The closure of the federal prison farms (see Save Our Prison Farms), the preservation of the long-gun registry (read 22 September 2010 article by CBC News), the criminalization of dissent in Toronto during the G20 meetings (read report by André Marin), along with the governments promotion of imprisonment as a means to resolve a wide array of challenges we face such as the management of refugees who are looking to escape conflict and persecution at home (read 21 October 2010 press release by Public Safety Canada), are among the issues that commanded the attention of Canadians. These issues and the discussions they have provoked will likely continue to resonate in 2011 and beyond.
For me, 2010 represents a year of missed opportunities for Canada and its residents. More than a year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid scrutiny concerning the alleged complicity of the Canadian Forces in the abuse of Afghan detainees (read 30 December 2009 article by CBC News), we still have a minority Conservative Government of Canada that fails to be transparent on this matter and others.
The federal government also continues to focus a significant portion of their legislative efforts towards 'reforming' sentencing and the administration of the penal system, also known as the criminal justice system (read 7 November 2010 post), at a time when citizens are more concerned about "the economy, health care and the environment" (read 28 December 2010 article by Amy Minsky).
If 2010 is any indication, it does appear as though federal politicians of all stripes - to a greater or lesser degree - have missed the opportunity the 2009 edition of prorogation provided us with (read 26 January 2010 post), particularly in the area of penal policy where a seemingly never ending barrage of legislative waves that aim to increase the use of criminalization and imprisonment, as well as perpetuate the stigma associated with the 'offender' label well beyond the expiry of their sentences continues to assault our communities. All the while, resources are diverted away from approaches that actually bolster our capacity to deal with the complex harms and conflicts in society that we call 'crime'.
While I have followed the stories above with interest, the bulk of my research, writing and advocacy that is featured on this blog has focussed on the scope and factors shaping prison expansion with an emphasis on the potential ramifications, both economic and human, of federal sentencing initiatives. Below, I review some of the stories that have been featured here in 2010.
TPCP Canada in 2010
In February 2010, I shared my preliminary findings concerning the construction of new provincial-territorial prisons in Canada (read 16 February 2010 post, 18 February 2010 post). Through an online content search, informal information requests by phone and e-mail with government officials, as well as an analysis of unpublished government records obtained using Access to Information and Freedom of Information requests, I discovered that there were at least 22 new prisons and 16 additions to existing facilities at various stages of completion. Once online, these facilities will add approximately 6,500 new prisoner beds at a cost of over $2.8 billion for construction.
Most of these facilities were planned to address a myriad of challenges faced by provincial and territorial prison agencies including aging infrastructure, persistent overcrowding driven by rising remand populations, a need to develop space to cope with prisoners suffering from drug addiction and mental illness, as well as a desire to fulfill space requirements association with changing programming objectives.
It should be noted that only governments in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and British Columbia attempted to project future growth in relation to the federal sentencing initiatives at the time proposals for new prisons and units were submitted according to unpublished documents I have obtained. This indicates that may jurisdictions in Canada will likely not be able to weather the carceral storm ahead as the minority Conservative Government of Canada continues to table new bills that aim to put more people behind bars for longer periods of time with fewer chances of release prior to warrant expiry. This agenda is being pursued at a pace that makes it difficult to plan for the cumulative impacts these initiatives will have (see 31 May 2010 presentation to Provincial-Territorial Heads of Corrections).
While I was able to map many of the on-going penal infrastructure initiatives being undertaken by the provincial and territorial governments, I was unable to obtain information concerning the short-term and long-term accommodation plans of the federal government and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). The issue of government transparency on this matter and the financial cost of expanding the federal penitentiary system is an issue that received considerable attention last year, which is best captured in five stories that I will briefly review below.
1) CSC Expenditures 2010
Following the tabling of the federal budget in March 2010, the NDP noted that CSC's capital expenditures had increased by 43 percent from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011 to $329 million (read 5 March 2010 post). This noted increase began a discussion on whether this money was being used to build new penitentiaries.
A few days later, Minister Toews was asked by journalist Janice Tibbetts, who had obtained an e-mail written by CSC Commissioner Don Head to employees noting changes to senior staff to support "major construction initiatives", how the government planned to absorb the influx of new prisoners (read 9 March 2010 post). Toews' office responded that it was only "updating and improving" existing federal penitentiaries.
The issue of federal prison expansion again resurfaced the following week when Minister Toews appeared on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon. Having obtained an unpublished report that showed that 29 of 54 penitentiaries had recently asked permission to double-bunk prisoners, a practice in contravention with CSC Commissioner's Directive 550 and the United Nations' Standing Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Solomon asked Toews what the government was planning to do to accommodate the influx of new prisoners that would enter the system as a result of their punishment agenda. The Minister responded that the government did not have plans to build new facilities and that they would be involved in the "rehabilitation and expansion" of existing facilities. He also stated that they would increase the use of double-bunking which he deemed not to be "inappropriate or illegal or unconstitutional or violates international standards" (read 18 March 2010). The Minister's office defended this policy direction the following day in a statement and noted that plans to build new facilities "will have to go through the normal approval processes" once submitted (read 19 March 2010).
A few weeks later, Globe and Mail journalist Bill Curry noted that "the budget for Corrections Canada is projected to rise 27 per cent from 2010-2011 fiscal year to 2012-13, when it will reach $3.1 billion. More than 4,000 new positions will be created at correctional institutions and parole offices across the country, with estimates of a 25-per-cent increase in employees during the same period" at a time where other government departmental budgets were being downsized or frozen (read article here).
After I read this story I compiled CSC's budget figures since the Conservatives entered office and noted that the expenditures of the federal penitentiary system had climbed by 54 percent since 2005-2006, including a 138.4 percent increase in capital expenditures (read 31 March 2010 post). I also noted that full-time equivalent staff had already increased by 11.9 percent since the Conservatives tabled their first budget in 2006-2007.
Following an appearance on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon where I shared these figures and asked whether the Government of Canada was planning to build new penitentiaries, Conservative MP Shelly Glover stuck to the government line and even disagreed with the figures I had presented (read 1 April 2010 post). Deny, distort and delay appeared to be the tactics of choice used to obstruct the access of Canadians to the full costs of the Conservative punishment agenda.
2) Federal Victims' Expenditures 2010
With a significant increase in expenditures for CSC projected in 2010-2011, one would expect that the so-called champions of victims of 'crime' would have provided a comparable funding boost to meet the needs of victims. However, while the federal government increased their allocation for victims from $13 million to $16.3 million, an analysis of the federal budget estimates revealed cuts of 41.2 percent to the Grants for Victims of Crime Initiative and of 34 percent to the Contributions to the Victims of Crime Initiative (read 6 April 2010 post 1).
When presented with these figures, as well as the rising expenditures for CSC, during an interview on CBC'S Power & Politics, the soon-to-be ousted first Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime Steve Sullivan remarked on the insufficiency of the governments legislative agenda and related prison expansion:
...the needs of victims of crime are very complex. They're not easy solutions. It's not about a tag line about building more prisons or getting tougher on criminals. Their needs are complex and they're very in-depth and they're long-term. I guess what I would be telling the government is, if you have a pot of money, and you have a choice to build more prisons or help more victims, to help more victims.
This statement by Sullivan was important in that it illustrated that there is a cost to increasing the use of imprisonment, some of which is absorbed by victims of 'crime' who are often used as stalking horses for state repression (read 6 April 2010 post 2).
3) PBO Study on the Economic Costs of Bill C-25
Despite efforts by Conservative political commentators such as Tom Flanagan to deflect critiques about the economic costs of incarceration (read 16 April 2010), this narrative was one that simply would not go away with media outlets reporting that the cost of implementing one Conservative punishment bill, the 'Truth in Sentencing' Act, would be in the range of $7 billion to $10 billion according to a forthcoming report from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) (read 28 April 2010).
This news appeared to have prompted the federal government to revise its estimate concerning Bill C-25 to go from $90 million to $2 billion overnight, although Toews stated that he would "rather not share" the costs of other punishment bills with Canadians (read 28 April 2010 article by Janice Tibbetts). A report by Ottawa Citizen journalist Kathryn May also noted that the PBO was forced to create its own forecasting model to predict the costs of Bill C-25 because CSC refused to disclose their own figures and methodology (read 28 April 2010 article; see also 9 May 2010 article), which was unsurprising given the organization's reluctance to disclose plans for the construction of new institutions (read 14 April 2010 post).
As rumours began to circulate that the provinces and territories would be on the hook for a sizeable portion of the cost of Bill C-25, other governments in jurisdictions such as Ontario began to signal that they wanted assistance to cover the costs of the federal government's punishment agenda (read 29 April 2010 post). Reports also surfaced that provinces such as Manitoba (read 1 May 2010 post) and territories including Nunavut (read 4 May 2010 post; 13 May 2010 post) had prison systems that were bursting at the seems that would likely not be able to absorb an influx of new prisoners. With "[s]ix out of the 10 provinces surveyed" by Globe and Mail journalist Gloria Galloway stating that "they are worried that the new tough-on-crime laws will impose a major financial burden" (read article), it seemed that a prison budget showdown was slowly emerging between the federal government and their provincial-territorial counterparts (read 22 May 2010 post; 16 June 2010 post; 18 June 2010 post).
At the close of a busy winter and spring sitting of Parliament and the media largely focussed on the G8/G20 debacle unfolding in Huntsville and Toronto, the PBO report on the economic costs associated with implementing Bill C-25 was released on 22 June 2010 (read report here). The report found that prison expenditures for the federal government would rise from $2.2 billion a year in 2009-2010 to $4.18 billion in 2015-2016. The provincial-territorial share would also projected to rise from $2.15 billion to $5.23 billion during this same period. Put differently, the federal government would be on the hook for approximately $5 billion, while the provinces and territories would be on the hook for approximately $5 billion to $13 billion over the next five years to implement the 'Truth in Sentencing' Act.
Predictably, Minister Toews dismissed the figures out of hand, while the media and members of the opposition pounced on the multi-billion dollar discrepancy between the PBO and the federal government's projections associated with Bill C-25 (read 22 June 2010 post). The Conservative record of stonewalling on this file even prompted an editorial from the Globe and Mail that called for "Truth in Budgeting" to accompany "Truth in Sentencing" (read here).
In response to the PBO report, CSC Commissioner Don Head finally released the agency's plan to cope with the influx of new prisoners resulting from Bill C-25 (read 22 June 2010 Calgary Sun op-ed). This short-term plan to deal with a forecasted increase of 3,400 new prisoners included the construction of an unspecified amount of new units at undisclosed locations that would add 2,700 new prisoners beds in existing institutions, as well as an increase in the use of double-bunking (read 23 June 2010 post). It should be noted that Commissioner Head has since revised the organization's projections to include estimates associated with other pieces of legislation without having provided an update on how this would impact CSC's short-term accommodation strategy (read 19 October 2010 post; 22 October 2010 post).
In Head's June op-ed, he also noted that CSC was developing a "long-term plan that plan that takes into account the need to replace some penitentiaries that have stood the test of time for many decades and no longer meet the requirements of a modern correctional system". This represented the first time a government official had acknowledged that such a plan was in the works since July 2009 when a CSC webpage outlining the agency's evaluation of its physical infrastructure for the purposes of planning regional complexes was inexplicably removed (see also Head, 2008).
After months of being battered by revelations on the costs of their punishment agenda, it appeared as though the Conservatives were losing their grip on a file that they had been deemed to own by the commentariat. Over the summer, the bombardment continued as the volume and severity of police-reported 'crime' dropped again according to Statistics Canada (read 20 July 2010 post) and President of the Treasury Board Stockwell Day bungled the issue of unreported 'crime' to justify the construction of new prisons, ensuing a media frenzy in the dog days of summer (read 3 August 2010 post).
Members of opposition parties, namely Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland and NDP Public Safety Critic Don Davies, where routinely taking their Conservative counterparts to school on this file, making it seem as though the punishment agenda would encounter robust opposition in the Fall. The Liberals even went as far as to say that the Canadian electorate now had the choice between keeping a government in power whose priorities were "prisons and planes" or electing a Liberal government that was concerned with the "real priorities" of Canadians (read 4 September 2010 post). The minority Conservative Government of Canada, however, would bounce back.
4) Penal Pork Barreling
At a time when Canada was still in the process of recovering from the global economic crisis, many Canadians remained concerned about the economy and the precariousness of the job market. In this context, the Conservatives arguably played on this anxiety by offering penal pork to existing pentowns and pencities, along with a side of gravy in the form of punishment bills that promise to grease the wheels of the machine, that is the federal prison system, for years to come.
With Conservative MP's lobbying for a portion of the so-called carceral stimulus (read 1 August 2010 post; 18 August 2010 post), journalist Rob Tripp obtained a list of 35 institutions that would be expanded as part of CSC's short-term accommodation strategy (read 6 August 2010 Cancrime blog post). Having conducted an analysis of this list, I noted that approximately 65 percent of the penal infrastructure projects were taking place on the grounds of penitentiaries in federal ridings held by Conservatives, which is noteworthy given that 57 percent of institutions are located in Conservative ridings. I also noted that nearly two-thirds of the new units were to be added to penitentiaries built before 1980, which goes against recommendations made by the 2007 CSC Review Panel that noted that the government should "minimize authorization of retrofit projects", particularly for aging penal institutions (read 18 August 2010 post). Given these findings, I began to ask whether CSC's short-term accommodation strategy and the siting of new units was being driven by penal patronage.
This facet of the story did not gain much traction as Conservative MP's began spreading the 'good news', announcing new units from coast-to-coast with promises of "tangible economic growth" resulting from the penal infrastructure projects with no research or evidence to support this claim (read 19 August, 2010 post; 7 October 2010 post; 12 November 2010 post). In a media context fixated on the likes of Russell Williams, Clifford Olson and Graham James, the Conservatives touted their 'tough on crime' credentials by also noting during their unit announcements that they were on "the side of law-abiding citizens, the side of victims who justice", as well as the "side that understands the cost of a safe and secure society is an investment worth making".
With no evidence to support their claims, it appears as though Canadians are still buying the messages routinely fed to them during these announcement, with some polls showing that they believe that the Conservatives are the most credible party on this issue. Although, likely much to the chagrin of the minority Government of Canada who thrive on the politics of fear and distortion, most Canadians continue place 'crime' at the bottom of their list of concerns (read 28 December 2010 article by Amy Minsky).
5) Prison Overcrowding and Its Consequences
While the federal government was busy trying to find new ways to increase our reliance on incarceration (read 7 November 2010 post), others focussed their attention on the human consequences of the punishment agenda with Canadians participating in Prison Justice Day (PJD) events across the country (read 6 August 2010 post; view footage from a 10 August 2010 PJD event in Ottawa).
For my part, I made public a briefing note - submitted by CSC Senior Deputy Commissioner Marc-Arthur Hyppolite to Minister Toews on 16 February 2010 that I had obtained using Access to Information (read 8 August 2010 post) - on CBC's Power & Politics that contradicted the government's position that double-bunking is an appropriate practice (watch 9 August 2010 segment - minutes 16:00 to 31:35). The briefing note stated:
For any double-bunking, other than emergency management, institutional heads are required to have an exemption authorized, in advance, by the Commissioner. This exemption sets the maximum level to which an institution can normally be double bunked... It is important to note that the increased use of double bunking places significant stress on the staff and infrastructure of an institution. Further expansion of double bunking increases the risk to staff and offender safety in an institution.
Rather than taking the responsible path by adopting a moratorium on punishment legislation to curb the influx of new prisoners (read September 2010 article in the Monitor), the government induced a crisis in the federal penitentiary system that required that CSC suspend Commissioner's Directive 550 to allow for more double-bunking (read 11 August 2010 post). It seems that advice Minister Toews received concerning the potential risks of increasing double-bunking posed to staff and prisoners had fallen on deaf ears.
In the Fall, reports and commentary by Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers also warned that an influx of new prisoners in our already overburdened federal penitentiary system would likely lead to more violence and deaths inside our penal institutions. He also warned that this policy trajectory, left unaccompanied by additional resources, could also undermine public safety by further exacerbating the shortage of programs available to prisoners that they may need to safely reintegrate into society as CSC's funding is diverted towards managing overcrowding (read 8 September 2010 post; 8 November 2010 post). In light of these warnings, it is surprising that the federal penitentiary system has yet to erupt as it did in the 1970s and 1980s when faced with similar circumstances.
Developing Stories to Watch For in 2011
With the likelihood that penal policy will continue to be a major focus of the minority Conservative Government of Canada, here are five stories I'll be tracking in 2011.
1) 'Austerity' Budget 2011
As noted in a 29 March 2010 article by Globe and Mail journalist Bill Curry (read here), while Budget 2010 included cuts to a number of federal government departments, the Conservatives provided CSC with additional funds this past year and forecasted increases in the years ahead.
With another budget only weeks away, that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has promised will be an exercise in austerity, it will be interesting to see whether CSC's projected budget of $2.926 billion for 2011-2012 will hold or if Canadians will be on the hook for more money to fund our growing addiction to incarceration. It will also be interesting to see which government departments get their funding slashed, in part, because of Conservative penal pork barreling.
2) March 2011 Submission of CSC's Long-term Accommodation Plan
In the 2007 Report of the CSC Review Panel, it was recommended that the federal penitentiary system review its physical infrastructure, and consider the costs and benefits of replacing existing institutions with regional complexes (see pages 166-167). In response to the report, CSC established a Transformation Team in February 2008 to implement the recommendations outlined in the review. Part of their activities involved the development of a plan to 'modernize' physical infrastructure (read Head, 2008).
It should be noted that I have been attempting to obtain documents related to this plan through Access to Information requests for a few years. To date, I have been unable to obtain the records I have sought as CSC has either claimed they "do not exist" or that they are unable to release them for other reasons including "Cabinet confidence" (read 14 April 2010 post). A recent request filed in July 2010 has yet to be processed and, according to a 15 December 2010 exchange with a CSC analyst, will not be fully processed "until June 2011" as a number of documents are being sent to the Privy Council Office for consultation. With that said, according to a 6 December 2010 response from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to an order of paper question tabled by Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland (Q-471), this "Long Term Accommodation Strategy and Investment Plan" will be tabled "for consideration in March 2011".
As it is doubtful that the plan will be released for public scrutiny and debate, it is vital that Parliamentarians, journalists and Canadians press the federal government of the day to disclose the full costs of CSC's infrastructure initiatives, the policy alternatives considered (if any), as well as how the department plans to carry-out their vision for Canada's emerging penal state (e.g. facility site selection, design, construction, financing, maintenance, operations). With billions upon billions of dollars likely on the table, not to mention the human lives that lie in the balance, it is vital that such information see the light of day so that Canadians can ultimately make informed decisions about whether or not they want to be on the hook for prison mortgages that will be paid for long after the children born this year will enter the workforce.
3) PBO Study on the Economic Costs of Bill C-39
As noted previously, the cost of the Conservatives punishment agenda received significant attention in 2010. This is, in large part, due to the findings of the PBO's report that projected the costs of implementing the so-called 'Truth in Sentencing' Act to be in the neighbourhood of $5 billion for the federal government and another $5 billion to $8 billion for the provinces and territories.
In 2011, Canadians will become aware of the economic costs associated with Bill C-39: An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, a piece of legislation tabled by the minority Conservative Government of Canada that aims to restrict federal parole eligibility as part of their implementation of CSC's so-called transformation (read 25 May 2010 post). They will become aware of these figures not because the government has taken the steps to project and release them (read 28 April 2010 article by Janice Tibbetts; 22 May 2010 post; 19 October 2010 post; 22 October 2010 post), but because Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland has again requested that the PBO conduct a study for these purposes (read open letter).
While I do not anticipate that this report will produce figures comparable to those released by the PBO in June 2010, particularly because there is not a provincial-territorial component to Bill C-39, they will provide a glimpse of a small fraction of the costs related to restricting parole eligibility and opportunities for prisoners to successfully reintegrate themselves into society.
We have to keep in mind that Bill C-39 is merely the beginning of the implementation of 'earned parole' and that the elimination of statutory release - which in my view would dramatically increase the costs of federal imprisonment without enhancing public safety - would still be on the chopping block.
4) Cumulative Impacts of the Punishment Agenda
As the Conservatives will likely continue to recycle Canada's most notorious individuals - Karla Homolka, Graham James, Clifford Olson, Russell Williams and the like - to justify their punishment agenda that arguably mostly targets individuals involved in low-level property and drug-related 'crime', we will continue to see persistent overcrowding in our federal penitentiaries and provincial-territorial prisons in 2011 despite the establishment of new facilities (read 16 February 2010 post; 17 February 2010 post; 23 June 2010 post; 6 August 2010 post; 19 August 2010 post; 7 October 2010 post; 12 November 2o10 post).
With the perpetuation of the punishment agenda we can expect trends affecting federal prisoners noted in the 2009-2010 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada to persist (read 8 November 2010 post), including: diminished access to programming that may help federal prisoners safely reintegrate into society; diminished access to health and mental health services; higher levels of violent incidents and staff usage of force; and increased wear-and-tear on already crumbling penitentiary infrastructure.
Anyone who is interested in understanding the violence that can potentially emerge as a result of overcrowding only needs to look back at the riots and hostage takings that took place in the 1970s and 1980s that are meticulously documented by Claire Culhane (1991) in her book No Longer Barred from Prison to understand the powder-keg that will inevitability explode should the punishment agenda be allowed to persist.
Another issue to watch for in 2011 is whether or not the provinces and territories, who are responsible for incarcerating the vast majority of prisoners in Canada, will continue to allow themselves to be willing passengers on the runaway punishment train with Justice Minister Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Toews at the helm that will likely collectively cost them billions or if they will mobilize their political capital and demand more consideration when penal policies are drafted, tabled and implemented.
To date, the response has been a mixed-bag (read 29 April 2010 post; 22 May 2010 post; 16 June 2010 post; 30 October 2010 post). Only time will tell if issues such as the jurisdictional split, whereby only prisoners serving sentences of two-years-plus-a-day, that was addressed in the yet to be released 2009 Changing Face of Corrections Report (read 5 May 2010 post) will be publicly discussed this year.
5) A 'Law-and-Order' Election?
In a minority government situation, the prospects of an election are always looming. Should one occur, either resulting from a confidence vote or election call, if the current federal government has their way they will likely make 'crime' and punishment a central election issue. While they themselves and media commentators believe that the punishment agenda is a strength of the Conservative Party, in my view their one-size-fits-all approach is their greatest weakness.
For instance, the government routinely touts their support for victims of 'crime' in every initiative they roll-out. However, they have consistently focussed on increasing sentencing as a primary means to meet their needs, as well as advertising resources and services (read 12 November 2010 post) that are woefully insufficient in meeting the other complex needs victims may have (read 6 April 2010 post) such as counselling, restitution and opportunities to meet with perpetrators to receive answers to their questions, acknowledgement of the harms done, and assurances for their safety in the future where desired.
The Conservatives have also professed that they are protecting the public by keeping prisoners behind bars. While they may be passing legislation that will likely lead to more people spending more time in prison with fewer chances of release, they have offered little regarding how this approach will help reintegrate prisoners into society. And it is the question of re-entry, a situation that the vast majority of prisoners will inevitably encounter, that is their achilles heel. With many states in south of the border and other jurisdictions moving away from the penal policies we are pursuing because of the proven failure of mass incarceration, one has to wonder whether Canadians will place the elation of punishment they may feel as being worth the price of admission, particularly when we could be spending our money on preventing victimization by investing in our communities, come election time.
The Need for a Canadian Punishment Legislation Moratorium
When I was growing up, my parents reminded me that if there appeared to be an easy solution to a complex problem it was probably too good to be true. I would argue that the same can be said about the minority Conservative Government of Canada's approach to dealing with the complex conflicts and harms in our communities that we call 'crime' - a 'solution' that will only exacerbate the social issues we face.
As we continue to march towards an increase in our reliance on incarceration, with the human and economic consequences that this will entail, it is important to remind ourselves that these developments are not necessary. Alternatives that do not involve expanding the monuments of our collective failure to address social issues in meaningful ways that we call prisons are available, although they may require more effort and imagination than simply erecting a concrete box surrounded by barbed-wire fences.
In 2010, I, along with others (see below) called for a Canadian Punishment Legislation Moratorium in order to avoid deepening the current capacity crisis in our penal institutions (read open letter; downloadable form; 1 September 2010 article). While this initiative did not garner mass support, it was a tremendous learning experience for me that will inform similar initiatives in the future.
To those of you who signed-up in support of the moratorium, who sent me e-mails and letters of encouragement, or who have read the blog logging over 10,000 hits this past year - thank you. While 2010 was a very challenging year, it has been a rewarding one as well and I appreciate your support. With persistence turning points will emerge and change will come.
CANADIAN PUNISHMENT LEGISLATION MORATORIUM
Whereas the overall frequency of police-reported crime in Canada has been steadily declining since 1991 according to Statistics Canada.
Whereas increasing the use of imprisonment has failed to enhance public safety in locations that have shifted towards a mass incarceration model (e.g. certain jurisdictions in the United States and the United Kingdom).
Whereas imprisonment does not meet many of the complex and pressing needs of those most impacted by crime including victims, those in conflict with the law and other members of our communities.
Whereas many of our prisons are already fill and unable to absorb the influx of additional prisoners serving longer sentences without further compromising Canada's 1975 commitment to the United Nations' Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which states "9(1) Where sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself [or herself]".
Whereas Canada, as well as its provinces and territories, are in the midst of an economic crisis where most jurisdictions are looking to make cuts to government programs to balance the books and thus cannot afford to take on large expenditures such as building new multi-million dollar prisons.
I support a moratorium on federal punishment legislation that is exacerbating the capacity crisis in our penal institutions by creating additional demand for prison beds likely with little effect on the rate of crime or safety in our communities, at a high fiscal cost.
Susan Boyd, University of Victoria, Victoria
Shannon Taylor, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon
Valerie Veillard, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon
Ethel Ahenakew, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon
Eunice Bergston, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon
Andy Barber, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon
Mike Larsen, York University, Toronto
Gordon Groulx, York University, Toronto
Joanne Cardinal, University of Ottawa, Ottawa
Jesse Ring, Elizabeth Fry Society, Ottawa
Alanna Manchak, Edmonton
Christine Lamont, Sisters in Action and Solidarity Project, Vancouver
Paulette Thomson, Sisters in Action and Solidarity Project, Vancouver
Carly Hogeveen, Human Rights in Action Collective, Vancouver
Sarah Rizun, Human Rights in Action Collective, Vancouver
Lara-Lisa Condello, Human Rights in Action Collective, Vancouver
Jennifer Allan, Human Rights in Action Collective, Vancouver
Catherine Bistrisk, Human Rights in Action Collective, Vancouver
Tricia Haggerty, Calgary
Erica Meiners, Northern Illinois University, Chicago
Susan Haines, Ottawa
Deb Feldman-Stewart, Kingston
Graham Stewart, John Howard Society of Canada (retired), Bath
Matthew Yeager, King's University College - UWO, London
Ronald Lahaye, Mount Royal University, Calgary
Jeannot Duchesne, CSRQ, Saint-Blaise-sur-Richilieu
Nicolas Carrier, Carleton University, Ottawa
Claire Delisle, University of Ottawa, Ottawa
Jennifer Kilty, University of Ottawa, Ottawa
Erin Beckwell, University of Regina, Regina
Ailsa Watkinson, University of Regina, Regina
Kevin Walby, University of Toronto, Toronto
Richard Hudler, Toronto
Robert Gaucher, University of Ottawa, Ottawa
Karen Suurtaam, Toronto
Charlie Diamond, Toronto
Pat McGill, Napier Pilot City Trust, Napier (New Zealand)
Laura Lorenzetti, LaSalle
Tia Dafnos, York University, Toronto
Giselle Dias, York University, Toronto
Rick Power-Fardy, Ottawa
Phyllis Iverson, Joint Effort, Vancouver
Elaine Spef, Prisoner Justice Day Committee, Vancouver
Orina Stonechild, Books to Prisoners, Vancouver
Bryonie Baxter, Ottawa
Justin Piché, Carleton University, Ottawa
* Pledges of support from individuals who wanted to remain anonymous (n=18)