Sweating it Out: Facilitating Corrections and Parole in Canada through Aboriginal Spiritual Healing
Aboriginal peoples continue to be subjected to drastic over-incarceration. Much of the existing literature explores contemporary adaptations of Aboriginal justice traditions that resemble restorative justice as a solution. There is by comparison a lack of literature that considers searching for solutions during the correctional phase of the justice system, after Aboriginal persons have already been convicted and imprisoned. The objective of this paper is to explore a number of reforms in order to better facilitate rehabilitation, reintegration, and parole for Aboriginal inmates. One is to invest greater resources into culturally sensitive programming that emphasizes spiritual healing for Aboriginal inmates. This is premised on the theme of ‘spend now, save later’ with the idea that increasing the chances for Aboriginal re-integration may represent the better long term investment than simply warehousing large numbers of Aboriginal inmates year after year. Another problem is that many Aboriginal inmates are classified as higher security risks, which results in them being cut off from needed programming. The suggestion here is that criminal history as a static factor for determining security classifications may have little predictive value for the actual security risk posed by Aboriginal inmates, and therefore should be de-emphasized. Correctional Services of Canada should seriously consider developing an Aboriginal-specific classification scale that de-emphasizes criminal history, and emphasizes instead offender participation in culturally appropriate programs and spiritual healing, and behavioural progress while in prison. Risk assessment to re-offend for purposes of granting parole may also represent a form of systemic discrimination since criminal history represents a static factor that encumbers parole for many Aboriginal inmates. Risk assessment should instead emphasize dynamic risk factors by assessing Aboriginal participation in culturally appropriate programming, and attendant behaviourial progress while in prison. The difficult issue of Aboriginal gang activity can perhaps be dealt with through a more flexible system of risk assessment that gauges a willingness to reform and dissociate from the gang lifestyle rather than require Aboriginal inmates to endure nearly permanent penalties for past involvement. Finally, the paper will suggest that it is possible to overcome the political obstacles to implementing these reforms and obtain a political mandate to pursue them after the public is made aware of the benefits they offer.
David Milward. "Sweating it Out: Facilitating Corrections and Parole in Canada through Aboriginal Spiritual Healing" Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 29.1 (2012): 27-72.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/david_milward/4