By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, August 8, 2010
Still, the U.S. easily retains its record of the highest incarceration rate in the world — 2.3 million vs. 1.6 million in China (despite five times the population). That’s 751 per 100,000 population vs. 627 in Russia and 107 in Canada.
A fifth of American inmates are sexually abused, 16 per cent suffer mental illnesses and another 16 per cent are kids under 18. About 500,000 are there on drug offences alone. Of the 700,000 released every year, more than half return within three years.
Yet the Tories are headed that way, with Day’s Orwellian fear-mongering and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announcing higher jail terms for a raft of drug-, gambling- and prostitution-related crimes. Creating a clientele for the jails they are building.
Less than 1% of Canadians consider crime to be a major issue, yet the Harper government (through spokesperson Stockwell Day) says it is going to spend $9 billion on new prisons, plus their announced $16 billion on an untendered fighter jet contract with Lockheed Martin of the U.S. and yet Harper says he is going to cut the deficit in half in the next year. That can only be accomplished by a slash and burn of other expenditures, and it does not take a rocket scientist to conclude that those dollars will come from programs Canadians both need and consider important, like watchdogs on government, liasion with the public with government agencies, and perhaps even with the Canada Health Act.
As Siddiqui also writes in his insightful piece, if we thought Mike Harris's policies were destructive in Ontario, just watch what Harper is intent on doing in Ottawa, on a national scale.
More prisons, more military hardware, more severe punishments, and the apparent "manufacture" of criminals as clients for their "crack-down on criminals" agenda.
Lionel Tiger, in his book, The Manufacture of Evil, writes of how the industrial manufacturing system that has fueled the U.S. economy for the last half century or more, has also created a mind-set, and has developed a language and a model for other consequences, such as the industrializing of the human body, with respect to reproduction with the introduction of technological birth control methods. He is not arguing for or against those methods on a religious or moral basis, but he is using the industrial model as the template for many social and domestic decisions.
Using the Tiger approach as metaphor, it is easy to see that the neo-cons are addicted to the financial model of governing, using the balance sheet, and their addiction to strict and literal and simplistic morality (as in growing the prison system with unreported criminals from unreported crimes) as their template for their vision of the future of the country.
Just as George W. Bush ignored and even obliterated evidence of mass destruction, in order to prosecute the war in Iraq, so the Harper conservatives as ignoring and removing the sources of evidence that would force them to pay attention to the needs of the poor, the underbelly of Canadian society, so they can purchase their "boys toys" like military fighter jets that even the Canadian military are not sure we need.
The Harper approach is, on the surface, slick, simplistic, ethically vaccuous and socially and politically immature, and cuts through the fabric and the tissue of the Canadian traditional, historical and cultural preferences, to accomplish their own ideological agenda.