As our president tweets about building a wall on the Mexico border, Justice Minister David Lametti plans to fix our prisons in 2020.
Prepare for bigger prison beds.
Three years ago, our prison population was 101,000. Last year, it grew to 113,000.
By 2025, Mr. Lametti hopes to reduce that population by 14,000 by expanding capacity, but in the meantime, to help ease the transition to being released, his government plans to implement several other reforms aimed at reducing recidivism.
Among other things, Lametti wants to:
– Have more flexible transition plans for parolees.
– Don't apply same standards for parolees and people serving sentences for simple drug offences.
– More than double the drug testing for parolees to test for amphetamines, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
– Permanently revoke parole for offenders with two prior convictions for drug trafficking, possession of a weapon or fire arms.
– Double the fine for having unauthorized, carried, stored or sold liquor over the counter from $500 to $1,000.
– Track and jail people caught smuggling illegal drugs.
– Require those admitted to prison to pay a surcharge to cover the cost of the lockup.
– Cut down on overtime paid to prison guards, which can be more than $500 a week for maximum-security inmates.
– Cut drug recidivism by increasing supervised hours for parolees who completed their sentences without violating the law.
– Let parolees audit their records to ensure they have paid all of their court-ordered restitution.
– Help reduce violence among inmates by reducing the number of inmates with segregated housing. (Inexplicably, that designation is based on the inmates' seniority in the prison system.)
– Address concerns about a “death class” inmates who were just released from prison and committed violence.
– Reduce the use of solitary confinement, which some research has shown leads to inmate suicides.
(And for those who don't feel that all these measures will make any kind of difference, I will remind you that the director of the Correctional Services Department told the legislature that Mr. Lametti's plan “talks a good game but it doesn't know how to act on that game.”)
Mr. Lametti also said to support this plan. (“Innovation is part of it,” he added. “Unfortunately, Ontario does not have a culture of innovation.”)
Or, you could just not touch the prisons.
But, in the meantime, here are some things that won't change much in the prison system.
* Dispute over converting solitary confinement cells into housing units for sex offenders.
* The system allows gang members to hang out together, and that generates a lot of violence.
* More kids go to jail for property crimes, like shoplifting, than crimes involving violence.
* More white people have been convicted of murder than black people, even though the numbers of people of colour in prison are significantly higher.
* Behind bars, visitors have to pee outside in the toilet.
* And while we're at it, prisoners can't even use paper towels to clean their hands.
But these are just some of the off-the-deck initiatives that Mr. Lametti should consider before he tries to end the prison crisis.
All things said, it seems the most urgent need, right now, is for our president to figure out what to do about the border.
I know, I know. I know, in the immigration debate there are people asking: What about the border?
But before I even get there, let's figure out what's going on in Ontario.
* Headline: "Gina DeGroot: "I've never been out of jail and I am 25"
* The most unfortunate information I've ever published: "Gina DeGroot’s sister Meg DeGroot dies at 5 months from complications of leukemia."
* "The Golden Girls: 'What the hell am I going to do now?' So 'Real Housewives of OC' is a fit? Nah..."
* If anyone has visited Italy, they will have seen the cross surrounding Saint Anthony of Padua. It is said that saint brought water from a creek at the end of a rope to inmates locked in his cell.