More prisons not the answer

I would like to compliment those who have had the courage to publicly comment in the letters to the editor column on the prison debate. It is gratifying to note many have taken the time to do the necessary research on the issue and reach what can be best described as informed opinions.

I would like to compliment those who have had the courage to publicly comment in the letters to the editor column on the prison debate. It is gratifying to note many have taken the time to do the necessary research on the issue and reach what can be best described as informed opinions.

For example, they have pretty well put to rest the premise that a prison will give a boost to our economy. The research shows clearly that prisons impede growth in rural communities such as ours.

I spent many years appointed by B.C. and Canada as a court officer and as such reached a few conclusions. To be clear, my main responsibility was in remand court where I was charged with releasing or remanding prisoners in custody. As the presiding officer, depending on the nature and seriousness of the charge, I would, after receiving and reviewing the information from the arresting officer, either release …. usually with conditions, or remand (keep) the individual in the cells. All were given future mandatory court dates.

Over the years I arrived at the conclusion, that as one writer put it, the “lock them up and leave them” policy just doesn’t work. Many of the prisoners appearing before me suffered from addictions or had mental health issues which also in many cases were compounded by poverty and homelessness. Youth court for me was particularly difficult as many youngsters appearing before me came from dysfunctional families and they never, from the day they were born, had a chance to lead normal productive lives. I would prefer to see societal resources refocused to deal with the root causes of crime rather than expending obscene amounts of money in locking people away.

I am not naive. I dealt with many whose future will be to spend the majority of their life behind bars. There are dangerous people among us and prisons for them, and for us, are a necessity. However, the latest (1989-2007) Stats Canada data show the crime rate has dropped by 15 per cent. The data also shows that for the same period the severity of crime in Canada has dropped by 21 per cent. In summary, there were 77,000 fewer crimes in 2008 than the year before. So both the need to redirect resources and a steady reduction of crime in Canada raises the question of why we are building new and expensive prisons in the first place?

I also take issue with politicians of any ilk who promote themselves as being “tough on crime” by supporting more prisons. Their posturing does nothing to address the root causes of crime. In fact, by their not addressing the real issues they become part of the problem.

Trying to build a local economy on the misfortunes of others is bad enough, but supporting huge expenditures without facing up to or acknowledging the real issues is unacceptable. Therefore supporting the current proposal makes little sense.

Rory McIvor

 

Penticton