Pubdate: Fri, 20 Apr 2012
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 The Ottawa Citizen
Contact: http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/letters.html
Website: http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/326

A PRISON CELL SHELL GAME

If the federal government believes there are savings to be had in
closing federal prisons and moving their populations to other
institutions, fine. But such decisions should not be taken as proof
that its crime policies will put no pressure on the correctional system.

The Kingston Penitentiary was built in 1835. If it's inadequate and
inappropriate, by all means close it. The same goes for Leclerc
Institution, in Laval. Que., and the psychiatric Regional Treatment
Centre in Kingston, also slated to close. It will be a big change for
both regions, and the government should do its utmost to reduce the
negative impact on the hundreds of workers who are now wondering about
their futures. But there is nothing wrong in principle with trying to
make the correctional system more modern, effective and efficient.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews used the announcement to repeat a
talking point from the recent budget.

"You may have heard innuendo and attacks from my opposition critics
accusing our government of plans to build all kinds of new prisons
across the country," he said. "This is simply not true."

New prisons? Maybe not. But it doesn't look like the overall number of
prison cells is on the decline. The Correctional Service of Canada has
been expanding prisons in an effort to add at least 2,400 new cells.
The capacity of the three federal institutions slated to close in
Kingston and Laval adds up to 1,045 inmates. Surely the point is not
whether Canada is being forced to build new institutions, but whether
it is being forced to add capacity. If the government chooses to add
that capacity through expansions rather than new, smaller
institutions, that doesn't mean the federal inmate population is
declining, nor the related costs.

As a matter of fact, the prison population is growing, just not as
quickly as some predicted. In January, the Correctional Investigator
of Canada, Howard Sapers, told Postmedia News, "If you look back over
the last 24 months, the federal inmate population has grown by about
1,500. ... That is the equivalent of about three large, medium-security
institutions."

And some of the Conservatives' justice reforms only passed recently,
so it's premature to suggest that fears about an expanding prison
population have been disproven. It's also important to remember that
much of the pressure from Conservative reforms - such as mandatory
minimum sentences for drug crimes - will fall on the provinces, which
have also been expanding their facilities. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D