Campaign priorities falling by the wayside

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings highlights the ongoing inaction of Canada’s New GovernmentTM on what was (during the last campaign) one of the Conservative Party’s key priorities—cracking down on crime. Last April, the Hon. Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, had appointed an independent panel to review the operations of Correctional Service Canada (CSC).  The panel, chaired by former Ontario Minister of Corrections Rob Sampson, issued a report in October of 2007, to much official silence.

These are the report’s key recommendations, summarised from the CSC Review Panel’s website:

  1. Increase offender accountability. Money quote:  “First and foremost, it is the responsibility of CSC to provide the opportunities and tools necessary to the offender—to provide the offender with ample opportunity to learn the skills required to correct
    behaviour. However, to change his or her behaviour, the offender must seize opportunities offered to change—to pick up the tools of rehabilitation and use them.
    ”  [emphasis theirs]
  2. Eliminate drugs from prison. Money quote:  “It is not surprising that drug abuse and trafficking is an issue within the penitentiary walls given that about 4 out of 5 offenders now arrive at a federal penitentiary with a serious substance abuse problem. The
    current offender population is one that will look to find every vulnerability in CSC’s security systems to introduce drugs into the penitentiary.
  3. Employment training. Money quote:  “A current snapshot of the employment needs of the federal prison population taken at intake assessment identified that more than 70% of offenders at admission had unstable work histories; more than 70% had not completed high school and more than 60% had no trade or skill knowledge.The Panel notes that employment, as a priority program, has been eclipsed over the past decades with the advent and wide development and distribution of programs designed to address other core need areas (e.g., substance abuse and violence).”  [emphasis theirs] 
  4. Physical infrastructure. The panel envisions four or five regional corrections super-compounds within a single contiguous perimeter.  This would reduce the need to shuttle prisoners around the country from facility to facility, depending on their rehabilitation needs.  Could possibly cut down on drug infiltration as well, by screening at the perimeter (rather than facility) level.
  5. Eliminating Statutory Release; moving to Earned Parole. Money quote:  “The Panel believes that any arbitrary release that is not made based on rehabilitation is counter-productive and, when aggravated by shorter sentences, reduces public safety. This has been demonstrated by the fact that most of the violent re-offending by federal offenders is done by those on statutory release. To improve public safety and re-orient the correctional system to a system that places true accountability on offenders is to require offenders to earn their way back to their home communities and demonstrate to the National Parole Board that they have changed and are capable of living as law-abiding citizens.The Panel is concerned that approximately 40% of statutory releases are not successfully completed, with 30% of these releases revoked for breach of conditions, and 10% for new offences and that violent re-offending rates are three times higher for statutory releases versus parole releases. The potential for increased risk as a result of the changing profile of the federal population points to the need for change.”  [emphasis theirs]

There’s actually 109 recommendations split up into the five major themes; nothing there to annoy Red or Blue Tories, it is all quite rational.  (Inevitably, CBC seems to think the biggest problem is lack of access to rehabilitation programs.)  The drug elimination bit strikes me as a bit utopian (since the vast majority of inmates are apparently using), and human vices will always find a way around official opprobrium.  Still worth striving for as sober convicts are presumably easier to supervise than those climbing the walls on bad trips.

Ottawa has moved like lightning to embrace the Manley Report’s findings; but there has been no similar media blitz and rapid adoption of the Sampson Report.  And this is, after all, related to a key campaign promise.  The lack of official enthusiasm is a little mystifying.

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