Pubdate: Tue, 08 Nov 2011 Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB) Copyright: 2011 Winnipeg Free Press Contact: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/send_a_letter Website: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/502 Author: Bruce Owen RALLY HELD AGAINST OMNIBUS CRIME BILL About 250 people rallied against the Harper government's omnibus crime bill outside the Manitoba Legislative Building today. Speakers and people in the crowd said the anti-crime measures in the bill, currently before Parliament, will only put more people into jail for minor crimes and ratchet up prison costs at the expense of social programs. Former city police officer Bill VanderGraaf, who now represents Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said the bill is a form of bullying particularly against medical marijuana users. The federal bill if passed as is will jail people for six months for growing six marijuana plants, critics charge. "The whole war on drugs is a failure," VanderGraaf said. "Everybody knows it. The Harper government doesn't seem to get it. And obviously, the Manitoba government doesn't seem to get it." The rally, hosted by the John Howard Society, was held to sway the province from supporting the federal bill. Last week Attorney General Andrew Swan said the Selinger government supported the bill because of some of its anti-crime provisions, despite the acknowledged higher costs to the province of keeping more people in jail and for longer. John Hutton, executive director of the John Howard Society, said he'll meet with Swan Wednesday to voice his concerns about the bill. Others said the province and Ottawa could do more to reduce crime by going after its root causes like poverty and substance abuse. "I think they're on the wrong side of this fight," said Shaun Loney, executive director of BUILD, a program that takes young men, most with criminal records, and trains them to insulate properties for energy efficiency. Loney said the American experience with high incarceration rates hasn't work. "They're actually closing jails down. They're finding that if they invest in treatment and employment they're actually saving money. I think the NDP is trying to out-conservative the Conservatives." Inmates at the Winnipeg Remand Centre have also chimed into the debate. Their thoughts have been posted online at www.prisonstories.org - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.