An independent review issued by the B.C. government looking at repeat offenders has come back with its findings and 28 recommendations for the province, including a change in terminology.
The report was launched in May so the province could better respond to two public safety challenges.
The first concern was “prolific offenders,” a term historically used to refer to a relatively small and stable group of people engaged in somewhat skilful and planned repeated property crimes.
In the report, one of the recommendations says the phrase should be changed to something else.
The report states the terminology may contribute to stigma and ignores many systems-level failures that contribute to crime.
The second challenge was regarding an apparent increase in violent, unprovoked stranger attacks by people assumed to have mental health disorders or substance use needs.
The report said these issues are linked to changes in federal legislation and case law and there needs to be more social and healthcare supports to address these issues
Recommendations include improving the system of care for people in the criminal justice system with mental-health and substance-use challenges and creating more opportunities to divert people from the criminal justice system.
There are also recommendations on improving services for Indigenous Peoples and improving collaboration between community services, law enforcement and all levels of government.
“The experts are clear – repeat offending and unprovoked violent stranger attacks are complex issues tied to federal legislation and systemic issues like poverty and access to health care,” said Murray Rankin, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing in a release.
“Today’s recommendations will support meaningful, long-lasting change, and offer some opportunities for shorter-term actions so we can make our communities safer and connect repeat offenders with the mental health, addictions, social and housing supports they need to break the cycle of offending.”
One of the recommendations to help fill in gaps in the care system for people involved in the court system with mental health needs is a dedicated forensic psychiatric nurse assigned to every provincial court.
The report said this will allow immediate client psychiatric assessments and recommendations to take place in both traditional and specialized court settings.
Another recommendation urges the continued investment of civilian-led (non-police) mental health crisis response teams to work with community service providers.
In regards to repeat offenders, a recommendation would see a new position be added to police agencies.
A retail/business liaison position would provide a single point of contact for retailers and businesses to raise concerns about crime, allowing police to develop focused crime prevention projects.
Further recommendations include harm reduction efforts focused on underlying systematic issues and increasing the number of probation officers specifically or primarily dedicated to supervising repeat offenders in communities large enough.
All 28 recommendations can be found in the full report below.
MORE: A Rapid Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence in British Columbia (B.C. Government)
Provincial officials said more than 60 experts contributed to the report. This included mayors, police, the BC Prosecution Service, health authorities and others.
B.C. government officials said they are working with partners to identify how government can move quickly to implement changes.
This report just shows the executive summary and recommendations. A full report will be released later this month.