No to prisons

We don't need more prisons.

We don’t need more prisons.

Mark Warbinek’s letter published in The Morning Star on ‘Need for facility can’t be denied’ is in serious need of a rebuttal.

He says ‘Statistics can be argued either way … offenders are becoming more bold – defiance of authority has grown.’

In fact, Statistics Canada shows a steady decline in crime since the ’70s, and in the period from 1999 to 2008, a 17 per cent decrease in total crimes, with a 22 per cent decrease in the severity of these crimes.

He then follows with the lurid scenario of ‘bold offenders’ dragging your sons and daughters into the drug world?

Let’s get away from CSI, and look at what respected authorities are saying on the subject.

The Church Council on Justice and Corrections, which has a membership of most of the mainstream Christian churches in Canada, notes that 78 per cent of prisoners in provincial jails are there for non-violent offences, and fully 57 per cent are there on remand (not yet sentenced). If a significant portion of non-violent remand individuals were kept in a controlled environment in the community, jails would have more space and costs per person would drop by over 50 per cent.

Judge Jimmie Edwards, chief justice of the juvenile division of Missouri: “I don’t think (jail) deters anything. You have to look at what type of community are you building by constantly sending kids to jail.”

Bob Ashford, the man in charge of prevention strategy in the Youth Justice Board of England and Wales: “Our approach has been to say, ‘There are too many young people in custody.’ Prison not only doesn’t work in terms of preventing reoffending, it’s also extremely expensive. And that’s not to anyone’s benefit.”

And, let’s look at the link between incarceration rates and the ‘War on Drugs.’

The Global Commission on Drug Policy, on June 2, 2011, concluded that “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world” and recommended “experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs, especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation.”

Just say no to more jails!

Dave G. Smith