The Tory cash train continues its cross-country prison tour, making whistlestops in every community where the government hopes a mammoth expansion plan can be spun as economic development. Yesterday, Industry Minister Tony Clement played the part of conductor, tossing $15 million from the back step of the caboose in Gravenhurst, Ontario, site of Fenbrook Institution, a medium-security federal penitentiary, one of 35 in the country where new cells will be built (shush though, don’t be spreading that around – it’s still considered top secret by the government and Corrections Canada, despite the fact that I got my hands on the secret list early last month and published it.)
The federal Tories have politicized a prison space crisis in a bid to make emergency spending look like economic development, charges a Liberal MP. Conservative MPs and ministers have begun criss-crossing the country, making campaign-style announcements at each one of 35 federal penitentiaries where new cells will be built to accommodate an exploding inmate population. “The Conservatives don’t miss an opportunity to try to turn anything into pork barrelling and so what they’re doing of course is masquerade this outrageous and outlandish prison spending as somehow being a stimulus to the economy,” Ajax-Pickering MP Mark Holland told me Wednesday. Holland is the party’s critic on corrections issues.
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? Related postsThe 0.04% solution for drunk driversAre we wasting our police...