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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The short prison sentence in Canada : an exploratory study of facts, principles, and implications for provincial programs. Jennings, Thomas Burnett


In 1956 the Fauteux Committee recommended to the Canadian Parliament that the Federal Government should take over responsibility for care and treatment of all persons sentenced under federal laws to periods of imprisonment longer than six months. The provinces would retain responsibility only for short-termers. Since then, there has been a tendency among correctional workers to regard the main responsibility which would emerge from such a division as the Dominion's. This is, however, a doubtful view. For every person who is sentenced to a long prison term in Canada, there are about ten other people who get short sentences. In recent years, the short prison sentenced has been condemned as useless by many leading criminologists in both North America and Europe. Accordingly, this study sets out to explore the problems and possible therapeutic values of short sentences. These must be considered in answering the question of what the provincial governments might do, should the Fauteux recommendation be adopted. In the first two chapters, Canadian corrections history is recounted, the criticisms of short sentences are examined, and the research problem is formulated. In Chapter Three, statutory and statistical data are analyzed with a view to determining who are the people who get short terms. The last half of the thesis is devoted to an examination of the criminological literature to see what light it can throw on the therapeutic possibilities of short-term imprisonment. In Chapter Four, the treatment methods used in corrections are tentatively classified, and their appropriateness for short-term prisons provisionally evaluated. In Chapter Five, three "clinical models" of short-term inmates, selected on the basis of their statistical and theoretical relevance are more thoroughly discussed, with attention to clinical characteristics and treatment experience. This study was intended primarily as a reconnaissance of the problem, area, and definitive conclusions were not anticipated. Nevertheless three results strongly suggest themselves, (a) Many people are being given short prison sentences, not because it is expected that beneficial effects will result therefrom, but simply because no other acceptable dispositions are known to the courts to be available. (b) The majority of these people could probably be treated more effectively in some outpatient or inpatient facility other than a custodial institution, (c) For the therapeutic potentialities of the prison itself (if it has any) to be effectively utilized, there is a need for much more adequate criteria and selection facilities for determining who should be admitted to these institutions; and there is a need also for a much more comprehensive program of complementary welfare services.

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