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Bill to Reduce Recidivism Passes House of Commons

On Wednesday, May 5, Bill C-228 passed third reading in the House of Commons. This bill, entitled An Act to Establish a Federal Framework to Reduce Recidivism, was introduced by MP Richard Bragdon, and has received widespread support in Parliament, passing with a vote of 297 to 32. It is exciting to see such extensive support for an excellent Bill.

Bill C-228 seeks to address recidivism, or repeat offences, by people coming out of the Canadian prison system. Currently, recidivism rates are high for offenders being released from both federal and provincial prisons, and the existing process has not been able to effectively address the issue. Additionally, many offenders do not have access to necessary resources when their sentence has been completed.  These resources can include help finding housing, education, counselling, employment, or other supports. Specifically, the bill will encourage the government to focus on ways to help offenders effectively re-integrate into society and avoid falling back into criminal behaviour.

Ultimately, Bill C-228 requires the government to implement a federal framework that will help reduce recidivism. This will be done through consultation with the provincial governments, Indigenous organizations, non-profits, faith-based and private sector organizations. Through these consultations, the government can look at best practices within Canada and in other jurisdictions and establish pilot projects which focus on reducing recidivism in a Canadian context. Additionally, the government will be required to support faith-based and community programs which help provide resources for re-integration to those who are released from prison.

The framework would include measures to ensure that results are consistently evaluated to ensure that the most effective efforts are applied throughout Canada’s corrections system. Ideally, the framework will provide ways to assist in the re-integration of offenders into society so that they have a lower likelihood of reoffending.

The recognition of faith-based organizations in this bill is especially good to see. While the civil government bears the sword to punish wrong and to protect the innocent (see Romans 13), they are not well equipped to develop relationships with prisoners and to participate in the restorative process. Faith-based organizations and community partners are in the best position to provide supports, including fostering relationships, encouraging a sense of responsibility and repentance, and providing any supports needed to become part of the community again. One example of such an organization is Prison Fellowship Canada, which runs programs within prisons and supports offenders who are released from prison. It is refreshing to see the government willing to recognize the value of other sectors of society in the justice system.

Now that Bill C-228 has passed in the House of Commons, it will be referred to the Senate for approval. We want to make every effort to support this Bill so that it will be passed in the Senate and that the process will go quickly. Please take a few minutes to send an email to the Senate requesting that they expedite approval of this Bill.

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