opportunities to expand apprenticeships.
Campbell said there’s an international principle that people go to prison as punishment, but the Harper government has taken the view that people should go to prison for punishment.
That’s been reflected, she said, in the stripping away of privileges, such as access to weightlifting equipment, and reducing how much money inmates can earn. She said she’s even heard suggestions to feed the inmates less.
“It reflects a basic attitude of there’s us and there’s them – they are the worst thing they’ve ever done and that’s all they’ll ever be,” she said.
This negativity, she said, has filtered down to front-line public safety staff. For instance, parole hearings and parole decisions have increasingly become “cutting and cruel,” she said.
Campbell said there’s far too much fixation during parole hearings on grilling offenders on irrelevant matters and assessing offenders’ “moral worthiness” – are they sorry enough? – when it should be about, “Is this the right time and the right conditions to start re-integrating you?”
A spokesman said Thursday the Parole Board of Canada had “no comment to offer.”
Campbell said that in many respects, the U.S. has moved ahead of Canada. Americans are focusing resources on higher-risk offenders, conditions for parole are being reduced and special release measures are being introduced for elderly and sick prisoners. A few years ago, U.S. federal prisons also allowed some inmates access to email messaging.
Advocates say email makes it easier for inmates to maintain ties with family and conduct their legal affairs, and for authorities to monitor communications. It also reduces opportunities to smuggle drugs or contraband via regular mail.
Asked if Canada was contemplating such an idea, a corrections spokeswoman said the government “does not have such a plan.”

VANCOUVER – A former high-ranking public servant in Ottawa is ripping into the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime policies, saying they reflect a “deep, visceral nastiness” and actually “do nothing to reduce or address crime.”
Mary Campbell retired in April as director general of the corrections and criminal justice directorate at Public Safety Canada. In her role, she says she met almost weekly with the public safety minister or senior staff, giving advice on public policy, programs and research.
Twenty years ago, Canada was regarded as a “world leader” in the corrections field. Today, it has reached its “lowest point,” Campbell told Postmedia News in Vancouver, where she addressed a criminal justice conference Thursday.
“The current government has an approach that they like to call tough on crime. I say that’s the last thing it is. In fact it’s quite soft on crime because it’s really a lot of slogans and failed policies that do nothing to address crime or victimization.”
Some of the rhetoric, she said, was on display this summer when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new legislation for dealing with child-sex offenders.
“The fact is we don’t understand them and we don’t particularly care to. We understand only that they must be dealt with,” Harper said at the time.
Campbell said those remarks are “chilling when we think of them used with other groups of citizens today and in the past.”
“The deeply embedded nastiness of the current governing party is constantly displayed in their actions, whether it be creating even more punitive carceral conditions, erecting barriers to reintegration, never letting the offender be more than the worst thing they have ever done, using victims for political ends – the list is truly endless,” she wrote in her conference speaking notes.
Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said in an email Thursday that the government “unapologetically puts the needs of victims ahead of convicted criminals” and that “we will continue to do so above the objections of prisoner rights advocates.”
“Canada has a modern and humane correctional system,” he added.
Campbell, a public servant for almost 30 years, stressed she’s “not all about blaming the politicians.” In her speech and interview, she implored senior administrators in the criminal justice field to push for more “progressive” policies and evidence-based programs. Many changes do not require legislative changes, she said.
They could start, for instance, by focusing resources on dealing with high-risk offenders.
“We waste a lot of taxpayers’ hard–earned money on low-risk offenders. We know from the research that we shouldn’t do anything with them … Stop sending them automatically into halfway houses on day parole.”
Money instead could go, for instance, towards women offenders with severe mental illness, placing them in hospital treatment centres where they can get intensive psychiatric care, she said.
“So far that has not materialized and I think it’s frustrating to see the slow pace. You start to wonder what more is it going to take to get some of these agreements going? … The suffering and the harm that’s done is really shocking for a country like Canada.”
Off-site treatment was one of the recommendations in a report released this week by Canada’s prison watchdog, Howard Sapers, documenting the growing number of cases of chronic self-injury among women inmates.
Public safety memos obtained under access-to-information legislation show that the correctional service has been considering a pilot project with regional mental health facilities to address “acute” mental health needs of women inmates.
The memos point out, however, that providing them with in-patient psychiatric services will be more expensive than providing mental health services within the prison system.
Veronique Rioux, a spokeswoman for the Correctional Service of Canada, said this week that those partnerships are still being explored and community health experts are reviewing possible treatment plans.
Campbell also said there is an urgent need for more real-world job training for inmates that will make them marketable when they leave prison.
What exists now are “ad hoc, hit-and-miss contracts for low-grade work, nothing that’s training for a substantial job,” she said.
“Do the labour market analysis so we know where the gaps are and start matching up offenders to that training.”
She said it was “egregious” that women inmates at Joliette Institution in Quebec, for instance, were sewing underwear for male inmates.
“There is a garment industry in Quebec. But I see no evidence that men’s underwear is part of it,” she said. “C’mon, it’s a waste of time.”
Corrections officials said earlier this summer that they have developed a multi-year strategy to “align vocational training with current labour market data” and continue to look for opportunities to expand apprenticeships.
Campbell said there’s an international principle that people go to prison as punishment, but the Harper government has taken the view that people should go to prison for punishment.
That’s been reflected, she said, in the stripping away of privileges, such as access to weightlifting equipment, and reducing how much money inmates can earn. She said she’s even heard suggestions to feed the inmates less.
“It reflects a basic attitude of there’s us and there’s them – they are the worst thing they’ve ever done and that’s all they’ll ever be,” she said.
This negativity, she said, has filtered down to front-line public safety staff. For instance, parole hearings and parole decisions have increasingly become “cutting and cruel,” she said.
Campbell said there’s far too much fixation during parole hearings on grilling offenders on irrelevant matters and assessing offenders’ “moral worthiness” – are they sorry enough? – when it should be about, “Is this the right time and the right conditions to start re-integrating you?”
A spokesman said Thursday the Parole Board of Canada had “no comment to offer.”
Campbell said that in many respects, the U.S. has moved ahead of Canada. Americans are focusing resources on higher-risk offenders, conditions for parole are being reduced and special release measures are being introduced for elderly and sick prisoners. A few years ago, U.S. federal prisons also allowed some inmates access to email messaging.
Advocates say email makes it easier for inmates to maintain ties with family and conduct their legal affairs, and for authorities to monitor communications. It also reduces opportunities to smuggle drugs or contraband via regular mail.
Asked if Canada was contemplating such an idea, a corrections spokeswoman said the government “does not have such a plan.”

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