Monday, May 3, 2010
Fuller jails won't translate to safer streets
For every unpopular decision or move away from the beliefs on which they were elected, the federal Conservatives manage to find the mark.
The home renovation tax credit and the GST cut are examples of instances where they were able to distill policy in line with what average Canadians want to see from government.
And in some ways, the tough-on-crime agenda meets the criteria, especially when it comes to ending the much reviled two-for-one sentencing credit for time spent in pre-trial custody.
Many Canadians agree with the notion, as Public Safety Minister Vic Toews explained last week, that the Tories stand “behind the idea that individuals should in fact serve the time they’ve been sentenced to.”
All well and good, except all of these measures, new spending in an era of tackling rather large deficits, are going to cost a lot of coin.
The cost of the so-called Truth-in-Sentencing law, just one of several pieces of Tory tough-on-crime legislation, is in dispute, with Toews suggesting it’s a scant $2 billion, while reports indicate the parliamentary budget officer has it pegged at five times that amount.
Somewhere in that gap lies the real cost, and when it’s added to the several other measures in the hopper, including minimum jail time for drug crimes, we’re left with a large expense to the taxpayer without any real indication our streets will be any safer.
Sure, there will be many people who wind up serving time they rightfully deserve, which is a good thing.
But in having to live up to their tough-on-crime cred, the more the Tories are losing their tight-budget cred.
Toews argues that money will be saved by double-bunking cons.
But it’s time this government realizes that streets can be made safer, and money saved, by not throwing every anti-social type under lock and key.
Drug court funding hikes would be a good start, as would stepping away from some mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes.
Because the more people we keep out of jail who don’t belong there, the more room we have for the worst of the worst.
I completely agree that imprisoning more people, does not make our communities safer. The more overcrowded jails become, the more hostility there is between inmates, levels of violence increase between inmates and riots are more likely to happen. Also, longer prison sentences, combined with overcrowded conditions, have been proven to increase recidivism when these offenders are released. Prisons are not good environments for inmates to practice and incorporate skills they may have learned in programs, programs lack funding, gangs and drugs are prevalent, negative role models exist, anti social and pro criminal attitudes, values and behaviours are prevalent. Also, with overcrowding, comes the problem with not enough resources and programming to be evenly distributed among inmates. With overcrowding, inmates are much more likely to be released, with zero rehabilitation or life skills and assistance on the outside and are much more likely to re-offend.
Legalizing marijuana, prostitution and other victimless crimes would ease a huge load off the courts and the prisons. These people do not need to be in prison as they are not dangerous, violent, etc.