Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to title this blog post. The public safety minister, Vic Toews, might actually be a moron. Today the minister announced that Kingston prison will be closing. As someone who is familiar with the justice system, the announcement to close Kingston comes as no surprise to me. Towes was quotes as telling the media:
Institutions built in the 19th century are not appropriate for managing a 21st century inmate population,The time has come to recognize its crumbling infrastructure, costly upkeep and severe limitations in effectively managing a population of maximum security male offenders, and in the case of Leclerc Institution, medium-security offenders.
This should be of no surprise to Canadians either as Kingston was constructed in 1833-1834. I could get into the back and forth about whether or not the open prison concept is good or bad for corrections. The crumbling infrastructure in Kingston, the dangerous area’s that exist, or the potential for violence etc. This is an on going debate in criminology, as well as between correctional workers. What I want to talk about is the next arguement Toews made for closing this facility:
Despite tough new law-and-order legislation many thought would result in a spike in the prison population, Toews argued the projected increase never materialized.
Toews is not referring to the Safer Streets and Communities Act (AKA- Bill C-10, Omnibus Crime Bill) he is refering to the increase that was expected with the “The Truth In Sentencing Act”. If you are unfamilar with this one, it passed last year and took away the two days for every day served in remand. Meaning that those people who could not get bail would no longer
receive time off their potential sentence for awaiting trial in a remand centre. Basically what Toews is arguing here is that everyone was wrong about the prison population increasing because it hasn’t happened yet due to legislation that was passed less then one year ago? In addition to this Tows took to Twitter to discuss it some more tweeting:
Opposition claims $19 billion price tags for new prisons. In reality we are saving $120 millions by closing needless prisons” and “we aren’t creating new prisoners- just closing revolving door of the legal system
I have several problems with these claims. First, you can’t say that new legislation is not increasing your prison population one year after you introduce it. Why you ask? The answer really is a simple one. Because the justice system doesn’t work that way. Justice is slow and there is no way we have prosecuted enough people under the Truth in Sentencing Act to truly measure the effects it will have on our prison population. Second, it is not just one policy that the problem lays with. It is the combination of new policy that is the problem. In particular is the minimum mandatory sentencing legislation. That only passed the senate on March 12 of this year. There is no way that we will see the effects of all this new legislation for at least 5 years.
To know that these policies will have dire unintended consequences all we have to do is look at the sorry state of the American justice system. California has been ordered by the US supreme court to release 30,000 prisoners, they are on the verge of bankruptsy, and they are currently trying to pass legislation that will ease up on certain drug laws (such as possession of cannabis). Meanwhile in Texas they are closing down prisons, and introducing new rehabilitative approaches to crime in order to curb their own problems that emerged as a result of the same types of legislation. Texas has also come out to warn Canada against Bills such as C-10 warning that it will only cost billions, and won’t do a thing to deter, or reduce crime.
With the introduction of all the minimum mandatory sentences in Bill C-10 that will bring Canada from 29 MMS’s to over 60. You can’t introduce such legislation and not expect a spike in your prison population, and a back log of court cases in your justice system.