Canada’s criminal justice system put on trial in UBC professor’s new book

Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, is making the case for a new approach to Canada’s criminal justice system in his new book that launched last week.

“Indictment: The Criminal Justice System on Trial” is the title of Perrin’s new book, in which he argues why being “tough on crime” is only intensifying crime in Canada.

“We know from the research that more police doesn’t mean less crime and incarcerating people actually increases the chances they’ll re-offend,” Perrin told CityNews.

He says within his book is a proposal for a “New Transformative Just Decision,” which entails treating people in incarceration with more humanity and respect.

Perrin says while writing it he interviewed survivors of crime, people in incarceration, and others on the front lines of the criminal justice system. He says he spoke to people charged with all sorts of offences, from keying a car to committing murder.

These are the witnesses who put the criminal justice system on trial, Perrin says, and unanimously agree it just isn’t working.

“I found it incredibly mind-blowing and transformative to hear what they’ve experienced,” he said about his conversations with people in the system.

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While the first half of his book is spent examining the flaws in Canada’s system, Perrin says the second half is spent detailing how Canada can “do things differently.”

“The goal should be to transform the trauma in our society,” Perrin said. “Both the people who are harmed… and the people who are causing them harm.”

Perrin says more care needs to be taken to heal people in incarceration, so they don’t return to society without unresolved trauma that contributes to their criminal behaviour.

“When we do have to separate people from society, I would rather have them come out better than when they went in,” he said. “It’s a question of what kind of neighbour do you want to have.”

He says he’s also a huge advocate for Indigenous-led justice systems. Despite being proven effective at significantly reducing violent crime, Perrin says these systems are chronically underfunded by governments.

According to Perrin, the saying “hurt people, hurt people,” rings true and until Canada’s criminal justice system is amended to provide incarcerated people with more support, crime in the country won’t improve.

The more supports and social services provided in prisons and as part of early-intervention programs, the more Canada could save in its spending on criminal justice programs, Perrin says

He says by addressing the root causes of repeat offences, Canada’s taxpayers could save more money.

Perrin’s book release comes as the Senate reviews a Liberal bail reform bill and critics warn the proposed legislation could disproportionately hurt Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities.

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