Austerity Won’t Tighten Belts on Costly Crime Agenda
The Parliamentary Budget Office today released its report showing that just one legislative change by the federal Conservatives – the Truth in Sentencing Act, which came into effect on February 23 – will double the costs of correctional services in this country over the next five years, from $4.4 billion to $9.5 billion.Â Most of these costs will be borne by provincial governments.
This is the estimated budgetary impact of just one piece of the Conservative “tough on crime” agenda, which saw the introduction of 13 bills proposing ways to amend the Criminal Code and other crime-related acts in the last session.Â They are all holdovers from the previous session.Â Remember the Great Recession?Â The Conservatives must have been pre-occupied by an explosion of felony in response to the crisis, because they introduced 15 tough on crime bills from January to December 2009, when they prorogued Parliament again.Â Only two of them had passed in that legislative session, so they just re-introduced them in the next Parliamentary Session, which only started in mid-March.Â Some bills were re-introduced in the House and, tellingly, some through the Senate where they are getting closer to a majority with every passing day.
One of these bills is calledÂ the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act which, if passed unamended, could land teenagers passing joints inÂ federal penitentiary for a minimum 2 year term – more than the minimum one year for organized drug dealers.Â No, I’m not kidding on either count, the name or the attitude.
Going into the G20, Canada is both host and leading example of a government dedicated to eliminating deficits, cutting costs and not raising taxes.Â This holy trinity of objectives will embrace the tough-on-crime agenda at a huge cost for the rest of social spending.Â Austerity is coming, and it’s going to be tougher on us than it is on crime.
Interestingly, David Dodge, in his infamous Bloomberg article of last month, targeted welfare health and pensions and was entirely silent on the high cost of incarceration. We incarcerate people for seven reasons:
3. Societal protection
5. Class control
6. Scapegoating; and
7. Politcal advantage
Looks like reasons 4 through 7 top the bill for our government………….