Thousand Islands Meeting
Current Work on Justice Issues
Two Recent Letters:
Justice must include care of victims
The Kingston and area communities have shown huge support and passion for the continuing Save the Prison Farm campaign. There are plenty of different reasons for recognizing the value of the prison farms but they are all included in one cause - justice for all.
The Thousand Islands Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is actively engaged in justice work, especially the Alternatives to Violence Program. We believe that justice includes making things as right as possible for the victims of crime. We call for Canada to become a country where the first response is to help those affected by crime, encouraging them to embark on healing journeys. This change in focus will transform our pursuit of justice from one that emphasizes punishment to one that fosters peace in our communities.
The legal and correctional systems in Canada focus on offenders. Very little is done to help victims of crime. Based on Statistics Canada numbers for 2003, each Canadian contributes the equivalent of $365 annually to catch, try and punish offenders. (In current years the government has stopped reporting these costs in ways that are accessible to us.) Each person charged, tried and convicted costs on average about $51,751.00. Bigger jails are being planned.
By contrast, Statistics Canada estimates Victims Services in Canada in 2005/2006 cost each Canadian $3.88 to assist victims of crime. Each registered victim receives on average total services equalling about $22.51. Neglecting to treat harm and trauma affects neighbourhood safety and future crime rates. It is not justice when so much negative attention is paid to perpetrators of crime and so little to the needs of those who are directly harmed.
Our precious resources should go towards supporting the social and practical needs of those most affected by crime. The most vulnerable include the mentally ill, the poor, indigenous peoples, those who struggle with addictions and those who are less educated. The social injustices which foster criminal activity and inhibit the development of effective community support for its victims and survivors must be addressed.
Statistics Canada also reports that less than 35% of violent crime is reported to police. One good reason for this is that some victims would prefer that the harmful situation be made right rather than punish the offender. Not reporting a violent crime may well be better than spending years visiting a close relative in a distant jail. The legal system is irrelevant and possibly hurtful in addressing some crime. We believe that an appropriate response to unreported crime is to create a system that will encourage people to seek justice for all those involved, not by longer sentences.
Justice is done when those most affected by crime are satisfied that things have been made as right as possible, the affected communities learn from the past, and are confident in their ability to undertake, with compassion, expectancy, faith, and hope, the tasks of building and sustaining peace.
Thousand Islands Meeting
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
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