Conservatives to Waste Billions Locking Up Marijuana Users

Wonder where they are going to put all those unregistered medical marijuana users and pot growers who get arrested and charged if the government passes Bill S-10? Here’s your answer:

Feds building more prison cells

By Bryn Weese, Toronto Sun

The federal government will spend nearly $160 million to build 576 new prison cells at six penitentiaries in Kingston and Montreal.

Wednesday’s announcement is part of the government’s tough-on-crime agenda that will see $2.1 billion spent over the next five years to add 2,700 cells in the country’s prisons.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews made the announcement in Ottawa, but revealed details of the new cells at Kingston’s medium-security Collins Bay Institution, which is getting a 96-cell maximum-security unit.

Bath Institution, also in Kingston, is getting two new 96-cell units, and Millhaven Institution is getting an additional 96 cells.

Three Montreal-area prisons are getting 192 new prison cells for $60 million.

The cells should be up and running by 2013. […]

Four new units were recently built at Collins Bay, at a cost of about $15 million per unit.

The government has decided to add cells to 35 penitentiaries instead of constructing new prisons.

QMI Agency obtained the 35-prison list in August, but the government has refused to answer questions about it.

These Conservatives really mean business. Big Business – because that’s what the prison industry is – a big business worth a ton of cash to contractors who will build and maintain these expanded penitentiaries. That $2.1 billion is going into somebody’s pocket.

The increase in funding comes amid cuts to programs for prisoners and criticisms inmates are not receiving sufficient mental health-care services due to lack of funding and accountability. Another article from the Toronto Sun lays out the reported complaints from professionals:

Howard Sapers, the country’s correctional investigator, or inmate ombudsman, criticized the Correctional Service of Canada for failing to develop a national strategy to deal with mentally ill offenders, the number of which has doubled in the past decade.

“Canadian penitentiaries are becoming the largest psychiatric facilities in the country,” Sapers said, noting CSC has a “duty” to provide for them.

“In failing to meet this legal obligation, too many mentally disordered offenders are simply being warehoused in federal penitentiaries.

“This is not effective or safe corrections.”

Thursday’s report — written by Dr. John Service for Sapers’ office — is the latest in a series of oft-scathing reviews of CSC by the office of correctional investigator. Most recently, Sapers chastised the country’s prison system for failing to prevent more suicides in penitentiaries.

Chief among the most recent concerns is that despite the CSC receiving additional funds to establish a mental-health strategy six years ago, there still isn’t a comprehensive national plan in place to more effectively guide what limited funds are available for mentally ill prisoners.

“This lack of an over-arching plan seriously compromises implementation, accountability and evaluation of the CSC’s mental health strategy,” Service stated in a news release issued Thursday.

That’s right, the government has already spent $50 million for improving these services, but nothing has changed. Where did the money go?

At the same time, Conservatives are telling provincial governments that they will be responsible for paying their share to handle “the expected surge in the prison population”:

Vic Toews says the federal government will spend $2 billion over five years to handle more prisoners due to stiffer sentencing laws — a figure the parliamentary budget officer argues will be higher.

But Toews says he doesn’t know how much it will cost the provinces, but they’ll have to shoulder their share of the financial burden.

The “expected surge in prison population” will come directly from Bill S-10 and other dangerous new crime legislation developed by Conservatives and (so far) supported in the House and Senate by the Liberal opposition, who helped pass the similar Bill C-15 last year that was eventually killed when the Cons prorogued Parliament.

S-10 will bring mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offences to Canada for the first time – and includes 9-months for growing as few as 6 pot plants, and 18-months for making pot cookies, hash or other extracts.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has in recent days sounded more oppositional to the Conservative plan, telling a crowd at an “Open Mike Night” event that he may bring back a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Both NDP and Liberal members criticized the new prison plans when interviewed by the press:

“This is about the Conservatives taking an ideological approach to crime — an American-style approach to crime — where they want to lock more people up for longer periods of time,” he said. “They want to punish their way into a safe society, and that does not work.”

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland lashed out at the Conservatives for copying the American-style justice system, which he said has left streets there less safe than before.

“We’re chasing a disaster,” he said. “Let’s look at what happened (in California), where budgets soared for prisons and it led to less-safe societies.

“It created essentially crime factories, where these prisons became so over-bloated and there was no money for programming that it made California much less safe.”

Even prison guards are up in arms about the changes:

As the Harper government rolled out plans Wednesday to build new cells at six federal penitentiaries, prison guards took to the streets to protest wage clawbacks and warn that prisons will become increasingly crowded and dangerous as a result of new laws to incarcerate more offenders.

The guards said they work in increasingly dangerous conditions and they warned the government’s plan to double bunk more prisoners will make the situation worse.

They said they have been stonewalled by Toews in their efforts to meet with him. They also want to be consulted on new prison design, saying they are in a position to know what is needed to make institutions work better.

Will the Conservatives listen to the experts and end this madness? Not bloody likely.

We need an election before it’s too late.

Click here to find out how to help fight Bill S-10.

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Jeremiah Vandermeer
Jeremiah Vandermeer

Jeremiah Vandermeer is Cannabis Culture Chief of Operations and Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine & Pot TV.