What is wrong with the Harper government’s crime control agenda? It is massively expensive. It ignores a track record in the U.S. showing that “tough on crime” policies are ineffective and hopelessly expensive. It ignores falling crime rates. And it undoes years of Canadian experience with what actually works in rehabilitating offenders. One judge is speaking out. The Star and the Globe have noticed.
For those who like numbers, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that government spending on police, courts and prisons is now $4 billion more per year than it was ten years ago. Most of that spike in spending occurred under the Harper government. All of it occurred during a time of consistently falling crime rates. That is twice the annual cost of the national child care program that the Harperites cancelled upon taking office. The government’s priorities are clear. It would rather spend a dollar on a jail cell than fifty cents on a daycare spot.
Worse, the government is spending this money on to implement a policy that does not work. A study of the effects of prison on recidivism prepared for the federal government 14 years ago concludes that longer, harsher jail sentences do not reduce recidivism. The study is being actively ignored on the grounds that it might be correct.
Only a government that values ideology over evidence could pursue such a wasteful approach to criminal justice. Hopefully more participants like Judge Green will speak up about the dead-end into which the federal government has piloted the justice system.