There is a troubling mindset among gang members in Saskatchewan. It can be summarized as “harder the crime, easier the time.”
It comes from the differences, perceived or otherwise, between the federal and provincial corrections facilities in the province.
“The federal system does have some great programs,” said Mike Gerrand, operations director at Regina Street Culture Project, who works with ex-gang members.
Part of that is due to the facilities being more crowded, with higher inmate turnover. For someone entering the justice system, doing some extra time under more ideal circumstances can be quite appealing.
“What’s the message they’re sending?” asked Cody Francis, a former gang member who has spent time in a provincial jail.
“Maybe I should have done something a little bit more serious and I could have had more options.”
Francis said he had to be constantly prepared for violence to come his way when he was out on the streets, but at least there was some peace when he was in the confines of his own home.
Based on his experience, that doesn’t exist in prison.
“The only time you can actually get kind of relaxed is when you’re sleeping,” Francis said.
That, combined with trouble accessing programs like education, paints a fairly uninviting picture of the provincial system especially when those issues are perceived as less of a problem at the federal level.
The best way to deal with these issues is prevention, according to Regina police Chief Evan Bray.
“Let’s not forget those who maybe haven’t escalated to the serious crimes yet,” he said. “We can find ways to get education or employment to interject into their lives that will prevent from this recidivism that’s happening.”
Gerrand echoes those sentiments, saying the issues can’t be arrested away.
“As long as there is a drug problem and a prostitution problem and a sex trafficking problem, we’re going to have this kind of crime going on.”