Thursday, April 21, 2011
Let's get tough on the prison agenda
I haven’t done a rant lately about justice issues – but this great cartoon from the Toronto Star has inspired me to vent again. Well, that the way the Conservatives keep drumming out ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric that flies in the face of research, reports and basic common sense.
Crime rates have steadily declined over the last 10 years and yet so many candidates in this election keep emphasizing how they are going to fight crime and get tough on criminals.
Even if crime was they kind of large-scale problem they would like us to believe, certainly it would make sense to implement practices that have been proven to actually lower crime rates. But no, our government seems intent on building more prisons and filling them with more people - even though incarceration is not as effective in lowering crime rates and recidivism compared with prevention, treatment, and community-led programs.
Corrections Canada currently spends just over $2,200,000,000 a year on prisons. And now there are plans to build 2,700 additional prison beds at a cost of $2,100,000,000 ($800,000 per bed). This makes no sense and Canadians should be outraged.
Be even more outraged when you look more closely at who exactly we are spending these billions of dollars on to warehouse in prisons. In provincial jails, close to 60% of the people in prison have not even been convicted – they are awaiting trial and may be found innocent or guilty of a crime not deserving jail. We keep clogging up the system with more people and paying $100,000 to $200,000 a year to keep them in jail while they wait. So much for due process or innocent until proven guilty.
Kim Pate of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies points out that over 80% of women in prison are incarcerated for poverty-related offences. Additionally, 82% of women who are federally sentenced in Canada have experienced physical or sexual abuse, 75% have less than a junior high school education, 34% are Indigenous, and the majority live with mental health issues.
It would be wonderful if during this election campaign Canadians challenged their local candidates and party leaders to present strategies for actually fixing our justice system.