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Canadian Police Chief Calls for ‘Safe Jails’ for Addicts

Knowing that prisons are often full of drugs and offer a nefarious higher education for young criminals, Calgary’s police chief is calling for the creation of a different kind of jail/detox to lock away those who commit crimes only to feed an addiction.

Leave tough prisons for the ‘hardened criminals’ that require it, but don’t think that by sending a young person with an addiction to a prison you’re going to do any good – in fact, you’re probably going to do more harm than good.

That’s the message touted by Calgary Alberta Police Chief, Rick Hanson, who’s calling on the province to provide the funding needed to get a pilot program underway that would send those who commit crimes due to mental illness or to feed an addiction to special ‘safe jails’ that  offer treatment  and support, rather than to conventional prisons, that offer little.

He says that although enforced detox programs are controversial (as they proscribe medical treatment) the provincial solicitor general is on board with the programs ideals and no policy or legal obstacles remain to the creation of safe jails within Alberta – merely financial ones.

Calgary Defense lawyer Alan Fay voiced his support for the plan, saying that the vast majority of his clients enter into prisons as drug addicts and that "Certainly, anybody who knows about the jails knows that drugs are rampant in them and sending people to jail doesn't solve the problem about what's sending them there."

Hanson estimates that between 30% and 50% of those convicted of crimes within the city have either addiction or mental health issues. He says that hopes the funding needed will fall into place and that with the dollars in place, he could be up and running within 18 months. Describing the current situation, he laments the futility of it all, saying, "When you're not successful in detoxing, it's so powerful. They need the drug and too often they're committing a lot of crimes in order to fund their habit."

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