Canadian prison overcrowding going to get worse in long-term, auditor general reports | National Post

Canadian prison overcrowding going to get worse in long-term, auditor general reports | National Post.

Harper is aspiring to be a mini-me to the US in terms of prisons and incarcerations.  The US puts more people in jail than anywhere else by far.  It’s good for business.  Stephen Harper is jealous and feeling that Canada’s not keeping up.  So the auditor general is right.  Prison overcrowding and the provocation that is will cause riots and higher recidivism rates.  Welcome to Harper’s Canada.  I don’t feel it’s mine anymore.

For more on this read Nils Christie’s book, Crime Control as Industry.  Very informative.


11 thoughts on “Canadian prison overcrowding going to get worse in long-term, auditor general reports | National Post

  1. A cell for two might soon be considered a luxury in California, where open-bay dormitories with arrays of triple-tier bunks have become a standard which prison architecture aspires to. Instant filling to capacity upon opening is a standard feature of prisons, nor do these institutions ever close once opened. Attica Correctional Facility in New York, scene of a major riot in 1971, was closed only when 200 years old and in danger of structural collapse.

    The whole incarceration enterprise itself, a subject of privatization initiatives in the USA beginning about 1980, relies on formulaic justifications supplied by conservatives and draws predictable fire from liberals. Although the USA is indeed the world champion of incarceration rates, Russia is a close runner-up, and sports much worse prison conditions to boot. When citing the relatively low incarceration rates elsewhere, reasons behind it rarely get mention. India at only 30 per 100,000 “enjoys” one of the world’s lowest incarceration rates. But this is almost certainly due to the poor country’s inability to afford prisons, not to achievement of a safe society where effective alternative punishments abound. In India, clan-based justice never enters a courtroom.

    The real problem is what to do with the offenders in lieu of imprisonment. For instance, the so-called “nonviolent drug offenders” supposedly filling U.S. prisons are hardly so innocuous as liberals sketch them out to be. They tend to go armed when about their trades. Often, other things like shootings figure in the criminal behavior pattern, but drug charges are brought instead because that’s what prosecutors can prove in court. Recall how Al Capone, mastermind of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, was convicted only of tax evasion. Drug offenders account for only about a quarter or less of prison populations anyway. In our jail-happy country with its mandatory federal sentencing laws, few persons arrested solely for possession of small or moderate quantities of drugs will serve a long prison term–most are granted a probationary arrangement, especially if it’s their first time.

    Perhaps my argument erects a few straw men. Yet so, despite the rhetoric (and occasional tragic fact) of innocence bound for prison, courts and correctional systems usually deal with “problem persons” whose behavior doesn’t allow permitting them unconstrained movement within free society. Truly effective treatment and diversion may be possible, but it won’t come any cheaper than prison does–to keep a violent young person carrying a life history of emotional hurts in the community probably requires one-on-one supervision by an experienced social worker.

    1. This is a very thoughtful comment. Of course, low incarceration rates don’t mean that a country is more peaceable than a country with high incarceration rates, and incarceration rates are contingent on many considerations, juridical and political. It’s true too that not all drug offenders are benign, reserved and retiring kinds of people. I haven’t looked at the research lately on the constitution of the American prison population but I expect it’s quite varied. Last time I looked, about 15% of prisoners were in private prisons. Just in terms of logic, I find it perverse that a business has to depend on incarcerations to improve their bottom line. Its not surprising that the California ‘three-strikes-you’re out’ law came after intense lobbying by the prison staff unions and the private corporations, two organizations that need prisoners, and the more the merrier, for their organizations to thrive.
      I’m no namby-pamby let’s be easy on prisoners kind of guy, but what we create by prison conditions that are inhumane is resentment and anger, maybe more than would otherwise exist, with concomitant rises in re-offending and recidivism rates.
      There’s also the issue of falling crime rates. Why is it that there are falling crime rates and rising rates of incarceration? It doesn’t add up unless one considers political interference in the judicial system.

      1. I agree that private business should have no role in penal affairs, which naturally fall to responsibility of the state. There have been some changes of political mood recently as government units realize that their budgets are choking on corrections–California spends more on jails than on higher education, and accordingly, has modified its 1994 three-strikes law. At the federal level, mandatory sentencing for crack cocaine called for in the 1986-88 Anti-Drug Abuse Acts has been changed under President Obama. Both laws remain in force within their general outlines, however. Not something PM Harper might want to emulate up north without first thinking about it carefully.

        It’s not hard to conclude that prison is ruinous. Long-term jailing almost always destroys an inmate’s future prospects. The tougher problem will be finding an adequate replacement for routine cases, so that prison can be reserved only for when public safety genuinely requires it. The extant drug and anger-management treatment programs ordered by courts today are a joke–and, incidentally, also usually run by for-profit firms. They typically involve class attendance and urinalysis but cannot provide the intensive personal support and discipline over time offenders need if they are to have a chance to succeed.

      2. One of my former students is now a probation officer in Courtenay, BC. She runs a mandated course for sex offenders called Respectful Relationships. This course teaches men communications skills, dealing with anger and frustration and providing them with alternative ways of dealing with the world. She claims an 80% success rate, but I’m not sure yet what that means. I will pick up the manual she uses in her course in the next few days to assess it. The ‘corrections’ system is most bizarre in lots of ways. Solitary confinement is brutal, but I remember talking to an inmate in a medium security prison in Matsqui who looked forward to a month in solitary so he could work on his courses without interruption. He was an exception, of course. I had a student once in a maximum security prison in Saskatchewan (I was teaching on television at the time as well as on campus.) who had spent years in solitary. He was a bit crazy. Soon after they moved him to Kingston to serve out his sentence. He used to phone me from there! Solitary has its place, I suppose, but humans are fundamentally social. Taking that away from people leads to virtual insanity, in my opinion. There’s an article that deals with this issue. I’ll find it and post it sometime soon.

  2. How would you like to see this changed? Would you like to see more people put into various types of institutions that give prisoners more room and better diagnose and separate those deemed to be mentally ill? It’s very late and I really must shut down. I would just like a bit more commentary and suggestions for improvements in correcting those that are put into prison. I know you do believe that some people need to be “put away” from society such as the fellow who murdered your niece in Armstrong. I would love to read Crime Control as Industry and may get to it someday, but books seem to take me weeks to read, unless they are light and funny like that one your wife and read a couple of months ago.

  3. They put Michael in solitary confinement due to his behaviour (defiance) and his manic behaviour. I certainly received an education watching him go through various aspects of the system. Having had a strict Catholic background, army experience (10 years’service part of which was during the Malasyan conflicts of the late 1940s and early 1950s when he was in his early 20s, earning a Bachelor of Arts at the U of T, putting himself through by marking papers and with his wife, Brigit’s support (she had a job), I believe the moral principles he chose to live by and his previous background helped him survive the later traumatic experiences he endured. Some professionals showed no respect toward him at all, but fortunately, others were supportive. He dreaded solitary confinement.
    I think I will write an e-book of his remarkable story.

    1. I forgot that Michael had spent some time in prison. I think it would be a wonderful tribute if you wrote a book about him.
      I strongly encourage you to write the book. I would read it for you, as an editor, if you do it.

      1. Wow, that’s a very generous offer and an inspiration. It was the Forensic Mental Health Prison or whatever it is in the lower mainland. Hard to believe the system would consider someone like him “dangerous.”

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