Good morning, everyone.
This is meeting number 58 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Thursday, March 3, 2011. Today we are continuing a study on the expansion of penitentiaries.
Appearing before us we have Justin Piché, a PhD candidate in sociology at Carleton University; Irvin Waller, full professor with the Institute for Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa and president of the International Organization for Victim Assistance; Asa Hutchinson, a former United States congressman; and Ian Lee, assistant professor of strategic management and international business in the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University.
Our committee wants to thank each one of you for appearing today as a witness and helping us in our study of Canada's penitentiary system and the expansion of our penitentiaries.
A special welcome is extended to our American friend, who I believe is in Canada on other business. We welcome you here.
I understand that each of you has a presentation, an opening statement. Many of you have appeared here before, and you understand that we go into different rounds of questioning, the first being a seven-minute round.
I'll just also make mention that when we talk about a seven-minute round or a five-minute round, that includes the question and the answer. So to committee members, you're reminded to not take up all the time formulating your question.
We will perhaps extend our invitation to Mr. Hutchinson to begin.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am delighted to be here at the invitation of the committee. I felt it was important as a former U.S. government official to recognize the great friendship we have and to appear before your committee and to share the American experience.
You introduced me as a former member of the United States Congress representing the State of Arkansas. I also served in the George W. Bush administration as head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or the DEA. Then I was also undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security. So I have a long career in law enforcement, leading large agencies, as well as being a trial prosecutor as a former U.S. attorney in the 1980s during the administration of Ronald Reagan, which was really the beginning of our “get tough on crime and drugs” in the United States.
I'm here because I signed on to a “right on crime” initiative, which is an initiative led by a group of conservatives in the United States who support a re-evaluation of our nation's incarceration policies. So I'm only here to tell you a little bit about the American experience, certainly not to be wise or provide many insights into what you're doing here in Canada.
In terms of the American experience, though, what motivated me to sign on to this “right on crime” initiative was two principles. One is fairness, and the other is the long-time conservative principle of cost to the taxpayers. So those two motivating factors support a re-evaluation of U.S. incarceration policy.
You know the history in the United States. One out of every 100 adults in America is incarcerated. It's a total prison population of 2.3 million. In 1970 it was only one out of every 400. The United States has 5% of the world's population, but 23% of the world's reported prisoners. The incarceration costs are staggering, anywhere from $18,000 to $50,000 per prisoner per year, depending upon the state and the level of security in the incarceration. And that cost is very challenging for many states, so the cost is a motivating factor to do a re-evaluation.
Here's a little bit of some of the things that have happened in recent years.
The conservative leaders supported this re-evaluation. It's really at the federal and the state level. At the federal level we had a crack cocaine mandatory minimum policy, which really resulted in a one-to-100 disparity between the lengths of sentences for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. That means if you were an African-American and got arrested for a certain quantity of crack cocaine versus a white American who had the same amount of powder cocaine, your sentence would be much, much longer.
So as a result of the concern on fairness, there was a final congressional action that reduced the mandatory penalty for crack cocaine offenders and to try to eliminate this disparity and unfairness. There continues to be a debate over mandatory minimum sentence at the federal level, but much of the action is at the state level in the United States, and I'll just quickly tell you about two states as examples. One is Texas, which is known as being a tough-on-crime state. Their conservative Republicans joined with liberal Democrats in adopting city-based funding to strengthen the state's probation system in 2005; and then in 2007 they decided against building more prisons and instead put their money in improved community correction approaches, such as drug treatment courts, which I'd love to talk more about.
The reforms are forecast to save $2 billion in prison costs over five years. Most of the savings went into community treatment for the mentally ill and low-level drug addicts and their treatment. Crime has dropped 10% from 2004, the year before the reforms, through 2009.
Last year South Carolina adopted reforms that will reserve costly prison beds for dangerous criminals while punishing low-risk offenders through lower-cost community supervision. The legislation was a bipartisan effort, with strong support from liberals, conservatives, law enforcement, and the judges. The state is expected to save $175 million in prison construction this year, and $60 million in operating costs over the next several years.
In my introductory comments I would emphasize that we are re-evaluating. We have a high incarceration rate, and it is very expensive. There is also is a desire to make sure we have a system that is fair, and that we are working particularly with drug offenders.
Again, I was head of the DEA, and I want to be known as being tough on drug problems, but at the same time we want to make sure that if they have an addiction problem they get treatment with accountability. That's the drug treatment core program, rather than simply incarceration, for the non-violent offenders.
Secondly, we have to look at who we're housing, to make sure we put our resources behind those who pose a harm and a danger to the public.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for this opportunity to be with you today. I look forward to having a dialogue as the morning goes on.
Mr. name's Justin Piché, and I'm a PhD candidate in sociology at Carleton University currently completing a dissertation that examines the scope and factors shaping prison expansion at this time in Canada.
My remarks today outline some of my findings, which I've included and fully referenced in a report I submitted to the clerk of your committee, entitled “Canada at a Crossroads: A Brief on Prison Expansion”.
Prior to the 2006 federal election campaign where all federalist political parties touted their tough-on-crime credentials in the shadow of the so-called summer of the gun, prison systems across Canada were already facing significant challenges.
In our provincial-territorial prisons, where we typically house individuals awaiting trial and sentencing or those serving sentences of two years minus a day, the vast majority of cells, often the size of an average household washroom, were occupied with one, two, or sometimes even three prisoners.
This trend has been primarily driven by rising remand populations, which increased 83% from the mid-1990s to 2004-05, when on a given day half of the provincial-territorial prison population was composed of remanded individuals. In 2008-09 six out of every ten prisoners housed in our provincial-territorial prisons were on remand.
In our federal penitentiaries, where we typically house individuals serving sentences of two years plus a day, the rate of double-bunking in this past decade has been as high as 11.1% in April 2001 and as low as 6.1% in July 2004. This continues to be an operational reality in our federal penitentiaries, where the rate of double-bunking sat at 9.4% in August 2009 and was expected to sharply increase in anticipation of the passage of the Truth in Sentencing Act.
This is occurring despite the existence of the Correctional Service of Canada commissioner's directive 550, which states that, and I quote: “Single occupancy accommodation is the most desirable and correctionally appropriate method of housing offenders.” This is a directive that was recently suspended in August 2010.
The situation also persists in spite of the fact that Canada is the signatory to the United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, which strongly discourages this practice. This situation persists in spite of the warning from CSC's senior deputy commissioner, Marc-Arthur Hyppolite, to Minister Toews outlined in the February 2010 briefing note that states, and I quote: “Further expansion of double bunking increases the risk to staff and offender safety in an institution.”
It's widely recognized by experts, those working in prisons, and politicians that penal institutions have become dumping grounds for those suffering from drug addiction and mental illness, the poor, colonized aboriginal peoples, and other marginalized groups.
Many of the facilities where we house prisoners were and continue to be decrepit and dilapidated to a point where they are places unfit for animals, let alone human beings.
Faced with this situation, prison officials have argued that new prisons are required not only for the reasons I just stated, but also because they claim that current facilities are inconducive to the provision of modern security practices and meeting their institutional programming objectives.
In Canada's provinces and territories 23 new prisons and 16 additions to existing facilities are at various stages of planning and completion. The construction cost of these initiatives is over $3 billion and rising with formal announcements and funding for a few projects still to come.
In the case where the over 7,000 new prisoner beds slated for operation are filled, each at an average cost of $162 per day or $59,000 per year, taxpayers would be on the hook for close to another $400 million plus per year, plus other operational and management costs.
According to documents and information I've obtained, it should be noted that most jurisdictions did not consider the impact of federal legislation when planning their penal infrastructure initiatives. Thus, it's likely the case that more provincial-territorial prison construction may be required should the current penal policy trajectory continue.
At the federal level the equivalent of 34 additional units to be built on the grounds of existing penitentiaries have been announced to date.
In the case where the 2,552 beds slated for operation are filled, each at an average cost of $322 per day, or $118,000 per year, taxpayers would be on the hook for close to another $300 million plus per year, plus other operational and management costs. And we should keep in mind that in March 2011 CSC is submitting its long-term accommodation strategy for consideration.
In response to pressure from the opposition, which had tabled a question of privilege that sought the disclosure of the costs of the sentencing measures before Parliament, the Conservatives provided an Excel sheet to parliamentarians. It estimated the federal costs of the 18 bills tabled in this legislative session to be $2.7 billion over the next five years.
As noted by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, this document does not provide
||...analysis, key assumptions, drivers, and methodologies behind the figures presented. Further, basic statistics such as headcounts, annual inflows, unit costs per inmate, per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, and per new cell construction have not been made available.
Equally important is the fact that the costs that may be incurred by provincial and territorial governments resulting from these measures are also not included in the federal government’s projections.
While this approach to fiscal transparency may facilitate agenda-setting, excluding citizens and their political representatives from having access to the information that belongs to them undermines the prospect for public debate on matters affecting their lives, and is damaging to the democratic process. Canadians do not need to be told they support the penal policies of their federal government. What they need is to have access to their information so they can decide for themselves what they support. After all, taxation necessitates representation, not obfuscation.
Irrespective of whether crime reported or unreported is going up, down, or remains stable, no one is disputing that something should be done. What is being disputed, however, is how scarce criminal justice resources should be spent to meet the needs of the victimized and criminalized in a manner that is effective and provides the best value for money for taxpayers.
Some of the best available evidence can be gleaned from the most recent issue of Criminology and Public Policy. It contains contributions from 22 leading scholars, including conservative criminologist James Q. Wilson. It says that increasing the rate of imprisonment has a negligible impact on crime, unless pursued to a point where the short-term benefit derived is far outweighed by the long-term consequences. It has a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups that are more likely to be caught in the net of the penal system. It diverts resources away from meeting the needs of the criminalized and the victimized. It hinders the reintegration of those in conflict with the law into society, and it has a damaging impact on the communities and loved ones of prisoners at an untenable economic cost, particularly when compared to more effective and less costly prevention programs that Dr. Waller will be taking to you about today.
While prison expansion has been presented as being inevitable and necessary, it's one choice among many other policy options.
Moving forward, it's strongly recommended that a federal punishment legislation moratorium be adopted. The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security should launch a task force immediately that would bring to the table all affected parties to evaluate the effectiveness of addressing social issues through criminalization. It would discuss the impacts of criminalization and victimization and share best practices--including justice reinvestment and crime prevention, which are proven to be more effective at reducing conflict and harm in our communities at a lesser cost to taxpayers--in order to chart a path for responding to crime in this country going forward.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
I've made available to the committee some materials in both English and French, first of all a book called Less Law, More Order: The Truth About Reducing Crime. This book is totally consistent with what Senator Hutchinson told you, but it adds to it information from studies in England and in the United States on what is in fact effective and cost-effective in reducing crime, and it actually talks about a strategy to move from overreliance on reactive criminal justice to a balance between smart criminal justice and effective prevention.
I've also made available to the committee a document in both official languages, called in English Making Cities Safer: Action Briefs for Municipal Stakeholders. This was funded by some of the money from the National Crime Prevention Centre and has been very widely used. We actually ran out of copies fairly soon after we produced them by cities from coast to coast. Probably the most interesting city to use this is the city of Edmonton, but it also talks about Montreal, Waterloo, and other cities.
I have been on the public record on a number of the issues here today, and I'd just like to remind you a little bit about how I got to where I am now.
I did the first and only independent evaluation of the prison and parole system in Canada in the seventies. I was a director general in the Ministry of Public Safety in the seventies. I won prizes for my work in getting the UN to adopt the declaration on rights for crime victims, colloquially known as the Magna Carta for crime victims, and I was the founding executive director of the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime affiliated with the UN and based in Montreal.
But more recently I've turned to writing two books for legislators and voters and taxpayers, and a lot of what is in these books is consistent with the right on crime website, but it has perhaps two major emphases that were not mentioned by Senator Hutchinson. One, I'm a crime victim advocate; nothing else. I've been head of the World Society of Victimology. I'm personally a victim of crime, and I currently head the International Organization for Victim Assistance. The main contribution that I make in the victim area is that I'm also a professional social scientist who looks at data and looks at standards and looks at what is in the best interests of victims, and I try to share my assessment with them.
This book does that, and I have a book that actually is already released in the United States and ran out in the first three weeks of its publication, called Rights for Victims of Crime.
Now, what I think is missing from what you shared with us today is a focus on.... If you go on the Right on Crime website, you will see they talk about protecting victims, and I think our public policy in Canada, both federally and provincially, should be totally focused on reducing harm to victims of crime. That means reducing the number of people who are victims of crime, and focusing on what can be done about that harm.
Justice Canada released about a week ago an updated study on the cost of crime to victims in Canada, talking about $85 billion as being the cost of pain and suffering to victims. They also, by the way, estimated the cost of criminal justice at $15 billion, and I guess it's because they're in Justice Canada that they're not following what is going on in the policing area in Canada. It's not just prison costs that Justin Piché talked about. It's also policing costs, and policing costs affect our taxes at the municipal level in this country. So I think we have to see this issue of prison construction in the context of rapidly expanding policing expenditures as well as these rapidly expanding correctional expenditures at the provincial level.
In my view, these expenditures are largely out of control, and there is a need for leadership. And the good news is that there is leadership in this country. The Province of Alberta in 2007 set up a task force to look at the best data from all over the world on what actually works to reduce harm to victims. That task force included the chief of police of Edmonton, an associate dean of law, a native, and so on and so forth.
There were 31 recommendations from the task force, and I'm going to divide them into four parts. First, part of them were about building remand cells because nobody has really come to grips with limiting the reaction to crime. They included some additional police officers. Alberta has fewer police officers per capita than Ontario and Quebec do. Second, it included stuff to deal with mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction. Third, it put into practice the sort of stuff that is in this book, and a number of other agencies. By the way, a lot of this research comes from the United States on what actually works to reduce crime. Fourth, and this is the most important thing for this committee, they established a long-term strategy, not reacting by saying we have to build now because there's going to be double-bunking and so on, but a strategy that says yes, we've got to deal with making sure we've got enough reactive capacity, but we've got to get to grips with the sorts of things that lead to this flood of people into our prison system, and we've got to prevent.
I know my time is limited, but I prepared a longer brief and I will be happy to share it with people in due course. What I've decided to do in the very limited time is to focus on a very brief history. I'm not going to go back 30 or 40 years, which I could do, to tell you about the history.
I just want to translate one thing that Senator Hutchinson told you. He said prisons are expensive. What that means is a taxpayer in the United States pays twice what a taxpayer in Canada does for the privilege of having that number of police, that number of lawyers, and an incredible number of people incarcerated. He said 2.3 million, but in my view it's very close to the population of Toronto that's incarcerated. He told you it was 23% of the recorded prison population in the world. You have to think about that.
While you're thinking about that, and it's a rate of 750 per 100,000, the aboriginal rate of incarceration in Canada is higher than that. If you go ahead with expanding penitentiaries, just think who is going to be incarcerated: aboriginal people, disproportionately; women, very disproportionately; men, disproportionately.
I have the privilege of having a PhD student working on how you solve that problem, and the answer is, you prevent. You focus on why there is so much violence, particularly among urban aboriginal people, and we know exactly what to do. By the way, we largely knew in 1993 when the Horner committee looked at these issues. We largely knew when the O'Shaughnessy committee looked at these issues in 1995. Since then, the World Health Organization in 2002 produced a report, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. This report basically tells you in its foreword, and I'll quote from Mandela, that violence is preventable.
You will not find any recommendation in that report that would give you any basis for expanding our prison population. It didn't talk about abolishing prisons. Clearly, we need prisons for the dangerous offenders. Part of what I did as a federal public servant was introduce the first dangerous offender legislation. I don't want Olson calling me up, and I don't want Bernardo being released, and I could mention several other cases. If you look at what Right On Crime says, basically it says to set priorities. You have a certain prison capacity, so use it for those people who are dangerous--I think that was your term, but I may be misquoting you.
The World Health Organization produced their report, and they also produced a major report on return on investment. For me, that's an Alberta term. I was doing a presentation to an American criminal justice group in Toronto yesterday, with the Alberta government, and what they talked about was social return on investment.
These guys in Alberta are smart. They're not just sitting there allowing this flood wave of policing increases and prison construction. They're saying they're going to protect victims; they're going to use taxpayers' money responsibly, which is a very similar line to the website, Right on Crime. The WHO brought that together.
In 2007 the current federal Conservative government doubled the budget for prevention, from $25 million or $30 million to $60 million. When they're spending $4 billion, it's not worth worrying about. Stockwell Day, who is very familiar with the victimization statistics, implied this was going to solve the crime problem. That sort of money for an experimental program will not solve the crime problem.
They've now cut back on that. They couldn't spend the money. There are people out there who could use that money, but they couldn't spend it.
For me, this is an incredible shame. Not only was it too little—limited to experimental—but they didn't spend the money. There are 14 cities in this country looking for $300,000 a year to multiply what works, and they were told there was no longer any money available. This is while we are talking in the press about $400 million.
I've mentioned the Alberta task force. I'm going to go to some bottom lines, and I—
Thank you very much for inviting me.
I received the invitation on Monday afternoon, and I submitted my powerpoint presentation yesterday morning, about 36 hours later. Unfortunately, it was too late to be translated. I did photocopy them, and everyone has a copy in front of them.
Before I go into the presentation, I want to say that my presentation is going to be very different from the other three individuals. I'm not here to advocate a particular penal policy or criminological policy.
Although I'm in a business school, my PhD is in public policy. I analyze budgets a lot. I have an article coming out shortly analyzing the problems of Greece and Spain and Portugal, in Europe. I have another article I'm working on analyzing the States: the U.S. budget versus the Canadian budget. I analyze financial statements and budgets because I'm a former banker.
What I'm going to do today is talk about some hard numbers that are on the public record. I do not use my own data. My methodology is to only use data from official sources, such as Statistics Canada, federal government departments, U.S. state and national government departments, the OECD, international centre for prison studies—that sort of data. I don't modify the data. I don't manipulate the data. I don't normalize the data. I photocopy the data, and that's what I'm going to talk about shortly.
One final point: I want to make a disclosure. I don't accept consulting contracts from anybody of any kind, anywhere.
My disclosure is that I don't accept consulting contracts of any kind from anybody, anywhere in the world—not in crime, not in banking, not in financial services—and I have no investment income of any kind from anywhere in the world, except teaching at Carleton University and teaching internationally in education programs abroad. I wanted to put across those two things.
I did publish an article in How Ottawa Spends, which is an annual publication, three years ago, analyzing the current government's policies, but again, using only empirical data. So I'll run through it very quickly. I'll try to do it within ten minutes.
There are three issues I want to deal with today—and I call them myths or urban legends. First, violent crime is down in Canada. I'm going to review the StatsCan data shortly. It shows that it is not, if you measure it back to 1962, which Stats Canada does. Secondly, Canada imprisons large numbers of people. I'm going to use the data again. And thirdly, the Correctional Service of Canada budget is very expensive and out of control. Again, I'm going to present financial data from the Government of Canada.
Let's deal with the first of what I'm calling an urban legend. Police-reported crime statistics start in 1962, and in 1962 it was reported as 221 violent crimes per 100,000 people. I'm using StatsCan's normalized data, the only way you can compare data over time. That went up to about 950 today. So that's almost a fivefold increase. In the slides I simply photocopied the chart from StatsCan and I've provided the catalogue number. So it's there. It's on the record; it's not a secret.
The StatsCan general social survey of 2005 reported that 34% of victims report crimes to police. I believe there are about 2.5 million crimes. That means an awful lot of crimes are not reported. For example, 92% of sexual assaults are not reported. So crime is apparently a problem.
On my next slide, the famous crime funnel shows that 2.5 million crimes yielded 4,800 people going to jail--and this is 2009 data from the Department of Public Safety. So an infinitesimally tiny percentage of the people who commit crimes actually end up.... The heading on the slide says you have to really work very hard in this country to get sentenced to a federal penitentiary. There were 4,800 committed in 2009, which is not many as a percentage when you look at it comparatively.
One could ask, what about the provincial and territorial data? The next slide shows that in Canada—this is 2009 data—there were 13,000 federal offenders and 108,000 offenders in provincial and territorial prisons. So we're talking about very small numbers. I have the percentage. As a percentage of the Canadian population, it's about seven decimal points to the right of zero before you hit a significant number--very small numbers.
The admissions annually to the CSC, again from the CSC report—this is 1999 data—are 4,800, and CSC reports that 69% of them are violent. Simple math suggests that's 3,312. So those slides are in there. The majority of the victims, according to the StatsCan uniform crime reporting survey, are under 30, and the crimes are disproportionately higher in western Canada, as some MPs know, and in northern Canada, according to 2008 data. This is corroborated by the crime severity index, which shows that the cities of central and eastern Canada are very low, and in western Canada the cities like Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, and so forth are experiencing very serious problems.
Then I looked at the incarceration rates and I used the international prison data. And it shows that Canada has 116 in prison per 100,000 of population. We're well below the United States, at 756 per 100,000--we're wildly below.
Even when it's been noted that we're much higher than Europe, we should note that Europe is much more homogenous because of much lower levels of immigration. Canada and the United States have much higher levels of immigration. We're a much more diverse society. Secondly, of course, Europe is aging very rapidly, and older people don't have the same propensity to crime. That partially suggests the higher incarceration rates. The world prison metrics are there, quoted from the World Prison Population List, published from the U.K.
I have the Correctional Service offender profile, which is from 2009. You can look that over. Again, I'm just copying it from the record.
I want to now get to the costs of crime.
The CSC budget for last year was $2.4 billion, which is approximately 1% of the Government of Canada budget. The annual expenditures of the Government of Canada are just north of $250 billion. It was reported yesterday in the Ottawa Citizen that the budget is going to go up by 20%, or $500 million. This will increase the share of CSC to 1.2% of the Government of Canada budget, which no reasonable analyst of budgets would say is a gargantuan amount. In fact, it's a very small amount. This is from Justice Canada's Costs of Crime in Canada, 2008. They quote $15 billion, as Professor Waller noted. Policing services account for 57%. Corrections is 32%, and the courts, crown prosecutors, and legal account for the rest.
In terms of new prison construction, because this has been in the media and is going to be debated here, I presume, I looked at the facilities report of the Correctional Service of Canada. There's been no major new prison built since 1988, which was Port-Cartier. Some smaller regional women's prisons and some additions to existing prisons have been built, but no major new prison facility has been built in a quarter of a century. Kingston Pen, which is still operating and which many think is obsolete, was built in 1835. Stony Mountain, in Manitoba, was built in 1876. Dorchester, in New Brunswick, was built in 1880.
When people say that we're spending too much and are asking why we're spending so much on prisons, I would turn the question upside down. I would ask why Parliament did not appropriate money for the past quarter of a century for a capital replacement program instead of deferring maintenance and kicking the problem down the road to a time when it would come due and you would have to go out and build a whole bunch of prisons. You weren't rebuilding them over time. It is standard budgeting practice to have a capital replacement program. Any large organization--universities, hospitals, government, and corporations--has plans to set aside money rather than just letting the capital equipment called plants or premises depreciate without being rebuilt over time. That seems to me to be the problem.
I want to summarize. Violent crime is up almost fivefold since 1962. That's a StatsCan number, not mine. Violent crime today is higher in western Canada and the north, significantly higher. It is lowest in Ontario and Quebec, including Toronto.
Second, there are 13,000 people incarcerated federally, which is a small number, not a large number. There are 108,00 people in prison provincially across Canada. That is small, not large.
Third, the CSC budget, which is 1% of Government of Canada expenditures, is going to 1.2%, which is not a gargantuan number. What I can infer or conclude from this is that critics refuse to acknowledge the severity of crime in some communities.
I would note, and this is probably going to create some discomfort in the room, that members of Parliament and professors are in the top 5% of income in this country. As I've said many times, and I don't exempt myself, we live a very privileged life. We live in very good communities where we don't experience crime. Crime is disproportionately where lower-income people live and in less advantaged communities. These people are not being well defended by members of Parliament or professors who trivialize or ignore their very real problems.
In fact, Tom Wolfe, the famous American novelist, satirized the elite concern for violent criminals in his famous book of 1970, Radical Chic & Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers, in which he told the story of Leonard Bernstein, who lived in the upper west side of New York in Manhattan, which is a very privileged community, who actually lobbied the governor and the parole board to allow a violent murderer out of jail, which they did. And he invited him to a cocktail party. Tom Wolfe wrote this wonderful satire about people from very privileged backgrounds showing their bona fides by associating themselves with him.
My concluding comment is that I think public policy should be focusing on the human rights of law-abiding citizens rather than on people who've demonstrated empirically that they are capable of violent behaviour against Canadians.
Right. The reason I focused on that was I use normalized data all the time. We talk about the number of new business start-ups per 100,000, the birth rate per 100,000, the death rate per 100,000, so it not only allows you to compare over time in your own country but also, very importantly, allows you to make comparisons across countries for comparative research, comparative purposes. So it's a very useful normalization technique that Statistics Canada is using, and it's perfectly legitimate.
But why I was struck by it was I'm reading almost every day in the paper that the violent crime rate has gone down, and the reason criminologists are saying that is because they're using the last ten years. Well, of course if you go back only ten years, it has gone down. In other words, I can take companies' earnings for one month and show that they made a lot of money and say this company is fantastically profitable, even though they lost money for the last five years. In other words, it's taking too short a time horizon.
I want to answer your question. Why it's so important to go back to the 1960s is human capital: people change very slowly. Our life expectancy is now 85 for a female in this country and 81 for a man. So to go back 40 or 50 years is about one-half of the average life expectancy.
The second point is that there were enormous changes that took place in Canada and the United States between the 1960s and now, what the criminologists and sociologists call the decline in social cohesion. That means we're far less homogenous. We are far more diverse. Religion has declined in importance. Authority has declined. There's been an entire forest cut down about the decline in authority, the decline of the teacher's authority, the policeman's authority, and so forth.
What these numbers capture is a snapshot on the transformations over the past 40 or 50 years of a much more liberalized society where the crime rate has gone through the roof. If you only go back ten years, you won't capture those transformations in attitudes, values, and behaviour. It is deeply misleading, in my view, to only go back ten years, because we don't live for ten years. We are not fruit flies with very short lifespans; we have long lifespans.
I've read the book chapter produced by Professor Lee. I was surprised by the arguments he marshalled, particularly the one that increasing the length of prison sentences has a significant deterrent effect and reduces crime. If we were to follow Professor Lee's theory and apply it to the Canadian context, an increase in the use of imprisonment in Canada over the last 50 years should have reduced crime. So I did a little exercise last night to see if his theory panned out.
We have the crime rates in Canada based on Statistics Canada data, and he is right to say that crime did increase from 1962 to 1991. But what's the correlation or connection that we could make with the prison rates? Well, in 1962 the number of federal prisoners we had was 7,000; the crime rate was 3,000 per 100,000. In 1972 the prison rate goes up to 7,800, with a crime rate of 5,000 per 100,000. In 1982 the federal prison population was 9,700, with a crime rate of 9,000 per 100,000. In 1991 the prison rate goes up to 13,800, and the crime rate is 10,000 per 100,000.
If you want to talk about longitudinal data and make comments about the crime rate, you have to consider that the federal prison population in this country went up—the crime rate went up. Then the crime rate started going down in 1991—I'm talking about the overall crime rates. We see a rise in 1996: federal prison population, 14,500; crime rate, down a bit. In 2002 the prison population dropped to 13,000 and the crime rate continued to decline. So it's not as simple as Professor Lee is making it look in his book chapter.
Thank you to the witnesses for appearing today.
As is my habit, I usually make sure I address my comments to the folks at home, because they're the people whose pockets we are--I wouldn't like to use criminal terms--digging into to fund this very meeting. And they need to know that statistics are statistics and people may--I'm not saying they do or anyone here does it--manipulate them to fit a certain particular way that we think or our view of society.
Some of the statistics I'm going to quote actually came from Corrections Canada. First of all, we hear about double occupancy and people get the impression that there are two people sharing a bed. That is entirely incorrect. It is two people in one cell, very much similar to two-in-one living accommodations, very similar to our Canadian military who share the same room and often have to share a bathroom and there is a facility within there.
By the way, Corrections Canada does meet the UN standards when there is double occupancy, and that we have from the evidence given by the head of Corrections Canada.
Another statistic we heard was that the budget increase for the creation of additional occupancy in our correctional facilities is $2.7 billion. What was left out from that statistic is it's $2.7 billion over five years. So I think it's necessary to include that.
Also, the head of Corrections Canada appeared before this committee, and we were talking about how some people were saying that as a result of the Government of Canada's changes to some of our Criminal Code we're going to create more criminals. In actual fact, if you look at the changes to the regulation, we're not creating more criminals. We're talking about those who commit, generally speaking, violent criminal acts or who commit serious crimes, white collar crimes, and we're saying that those who did commit these serious crimes are going to spend a little more time in prison. So it's not going out there and capturing new people who are creating crimes; it's actually locking up people longer who do commit crimes.
Then I'll have a question for former Congressman Hutchinson. One of the things this government did, because there was serious lack of investment in our federal penal institutions, was the former public safety minister had a report commissioned, “A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, and within that it talked about the current need for our correctional facilities to be improved and modernized. And no, sir, Mr. Hutchinson, you can't take a 150-year-old institution that looks like a dungeon and make it a place that is good for rehabilitation.
We always hear about those evil mandatory minimums, and you used the word “conservative”, and they love it over there, but I would suggest to you that many Democrats in the United States look at the Canadian Conservative Party and think we're a bunch of flaming socialists in their eyes. I have a friend who was a Democrat in the U.S. who called me that.
Canada is a pleasant blend, and I think a pleasant blend of American, because we're exposed to the U.S. culture and western European. That's our identity. We're a pleasant blend of both. I think if Mr. Waller studied it, he might agree we're a blend of both, this system of governance is that.
One of our mandatory minimums is one year, sir, for organized crime who are selling drugs, and one is a two-year mandatory sentence for those who would sell drugs to our children in and around schools. So my question would be, in the United States does that compare favourably? What is your opinion on that, sir?
I want to step back, though. I hope that the committee does look at this document from the International Centre for Prison Studies, which shows that the prison populations are going up in 71% of the countries around the world, so Canada is certainly not an outlier at all. This is from the World Prison Population List published by the International Centre for Prison Studies, King's College, London. This is the trend that's going on.
To answer your question, I did read the testimony of Kevin Page, who I respect very much, before this committee. I read the questions. I found it very interesting. I thought there was a lot of confusion between capital and operating costs. Capital costs are not expensed. They are amortized over a very, very long period of time. After all, if you have prisons from 1835 or 1870, that suggests they do have a long life expectancy. People throw around figures such as $2 billion as a construction cost, or something like that, and it's misleading to conflate capital costs with operating costs.
In terms of the operating costs that Kevin Page suggested, and there are different figures floating around out there, one figure is $2.7 billion over five years. That's about $600 million a year, which is a 20% increase, which, as I already noted, will take CSC from 1.2 to maybe 1.4. These are still very, very small numbers. It reminds me of that quote by Dan Gardner in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. These debates are over very small things, and he quoted Freud on the narcissism of small differences, because these are very small differences, empirically speaking.
Of course you're free to clarify, but I guess one of the things that is implicitly being raised is that if we have poor prison conditions or ageing prisons, we should build new ones. I'd like to note that historically benevolent penal reforms have been the principal force behind prison expansion in this country, as is the case right now in many of our provinces and territories. History is littered with calls for new prisons to address overcrowding, improve hygienic conditions, and enhance rehabilitation efforts inside prison.
However, I'd also like to say to the committee that chasing so-called better prisons leads to a further retrenchment in society, which becomes all the more visible when the facilities that were slated for closure remain open. Look at Kingston Penitentiary, for example, which was built in 1835, as the member noted. The institution has been slated for closure a handful of times, but it has remained open, despite the fact that it was damaged beyond recognition in a 1971 riot.
We have a tendency to focus on carceral supply in this country rather than trying to focus on how we can quell the demand for more prisons and reduce victimization. It's why I've been advocating for alternatives.
If you're in the kitchen doing the dishes and the water is overflowing, what do you do? Do you turn off the tap? Do you pull the strainer? Do you run to Home Depot to build a bigger sink? I'm sure most of you don't run to Home Depot, but it's the approach we're taking right now, with 2,500 additional beds, through retrofits and additions to existing ageing institutions.
I predict that based on history—and predictions are known to be wrong and known to be right sometimes—if we build the new regional complexes that were recommended in the 2007 review panel, in the way these penal policies are being moved forward, they will not replace Kingston Penitentiary, Stony Mountain, Dorchester Penitentiary, and the other ageing facilities that we have.
In relation to Kevin Page's projection being dramatically off and CSC's projection being dramatically off, through the Truth in Sentencing Act, if only 400 additional prisoners were added to the federal prison population as a result of the act, what is the impact of that act and where will all the prisoners go? Will they stay in provincial and territorial prisons, where they were supposed to be lifted out to alleviate the remand issue for the provinces? I don't know, but I think we need to ask those questions.