Saturday, May 28, 2011

California prisons called cruel and unusual punishment

If you took the entire population of St. John’s and put us all into jail, you’d still only have about two-thirds of the number of people who are in jail in the state of California.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that California's prison conditions are so bad that they violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In some cases, mentally ill prisoners are being housed (if you can use that word) in wire cages about the same size as the old telephone booths that you don’t see much anymore. So much for the enlightened society.

Here in Canada, we’re getting closer and closer to the notion of the mega-prisons that have become staples in the American justice diet. Many of them are run by private, for-profit companies.

With the new majority government, the Conservatives in Ottawa are moving ahead with their omnibus crime bill. Among other things, it will usher in new mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes — growing five marijuana plants to sell the drug would automatically bring six months in jail.

There are other changes that will mean new jail time or increased jail time for similar offences. House arrest will no longer be a sentencing option for the courts in what are being described as “serious crimes”. Serious is a pretty broad word since five marijuana plants will now earn you six months in jail. I can only imagine what would have happened to “Mary” a former student of mine who used to shoplift Midol because she couldn’t afford to buy it to deal with monthly cramps.

Correctional Service Canada says existing legislation translates to a need for 2,700 new spaces at a cost of $2-billion. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page thinks that number is more like 4,200 prisoners at a total cost of closer to $5-billion — raising annual prison expenditure to $9.3-billion by 2015-2016.

It will be interesting to see the sweetheart deals the Tories arrange for their cronies to build those prisons and possibly operate them.  We know it will happen - the big question is who will get the kickbacks.  Maybe envelopes of cash?


Wisewebwoman said...

And of course the corporations who will most benefit from this are driving the agenda of bigger! more secure!let no crime go unpunished! prisons for profit.
But I've been reading a few interesting takes on this situation too. With the world sitting in the handbasket of global climate change, water and crop shortages, et al ad nauseum, civic unrest (i.e. anarchy see Toronto G20 for a taste) is going to be problematic so why not establish prison camps now and prepare for the worst?
Have you seen anything on this?
It could be mainly the US getting prepared for the restless 60 million on foodstamps and no hope for the future.

Government Funded Blogger said...

We can thank our misguided ancestors for this debacle. As near as two centuries ago prisons were used to house folks that were awaiting trial and either execution the galleys or transportation. Prisons then were small.Then some soft hearted souls decided that these people should be rehabilitated and kept warehoused till that happy day and thats where we find ourselves now.
Some nutbar conpiracists have claimed for years that the US government is building gulags in the deserts and have box car loads of guillotines stored on sidings in sparsely populated western American states.
"It could be mainly the US getting prepared for the restless 60 million on foodstamps and no hope for the future."