Exploring a Community-based Response to our Criminality Crisis

Ralph (second from right) engaged in dialogue at Peterborough Dialogues last year.

Ralph Gutkin (second from right) engaged in dialogue at Peterborough Dialogues last year.

Curator’s note: Peterborough Dialogues welcomes Ralph Gutkin in a blog series exploring an alternative response to the criminality crisis which currently strains society financially and emotionally. His blogs will move through the depths of the concern into what can our region can do about it.

I have become very passionate about finding a rational, humane, and community-based response to our criminality crisis.

Some of you may wonder about the term ‘crisis’. One online dictionary defines it as “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.” I believe that we are and have been at that point for a very long time. Over the past several months I have been laying the groundwork for a very specific initiative that holds promise for a heartfelt, restorative, and healing response here in Peterborough.

We all pay a huge price, financially and societally, every time a crime is committed. I was blown away when I read that according to the Fraser Institute, Canadians spend over $85 billion annually being victimized by, catching, and punishing crime of which over half ($47 billion) is attributed to victims’ losses. The figures have doubled since 1998.

We all pay a huge price, financially and societally, every time a crime is committed.

Another report on one (but all too frequent) category of crime, domestic violence, estimated a $7.4 billion price tag in Canada in 2009. The majority ($5.5 billion) coming in the form of intangible costs borne by victims in pain and suffering and loss of life and their family members through loss of affection and enjoyment (Zhang, Hoddenbagh, McDonald, Scrim, An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009).

That report highlights the following sobering reminders of what our social scientists have been telling us: “Crime affects the victim most seriously, but children and other family members, neighbours and friends, employers, government, and the general public are also affected to varying degrees. In particular, children exposed to spousal violence have an increased risk of committing acts of property damage, developing mental health issues, and not reaching their full earning potential.”

“It is documented that children exposed to spousal violence are more likely than other children to develop social disorders (e.g. hyperactivity and aggressiveness), emotional disorders (mental health issues), and delinquency issues…; that being raised in a household where violence is present increases the probability of exhibiting physically aggressive behaviour. All of these negative effects present significant costs to children, their parents, and to society in general. Moreover, these problems often persist into the child’s adulthood… and future generations of a family can become trapped in a cycle of violence. Female children who have been exposed to the abuse of their mothers by their fathers are more likely to be abused by their partners later in life, and males exposed to this behaviour often reproduce this behaviour with their future spouses.”

“Over the decade from 2002 to 2012 the crime rate has fallen by roughly 27 per cent… Nonetheless the cost of dealing with crime by the justice system has risen by 35 per cent.” (The Fraser Report). That ten year comparison roughly coincides with the Harper administration and its various ‘tough on crime measures’ including a dramatic increase in our incarceration rates.

There is a growing body of literature that paints a very grim picture of the costs, financial and non monetary of crime: Over $85 billion in 2014, a staggering amount that belies the human cost.

In my next post I’ll touch on the linkage between poverty, unemployment and the commission of crime as well as what our recidivism rates are telling us.

Part 2 — Understanding Systemic Contributors to Crime and Recidivism 

Part 3 — Successful Reintegration Requires Community Support

Part 4 — The Rehabilitative Impact Of Social Enterprises

Part 5 — A Co-operative Approach to Reintegration

Part 6 — Worker Co-op Model Proving Supportive of Rehabilitation

Part 7 — The Resilience of and Success Markers for Worker Co-ops

Part 8 — A ‘Delicious Idea’ for a Worker Co-op In Peterborough

Part 9 — Co-creating a Restorative Community

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5 comments

  1. Cheryl Lyon

    These are disturbing statistics are almost too overwhelming to absorb! I’m glad to see that the direction of these blog posts is toward what a local community can do (“what our region can do about it.”) It is at the closer, community level that all the effects of the BIG STATS are experienced and where one can get one’s mind around their reality. At the same time as we also must keep an eye on the bigger picture and policy/legislative responses that the higher levers of change can effect, I look forward to further posts that deal with local level responses.

    • Ralph Gutkin

      Cheryl, I quite agree that there is a ‘bigger picture’ to what underlies the subject of my blog series. Clearly, we need to be looking at and finding solutions to the root causes of criminality and how we deal with people once they are in the system. You are quite right that my focus is in looking at what we can do, on a community level, as a demonstration, to address the issue of ensuring that the reintegration of released offenders in our community goes well which will of benefit to society as a whole, the offenders and their families.

  2. Pingback: Understanding Systemic Contributors to Crime and Recidivism | Peterborough Dialogues

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