Enhanced Capacity or Building Bigger Warehouses?

Posted: March 14, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , ,

Hard HatGuest Blogger. An inmate in a federal prison in the Fraser Valley. He’s a leader in the prison and a thoughtful writer.

I wonder how many people out there in the general public remember Vic Toews saying that the Conservative government wasn’t going to build new prisons with taxpayer’s dollars, but rather were going to enhance the capacity of existing ones. Judging by the public’s silence on the matter it would seem that his play on words had the intended effect, to deflect the public concern over building new prisons in a model that clearly isn’t working.

While it was said that no new prisons were being built the “enhanced capacity” is in fact the building of ninety-six bed units on the grounds of existing prisons. The interesting thing is that for those of us who are watching them being built, it looks to us like a new prison is being built in the yard of the old one. That’s the feeling we get here anyway.

Our government would have the public believe that enhancing the capacity of existing prisons by building new prisons on the prison grounds is what will help our safety.prison

The Conservative government would also have the public believe that the new omnibus crime bill is the answer to crime. Couldn’t two billion dollars be better spent?

What is needed is for our government to become a lot more progressive and forward thinking in the way it deals with crime. Instead of enhanced capacity how about enhanced rehabilitation? The current punishment based model isn’t working, so how about a call for change?

Maybe the time has come to look at a treatment centre type model for dealing with our nation’s criminals. Prisons are populated with men and women who are dealing with substance abuse and other serious issues that need to be addressed in treatment centers, not warehouses.

Images courtesy of:

  • fiusels.wordpress.com
  • aecom.com
  1. hg says:

    This government justi doesn’t ‘get’ so many, many things — from the need to protect our fisheries and other natural resources to the need to revise their view on the treatment of offenders.

    The most friightening part of all of this (beyond what it must feel like to watch a prison being built in one’s yard) is my belief that it isn’t so much a matter of the Harper government ‘not getting it’ but their apparent CHOOSING to not get it.

    They’ve been presented with facts, statistics and even pleas from other jurisdictions, saying ‘That won’t work; we’ve tried it. Spend your money in more productive ways.’

    Nope, these guys — who may not have even been legally elected, as we keep learning — seem hell-bent on doing things according to some pre-ordained plan, one that doesn’t consider experience or research, or even the concepts of old-fashioned common sense.

  2. Joanne Kehayas says:

    It is truly refreshing to read comments attached to this blog. In comparison to other comments written about criminals and prisons, postings on this site are so positive. The others are downright disheartening! And I suspect opinions like those are the reason the Harper government sees a mandate to build super prisons that warehouse and punish people who have committed offences.

    There are way too many people out there who are ignorant of the facts and some thrive on retribution. Some of these people would, unfortunately, be very upset if the government began to spend money on treating and educating prisoners, even if there were mounds of evidence that it worked. Many of those who support the Harper government’s agenda, generally see themselves as hard-working people who deserve to get more perks than they are currently getting. They would most certainly be against seeing lawbreakers and “lowlifes” get more than they are getting. Instead, they may even want prisoners, drug addicts, etc. to suffer even more than they perceive themselves to be suffering. They do not seem to understand, nor do they care to, that different people have varying abilities to cope with what life hands them. The concept of charity to those less fortunate can often be repugnant.

    Many such people believe in a just world — people get what they deserve. As such they keep their heads down and keep working hard. They cannot even fathom the possibility that they may find themselves in similar difficult circumstances in the future. This makes it very difficult to have empathy for prisoners. Instead, prisoners become scapegoats for society’s ills and for the fact we all have to pay more taxes.

    And then there is the fear factor, which is an entirely different topic. Fear sells and fear garners votes. Politicians know this and play it up. How else did George W. Bush manage a second term?

    By building more prisons, Harper is going after the backing of the Just Worlders and the fearful. I believe it is difficult to sway the opinions of Just Worlders but, with proper education, I also believe that the fearful can be convinced that there is a better way. If we wish to generate positive change in our justice system, it is the fearful that we need to target. Once they learn that there is truly not as much to fear as they are led to believe, they can be rallied to the cause to create programs that will truly drive societal change and reduce both crime and recidivism.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      And it is people like you, Joanne, who make it a good blog. Your comments remind me of a time my wife and I sat in the back of a courtroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A “hanging” judge was holding court. The next people to be summoned up sat in the first few rows. The judge berated the defendant with comments about how lazy he was and how worthless. When he sentenced him to 90 days the first rows clapped and cheered. When a defendant or his lawyer pleaded with the judge, some in the first rows booed.The judge never stopped this behavior.
      And the loudest supporters of the judge were those who would be called up next.
      I couldn’t believe it, but somehow your very thoughtful comments made me think of it.

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