The Harper Conservatives are under fire for their extraordinarily expensive legislative initiative, Bill S-10. Among other things, it seeks to spend at least hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers dollars on prison building, in order to impose a mandatory minimum term of six months in jail for anyone who grows more than six marijuana plants. Most Canadians, experts and non-experts alike, have criticized the proposal as costly and counter-productive, noting that it will imprison individuals who are mostly non-violent and who sell to willing adult consumers.
The cost is in some dispute. Correctional Services Canada estimates an increase in prisoner numbers of 3,400, requiring 2,700 new spaces, at a cost of $2-billion.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, thinks that lowballs the price tag. His office puts the increase in prisoner numbers at 4,200, at a cost of $1.8-billion for facility construction and an additional $3-billion a year for operations and maintenance. He suggests that by 2015/16, annual prison expenditure will have increased to $9.3-billion from the current $4.3-billion.
As a result the costs incurred will continue to balloon from lowballing by the government. And if the American experience tells us anything as we can see from the report below, the facts are that prison expansion is a drain on the public purse, with no rehabilitative or crime reduction consequences!
But let us not let the facts get in the way of a political ideology. After all these Republican Light Harpocrites are nothing if not panderers to American right wing ideology. An ideology that is the politics of fear.
Reason and the facts once again show that a policy of increasing the length of criminal sentences does nothing except expand the prison population, increasing costs to the public purse.
The growth of the corrections sector has other impacts. A number of rural areas have chosen to tie their economies to prisons, viewing the institutions as recession-proof development engines.
Though many local officials cite benefits, broader research suggests that prisons may not generate the nature and scale of benefits municipalities anticipate or may even slow growth in some localities. Record incarceration rates can have longer-term economic impacts by contributing to increased income inequality and more concentrated poverty.
Economic Impacts of Prison Growth
Suzanne M. Kirchhoff
Analyst in Industrial Organization and Business
April 13, 2010
Congressional Research Service