"What is it that the correctional service actually corrects? In my view very little...and...the justice system is completely criminal and it should be studied..." So begins a provocative presentation by trauma and addiction treatment expert, Gabor Maté, M.D. While working for two decades on Vancouver's Downtown East Side, Gabor saw how the purely medical model of addiction theory fails to take into account the effects of trauma and the biopsychosocial conditions of human beings as they live in relationship with others. He argues that current Canadian social and criminal policy exacerbate and entrench addiction, criminal behaviour and human suffering. He calls for social policy, medical training and criminal justice to become more fully aligned with the current science and understanding of addiction and healing. Ting Forum on Justice Policy co-sponsored by The School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Department of Criminology at Douglas College Buy the DVD at http://www.heartspeakproductions.ca
Part Two Dr. Gabor Maté is joined by Ray Corrado (Simon Fraser University, School of Criminology), Tim Veresh (The John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland, BC), and Sav Bains (The Correctional Service of Canada [CSC]), to continue the dialogue on addictions and corrections. Underlying the discussion of the treatment of addictions in the prison environment is an awareness that new and impending crime legislation will result in increased federal and provincial prison populations. To implement these changes, the federal government has committed Canadians to spending 11 billion dollars for expanded prison infrastructure.
Tim Veresh and Sav Bains estimate that eighty percent of those incarcerated in Canada suffer from some kind of substance abuse problem. Yet, Sav notes, CSC earmarks a maximum of 2.8% of its budget for basic cognitive-behavioural intervention programs, its main vehicle for delivering correctional and rehabilitative programming. CSC policy allows them to address an addiction or substance abuse problem only if the problem was deemed to be directly linked to the crime that led to incarceration. Consequently many people leave prison without addressing the problem of addiction or its root cause.
Sav projects that CSC will need to rely more heavily on volunteers and chaplaincy, not only to deal with the deeper psychological issues and effects of addiction, but also to assist with rehabilitation and reintegration.
Ray Corrado suggests that, short of a full revolution, piecemeal work in integrated diagnostics and delivery systems hold the most promise, especially if focused on health, education, early social interventions and information sharing across agencies.
Dr. Maté points out that virtually all the social problems associated with illegal drugs are a result of criminalizing drug use, and that where decriminalization of drug use has been instituted, there are marked decreases in crime and social problems generally associated with drug use.
The key to addressing social and personal effects of addiction is to practice compassion, Maté insists. If social institutions overlook this fact, they foster ongoing suffering rather than healing.