Prison – school for criminals

Billion dollars for the school of criminals?

Former Deputy Director of the Lethbridge Correctional Centre Mr. James Wright said in an interview with a Lethbridge Herald reporter on August 22, 2011, “Although there were many bad people at the prison, there were a few who managed to turn their life around.” I was a bit taken aback reading such an honest admission; only “a few” turn around and begin a law abiding life-style? He sounds as though those “few” were exceptions. I thought rehabilitation was the main purpose of the correctional institutions not an exception. Isn’t that why we call the whole system “correctional?” Of course, a popular notion that the prison system is to punish “bad” people and isolate them from good people. But that’s not the stated official policy. It is “correction’; turning problem people into healthy ones, like a hospital. Or the word is just an euphemism and does not mean much. We really mean it is to punish the criminals and put them away as long as possible. Do we? I hope not.

Minister of Public Safety, Mr. Vic Toews says that the government will spend a billions dollar to increase the capacity of the prisons in a next few years so that they can keep criminals locked up and not let them walk free on the streets. However, if our prison system is so ineffective in the implementation of its basic goal, it is an awful lot of our tax money being wasted. Furthermore, I often hear the experience of ex-prisoners who say that the prison is a school for criminals: they learn the tricks of criminal trades and/or join the criminal gangs there. So are we building new prison facilities to produce more criminals?

Another problem I have with Mr. Toews plan is the fact that in Canada, particularly in the West, the First Nation people are over represented among the population of the correctional institutions. We all know this. Expanding the capacity of the prisons without tackling racism in our society and addressing the root causes of poverty and other social issues, the whole “tough on crime” strategy is tantamount to a war against the First Nations. That would be unacceptable.

August 23, 2011

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