Faced with an exploding inmate population because of a raft of Conservative get-tough crime initiatives, federal prison authorities secretly hatched a plan to cram many more inmates into shared cells and to suspend rules meant to restrict the practice. Even though Corrections Canada believes the measure is an “inappropriate” way to house prisoners, senior officials of the Correctional Service of Canada issued an internal bulletin Wednesday that changes a policy governing double bunking, a practice in which two inmates live in one cell.
Stockwell Day, the Conservative cabinet minister who is being skewered for his answers today to questions about the government’s plans to spend billions more on new prisons, when police-reported crime rates are declining, got something dead right. Day was bang on when he said lots of crime goes unreported. That’s wholly, completely, totally accurate. The problem is, unreported crime has absolutely nothing – nadda, zippo, zilch – to do with plans to build more prisons and lock up more people for longer sentences. And that’s Day’s big problem, because he drew a big, fat intersecting line from one to the other, as if they were shadow and shape in a kid’s activity book matching game.
Is the Conservative government in Ottawa downloading the social costs of misguided crime and justice policies onto local governments? That’s the intriguing question posed by a prominent critic of Tory tough-on-crime tactics. In the political context, downloading typically refers to the practice of a provincial or territorial government dumping responsibility and costs onto municipalities for services that were provided by the upper tier of government. Craig Jones, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, believes local governments across the country face an onerous download that most likely don’t see coming.
The federal government wants to abolish the faint hope clause, a measure in the Criminal Code that allows imprisoned killers to ask to have their parole ineligibility reduced. The Tory government announced the get-tough measure today. It’s a fix for a perceived problem that affects a small percentage of murderers, as the government’s own graphic (above) reveals: It shows that less than two in every 10 jailed killers who is eligible to ask for an earlier parole date has had a decision rendered since the first faint hope hearing in 1987. The table above is excerpted from the Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview, Annual Report 2008, published by the federal government. After the jump, a look at the important detail in the faint hope process that’s missing from many media reports.
Would Canada’s justice system really treat a parole violator more harshly than a violent sexual predator? It’s happening, thanks in part, to the obsession of some in law enforcement and in government with mandatory minimum sentences. Those automatic penalties sometimes make a mockery of sentences for other horribly destructive and violent crimes, like child sexual abuse.
Lawmakers in Ottawa are talking about tinkering with the country’s laws on drunk driving to toughen them. You have to wonder why. If you kill someone while driving drunk , you can be sentenced to life in prison. How much tougher can it get?
Amazing, what notions germinate in the absence of contrary views. Some Brits apparently believe Canada is a model of crime-prevention sensibility:
If the Conservatives want to see what works they should look to Sweden, Demark, Canada and America. Based on 40 year studies, they have developed programmes which target the factors that can lead young people to a life of crime.
Yet Canada’s federal government is fixated on a tough-on-crime campaign of longer prison sentences, mandatory minimums and strict enforcement. They want to eliminate statutory release, the program that frees inmates from prison early with community supervision. They want to change youth crime law to imprison more children for longer sentences. And they are determined to pour millions more into enforcement. There’s no evidence that any of these strategies prevent crime or make communities safer.
Winnipeg is doing what science tells us is a waste of time and money when it comes to preventing crime. The city is installing 10 spy cameras in downtown crime hotspots, at a cost of $450,000. This, despite findings from a prominent Canadian research group that “there is no evidence whatsoever” that surveillance cameras deter crime. We just like to think they do.
The Ottawa Citizen produced this fascinating series on the proliferation of cameras around the globe and the potential threat they pose.
As the standard bearer for the government’s tough-on-crime crusade, you wouldn’t expect Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan (inset), who is responsible for prisons and parole, to contradict Conservative policy. But that’s what he seemed to do today, while answering questions from reporters inside a federal prison in Kingston, Ontario.