Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Society pays for the price of crime fixation; fighting mythical crime wave
The Conservatives' fixation on crime despite a decline in crime rates would be beyond comprehension were it not for the fact that tough-on-crime measures do well in opinion polls.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's report shows how much money the government will spend to fight this mythical crime wave. I have no axe to grind about paying taxes, but I do expect some basic openness about how public funds are spent. So why is the government withholding information about the costs of these bills from Page, the media and the public?
We need to talk about more than just dollars and cents. What are the societal costs of throwing more people in jail and keeping them there longer? Do we agree with putting 14-year-olds into adult prisons? We should talk about the dismal lack of focus on prevention.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews talks about "hardened criminals," but many others will get caught in the net. Does the term "hardened criminal" apply to the person who gets a mandatory six months when found to have five or more marijuana plants? What happens to his family when he goes to jail? Can he get a job once he has a criminal record? Does the punishment fit the crime? What is the price to the larger society?
Thanks to the crime agenda, Correctional Services Canada's budget is set to rise by 27 per cent, while all other departments face a budget freeze. I am appalled that the government appears more concerned about crime than about climate change, the debt, Haiti, Afghanistan, homelessness or any of the other burning issues we face.
Is this the kind of Canada we want? What's next, public hangings? Where are the opposition parties? Apparently too cowed to speak out for fear of being painted as soft on crime. For shame.