Pubdate: Wed, 21 Oct 2009
Source: Valley Voice, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 The Valley Voice
Authors: Kirstin Olsen and Chris Mason


To the editor:

I am writing in response to the NDN article "Tory calls out
Atamanenko" because I have a strong interest in supporting social and
ecological justice issues. I perceive Perley Holmes' bid to serve his
eight-year sentence (for smuggling cocaine) in a Canadian jail, as
opposed to an American jail, to be an important social justice issue
with far reaching repercussions to Canadian society.

Of course, we all want people to be held accountable for their crimes;
if one makes a serious mistake one should serve a debt to society via
a sentence of some kind as per our current judicial system. The issue
here is neither a debate about that, nor about '...conjuring up any
sympathy for someone..." as referred to by Cariboo conservative MP
Dick Harris.

The issue is that Canada has an agreement with the United States that
allows for prison transfers, and this agreement should be utilized by
the Canadian Ministry of Public Safety Peter Van Loan in order to
bring Canadian prisoners home to Canada.

As suggested by Southern Interior NDP MP Atamanenko, an important
reason to do so is that the Canadian prison system is fundamentally
different than the American prison system in that the Canadian System
is not a privatized industry with a legal mandate for profit allowing
for the highest national incarceration rate in the world ( 702/100,000
) The Canadian system, statistically, provides those incarcerated (
107/100,000 )with better chances of rehabilitation and reintegration
into society. If Canadian citizens serve American jail terms they
would be sent home ( to Canada ) at the end of their sentences, and
then what? Canadian society benefits from having Canadian citizens
serve their sentences in Canada because there is a much higher chance
of them becoming productive members of our society upon their release
back into our communities.

As well as that, we can all be as smug as we want about the dangerous
use of cocaine in our society, however, cocaine use is widespread and
touches every echelon of society. The criminalization of private
citizens for drug offenses continues as major global drug policy and
traders finance many aspects of our "system" as it exists and do not
face the same accountability as citizens, and huge pharmaceutical drug
companies commit corporate crimes that put the Canadian public at risk
and take no social responsibility for it ( in fact big pharma seeks
broad based indemnification from society ).

The Conservative agenda to "Get Tough on Drugs and Crime" adheres to
the failed American "War on Drugs" policy, which one of my many great
teachers pointed out is an approach to drug crime, crime in general,
and societal drug addiction that only make these serious social
problems worse. Punitive get-tough policies don't work and inevitably
cause more tax dollars being spent on prisons. We should focus our tax
dollars on protection of the public, not on increasing both the number
of citizens incarcerated and the punitive treatment of those criminals.

I support MP Atamanenko in his wisdom to forgo short-term problems for
long-term problems and to consider ALL available facts.

Kirstin Olsen, Chris Mason

Slocan Park
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