Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Prison inmates to lose old age benefits

The Canadian government moved Tuesday to strip old age income benefits from federal inmates.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley tabled legislation that would end Old Age Security and guaranteed income supplement benefits currently going to federal inmates over the age of 65 and who are in prison for two years or more.

Among those currently getting those benefits are convicted killer Clifford Olson, who is 70 and serving life in prison for the deaths of 11 children. Olson has been reported to be collecting more than $1,000 a month in benefits.
Finley said they acted after news that Olson was collecting the benefits was raised in a March 2010 Toronto Sun article.
"Canadians who work hard, who contribute to the system, who play by the rules deserve government benefits such as Old Age Security. It's wrong, and obviously unfair, that prisoners who break the rules receive the same entitlements."
"This is offensive and outrageous to the prime minister, to the government of Canada, and to Canadians right across the country," she told reporters in Ottawa. "Moreover, it is deeply insulting to the victims and to their families."
Finley said they are working with the provincial and territorial governments to also end benefits for inmates over 65 and incarcerated for more than 90 days at those levels.
Finley said the changes are expected to affect about 400 federal inmates, and could eventually affect another 600 inmates held at provincial and territorial level corrections centres.
She said the estimated savings from the change could amount to about $2 million per year at the federal level. That could increase to about $10 million annually with provincial and territorial inmates included.
The benefits could resume upon a prisoner's release, and Finley said spouses and common-law partners of inmates will continue to get the benefits on their own merits.
"We're not punishing them for the deeds of their spouse," she said.

11 life sentences

Olson killed 11 boys and girls in British Columbia before he was sentenced to life in prison in 1982. Olson, who has never shown remorse for his crimes, is serving 11 consecutive life sentences in a maximum security prison in Quebec.
His retirement benefit money has been put in trust.
He was also paid $100,000 by the RCMP to lead them to the bodies of his victims. That money was put in trust for his estranged wife and son.

I think elderly prisoners should have the benefit of receiving old age payments while in prison. When they are released, which the majority will be, these payments could help them financially upon their release, which is beneficial. They should not suffer further loss of rights and deprivations. I advocate for more prisoners' rights and less deprivations. 

Being released from prison with no money, makes successful reintegration even more difficult. Younger inmates should also receive some sort of financial assistance when released from prison, to help them better reintegrate into society. Equating all prisoners with serial killer Olson, does not help the public understand this situation. He is the only prisoner mentioned, but this legislation would affect all of those elderly prisoners serving 2 years or more. This bill is the act of a vengeful Conservative government only interested in revenge and punishment, and who shows no compassion or sympathy. This is a purely political and inhumane move. 

This should only be done on a case by case basis for those who have an unlikely chance of being released, such as Olson. There could be an innocent family member, or spouse who may have to spend their remaining days in poverty because they depended on those funds. 

This move will only create more poverty when these individuals are released. Poverty is directly related to crime. 

It really annoys me how one spectacular case hits the news and other people need to suffer. I can understand not giving this money to people while they are in prison. Their housing and food needs are taken care of. But if people are leaving prison they need money to live on.

Clifford Olson is an extreme case that doesn't necessarily describe most of the people in prison over the age of 65. It is well known that he is kept in solitary confinement because other prisoners may kill him which suggests most prisoners don't put themselves in the same category as him. The media obsessing about such people as Clifford Olson make it harder for other released prisoners to get on with their lives. Even if they are not over 65, I bet most former convicts either live on welfare or return to their criminal activities simply because no will hire them.

Equating all prisoners with Clifford Olson really doesn't help. One might argue this article isn't doing that but why is it that he is the only prisoner mentioned? Couldn't CBC find an elderly prisoner in jail for a lesser crime then rape or murder that is really going to be hurt by this decision?

Very few people survive in prison to live to an old age with al the prison stabbings and all. If you were to survive and come out of prison, I'd rather a prisoner receive a legal income they worked for than to decide that since they have no money and no where to sleep that they are going to break into some houses.

Excessively harsh punishments cause more crime they do not deter them.

The only issue I have with it is that it means a big reduction for the spouses and dependents of those over 65 and in prison, sure they get some money on their own merit but they also would have shared in the money from their spouse in prison, now they won't get that money anymore and will have to get by on a single person's pension which could mean them losing their house or their ability to visit their loved one in prison if they're imprisoned far away. That does seem like punishing the spouse of the prisoner to me, perhaps they could write in an exemption for those seniors in prison who have dependent's/spouses who need to the combined pensions of the two of them to afford their house or living expenses or whatnot, or those spouses/dependents of a senior in prison should get an additional benefit on their own benefit to make up for the loss of the income from their spouse in prison.

Hypocrit right wing tories,playing to a fringe group of extremests, scaring votes out of seniors and the misinformed. Even Jesus forgave the criminal on the cross next to him. Harper purports to be a Christian of sorts,but in reality he,s a " To church on Sunday..To Hell on Monday kind of person.

"Old age pensions are no longer universal." Now there are deserving and undeserving Canadian pensioners. Next will be mandatory sentences for crimes, some of a purely political nature: white collar fraud of over a million $, growing marijuana, gun crimes. Also, more police and RCMP, more taxes spent on security. More prisons. With stronger prosecution against the underserving poor, against natives who do not contribute, and against minorities who break the rules, these measures will definitely increase crime rates and jail populations. These crime bills by the Conservatives are a spiteful display of short term political opportunism and with specious long term benefits.

Using the pension of a serial killer as political capital. Shame.

What exactly is being cut? It's one thing to cut off the guaranteed income supplement and another entirely to cut someone off CPP that they have paid into.

@GaryNelson: I see you clearly don't understand the point of democracy. Everyone gets to vote, even those we don't like.

What if all of us who are free decide that we should do our utmost to make the lives of those in prison, even those for minor things, as unbearable as possible, simply because we don't like what they've done. Isn't it all the more important that prisoners have the right to vote for someone to protect them from the tyranny of the majority?

Remember, this country used to convict adults for consentual sex. We still convict adults for possession of an herb. You really think that breaking these laws makes someone so undeserving of democracy's most important element, the vote?

Not to mention that if ever our society has so many criminals in prison that their voting bloc is influential, our problem would be CLEARLY societal.

Disenfranchisement is WRONG.

The Conservatives are more about punishment than prevention. 

I also think that convicts should be allowed to try supporting their own family in whatever limited way they can. If convicts are given pensions, then they could send some of that money to their own family. Encouraging responsibility to one's family should be considered an essential part of rehabilitation and reparation. I'm sure that in many cases, the convict's family suffer because of the crime committed by their loved one. Allowing and encouraging a convict to acknowledge the harm they've also done to their own family should be an essential part of rehabilitation (and we should try to rehabilitate people no matter how long their sentences are). Repaying their debt to society could include helping their family financially.

I do think that some of that pension money should go to the prison system as well, almost as though they were paying rent. In addition, they should be required to provide their victim's family with a proportion of their pension.

Eliminating pensions for convicts serves no purpose other than to save some tax dollar and to appease the anger some have about convicts receiving pensions. People have every right to feel offended, but eliminating these pensions just to make people feel better is a short-term political move that only supports the interests of the Conservatives. I can't see any good reason for eliminating these pensions or figure out how this is supposed to serve the interests of justice. The Conservatives are just playing off the public's emotions.
Finley said they are working with the provincial and territorial governments to also end benefits for inmates over 65 and incarcerated for more than 90 days at those levels.

At first, I agreed with the need to eliminate pension benefits from Olsen, but, this legislation, as formulated, is waaaay over the top. Lumping seniors ,who happen to receive a 90 day jail term, with the likes of Olsen appears to seriously debase those seniors who may simply have gotten a minor infraction against their record. This additional 'punishment' appears to simply be another way to keep the federal budget out of the red.

It takes anywheres from 6-12 months to instate many of these governmental benefits....and, to lose them for a 90 day 'lapse of judgment' ...is overkill. I would never support it.

It's easy to say that the spouse would not suffer because of the loss of the pension for the criminal-spouse, but...she/he would. She would be deprived of family income for not just the 90 days but also the 6-12 months it'd take to re-instate the pensions once the jail term is completed. But...then, would the government wait to do so till a post-jail probabtionary period had expired? The government could extend that re-instatement period indefinitely.

Better to see Olsen get his pensions than to learn that 400 hundred other pensioners and their spouses got unfairly deprived of their only source of family income. I hope the legislation fails.
At face value this seems like a reasonable idea, sure to gain a few votes--granted I can think of about a dozen real issues these clowns should be addressing.

Ok, let's see, I'm Joe Convict, just spent the last couple of decades in jail for whatever heinous crime I've committed and now I'm back on the street and pretty much broke. Nobody is going to hire me because I've done time and I've got no marketable skills.

Gee, I wonder what I'll do to pay the bills. Crime, anyone?

We all have to stop repeating the lie that a civil law has anything to do with a moral or ethical code. Most criminals in Canada did nothing violent and harmed no one except themselves. More than 75% of crimes for which people are in prison were committed while drunk or stoned.

As i said earlier. original Christians were criminals in their societies. Would you dish out the same hate and fear mongering and judgment on them that you do now for criminals had you been a citizen of those countries?

people are primarily in jail for being poor. I got busted with a small quantity of marijuana. My lawyer explained to me how it works: " If you have 10,000 dollars i guarantee you that you will be found innocent. If you have 5,000 dollars its still 75% in your favor. Less than that and its 50-50."

You want fairness. Go arrest the entire corporate elite and most judges, lawyers and the rest of the pillars of society and throw them in a cage for a bunch of years. That would be a good first step.

I would much rather see the federal government cut the pay and benefits that they pay themselves and those who work on their behalf. It is typical of the Conservative government to pick on the weakest in our society by picking out 1 really bad person and holding him up as the poster child for needing the change in government policy. If a person was a contributing member to the system for his/her adult life, how can that be taken away just because they are in prison. What if the person is married or gets released after 2 or more yrs. Who is going to support them. I really hope the Liberals, Bloc and NDP help defeat this proposed bill. Enough of the Harper Conservatives.
I think it's criminal to take most of a senior's pension whose crime was only getting old because he/she ends up in a government warehouse for seniors. If this is posted and any senior sees it, demand that your pension is returned to you. Stealing from innocent seniors and rewarding criminals seems to me to be an odd approach.

It absolutely isn't fair. Corporate criminals, middle class white people and anyone with connections hardly ever goes to jail. Once again the poorest, the most excluded, the drug addicted, the kids from violent, broken families will pay a higher price than the typical member of the conservative party of canada. Man i hate the conservatives. This legislation will fall disproportionately on the socially disadvantaged and marginalized elders in prison. 

Clifford olson is just an insane person. Comparing all criminals to him is insane. Smoking or growing pot shouldn't be illegal. It was illegal for women to vote, for aboriginals to vote,etc. All criminals are not bad people. Morals change, governments change etc. It doesn't make sense. Its just more fear mongering and simplistic conservative law and order nonsense. Intelligent people know this is mean spirited and without any educated basis.
This is nasty little piece of legislation that does absolutely nothing to fight crime, strips the most vulnerable of Canadian citizens of right 
10s of thousands of people who will not be able to qualify for EI, thousands who have run out benefits......CPP still in need a reform.

And the Harper government goes for a populist and questionable move like this that affects about 400 people.....?

Harper can't seem to stop campaigning and get on with the real priorities of the job.....and those who are applauding this should give their heads a shake......

"Canadians who work hard, who contribute to the system, who play by the rules deserve government benefits such as Old Age Security. It's wrong, and obviously unfair, that prisoners who break the rules receive the same entitlements."
Well if the inmates are getting social security didn't they have to contribute to it to get it, to begin with?

I suppose that Harper and Co had no idea that this was happening until they read about it in the news either (like the overblown Pardon fiasco). This is nasty little piece of legislation that does absolutely nothing to fight crime, strips the most vulnerable of Canadian citizens of rights, saves the government a negligible amount of money (particularly jarring when you consider what it costs to keep someone in jail in a federal institution), and lets self righteous law and order types feel a little more self righteous. Indefensible public policy, but a niece little bone to through to the Conservative 'base' (in all senses of the word)

We know the conservatives are attempting to privatize everything from healthcare to education and prisons. The end of entitlements we Canadians have become so used to.
What will the next sign say.
Ending Entitlements For Prisoners
Ending Entitlements For Pensioners
Ending Entitlements For Poverty
Ending Entitlements For Students
Ending Entitlements For Seniors
Ending Entitlements For Mentally Handidcap
It's funny, the one we should see and never do is
Ending Entitlements For Politicians.
Now there is one we could all get behind.

Why would the reporter pick on Olsen? Why not some slow witted Inmate who has no power to rouse anything but sympathy? Maybe a Native should be used to represent the majority of our benighted convicts.

I hope evryone realizes that this is just a knee jerk reaction by the government to a media story relating to one of the most heinous criminals this country has produced. It was done to gather support and votes for the Conservatives. I have a feeling it will be challenged in court, probably going all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Government will loose, and they know it. They also know that they will be long gone by the time it finally gets through the courts.

I can see several issues that the courts may have issues with:

1. The argument that those that are incarcerated for several years and therefore do not contribute, so therefore should not enjoy the benefits. The argument is moot since who spouses do not work, or those who have been unemployed or collecting welfare are entitled. There are also peole out there who have never worked a day in their lives and they are entitled to CPP/OAS.

2. That since those incarcerated are still Canadian citizens, and were given the vote by the Government, but don't have the right to collect CPP/OAS?

3. That people incarcerated for more than two years plus a day are disqualified. Who decided that? CPP actually takes into account that every worker will be unemployed at some point and therefore unable to contribute for eighteen months during their working career. So if I'm 62 and incarcerated for 2 years plus a day, even though I contributed for most of my working life, I'm disentitled to CPP/OAS?

4. That once released the offender has paid their debt to society and, ideally, reenters society.
Once you forge the first link in the chain, who do you disentitle next? It's a very slippery slope. Maybe remove the rest of their rights, make them slaves?
It does concern me that the pension is being taken away because of political sentiment. Of course no one wants Olson to get a pension but he is the rare criminal. Are we opening the door to other political reasons to stip people of what is supposed to be a universal benefit.

Would it not be better to charge anyone in jail who is in receipt of a pension to be required to pay 95% of it towards room and board. While Olson will never get out some of those in jail will and will need some minimum income on which to live.
This is just a backwards move by the Conservatives that is designed to appease an angry public instead of being a real solution to anything. I ask myself, what is the point of this legislation?

Offering convicts pensions is probably something that was initiated when someone realized that if you take everything away from prisoners and then release them back into society, then they're just going to reoffend because they have nothing to lose.

Taking away their pensions does not solve any problem and may just end up creating others.

A better solution would have been to introduce legislation requiring a proportion of the inmate's pension to go to the families of the victims or to forfeit all the money if they die in jail.

This is a pointless move that's only aimed at making the public happy. I'd like anyone who applauds the legislation to explain what practical problem it solves. I think it's just fulfilling a desire for vengeance and responding to outrage felt by people who don't think about the fact that one day prisoners have to be released.

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