16 December 2011
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I would like to saythat thegovernment's Bill C-10 has been put into stark relief and contrast bythecomments by Senator Dyck, who has pointed out a much more compassionate,effective, enlightened way of structuring a criminal justice system forcertaingroups in our society and demonstrated just how unfair the structure ofBill C-10 would be to some of those certain groups in our society.
My comments will focus on the other side of that stark contrast just tounderline, and it has been said before here a number of times, but to underlinehow poorly structured this bill is, how wrong-headed it is, how damaging it willbe both to victims who seem to be — in fact, are, I am sure — the government'sconcern and to victims who will be created in turn as an unintended consequence,unfortunate as it will be, by this government's Bill C-10.
One of the most key, although not the key, elements of this is the value formoney, the cost benefit of this approach to a crime agenda. It is difficult toassess exactly what the costs will be. It may be equally difficult to assesswhat the government thinks exactly any positive results will be because in bothcases we have not received any kind of structured cost-benefit analysis at all.In fact, all the evidence that they would allude to, however vaguely, iscontradicted by study after study after study, the science of crime agenda,which demonstrates that what they are doing is going down exactly the wrongtrack.
There have been numbers. They range from $500 million extra cost annually forthe bill that has been passed within the last year or so, the one that says youcannot give credit for time spent in remand centres before sentencing, and thathas increased the prison population to the tune of about $500 million a year.The upper end seems to be about $19 billion in a study presented by Quebec.Somewhere in between, there are a lot of big numbers. It is hard to get a holdof it. I thought I would take a number that is perhaps a little more manageable,that people can get their head around, and put into perspective what exactlythat portion of this crime agenda would do.
I said let us take $100 million and see what that would do by way ofincreased incarceration, if you believe for a moment that incarceration isactually the panacea for crime prevention and crime reduction that thegovernment says it is.
Imagine this: $100 million dollars will build 416 new cells, just 416 newcells, and put 416 people into those cells for one year. So $100 million takes416 individuals off the streets for one year. Who would those 416 individualsbe? They might be 416 18-year-olds who had six marijuana plants and who had nobusiness having to go to prison. There is no justifiable reason to put those 416young people in prison because they had six marijuana plants. It will not deterthem, and it will not enhance their likelihood of offending less. That is tosay, it will not reduce their likelihood of offending. In fact, it will actuallyincrease it. That is 416.
Let us say that this bill in its application nets 4,000 such new inmates.That would mean that over 10 years, the bill would cost about $6 billion. Thatis just 4,000 inmates. Take my province of Alberta, about one tenth. That wouldbe 400 newly incarcerated people over 10 years for about $600 million — 400people out of 3.4 million people, 400 people who probably do not even have to bein jail, who did not really do anything particularly criminal, who were notgoing to offend anyone else, and there was no victim; they were victimlesscrimes. That will somehow make the people of Alberta safer? Four hundred peopleout of 3.4 million people put in jail when they do not have to be there — thatsomehow will make Albertans safer? Four thousand people over 10 years out of 34million people, and that is somehow going to make us safer? It defies theimagination.
If you went on, let us say it netted 10,000 new people. Let us say they couldmeasure their success by putting 10,000 new people in jail who probably do nothave to be there. That would cost $12 billion. Ten thousand people out of 34million people. It will have a negligible effect on any quality or standard ofsafety in our society, particularly because the numbers are relatively small,but particularly in addition because they probably do not need to be there, andit will literally cost a fortune.
What do we get for that? In summary, we will not get less crime; we willactually get more crime. All the studies underline time and time again that, ifyou put people in jail who do not need to be there, they will become bettercriminals. Recidivism will rise and we will have more crime. The studies are soclear and the science is so clear that it is very difficult to know how agovernment can stand without shame and argue that somehow this will be to thebenefit of a society.
When confronted with that science, which the government cannot resist andthey cannot contradict, they resort to the argument that they are doing this forvictims. It was yelled out by one of the senators yesterday, "Who will speakfor the victims?" The fact of the matter is that all of us should and do speakfor victims, but this bill does not particularly speak for victims.
This is not a bill about psychological services for victims. It is not a billabout compensation for victims. It is a kind of bill about somehow helpingvictims if we are punitive to the people who victimize them. It might make somevictims feel better, but really and truly it will create far more victims. BillC-10 will not reduce the number of victims because it will not reduce crime.Therefore the bill will create far more victims. If the purpose of the bill isto fix victims, it is simply not going to do that and it will be very expensivein the process.
Honourable senators, there are far better ways to help victims. There is, ofcourse, prevention of crime. You do not have to read very far or analyze verydeeply to know that prevention is absolutely possible. Many of my colleagueshave talked time and time again about that in this debate. There is certainlymuch literature on the subject of prevention and there is much evidence.
I want to mention a program that has started in Edmonton. It is anorganization called YOUCAN and it is designed to help young people at risk. Areport was published about a young woman who has been literally saved by thisprogram. She began drinking at 10 years of age. By the time she was 12 or 13,she said that she loved drinking. It was all she wanted to do and she hated thethought of being sober. That young woman dropped out of school. She becameaddicted to alcohol, abused other substances and left home. Imagine what herchances were in life and what the odds were that she would end up in prison at$120,000 to $200,000 a year. The cost to keep a woman in prison can range to asmuch as $200,000 a year. Imagine what that would have cost.
The YOUCAN program, which deals with children and costs $10,000 perindividual child, has worked remarkably well with her. This is a program thatteaches participants interview skills, resumé writing and conflict resolutionthrough peacemaking circles. It gives them life skills with workshops aboutshopping on a budget, healthy eating habits, computer training and access toonline facilities. The program gives them access to professional psychologicaland sociological services.
At 17, this young girl has now re-enrolled in school and she is sober. YOUCANhas provided programs to help get her off a drug and alcohol addiction cycle.This is a young woman who has a chance in the future and is very less likely toend up in a prison at $200,000 a year. The YOUCAN program cost us $10,000. Theproof is in the pudding.
Interestingly, the cost of incarcerating a male in Canada is about $120,000,but the cost of incarcerating a female can range from $120,000 up to $200,000.The female institutions are smaller and therefore there are not the sameeconomies of scale. The cost for one year is $120,000. In Canada, it costs$170,000 to educate a child for 17 years. The juxtaposition shows thatincarcerating someone who could have been saved for $10,000 will instead cost$120,000 per year. Educating that same person for 17 years, from kindergartenthrough to a first-level degree or diploma, is $177,000. There is no costbenefit to incarcerating people in the way that this bill contemplates.
Honourable senators, there is all kinds of science that begins to suggestthere is a solution that will work, other than the "solutions" this governmenthas chosen. You would think that if the government truly wanted to solve theproblem, they would think to pick out programs like YOUCAN, preventive programsand other programs, some of which are applied within institutions, and do somefundamental analysis.
We have heard a great deal in the debate about the U.S. and about how Texashas pointed out to Canada how we are going down the wrong trail. I have not yetseen this in the debate, but I will mention the work done in the State ofWashington.
The State of Washington decided about 10 years ago that this form ofincarcerating people and being hard on crime was not productive and did notwork. They took a very scientific, proactive, organized approach to analyzingprograms that might be in place elsewhere in the world to see if they wouldwork. They brought it down to numbers and they did cost-benefit analysis.
By doing this, the government of the State of Washington was able to identifypublic policies that have been shown to improve the following outcomes: Theyhave reduced child maltreatment; they have reduced crime; and they have improvedand increased education, labour earnings, mental health, public assistance,public health and substance abuse — all the things that could lead toincarceration. They have a well-defined and developed methodology, with fourpoints in their structured approach.
The first point is that they systematically assess evidence on what works andwhat does not work to improve outcomes. They assess best practices. Second, theycalculated costs and benefits for Washington State and produced a kind ofConsumer Reports-like ranking of public policy options. Third, theymeasured the riskiness of their conclusions by testing how bottom lines varywhen estimates and assumptions change. That is to say, they test to see what therisk is that they could get the outcomes that they predict from these programsor that they will not. These are highly sophisticated kinds of analyses. Wherefeasible, they provide a portfolio analysis of how a combination of variouspublic policy options could affect state-wide outcomes of interest.
Critical in this process of analysis is that the state presents these asmonetary estimates from three distinct perspectives, which are: the benefitsthat accrue solely to program participants, financial and otherwise; thosereceived by taxpayers, which of course is a concern to everyone on that side ofthe house and everyone on this side of the house, too; and any other measurable,nonparticipant and non-taxpayer monetary benefits. They put this right down tomoney. Money is invested in a program. Do you get money back? Do you get morethan you invested? Lo and behold, they actually do, and they have lists fromover 10 years of programs that they have structured and analyzed in this way.
For example, they have juvenile justice preventive programs. One is calledthe Functional Family Therapy Program, where they work with a family of ajuvenile offender or a juvenile in distress. For this program the total benefitassessed was about $38,000. The taxpayer saves $8,500 because of this program —this is per person — and the non-taxpayer, that is to say employers, health caresystems and the individuals themselves, would save about $29,000.
The total savings are $38,000, real money, to taxpayers, potential victimsand the actual person in distress. What did that cost? It cost $3,190 toimplement. The return on their investment of $3,100 is about 10 times, thereforeit can be ranked. They say the return, the benefit-to-cost ratio, is about 11:86and the actual rate of return on investment is 641 per cent. In this day andage, I do not think anyone can suggest any social investment that gives youthat. These are hard core numbers, analyzed carefully, analyzed clearly, checkedand double-checked, and brought down to dollars.
On the other hand, there is this Scared Straight Program, which we are seeingso much on television, and of course it sells television. I am sure it is verygratifying to some people to see young people being treated in that harsh way,but Scared Straight does not work. The total benefits are a negative $6,000. Itdoes not help these kids that go through it. It is cheap. It only costs $63 toput them through it, but it does not do anything. It has negative benefits.
They have listed all of these programs under juvenile justice, adult criminaljustice and child welfare. They point out that the Nurse-Family Partnership forlow-income families has a return of $20,000 per child put into that program andthat that is real money that keeps people out of incarceration, which costs asmuch as $120,000 a year.
Unfortunately, I could find no such analysis in Canada. All of these programsto which I am referring are preventive programs, so they prevent people who arenot in jail from ever going. Some of them who have been come back.
The Hon. the Speaker: The honourable senator's time has expired. Areyou asking for more time?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is more time granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you.
In Canada the figures are not as clear. There is some information, althoughit is not from the government and not from a structured analysis. The ConferenceBoard of Canada has done some studies of correctional programs, that is programsgiven to people in jails. These are not programs for people who might bediverted from going to jail.
The study says that there have been about $58 million worth of these programsin our correction system within the last couple of years — a $20-million costand a $38-million benefit. The good news is that there is a $38-million benefit.The bad news is that the money for these programs is less than 2 per cent of the$3 billion that we spent last year on corrections. The other bad news is thatthese are programs that you get, if you are lucky, only once you are in jail.They are not there to help prevent you from going to jail. The other unfortunatenews is that there are nowhere near enough of these programs.
There is a medium security facility in Canada with 461 inmates. Eighty percent of the inmates in medium security prisons in Canada are known to have drugand alcohol abuse programs, and 50 per cent of them are intoxicated when theyoffend. Of the 461 people in this jail, 80 per cent have drug and alcohol abuseproblems. Only 25 of the 461 inmates are in a drug or alcohol program in thatjail, while there are probably another 300 or 350 who need such a program. Thoseprograms are not particularly expensive. They sure do not cost the $120,000 ayear that it costs to incarcerate an individual.
The situation is even worse for women. There is one forensic women's clinicin the jail system in Canada serving the 600 women who are incarcerated inCanada. Worse, that forensic centre is not in a women's institution; it is inmen's institution, and it serves only a handful of people. There are estimatesthat as many as 80 per cent of incarcerated women have serious mental healthproblems and a large percentage have probably been brutally sexually, physicallyor psychologically abused at some point in their lives. Yet we have one centre,which will be far away from the support of family and friends in theircommunities. Only a handful of the women who need help get it, and those womenhave to go to a male institution to get the help.
We will spend up to $19 billion to incarcerate more people, and we will notgive them the kind of services that would help to prevent the need toincarcerate them.
What is really galling about this and what is more important in many waysthan even the cost benefit is that this will simply hurt young people. The18-year-old who has not yet reached full maturity and makes an error of judgmentby growing six marijuana plants will go to jail and very likely have his liferuined. He will never be able to leave the country because he has a criminalrecord and he will probably not get a good job. He will never be able to join aprofessional group. All this will be as a result of having made one mistake,probably not all that serious a mistake and not having victimized anyone buthimself. He will have his life literally ruined.
To summarize, Bill C-10 is not going to reduce crime. We know that. In fact,it will increase crime. It will not reduce victims, because if it increasescrime it will increase the victimization of Canadians, and it will cost a hugeamount of money. We could be smart and state of the art with that money. Wecould inspire our corrections people and others to study and implement programsthat could work effectively and get real results. Rather, we will have none ofthat and we will hurt people.
Yesterday I said that the Canadian Wheat Board bill was the triumph ofideology over common sense. Today I ask: If this bill does nothing that is goodand much that is bad, why would the government go ahead with it? I think it is apolitical calculation for which they will get some votes. They do not care aboutwhat this will do to the people in the system and the people who will bevictimized. Instead, they care about the votes. That is a very ruthlesspolitical calculation. It is a sad day that we are seeing it with this bill.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Mitchell, willyou accept a question?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.