Sometimes you still hear people say, "Lock 'em up and throw away the key."
But that refrain is getting fainter and fainter - except in some redneck circles - and people are starting to realize that prisoners should be treated with compassion and dignity.
Terms like "reducing recidivism" and "rehabilitation" were used over and over last week at the opening of the new maximum security area of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, across the Fraser River, in Maple Ridge.
Attorney General Shirley Bond, who was at the opening, said she'd like to see the number of times women return to prison reduced.
Many women who come to the prison are in very poor health, often under-nourished and with serious addiction problems. Programs in place at the prison help them manage their emotions and work on relationship skills. There is also talk of getting more educational programs at the prison, as literacy rates among inmates are low.
The ACCW inmates also have access to health care professions - nurses, doctors, dentists - looking after them, and addiction programs to help them on the road to recovery.
Women are especially vulnerable when they get on the wrong side of the law, and having these services in place to help them prepare for their eventual release just makes sense.
Each woman in prison is someone's daughter, sister, or niece, and sometimes someone's mother - like their male counterparts who often have families waiting at the prison gates for them when they leave - and seeing and treating them with humanity will help them on their road to recovery and away from a life of crime.
No one is saying criminals should not be duly punished for their crimes, but if we can help them stay clear of that path when they are released, and get on with productive lives, everyone wins.
@ Copyright 2013