Transforming the Criminal Justice System: Indigenous Over-representation – Devon

This is a story from real people, told in
their own words It contains information about themes that
may be difficult for some audiences. My name is, Devon ‘Lucky’ Napope. I’m a survivor of poverty, dysfunction,
addictions and a street lifestyle. My life is the effects of residential school,
my environment. A lot of addictions spread throughout my family
all the way from mother, grandmother, aunties, uncles so it seemed I was destined to become
a drug addict and alcoholic. And my life would just turn to prison and
gangs and back into the street with no hope. My criminal activities started when our uncle
used us as bait to steal us food in a grocery store. So, it started with materialistic items: food,
candy, clothing. Basically, everything we were deprived of
and this was at a young age, eight, nine years old. Every day thing, go steal a bike, you know,
take what you didn’t have. My incarceration started one month after I
was legally old enough to be locked up which was 12 years old. Me and my brother just wanted shoes, shorts…the
little things we were deprived of. It progressed to robberies, violence, break
and enters, drugs and alcohol. It’s a never-ending snowball down the hill. For the next six years, I spent more than
four years in youth jails. It took my feelings away. How to not cry, to not feel. I tried to not show my emotions so I held
everything in. I didn’t deal with anything in my past. Any abuse, any dysfunctions, I didn’t talk
about anything. As time went by, I kept going in and I kept
coming out, I kept going in, it was insanity. I kept coming out the same as I went in. You know, everything was kind of put on a
pause once I stepped in so that’s what really what jail is. The system right now is designed to just punish
people. Throw people in prison, harsher prison sentences,
whether it’s for youth, adults. That has a huge ripple effect. That’s just going to-it doesn’t do anything
because there’s no healing. There’s no treatment. If there was a way to help me see the impact
I caused, that’d also help me be aware of my own struggle because I was blind to my
own battle. I see the system designed to bring you back. Designed to, for division amongst Aboriginal
people and culture. That environment which creates gangs, which
creates more friendships within the dysfunctional lifestyle. If STR8 UP wasn’t there for me, I’d definitely
be back in prison. STR8 UP is a grassroots organization that assists individuals in mastering their own destiny in liberating themselves from gangs and criminal street lifestyles. It is based in Saskatoon. Father Andre, STR8 UP Founder:
When they join STR8 UP, we ask for four years of their life because we know it’ll take
a long time for them to reverse the tragedies of the past. They need to get out of the gang. That’s not negotiable. They have to deal with their addiction because
if they don’t conquer that, that sickness, there will be no success. STR8 UP was there when nobody else was and led me towards that beacon of light. You know, they created opportunities. They put me on a path. When I tell my story, there’s a thousand
voices behind mine because it’s not only me going through this, it’s the whole community
I grew up in. How can we transform Canada’s criminal justice
system to better address Indigenous over-representation? Join the online discussion on this page and
share your ideas. To learn more, go to

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