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.

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