Le Monde published an article in October (6th), entitled, ” Le Quebec en exemple,” in which it wrote about the Quebec [role] model for handling criminality. The article, subtitled “the challenge of prevention,” focuses on their efforts with regard to juvenile delinquency, sexual offenders and repeat criminals. And the results are evidently powerful. While I can’t find the article on line, I will share with you what I found stirring in this article. And the Quebecquers sure do know how to take a modern, original angle on topics like this.

There are several prongs to their strategy to manage delinquency. The first and foremost is in the realm of prevention (also under way in France, see photo to the left). The police force has a mandate to get into the social fabric of the community. Eliminate the “them” vs “us” mentality. Mine your information and sources. Secondly, what ever form of incarceration takes place, the focus is on re-integration including training, partial leave, residences in normal residential areas.

Other techniques cited include having a criminal finishing out his/her service by doing social services, including singing at a retirement home (music is a great soother, as we saw in the Philippines Prison Thriller set up in Cebu). Prison is considered as therapy and inmates are greatly encouraged to work, to learn, all in a goal to be re-insertable into society when their time is up.

The results show that the rate of criminality in Montreal has dropped by 13% since 2000 and by 38% since 19991.

Of course, it’s not like shooting has disappeared. A naysayer might evoke the Freakonomics type argument that it was statistically probable (just like for NYC’s Giuliani) that crime was going to come down naturally.

And there are clearly people not happy about the “royal” treatment these convicted criminals are receiving. I would have to say that, if I were ever in such a horrid situation to be put away in prison, I would prefer the Quebec approach. Makes sense. It seems human, decent and, more importantly, effective in reducing the recidivist tendencies. Yet, of course, no program of this sort is without its risks (corruption, carelessness, connivery…)

But another sign of “modernity” in their program is their approach of workshopping topics such as Control of Anger, Emotional Management, Sense of the Other, Empathy, Acquiring interpersonal skills, etc., which are more accessible means of helping the criminally convicted to accept the therapy and get the benefits — as opposed to being set up for “psychiatric treatment.”

And for those of you scared to have a penitentiary house as your neighbour, less than 1% of the men who have lived in that “transitional” house has gone on to do further violent crimes.
Montreal, Quebec, had 43 homicides in 2006, 10x less than in a comparably sized city in the US, such as Philadelphia. For Quebec, it’s the lowest level of criminality since the 1960s. And Canada as a whole has seen global delinquency drop by a 1/3 since 1991. All seems to be very encouraging. Nothing’s perfect, but this approach does seem to speak to me. The article avoids the difficult task of proving reduced tax payer dollars (or even pretending that it is the ultimate goal), but lower criminality is the right objective and surely that has more than monetary value! Peace of Mind. Yet another reason why I loved living in Montreal.

And the part I liked best: “It all begins in the recreation yard…” with 11-year old students, where the policemen and women intermingle with generosity and humour.

Priceless. For everything else, it’s MASTERFUL.

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