In recent weeks there have been repeated bleatings from key cabint ministers in the minority Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper about the need to build more prisons in Canada.
Several weeks ago, Treasury Board President Stockwell Day (yes, he the laughing stock) declared that Ottawa plans to spend $9.5 billion on the construction of new federal prisons because of the “unacceptably high rate of unreported crime.”
And, just a few days ago, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews reiterated the theme in announcing the approval of several federal prison expansions.
But who the hell are they planning to imprison?
Statistics from Canada’s police forces themselves show that the crime rate – and especially the rate of violent crime – has been steadily declining in this country for almost two decades.
As for unreported crime, surveys show no change in the rate of occurence. Moreover, almost all unreported crime in Canada is extremely petty crime – such as shoplifting, theft under, drug abuse and minor common assaults – that does not normally even call for any jail time.
Besides that, federal prisons are for people convicted of the most serious crimes – felonies. Minor criminals are typically only sent to provincial jails.
Currently, there are only about 14,000 inmates in all of Canada’s federal prisons.
But at a cost of $38,000 per inmate – the present going rate for construction of a maximum-security prison – that $9.5 billion Laughing Stock Day wants to spend would give us enough new prisons to house an additional 250,000 inmates.
That would mean imprisoning an additional one percent of Canada’s total adult population – an additional one Canadian in a hundred would be imnprisoned – not in minimum- or medium-security provincial jails but in maximum-security federal prisons and penitentiaries.
It would give Canada the odiferous distinction of having the second-highest incarceration rate in the world, second only to the U.S.
But the U.S. is also on a national orgy or prison-building.
Who are the governments of Canada and the U.S. planning to imprison?
Well, the preponderence of the evidence tends to suggest that the North American and global economies are headed for much rougher and murkier waters.
Public unrest is expected to grow in both Canada and the U.S. as the horrendous cost of the biggest swindle in the history of capitalism – the bailout of the banks and corporations and the billionaires and mega-millionaires who control them – trickles down to the masses who will inevitably pay the freight.
As government austerity becomes more and more the order of the day and as the rates of unemployment and underemployment remain unsustainably high, the suffering of the masses – the poor, the working class and the middle class – will grow more severe.
And as they become ever more deprived and depressed, many otherwise law-abiding citizens will begin to rise up in defence of their basic right to the means of survival and their right to a piece of the economic pie.
Are the governments of Canada and the U.S. planning to deal with this growing unrest by imprisoning more and more legitimate dissenters in order to shut them up?
Or do we really expect the overall crime rate to grow by almost 1,700% in the next few years for no good reason?