Working longer, to pay for all those new prisons

The new omnibus crime bill will change our society in ways we are yet to understand. We will build more prisons to house more prisoners. We will pay in more ways than one.

The new omnibus crime bill will change our society in ways we are yet to understand. We will build more prisons to house more prisoners. We will pay in more ways than one.

The cost to house just one prisoner in this time of fiscal restraint will mean nine seniors will have to delay retirement by one year to balance the budget. The government has thought of that; they are already talking about cutting funding to seniors’ pensions.

Prisons are home to an extreme number of inmates who have mental health issues, and the federal minister blamed the province for not providing sufficient health-care resources to care for these individuals and so the need for more prisons. The minister rhetorically opined that the federal government should send the provinces the bill for the cost of imprisoning people with mental health issues.

There is a disproportionate number of native Canadians incarcerated at any one time and if I am not mistaken, that falls under a federal jurisdiction. Perhaps the provinces should send Ottawa the bills.

The issue of poverty influences any and all statistics. Historically, there has always been a perceived two-tiered justice system. Wealthy people hired expensive lawyers and did not spend much time in a prison.

I read once that every dollar spent on early childhood education saved $14 in the penal system. Studies show our crime rate is going down, and history has shown that building more prisons just means more prisoners and marginal increases in the crime rate.

Texas is a prime example. They were spending billions on prisons, they were filling them and crime rates were amongst the highest in the land. They took a deep breath, read the studies, and instead of committing billions more into new prisons, they committed $400 million to crime prevention — and their crime rate came down.

In a few years, will historians shake their heads and question our intelligence and wonder: “What were they thinking?”

The omnibus crime bill, not based on any real life statistics and merely an ideological appeasement to a power-wielding conservative base, will logically reverse crime’s downward trend, and impede any effort to balance budgets, requiring cuts to basic services like education, health care, unemployment and pensions.

Billions are spent on studies, does anyone read them? Are we destined to repeat history? When will we stop paying for political games played by power hungry politicians?

Garfield Marks

Red Deer