Posts Tagged ‘Crime Bill’

One of the saddest things I’ve done is go to the library, to the criminology section. Really, it’s as sad as seeing a group of guys locked up for years. The covers on criminology books are new, undamaged, unread. Politicians make decisions without visiting the library, the supposedly-educated media have never been there, and educators don’t know what restorative justice is. And in today’s world most of this information is available online.

Are the media responsible for negative images in the minds of the public?

Are wardens accountable for recidivism, for half the inmates returning to prison?

Why do ridiculous criminal justice laws pass the legislature? Is it that we citizens do not speak up? Here in Canada the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, passed Bill C-10 with little opposition.

The slogan for the New Year might be: Take your politician to the library.

prisonsShould our prison system be about punishment about rehabilitation? Years ago when my wife and I thought of coming to Canada, we looked at the country, its people and its government as a shining light of humanitarian values. Canada cared about its people. Canada had a good safety net for its poor. In the world, the reputation of Canada was unequaled. Canada was for peace. Canada cared about the poor of the world.

I didn’t know much about the Canadian justice system then, but I assumed it would be like everything else Canadian – fair, helping people and above reproach.

These days I feel like the most foolish of men. I believed a lie. The only hope I have is in the Canadian people themselves. It wasn’t a majority that elected Mr. Harper and his conservatives, in fact it was just one-third of them. Harper punishing inmates instead of reforming them is not Canadian.

Perhaps this is a philosophical discussion, but I think it’s at the heart of the Conservative Government’s approach to prisons and criminal justice. Their idea is to punish people, not rehabilitate them. I’m reminded of Nietzsche’s comment:  “Distrust Nietszeeveryone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.”

Should prisons be about punishment or about rehabilitation?

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Often it takes a long time for an inmate to get his blog to me. Here is one he intended for the end of the year. He is our frequent guest blogger, an inmate in a Fraser Valley Prison

2013 Happy New Year

 The end of another year approaches so would seem that now is the time to take the opportunity to reflect on the events of the past year. It’s been a big year for the CSC as they carry out the orders of the Conservative government.

Here in prison things have not gotten any better for the inmate population as Mr. Harper, acting through Vic Toews, has

Prime Minster Haper

Prime Minister Harper

enacted tough on crime legislation to “make the streets safer” along with a host of other changes to make the lives of inmates more difficult. We have seen bill C-I 0 passed into law and with it we are witnessing the death of compassion and opportunities for rehabilitation within the CSC. We have also seen funding cuts to the various community agencies and groups that help offenders with their transition to the community. Somehow all these measures are going to make everything better.

Our conservative government has also taken away funding for religious groups other than Christians in an effort to save money. Before the government looks at saving nickels and dimes in the prison system perhaps they should look at how much money is wasted by other government departments, maybe our Defense Minister could not waste billions of taxpayer dollars.

pizza partyMr. Toews went so far as to put an end to inmates being able to order food from places in the community. “No more pizza parties” says Mr. Toews but he didn’t mention that inmates were actually paying for these food orders out of the meagre stipend that they are paid for working within the institution. The media has to bear some responsibility for that as they misrepresent the facts when they are given information. Most of the mainstream media is just looking for sensationalism and not the truth when it comes to the prison system and what goes on within our pnsons.

Sadly, just this week a memo was posted on the units in the prison about more changes that will affect people who have had their parole suspended. No longer will these people get a hearing in front of the parole board to present their case. Instead the duty of deciding if these prisoners will be reinstated will fall on the shoulders of a single board member to decide these cases from a review of the file. So much for procedural fairness, or even the appearance of procedural fairness, from the Parole Board of Canada as the board follows along with the conservative agenda. Maybe next year the Conservative government can enact legislation to just keep inmates locked up for twenty four hours a day and feed us bread and water. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Tough on crime and tough on inmates is the order of business for the government as they sell their conservative ideology to the public. It’s a sad state of affairs when even the Americans, with more of their citizens incarcerated than any other developed nation, are looking at what we are doing here and saying it’s a bad idea.

Vic Toews

Vic Toews

I’ve already run on too much so I’ll save some comments for next year. I wish I could say that it can’t get any worse but I’m pretty sure that it can and that Mr. Toews and Mr. Harper are looking at ways to make prison worse. On a positive note if you are reading this it means that the world didn’t end on December 21 st so Happy N ew Year.

What advice would you give our guest blogger?

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Another blog from a man in prison in the Fraser Valley Area, one we’ve heard from before. He’s a thoughtful man and a leader in his prison:

New bulletins put out on the units a couple of days ago explained more of the changes that are coming as a result of Bill C-10 (Harper’s crime bill). The impacts of the euphemistically titled “Safe Streets and Communities Act” are going to be felt here for some time.

Prisons for CanadiansWith all the talk that I hear on the unit, or complaining to be more accurate, I don’t hear many men saying that they are done with crime or with drugs, because of the new mandatory minimums and other draconian measures being put in play by the Harper government.

Why, you might ask, would people not make an immediate decision to change their behaviour in the face of these harsher consequence for their actions? There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is that most of us don’t plan on being caught. We labour under the delusion that we will get away with it forever or that we only got caught because of chance, an informant, bad luck, etc.  What a lot of men don’t face up to is the fact that they are in jail as the result of their own actions.

Another stumbling block to the idea that harsher sentences are going to act as a deterrent is that this doesn’t take into account the desperation of an addict who will disregard the thought of consequences, due to their addiction. For these offenders there has to be another way to engage them in their own rehabilitation. Increased sentences – where  they will spend even more time in a toxic environment – isn’t going to do it.

In the Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator for 2010-11, it was reported that the CSC (the prison administration in Canada) allocated a mere 1.8% of its planned spending on nationally recognized correctional programming. The government is so concerned about public safety that only 1.8% of the corrections budget goes towards the actual rehabilitation of offenders. I could hardly believe the number myself, and I live within the system. I, for one, think that there should be more money spent on all types of programming than the pittance that is being spent on rehabilitation right now.

Our government has allowed itself to be deluded into thinking that locking people up and throwing away the key is the answer to crime. I hope that the public can see past this crazy idea and call on the government to rethink the way it thinks about crime.

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Prison Industrial ComplexEvery politician serves those who elect him or her. Do you wonder why the Harper government has such strange things in its omnibus crime bill? Just stand outside a prison and watch all the supply trucks lumber through the security gates. Note the names on the sides of the trucks. Big companies. Then take a look in the parking lot and see little groups of guards talking together. You know they all want work next year. If there are no inmates, there’s no work. The guards’ union wants more prisons. Same with the big companies. No prisoners, no hot dogs to sell. Instead of Creating chainsbasing his crime bill on protecting the public and decreasing crime, Harper has opted to just give the prison industrial complex what it wants – more prisons and more inmates. How embarrassing that this is our government.

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  • Bill C-10