The Reporter
Volume 14, Number 1 March 1997

Table of Contents

Inmate Voting Rights

In Alberta, inmates are barred from voting in provincial elections under a section of the Alberta Elections Act. A recent court challenge to this section was launched by an inmate. Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench ruled that the Alberta Elections Act clause barring inmates the right to vote in provincial elections was unconstitutional.

However, the Alberta government was determined that inmates be barred from voting in the provincial election on March 11. An appeal of the Court of Queen's Bench ruling was immediately launched by the Alberta government. The Court of Queen's Bench ruling was stayed by the Alberta Court of Appeal until the appeal can be heard.

There is no rational reason why inmates should not have voted in the Alberta election on March 11. Voting is a democratic right of every citizen of majority age in Canada which is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Court have ruled that denying inmates the right to vote in federal elections violates the Charter.

Denying inmates their right to vote in provincial elections accomplishes nothing and unfairly distinguishes between those offenders who are incarcerated on election day and those who are not. According to the Chief Electoral Officer, only offenders in prison on election day are barred from voting under the Alberta Elections Act.

Further, inmates in provincial institutions are serving prison sentences averaging 85 days. There is, therefore, roughly 2.8 months distinguishing a provincial inmate from any other voter in Alberta. Denying inmates their democratic right to vote creates arbitrary distinctions based on the chance timing of an offender's prison sentence.

Voting symbolically states that inmates are part of society. It makes sense to encourage responsible citizenship among inmates. Incarceration has many undesirable effects ranging from disruption in family and employment to stigma and institutionalization. All inmates will eventually be returned to society. The more that can be done to ameliorate the negative effects of incarceration and to reinforce the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship, the better.

The Alberta government's stance on inmate voting rights came as no surprise. The government has supported other correctional practices which the John Howard Society of Alberta does not support such as chain gangs and the court-mandated chemical castration of sex offenders. Alberta needs to develop corrections policy which observes basic human rights and is based on proven measures which foster the development of law-abiding, responsible citizens. Allowing inmates to exercise their democratic right to vote in provincial elections would be a step in the right direction.

* References available upon request.


Summary of Recommendations Regarding High-Risk Offenders Bill

In the December issue of 'The Reporter', our feature article summarized the John Howard Society of Alberta's initial reaction to some of the proposals in Bill C-55 (high-risk offenders). Bill C-55 was introduced in the fall of 1996 and proposes significant amendments to the Criminal Code respecting the sentencing and release of high risk offenders.

A submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs was prepared jointly by the John Howard Societies of Ontario and Alberta on behalf of our national office. The following is a summary of our recommendations regarding Bill C-55:

  1. The current system of indeterminate sentencing should be replaced by the exceptional sentence as recommended by the Canadian Sentencing Commission.

  2. In those situations where a person is extremely disturbed and unsafe to be released, the person should be detained under mental health legislation and be transferred to a mental health facility.

  3. If the current system for Dangerous Offenders is maintained, the discretion of the court to apply fixed term sentences should be retained.

  4. If the current system for Dangerous Offenders is maintained, the provisions with respect to required psychiatric testimony should be retained.

  5. Should the new sentencing category, the Long-Term Offender, be enacted, the provisions should be amended to require that a pattern of sexual offending be established.

  6. Should the new Judicial Restraint provision be enacted, the provision should be amended to remove electronic monitoring as a condition of the recognizance.

  7. As an alternative to the Long-Term Offender and the Judicial Restraint amendments, the following measures should be enacted:

    1. the repeal of the detention provisions of the CCRA

    2. prohibition of public notification of the release of offenders

    3. gradual release as an integral, statutory part of every sentence,

    4. focussing community supervision and treatment resources on those with the greatest need and who pose the greatest risk,

    5. available, specialized, professionally operated and well funded community treatment and residential facilities, and

    6. payment for treatment services (i.e. relapse prevention) beyond warrant expiry.

  8. A permanent sentencing commission should be established to develop and revise sentencing guidelines in accordance with the recommendations of the Canadian Sentencing Commission.

* For a copy of the full brief, contact the John Howard Society of Alberta.


Alternatives to Violence Educational Program for Youth

Calgary John Howard Society is pleased to announce their partnership in a new youth violence prevention program. The Alternatives to Violence Educational Program for Youth (AVEPY) is a two-year project funded jointly by the Calgary Foundation and Alberta Commissioner of Services for Children - Early Intervention.

AVEPY is a pro-active approach to the problem of youth violence. The program assists youth to come to a clearer understanding of violence and recognize their power to overcome it.

AVEPY is a workshop program which is designed to meet local youth needs. The workshops are lead by volunteer facilitators who have completed an AVEPY training program. AVEPY runs for 3 consecutive days, 6 hours per day, for a total of 18 hours of instruction. The length of the program allows participants to form a positive group identity and build confidence. During this time, direct instruction and practice in effective communication, problem-solving and conflict resolution are provided.

Communication activities provide clear guidelines for active listening techniques which include body language, eye contact, mirroring response and construction and use of "I" messages.

Problem-solving steps are outlined and then practised through various activities such as group cooperation, games, personal sharing, brainstorming and small role-plays.

Conflict resolution techniques rely on the integration and use of the problem-solving steps, active listening and the setting of a positive outcome goal. The students engage in role-play conflicts in which they employ the techniques to bring their role-play conflict to a positive resolution. Students are encouraged to critique the role-plays, offer their observations of the methods used and provide other positive alternatives.

The AVEPY experience helps students develop the confidence needed to apply their new skills and change behaviour. All youth, regardless of background or personal history, can benefit from the AVEPY workshop.

AVEPY is a program with universal application. The program is easily adapted for use in any community.

For further information, contact Ruth-Anne Marley, Coordinator, or Sultana Virani, Project Assistant, at (403) 264-0060.

Please Be Advised

that the 48th Annual General Meeting of the John Howard Society of Alberta
is to be held at
6:00 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 19, 1997
the Penthouse
Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, 10010 - 104 Street, Edmonton, Alberta

Prior to this meeting, a Special Meeting will be held to amend the bylaws of the Society.

April 19, 1997
5:45 p.m.

Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel
Edmonton, Alberta

Pursuant to section 13 of the bylaws of the John Howard Society of Alberta, there will be a special meeting of the members to vote on amendments to the Society's bylaws. If you wish to obtain a copy of the proposed bylaws, please contact us at:

John Howard Society of Alberta
2nd Floor, 10523 - 100 Avenue
Edmonton AB T5J 0A8

The John Howard Society of Alberta "Reporter" is distributed free of charge to a wide audience of citizens, educators, agencies and justice system staff. Our goal is to provide information and commentary on timely criminal justice issues. We welcome and encourage your feedback on the "Reporter."

The John Howard Society of Alberta is an agency composed of citizens in Alberta who are interested in criminal justice reform and preventing crime in our communities. We recognize that crime and its control is as much the responsibility of the community as it is of government.

We gratefully accept donations to help offset the costs of our efforts in criminal justice reform and crime prevention. Donations are income tax deductible. To provide feedback, obtain information or make a donation, please contact us at:

John Howard Society of Alberta
2nd Floor, 10523 - 100 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5J 0A8
Phone: (403) 423-4878
Fax: (403) 425-0008

ISSN 1192-4381

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