As with the previous $155 million announcement made by Toews regarding the construction of new units on the grounds of aging penitentiaries in Kingston and Laval, today's announcement concerned the addition of cells at Stony Mountain Institution, built in 1877, and Rockwood Institution, built in 1962. The decision to expand aging institutions goes directly against Recommendation 98 of the 2007 CSC Review Panel that stated that the federal government needed to "minimize authorization of retrofit projects" (see page 160), in order to avoid dumping funds into penitentiaries that may be closed once new facilities are built. It is with this in mind that we must ask what is driving the siting of new units. Are these construction projects a product of penal patronage in the riding of Selkirk-Interlake represented by Conservative MP James Bezan or other factors?
Another issue related to this announcement that I will again raise is the amount of funds being spent on construction versus programming (read 7 October 2010 post). As noted in the 2008-2009 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (read here), only $37 million had been allocated to programming during that fiscal year. Again, in one announcement to expand federal penitentiaries the Conservatives have invested more on bricks and mortar than they spent on programming that prisoners may need to safely reintegrate into society.
Vic Toews claims that his "Government is proud to be on the right side of this issue - the side of law-abiding citizens, the side of victims who want justice, and the side that understands the cost of a safe and secure society...".
All of this is coming from a government that claims to be on the side of victims while diverting a significant portion of the budget dedicated to meeting their needs to funding an advertising campaign championing their punishment agenda (read previous 12 November 2010).
All of this is coming from a government that claims to be in the business of public safety while creating the very conditions inside our prisons that will undermine it (read 8 November 2010 post) by further increasing the number of prisoners through legislation it has tabled this parliamentary session, 39.7 percent of which aims to make changes to sentencing and the administration of 'cops, courts and corrections' (read 7 November 2010 post).
All of this in a stated effort to support "building stronger communities and safer streets" and none of it true.