Crime rates in Canada have been steadily dropping for over a decade, while prison populations have been increasing in recent years. Commentators have attributed this disconnection between falling crime rates and increasing incarceration numbers to the Harper government’s “tough on crime” strategy. Since coming to power in 2006, the Harper government has implemented a host of legislative and policy changes designed to “tackle crime,” “hold offenders accountable,” and “make communities safer.” At the same time, the government also enacted significant budget cuts that have affected the ability of the correctional system to uphold its mandate.
To learn about the on-the-ground impact of these changes, we interviewed 16 frontline workers in two provinces (Manitoba and Ontario). In their capacities as correctional, parole, and probation officers, and as prisoner advocates, counsellors, and support workers in the community, these workers have a cumulative record of over 200 years of knowledge and experience to draw on.