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Isolation and Over-Incarceration: Community-Centered Approaches to the Loneliness Epidemic

Tansi Ninôtemik,



Last week's discussions centered around prosecutorial discretion, mental health, R v Gladue, and ACE scores. This week, we will focus on Indigenous legal orders, starting with community-centered initiatives and their potential to mitigate over-incarceration due, in part, to isolation.


Due to centuries of racism and assimilation, Indigenous communities have been separated from one another and forced to follow laws that magnify a feeling of "otherness." In order to prevent this from occurring, Indigenous people- especially Indigenous youth need solid community support. 


Chief Justice Redman's "Indigenous Justice Centres" proposal in Alberta mirrors successful community-minded initiatives in British Columbia.[1] These centers provide pre-incarceration support, blending traditional resources with cultural teachings, legal aid, and social services.[2] The community support that these centers provide can reduce mental health struggles, prevent substance abuse, and ward off further damage caused by loneliness. For those who require support due to poverty or displacement due to foster care, that is available as well.[3] 


For the Indigenous people who currently make up over 50% of the population in both of Edmonton's federal prisons, the centers aim to make the justice system more navigable through Indigenous healing lodges.[4] Healing lodges are available for some minimum and medium security inmates.[5] Data states that upwards of 85% of Indigenous people are choosing to be transferred to these lodges to work with Elders and to follow a spiritual path.[6] This program's high level of interest indicates Indigenous inmates' desire to belong and reconnect to culture if given the option. Along with the support from Indigenous Justice Centers, healing lodges help offenders be better equipped to reintegrate into their communities, mitigating feelings of alienation.


Gladue emphasizes that imprisonment is the harshest form of punishment, urging a shift to prevent isolation's damaging effects.[7] Providing culturally relevant intervention by Indigenous people and for Indigenous people would be a step toward meaningful reconciliation.


Until next time,


-The ReconciliACTION YEG Team








[1] Shari Narine, “Personal passion of Alberta chief judge leads to creation of Indigenous Justice Strategy” (3 Oct 2022), online: Windspeaker <https://windspeaker.com/news/windspeaker-news/personal-passion-alberta-chief-judge-leads-creation-indigenous-justice#:~:text=But%20it%27s%20the%20creation%20of,counsellors%2C%20and%20social%20service%20agencies>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Métis Nation of Alberta, “Métis Nation of Alberta to Develop Renewed Justice Strategy” (23 May 2023), online: Métis Nation of Alberta <https://albertametis.com/news/mna-to-develop-renewed-justice-strategy/#:~:text=That%27s%20according%20to%20the%20latest,than%2050%20per%20cent%20Indigenous>.

[5] Government of Canada, “Indigenous healing lodges” (22 Mar 2021), online: Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/correctional-service/programs/offenders/indigenous-corrections/healing-lodges.html>.

[6] Government of Canada, “Indigenous Healing Lodges: Impacts on Offender Reintegration and Community Outcomes” (2022), online: Correctional Service Canada <https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2022/scc-csc/PS84-181-2021-eng.pdf>.

[7 ] R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688.


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