Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Inspiring Video by Using and Non-Using Advocates on Harm Reduction

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So-Called “Tough on Crime” Agenda Will Put More Women and Children at Risk

Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights Media Release
April 13, 2011
Leaders’ Debate Reveals Conservative Contempt for Women
So-Called “Tough on Crime” Agenda Will Put More Women and Children at Risk
Ottawa, April 13, 2011 – In an unprecedented abuse of the democratic process, the Harper government now proposes to consolidate multiple Conservative crime bills into a single bill, literally ramming it through Parliament at breakneck speed, without any meaningful discussion or debate, and regardless of the consequences to ordinary Canadians.  If passed into law, the bill will cost Canadian taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, while putting the safety of women and children at significant risk, says the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights.

“Stephen Harper bragged about his plan to implement his proposed Law and Order Agenda in tonight's leaders' debate, but didn’t mention women once. He proposes to “get tough on crime” but abandons proven strategies that actually keep women and children safe, such as gun control.  In fact, his agenda will not help women and children who are victimized. “Our government should be investing these billions in child care, affordable housing, social, educational and health services, all of which are proven means to prevent crime and benefit all Canadians,” said Kim Pate of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.  Imprisoning woman for a year in federal prison costs an average of $185,000. Over 80% of women in prison are incarcerated for poverty-related offences. Eighty-two per cent 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.

“Money allocated to the tough on crime agenda would be better spent addressing poverty, education, violence against women, mental health issues, homelessness, addictions, and services that enable women and children to escape violent situations,” said Leighann Burns of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), the largest shelter association in Canada. “Nobody wants crime, but this tax money is better spent preventing violence and other crimes and the factors that lead to crime rather than building prisons. There are currently over 580 documented cases of missing and murdered First Nations, Inuit and Metis women in this country but not a single word about that from Mr. Harper. Canadian women expect more.”

The Conservative government fell on a non-confidence motion, following revelations that it had withheld critical information regarding the costs implementation of its ‘law and order agenda’ would impose, leading to the current election.

The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights is comprised of 37 organizations including women’s organizations, human rights organizations and Canada’s major unions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Impacting Canadian Families: Law and Order Ideology

The Conservative government has introduced no less than 16 crime Bills into parliament since 2007 under their “Law and Order” regime.  Those Bills that did not pass before the recent federal election are sure to be rolled out in the new omnibus multi law Bill.  Many towns and communities having bought into the myth[1] that a prison will increase job growth and benefit the local economy, have applied to the government to have prison’s built in their towns.  The Northern Development Initiative (NDI) trust and the City of Terrace, B.C., in researching the cost efficacy of building and running a prison in that town have estimated that there will be a 70% increase in the Canadian prisoner population if just 3 of these Bills are passed into law.  One might ask who these new prisoners will be, where they will come from, and how much locking them up will cost the tax payer.  Just one of these Bills, Bill C-25 (elimination of 2 for 1 in pre-trial custody[2] and now passed into law) will cost the tax payer over $2 billion to implement and another $618 million annually to maintain (Page, K., Parliamentary Budget Officer, 2010).  While these costs are shocking they refer to only 1 of 16 crime bills likely to be re-introduced under the Harper regimes omnibus crime Bill.  The human costs are what we should be most concerned about.  The impact on Canadian families will be devastating, not only to those affected directly through criminal records and incarceration, but on all of us through diversion of money into the prison system from social programs.
The increase in costs to operate prisons will draw funds away from social programs, like those addressing improved education, health care, child poverty, drug treatment and employment programs which reduce crime” (Craig Jones, Director of the John Howard Society). 
Approximately 40% of the current adult male prison population are fathers and over 77% of the female prison population are mothers.  2/3rds of the mom’s were sole support parents at the time of their arrest.  In 2003/04 there were 358,350 admissions to the federal, provincial and territorial adult correctional systems, of which women accounted for about 10%.  This was an increase of 50% over the previous decade.  Nearly 5% of Canadian children had at least one parent in prison in 2003/04.  All of these numbers have been steadily increasing over the last 30 years, even as our crime rate reach’s a 32 year low.  If the omnibus Bill is legislated into law and it is sure to pass with the conservatives holding a majority of seats, the number of people in prison will explode.  The adult prisoner population will increase to a minimum of 609,195 women and men.  The numbers of children affected by parental incarceration will increase to 809, 620 or 10% of all Canadian children, an entirely unacceptable future for Canadian families. (Cunningham, A., Baker, L., 2003; Withers, L., & Folsom, J., 2007).
 “When thee builds a prison, thee had better build with the thought ever in thy mind that thee and thy children may occupy the cells.” — Elizabeth Fry 1780 – 1845

[1] American statistics have shown that when a prison is contracted for building, the builders are most often brought in from out of town.  This happens because out of town builders may already have a contract with the state to build prisons or have prior experience or are able to offer a more competitive rate than a smaller, local contracting firm could.  The construction jobs worth the highest pay’s will be awarded to current employee’s of the contractor and not offered to locals.
The positions for guards and other staff will first be offered to existing government staff.  If there are positions open at all they will be the lower paying ones.
Positions for jobs in the laundry, kitchen, etc will be performed for free by the prisoners, not given to town’s people.
[2] Pre-trial custody or “remand” as it is referred has historically offered prisoners 1.5-2 days for every one day spent in remand.  This is because the prisoners have not yet been tried or convicted and many will not be convicted at all.  Other reasons for this additional credit are the harsh conditions of overcrowded, maximum security settings people are held in without access to programming such as addictions treatment and employment training which are available to sentenced prisoners.