Watch above: Shaun Dyer, the executive director for the John Howard Society in Saskatoon, speaks with Kevin Stanfield about overcrowding in jails, how it is affecting prisoner rehabilitation and possibly putting public safety at risk.
SASKATOON – The John Howard Society says overcrowded prisons in Saskatchewan are potentially putting the public at risk. Shaun Dyer, the executive director of Saskatoon’s John Howard Society says reducing the number of people sitting in jail while awaiting trial would be a big step.
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“The remand rate is extremely high in the province,” Dyer told Global News Tuesday morning. “Reducing the number of prisoners on remand is one huge step to reduce the overcrowding issue,” .
It’s one of the things the Society suggested last fall, when it came out with a five-point plan that it believes will help fix the problems in the country’s corrections system.
For months, the union that represents correctional workers has warned that overcrowded jails are a problem. Dyer also believes that, saying gyms and other spaces that should be used for programs to help prisoners are turned into living spaces.
“It’s massively overcrowded,” he said.
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Dyer said many people equate locking up offenders with public safety. But he says that’s a mistake.
“We hear a lot about public safety,” said Dyer. “There is this perception that we’re safer, and there’s an effort to make us safer, by putting more people in prison for longer periods of time.”
But he says in many cases that leads to crowded prisons where a lot less can be done to prepare people for life after release.
“It’s a genuine public safety issue … it affects you and me, even though we’re not on the inside,” he said. And that’s because most prisoners will get released back into the community. And if they’re not ready, they are more likely to re-offend.
“If someone is less equipped to live positively in the community when they come out, than when they went in, that’s a public safety issue,” said Dyer. “We want them to be ready to live in the community when they leave.”
Dyer believes many of those sitting in remand – who have not been convicted – could be monitored in the community. And he thinks that would be a significant step to reducing overcrowded prisons and the problems that come with it.