Government writing might as well be another language. Think about it. Our Ministry of Defence spends most of its time planning attacks. Our Ministry of Justice occupies itself by finding ways to violate the Constitution. Our Ministry of Finance just refused to release a budget. Even legislation falls under the umbrella of confusion. Take the proposed Life in Prison Without Parole Bill. It sounds simple, but there might be more to it than you expect.
This week, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced that his government would soon present a bill to keep “individuals who represent a threat” behind bars … forever! While it is unclear what exactly the bill will prescribe, it seems likely that it will involve limiting eligibility for parole for certain offenders. It is clear, then, that the bill will involve keeping these offenders in jail for longer periods of time.
What is certain is that this bill will not reduce the Canadian crime rate, because there is no way that even the most staunch Conservative could argue that this is bill will serve as a deterrent for would-be criminals. Everyone knows that violent criminals do not rationally weigh possible penalties before committing crimes. If they did, their crimes wouldn’t be “senseless,” as described by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on several occasions. So no, the bill doesn’t aim to improve public safety or general well being.
Instead, Steven Blaney justified the bill by saying something about victims’ voices being silenced by a justice system that “coddles” criminals. So is the bill purely about enhancing victims’ sense of revenge? If so, shouldn’t it be called the Revenge for Victims Act? That has a ring to it, but it might not capture everything this bill has to offer.
Since surplus is the flavour of the week (and a weak flavour at that), the Conservatives might introduce this bill as a way to spend the surplus that they keep promising despite a mountain of evidence that it will not arrive before the upcoming election. To be fair, though, imprisoning high-risk criminals is a great way to spend a surplus. Male inmates in Canadian maximum-security prisons cost ~$150’000/year (female inmates are much more expensive). Across Canada, there are currently 8 prisons capable of housing 2’643 inmates at maximum security. Since Canada’s prison population is at an “all-time high,” and some facilities are set to expand, let’s assume those beds are full. If Canada fills 8 such facilities with 2’600 male inmates (rounded down, as always, to provide a Conservative conservative estimate) at a cost of $150’000/year/inmate, the total maximum-security prison bill is $390 million annually. That’s nearly half a billion imaginary surplus dollars spent! Conclusively, this bill is great way to solve the surplus problem, especially since it comes with a free side of revenge.
If this is the grand plan, it may not be as easy as advertised. For one, Canada’s crime rate is as low as it has been in about 40 years, so people aren’t exactly lining up to live in jails. To solve that problem, our government must write new, easy-to-break laws, or must encourage the police to start incarcerating people for minor offences like jaywalking and sharing Netflix passwords. Alternatively, if this isn’t a covert attempt to eliminate the mythical surplus, but rather just a revenge bill, then the government should consider that it’s about to waste everyone’s money encouraging people to hate each another. Just a thought.