Crime prevention that is community based and focuses on addressing the underlying causes of crime should be seen as the primary approach in fighting crime.
Governments expend a major portion of their annual criminal justice budgets on correctional institutions. Legislation passed over the last several years will further increase expenditures on prison and penitentiary construction. This is unfortunate as the proportion of investments in institutions will rise even further compared to community programs. In our view significantly greater attention and resources should be focused on community based preventive initiatives which would also lead to a reduction in recidivism. Resources should be devoted to research and program evaluation in order to identify those programs that most successful. As well, the federal and provincial jurisdictions must work closely together in policy and program development so that the criminal justice system operates as a cohesive whole. This would include improvements in the collection and sharing of offender information for management purposes throughout all parts of the system.
A focus on early intervention with young people considered most at risk offers a great deal of promise. Accessible community-based programs and services such as counselling, programs for children, parenting programs, support groups, education and employment programs should be provided. Further, delivery of programs in the community should be integrated between health, education and justice, taking into account individual needs and the provision of appropriate support systems.
Diversion measures should be used to prevent people from entering the criminal justice system and promote community involvement and offender accountability to the community. Community-based volunteers must be encouraged and enabled to play a greater role.
Mechanisms need to be established to increase the awareness of both the public and the offender. Practitioners should act as a link between the two groups. Offenders should be made to face up to the harm they have caused and, as a result, victims and justice would be better served. This would contribute to alleviating the fear of crime and the ensuing prejudice.
Where required, imprisonment must be used in a humane and effective way that addresses security as well as rehabilitation. This should include appropriate and effective risk/need assessments, rehabilitative programming, particularly for special client groups, such as women and aboriginal offenders and a planned, supervised, gradual release process.
The “Daubney Report”, prepared by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General in 1988 emphasized the importance of public education in the criminal justice process.
The 1994 Community Crime Prevention Report (Horner Report) issued by the Parliamentary Committee addressed the causes of criminal behaviour with a focus on preventive strategies. It pointed out the necessity to bring the education system on board in educating teachers as well as the students on the underlying issues and not just focussing on security.
Since crime prevention and rehabilitation are acknowledged by most criminal justice professionals and community leaders as the most strategic fashion to ensure public safety, CCJA recommends increased emphasis and funding in these areas.