Friday, February 1, 2019

#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series launched


#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series launched urging
Premier Ford and his team to invest more in building communities, not cages

Day 1 - The Numbers
Day 2 - Education
Day 4 - Housing
Day 5 - Jobs
Day 6 - Health
1 February 2019 – “Leaving no stone unturned” and “everybody will have to make sacrifices” are frequent mantras uttered by Premier Ford and his team as they press forward with measures said to be aimed at “balancing the books”, making Ontario “open for business”, and putting “more money in taxpayers’ pockets”. Announcements of funding commitments made by the previous Liberal government being cut or significantly reduced by the Progressive Conservatives, along with trial balloons being floated about for “input” from and “consultation” with “the people”, are now regular occurrences. Many of these measures are aimed squarely at Ontario’s children and young people generally, and the poorest among them in particular. Their publicly-funded educations are under attack, while Premier Ford oversees the development of new school-to-prison pipelines in the form of new and bigger jails in Thunder Bay and Ottawa planned by the previous Wynne administration.

Today, the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project – a group based at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa conducting research and public awareness initiatives aimed at reducing the use of imprisonment and improving conditions of confinement – launched the first daily instalment of its #NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series that'll end on 8 February 2019 when Ontario’s provincial budget consultations are set to conclude. The initiative urges Premier Ford and his team to divest from jail expansion and invest more in infrastructure and services that’ll actually enhance community well-being and safety. In particular, the campaign aims to stop the planned replacement of the 585-bed Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre with the 25% bigger, 725-bed Wynne-Ford jail. The project is slated to cost taxpayers up to $1 billion to design, build, finance, and maintain over the life of a 30-year private-public partnership that’ll line the pockets of wealthy corporations and their shareholders, while taxpayers pay millions more every year in operational costs that could be spent on helping marginalized youth build their lives, instead of expanding our province’s capacity to cage them.

Katarina Bogosavljevic – President of the Criminology Graduate Students’ Association and PhD student at the University of Ottawa – is urging the government to invest in education, not incarceration stating: “We know from research that societies that have less social inequality and a better educated population are safer and have a higher quality of life. Ontario needs to invest more in young people, not make cuts to their educations, while building more cages to imprison them. The province should divest from building bigger jails in Ottawa and Thunder Bay, and invest in covering the costs of skilled-trades training, college and university, particularly for young people pushed to the margins by poverty”.

Concerned about the opportunities being missed by the province to tackle violence effectively, Audrey Monette – crime prevention consultant and Master’s student in Criminology at the University of Ottawa – notes: “For every dollar the province could invest upstream in prevention initiatives, they’d save up to $7 in costs incurred by police, courts, corrections, and victims themselves when a crime takes place. I don’t doubt that Premier Ford cares about community safety and victims, but he shouldn’t go down the road of expanding policing and jailing. Investing upstream is more effective in preventing victimization, improving community safety outcomes, and saving taxpayers’ money”.

Rebecca Ward – common law student at the University of Ottawa – questions the ‘criminal justice’ spending priorities of the government, noting: “In Ontario, nearly 70% of people in our provincial jails and prisons are awaiting their day in court. This is an affront to the presumption of innocence. Instead of building more cages that’ll do nothing to address court backlogs and delays, Attorney General Mulroney’s ministry should have more resources at its disposal to support restorative justice encounters when all parties affected by a criminalized act wish to engage in such a process instead of using the traditional adversarial and retributive process that often retraumatizes those affected by social harm. Her ministry could also be allocated more resources to ensure the penal process moves more fairly and efficiently. Greater investments in legal aid, coupled with more supportive bail policies and practices would also help diminish Ontario’s reliance on imprisonment and make us safer”.

In light of the on-going disaster at the Toronto South Detention Centre, which opened in 2013 and has since fallen well-short of its billing as a facility that would make imprisonment “safer for correctional staff” and prisoners, Justin Piché – Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Ottawa – argues: “If the government ‘remains committed to building a new jail in Ottawa’ to ensure ‘correctional officers work in a safe environment’, past failures be damned, the new institution should smaller than the one planned so that we can invest in more cost-effective prevention, diversion and decarceration measures that’ll diminish our reliance on human caging, while improving community well-being and safety. This work should start with investing more, not less in education”.

Contact to arrange media interviews:
Justin Piché, PhD
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa
613-793-1093 /

#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion – #YESS / Yes to Education and Social Services #BuildCommunitiesNotCages – #got99solutions, a bigger jail ain’t one

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