Letters (May 01, 2011)

As a principal of a firm that designs correctional facilities, I felt compelled to add some further insights after reading the Viewpoint in the March 2011 issue of Canadian Architect. The current building initiatives have been caused largely by Crime Bill C-25, which removes a 2 for 1 credit that offenders receive for time served prior to being tried and sentenced. For example, an offender who awaited trial in a provincial facility for one year had two years of time served deducted from their overall sentence. This 2 for 1 credit was put into place as a way of recognizing the poor standard of care the offender was receiving within the facility and the inordinate length of time that our justice system takes to bring cases to trial. Lawyers representing offenders took full advantage of this situation, using delay tactics and avoidance to the benefit of their clients. The removal of this loophole has increased the speed at which offenders are sentenced while relieving some of the logjams within our courts. The real-time effect that Crime Bill C-25 will have on correctional facilities is that our provincial prison system should in fact see an immediate reduction in population due to faster processing, while it is anticipated that the federal system will experience an increase in its prison population. Hence, the current Correctional Service Canada (CSC) building program aimed at meeting these demands. On balance, the population within our combined provincial and federal correctional systems should remain approximately the same. In my opinion, the root cause of our less than adequate correctional system lies within our culture, in that we have a complete lack of understanding of and honesty towards our social issues. With avoidance comes benign neglect, manifested in a lack of appropriate funding, thereby handcuffing the system to the status quo. Mr. Chodikoff’s overarching challenge to the architectural community–“Should Architects accept Canada’s approach to prison-making, or can we advocate for an alternative course of action through preferred methods of crime prevention and rehabilitation?” is not an either/or situation. As architects and thoughtful members of society, we must do both.

Jonathan Hughes


NORR Limited