Mandatory Minimums and Harper’s Corporate Prison Plan
The Canadian Conservatives have lied and used every trick they have to pass Bill S-10. This law imposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in Canada. The United States induced mandatory minimum sentences in the 1980′s at the height of drug war hysteria. These laws paved the way for the prison industrial complex, consisting of corporate for-profit prisons, that exists today in the US. As a result the US has the highest prison population in the world and the highest disparity in sentencing between whites and blacks. This is exactly what the Canadian Conservatives are creating in Canada.
Canada’s neighbors and many countries around the world are beginning to ease up on their marijuana and drug laws. The Canadian Conservatives however are chasing a failed US policy from the 1980′s. The Conservatives even have the audacity to announce that this legislation is much welcomed by Canadians. Justice minister Rob Nicholson on Bill S-10,
“we are absolutely convinced in our consultation with Canadians that this is welcomed across the country.” link1
“It does cost money to incarcerate people and I believe that Canadians have been willing to pay those costs up to this point and they’ll continue to do so. If we don’t, then Canadians will be further victimized. That’s what victims groups tell me all the time.” link2
Right now US states are beginning to take steps to legalize marijuana. Today marijuana is legal and semi legal in many US states:
- 15 states with legal medical marijuana
- 9 with medical marijuana dispensaries
- 13 states have decriminalized recreational marijuana
- 4 states have voted on full legalization for recreational use
Most notably Proposition 19 which would have legalized marijuana in California lost 44.1% to 55.9% on Nov 2. There are a handful of states trying to legalize marijuana in 2011 and 2012 and many others fighting for medical marijuana and decriminalization. In addition Mexico decriminalized all drugs in 2009 including hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Canada attempted to decriminalize pot in 2004 but it was shot down by pressure from the US, who ironically had already decriminalized in 13 states.
In a recent visit to Ottawa US Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowski, had this to say,
Lawmakers in almost every single state in the U.S. are looking to reduce mandatory minimum penalties because prison populations have exploded with non-violent drug offenders.
The Conservatives argue that Bill S-10 will give police to tools to bring down organized crime. They insist that this law targets “the ‘kingpins’ or major players in the drug trade”. Since when do the Hells Angels or UN gang run a grow op with only 6 plants? This law specifically targets small time growers for the purpose of filling prisons. The Conservatives are not stupid and they do not really believe their own lies. They are cold manipulative liars with a diabolical agenda. Here is a breakdown of the penalties that Bill S-10 will impose on Canadians, check out cannabisfacts.ca for more info.
Bill S-10 passed on November 4 with final vote in the Senate of 7 to 4. That’s all 7 of the Conservative senators on the committee vs the 4 Liberals. All that is standing in the way of S-10 becoming law is the signature of the Governor General.
The Senate committee heard testimony from numerous witnesses and experts who overwhealmingly showed that S-10 is a bad law and will do the exact opposite of what the Conservatives said it will.
Howard Sapers, the independent ombudsman for federal offenders, told the Senate committee,
“There is a large body of research that points to both the lack of a deterrent effect for mandatory minimum sentences and the fact that they can lead to significant increases in the prison population, with little or no impact on public safety.”
Bill S-10 is not the only law that Harper’s Conservatives are pushing. They are on a mission. In fact 40% of all bills tabled since the Conservatives came to power have to do with reforming the criminal justice system. Here are some of their recent bills,
- Bill C-25 (passed) – ends “two-for-one” sentencing credit for time that prisoners spend in pre-trial custody
- Bill C-19 (passed) – increase maximum sentence for street racing (14 years to life)
- Bill C-9 (passed) – remove alternative sentencing (house arrest) for serious crimes
- Bill C-10 (passed) – mandatory minimum sentences for offences involving a firearm
- Bill C-32 (in senate) – would create an offence of operating a motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance
- Bill C-2 (passed) – group of laws called “Tackling Violent Crime Act”, new tougher sentences
- Bill S-9 (in senate) mandatory minimums for auto theft
- Bill S-6 (re-introduced) – repeal “faint hope” clause for life sentences
- Bill C-36 (in senate) – safety of consumer products, very controversial check out the Facebook group
The crime rate fell three percent in Canada last year, and is down 17 percent in the past decade, while the Crime Severity Index is down 22 percent since 1999. Violent crime is also down and represents less than one-quarter of one percent of all crime, while the homicide rate is two-thirds of its peak in the 1970s.
Despite the fact that there is less crime Harper released this statement in 2006,
If we are to protect our Canadian way of life, we need to crack down on gun, gang and drug crime…. If you do a serious crime, you’re going to do serious time.
Harper’s Conservatives have taken major steps to the corporatization of Canada’s prisons.
- In April 2007, then-Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day created a panel to conduct a sweeping review of the federal prison system.
- Day’s panel released their final report titled “A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety.”
- A task force was created to strategically implement the Roadmap titled ‘The Transformation Team.’
One recommendation of the Roadmap was to ‘modernize’ Corrections’physical infrastructure by building ‘regional complexes’ (super prisons) containing up to 2200 cells, combining minimum, medium, and maximum security, as well as a ‘special handling unit’ aimed at long-term incarceration in complete isolation and under heavy surveillance.
Canada’s first corporate super jail was the Central North Correctional Centre built at Penetaguishene, Ont. This prison was run by an American corporation called ”Management and Training Corporation“.
The Roadmap also called for a strengthening of so-called Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) in super prison construction. While it falls short of advocating for full private management, which was the case in Penetanguishene, it advocates for the privatization of every other part of the process: financing, construction, maintenance, and service delivery (e.g. foodproviders). This process is called backdoor privatization; when carried out to its logical endpoint, it results in a weak, token public agency charged with overseeing an operation entirely carried out by a far more robust profit-driven private sector. The Roadmap also recommended to eliminate credit for time served before trial which as already come to pass in the form of Bill C-25.
Soon after its inception the Transformation Team began to scale-back maintenance investment in the existing prison infrastructure. This led to the decay of present facilities and created the need for constructing new infrastructure.
“We’re very concerned about the increase in the amount of unreported crimes that surveys clearly show are happening,” Stockwell Day
The irony is that unreported crimes are crimes for which nobody is charged or imprisoned. Despite this obvious attempt to pull the wool over our eyes the spending was approved and the Conservatives are moving ahead with their corporate prison agenda.
Mandatory sentences along with corporate prisons and government policies have created the enormous prison population in the US. The United States adult prison population now exceeds two million inmates, an average of 724 citizens per 100,000 members of the American population. In Canada the current rate is 102 prisoners per 100,000 population (one seventh that of the United States). We are on track to reach US numbers if the Conservative plan is allowed to continue. Comparable rates in other countries are 98 in Germany, 92 in Italy, 80 in France, 64 in Sweden, 61 in Denmark and 69 in Iceland.
Despite overwhelming evidence that mandatory sentences and corporate prisons have zero effect on crime rates the Conservatives are going forward with their law and order agenda. The current government under Harper will not change direction based on moral persuasion or sound logic. This government is driven by a merger of hardened ideologues and religious fundamentalists. Any strategy based on persuading the Conservatives to ‘do the right thing’ is doomed to fail. Wake the fuck up Canada. We need to get rid of Harper and his deranged political party before it is too late.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2011:
Bill S-10 got sent back to house of commons. That is not the typical process for a Canadian bill and it has already been through the house. I don’t understand how or why it happened but thank god it did. The NDP and Liberals are poised to vote against the bill which will kill the bastard where it lies, LINK. Its not over yet but if there is a shred of democracy left in this country reason will prevail.