Jails, Probation, and Politics in Canada: An Essay from an Ontario Grade 12 student

Probation is “a correctional technique whereby a convicted offender is given a suspended sentence and released under supervision, rather than being sentenced to prison” (Wright). Moreover, parole is known to be “a conditional release from prison by a discretionary order of a paroling authority” (Hirshberg). If the government of Canada wanted to use probation and parole to rehabilitate criminals, then the process would work well. However, this is not the case. Is one to believe that probation and parole are made to work if more prisons are being built or expanded by his or her government? Given the current drive to put people in prison, evidenced by the federal government’s desire to build more jails, it is obvious that rehabilitation is not the goal.

Firstly, there is already past situations to prove that building more prisons does not help the fact of crime. When the same plan to build more prisons or to expand current prisons has already been implemented in 2005 in Texas, negative reactions came as a result. Because of the fact that Texas has the highest crime rate in all of the United States, it was evident that in order to hold the capacity of prisoners to come, more prisons would need to be built. After attempting to drastically reduce the amount of money that the Texas conservatives spent on prisons, it was decided to place the money elsewhere. In a CBC news article with the Texas conservatives it is said that “it spent a fraction of the $2 billion those prisons would have cost—about $300 million—to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centres, probation services and community supervision for prisoners out on parole. It worked. Costs fell and crime fell, too” (Milewski). To this day, Texas’ crime rate has fallen by almost 13% (Milewski). While when a crime is committed a court may look to a precedent for a decision made in the past, why does the same rule not apply to a decision that can have a great impact on Canada’s crime rates? It is evidently proven that probation and parole can therefore have a positive effect on society, rather than imprisonment as the individual is an active part of the community. The Ministry of Safety and Correctional Services states that the offender is able to “remain at large in the community subject to the conditions prescribed in a probation order” (Ministry). Clearly, the alternatives to prison are a concrete idea if used to society’s advantage.

Furthermore, Canada’s crime rates have reached their lowest since the year of 1973, making the federal government’s plans exceedingly questionable. When crime rates are lowering, what is the motive for creating stricter penalties? It is said in a ‘Toronto Star’ article that the government is “obstinate as ever in their desire for harsher sentences, including for young offenders and mandatory minimums for drug crimes. They ignore evidence from the United States that a lock ‘em up and throw away the key approach does not reduce crime” (Stephen). As a result of this action, new prisons must be funded by someone. Who? Consequently, tax payers will be the ones to fund the building of these new prisons. Within the ‘Toronto Star’ article, the author states that “they also seem content to dump the costs of building more prisons onto provincial taxpayers, even if services like health and education suffer. Ontario may face $1 billion in new costs” (Stephen). Education and healthcare are what keep society running as a whole as education provides jobs and medicine is always needed. Just facing Ontario alone, “with a $16 billion deficit, the province is so short on cash that it has scrapped popular programs like the $150 textbook grant for college and university students. Now it is combing the health budget to look for savings” (Stephen). The federal government is desperately looking for more ‘cash-grabs’ and as a result, students who can barely afford another year at a college or university no longer have an option for even $150 for a simple textbook grant. Obviously, this new plan to build new prisons is having a negative effect already on different aspects of society.

Finally, the federal government’s plan to implement ‘Bill C-10’ is the written proof which solidifies that rehabilitation is not their goal whatsoever. This bill overemphasizes the criminal issues within Canada and how to solve them, therefore making matters worse. It is stated that “Bill C-10 is titled The Safe Streets and Communities Act—an ironic name, considering Canada already has some of the safest streets and communities in the world… this bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse” (10 Reasons). Therefore, rather than ‘fixing’ any issues, it will create the problems itself. Bill C-10 does not prepare an offender for re-entering society. Probation and parole or other positive alternatives keep the individual active within his or her community. The bill “would force judges to incarcerate people whose offences and circumstances clearly do not warrant time in custody. Prison officials will have more latitude to disregard prisoners’ human rights, bypassing the least restrictive means to discipline and control inmates” (10 Reasons). Instead of coming back into society with a new positive perspective, the offender will be disheartened by the way that he or she was treated in prison, becoming more likely to re-offend, hence making matters worse. It is made obvious that “if passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs” (Milewski). Ultimately, as a result of Bill C-10, Canadians are left with proof that the government does not wish for rehabilitation.

All things considered, through the federal government’s ignorance of past situations, harsher penalties for crimes, and the attempt to implement Bill C-10, it is clear in more ways than one that rehabilitation is not the government’s objective. Canada needs to wake up and see the government’s plan for what it truly is before it is too late for taxpayers and the country’s crime rate.

Works Cited

Hirshberg, Richard L. “Parole.” The Encyclopedia Americana. International ed. Print.

Milewski, Terry. “Texas Conservatives Reject Harper’s Crime Plan.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio
Canada, 17 Oct 2011. 9 Apr. 2012.

”Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services: Probation.” Ministry of
Community Safety and Correctional Services. Web. 8 Apr. 2012.

“10 Reasons to Oppose Bill C-10.” Thestar.com. 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

“Stephen Harper’s ‘tough-on-crime’ Laws Are More Misguided than Ever.” Thestar.com.
29 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Wright, Roberts J. “Probation.” The Encyclopedia Americana. International ed. Print.

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