Since their election to a “strong, stable” majority government in May, the Harper government has set about taking care of all the business they vowed to take care of for the last five years: dismantling the gun registry that was established in the wake of a massacre, maintaining corporate tax cuts and building expensive prisons in order to fill them with the perpetrators of a vast wave of unreported crimes. (We’ll leave alone for a moment the question of how you can justify building prisons for crimes we don’t know about.)
There’s only one problem with building the prisons: Texas has already done it. And they’re telling Stephen Harper that chucking people in prison doesn’t work.
Within the last 10 years, Texas had the highest incarceration rate in the world. One out of every twenty residents of the state was involved in the penal system at any given time, whether they were incarcerated, on probation or on parole.† Texas also executes more criminals than any other state in the USA.† Texas was tough on crime. And yet, despite this? The crime rate in Texas fell far more slowly than it did in the rest of the US across three decades. The costs of being “tough on crime” were just getting higher, but Texans weren’t really any safer. And the money was running out.
So Texas took a long, hard look at whether or not chucking people in prison was really having the intended effect. They discovered that Texas had diverted money from drug treatment programs in order to build prisons — yet, offenders who participated in drug treatment programs were far less likely to reoffend than those who simply went to prison. So Texas changed their approach. Instead of building yet more prisons, they spent less than 1/4 of what they would have spent there and filtered it in to drug treatment programs instead. Costs fell. Crime fell. And Texans realized the error of their ways.
Now, they’re trying to tell Stephen Harper not to make the same mistakes.
“You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up,” says Judge John Creuzot on the Dallas County Court. “And there will come a point in time where the public says, ‘Enough!’ And you’ll wind up letting them out.”
Republican Representative Jerry Madden, the head of the Texas House Committee on Corrections, says “It’s a very expensive thing to build new prisons and, if you build ‘em, I guarantee you they will come. They’ll be filled, OK? Because people will send them there.”
“But, if you don’t build ‘em, they will come up with very creative things to do that keep the community safe and yet still do the incarceration necessary.”
Let’s get this straight: Even Texas is saying Harper’s Crime Bill won’t work.
Will Harper listen?
Photo Credit: MikeCogh on Flickr.