Monday, October 03, 2011

Crime and punishment

An excellent article from my friend Brian Lee Crowlee of the Macdonald Laurier Institute. as I have written, I am also somewhat dubious about American justice here days. Canada is probably too lax on criminals , while the American system seems only too eager to jail people./

Take the numbers of people being put in prison in Canada. In 2009, almost 2.5 million crimes were reported to police in Canada. Only a 10th of these resulted in a perpetrator being convicted. Of those, about a quarter were sentenced to provincial prisons.

How many went to federal prison? Fewer than 5,000. And according to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), that number has essentially been stable for the past decade.

In the U.S., long sentences are part of what drive the growth in the prison population. But in Canada, the total federal prison population over the past decade has fluctuated very little — between a low of 12,400 in 2003/04, and a high of about 13,600 in 2007/08. If just under 5,000 are entering the system every year, and the total population is less than 14,000, the average inmate isn’t staying long.

How about the idea that Ottawa, like the U.S., is locking people up for trivial reasons? In Canada, nearly 70% of federal inmates are there for violent crimes; more than a quarter of all federal inmates are in for homicide, for example.

How about the idea that we are engaged in a vast orgy of prison-building?

Not quite. The last new federal prison was built in 1988. On the other hand, 28 federal prisons are more than 40 years old. The normal lifespan of a prison is considered to be around 50 years. The Kingston Pen, built in 1835, is still very much in use today.

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