The prison-industrial complex

The Conservative omnibus Safe Streets and Communities Act makes no sense if the aim is to reduce burgeoning crime

The Conservative omnibus Safe Streets and Communities Act makes no sense if the aim is to reduce burgeoning crime, since the same strategies were tried and seen to fail in the US, and the Canadian crime rate is going down anyway. Furthermore, it is proven that increased funding of education reduces street crime — how many street gang members have university degrees? Harsh sentences actually serve to harden inmates into career criminals and break up families so children don’t get proper attention, thus increasing the crime rate over time.

I would suggest that the Conservative enthusiasm for longer sentences, mandatory prison terms, and prison sentences for more crimes has nothing to do with reducing crime.

The US has an economically important incarceration industry that corporate interests want duplicated in Canada. Patiently, step by step, the Conservatives have been creating the conditions for this — billions of dollars to build more prisons, and “tough on crime” legislation to ensure a huge increase in the Canadian prison population. In the US, private prison corporations have their own trade fairs to attract businesses that use sweat shops abroad. Gone are the days of sewing mail bags, now inmates have been hired at very low cost to do dangerous jobs, like cleaning up the toxic BP oil spill, highly technical tasks like assembling missiles, and all points in between.

Private prisons are interested in making a profit. That means they cut corners on everything else, including rehabilitation (bad for business: they want returning convicts) medical care, and the pay of their staff. In other words, this is state-corporate business at its ugliest — trafficking in human misery. Of course the taxpayer will be paying the private prisons, the transfer of money from the taxpayer to corporations being the goal of all serious Liberal and Conservative machinations.

Also, the Conservatives are an authoritarian sect which wants Canadians running on fear, anger and patriotism. They spend our money on propaganda to make us self-righteously angry at criminals, see them as less than human and therefore deserving of any violations of their dignity or well-being the prisons care to carry out. The term “criminal” is increasingly broadened to include legitimate dissent to frighten people away from exercising their constitutional rights. Witness the police state tactics at the G20 meeting in Toronto which were used on innocent protesters and even passersby.

As the government increasingly uses the international bankster-created deficit to justify “austerity” measures imposed upon the rest of us, they expect popular resistance at some stage. That’s another contingency the prisons are waiting for.

So, despite the hype and lip service, the Conservative omnibus crime bill won’t, and isn’t meant to, reduce crime. That is either irrelevant or counterproductive to the real goals. It’s about upping intimidation against poor people generally, and setting up a lucrative prison-industrial complex at taxpayer expense. In meeting these hidden agendas it unfortunately makes a lot of sense.

Keith Newberry



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