Twenty three new prisons... I just had to post this article by Janice Tibbetts, versions of which appeared in newspapers across the country last week (this one from the February 18th Kingston Whig-Standard).
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tough-on-crime agenda would cost billions of dollars in additional spending and force the government to build new prisons as Canada moves toward a U.S. style of justice, experts say.
They say skyrocketing costs are a certainty, and even an analysis by the federal government estimates that the Conservative plan to imprison more people and keep them there longer could meaning building up to 23 new prisons because existing penitentiaries are full.
The costs of increased imprisonment are not mentioned in the latest Conservative election platform.
Criminologist Neil Boyd described the Conservative plan as "an extremely expensive agenda of prison building."
It costs an average of $82,000 a year to house each federal prisoner and billions more to build and maintain additional facilities.
Boyd, a professor at Simon Fraser University, called on the government to come clean on details of the plan, projected costs and solid evidence that keeping people in jail for longer deters crime.
"There's no evidence it will make us a safer society and it involved an enormous expenditure of funds," he said.
The government cost analysis, prepared by Correctional Services of Canada during the 2004 election campaign, estimates extra prison spending at somewhere between $5 billion and $11.5 billion over 10 years, depending on the number and types of facilities needed, according to a document obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.
But the costs could be significantly greater because that figure, based on four Conservative election promises, does not take into account several other key prison-related pledges that were added in the recent campaign that vaulted the party to victory.
The new plan calls for more automatic jail terms, severely restricting "house arrest" sentences that allow people to serve their time in the community, ending early release after serving two- thirds of a sentence and imposing consecutive rather than concurrent sentences for certain serious crimes.
The government also proposes to repeal the "faint-hope" clause that gives prisoners serving life sentences a chance at early release, and to jail serious repeat offenders indefinitely.
The government has completed an updated cost analysis based on the Conservatives' more expansive law-and-order agenda, but refuses to release the spending estimates.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who has seen the new figures, acknowledged the government's plan could strain the $1- billion-a-year prison system, but he said it's a worthwhile price to pay.
"If there's going to be an increase in that, and it is going to make our streets and homes and parks safer, then so be it," Day said in an interview. "I think most citizens are prepared to see the government spend more money if that's what it takes to give the bad guys more time to think about what they've done."
The Conservative plan will send Canada down the same road as the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the Western world, Boyd predicted.
A study prepared for the Canadian justice department last year noted the Australia Bureau of Statistics reported in 2003 that the prison population in its northern territory increased 42 per cent since the inception of mandatory sentencing.
Data also shows that the stiffened penalties have not lowered crime rates.
Cutting through the fog about “how much will this cost taxpayers”, let’s get to the heart of the issue: how much will this cost the people destined to serve time in these prisons?
Overwhelmingly working class people, disproportionately First Nations people – warehoused people, kept in storage, kept on ice, kept isolated from a society which only accepts them when it can exploit them.
…i do so love science fiction, but i’m feeling like i’m lost in this grey dystopia…
We’re talking as many as 23 new prisons, so think how many people that is, who will lose years of their lives, sometimes even decades, because that’s just what middle class Canada thinks is right…
Makes me want to vomit.
Categories: canada, prison