Despite media attention and Government claims to the contrary, crime rates have fallen. In 2009 nearly 2.2 million crimes were reported to police, which is 17% lower than ten years ago. The law reforms introduced recently will not prevent crime, and they will cost tens of billions of dollars.
Women are the fastest-growing prison population. The so-called “Law and Order Agenda” will not make women safer, and it will drain resources from services necessary for women’s substantive equality. Depending upon the prison and the needs of women, it costs anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 per year to keep a woman in prison. If she has mental health issues, she will likely be held in segregation and subject to high security.
Women in Canada are under-protected. Women experience the highest rates of poverty in Canada. This is compounded by victimization, substance use, mental health issues, racialization and disabilities. Women commit crime, in many cases, to survive.
Crime rates are down, yet women are the fastest- growing prison population. Aboriginal women are overrepresented in the prison system. An expensive prison complex will not address the economic and social issues that women in Canada face. Prisons do not guarantee rehabilitation or health care and education programs that meet women’s needs.
The “Law and Order Agenda” is expensive compared to alternatives. The planned changes to the prison system will cost taxpayers an estimated $9.5 billion by 2015-
2016. It costs on average $185,000 per year to imprison a woman in Canada.
The “Law and Order Agenda” Displaces Children
The Government of Canada needs to make Canada safer for women and girls by:
When you imprison women, you imprison mothers. 60% of children whose mothers are in prison live with grandparents, 17% with other relatives, and 25% live in foster care or group homes. Interestingly, almost 90% of children whose fathers are in prison continue to live with their mothers.
The inaccessibility of social programs, combined with increased imprisonment, are not resulting in any increased safety or equality for Canadian women and children. Women in prison experience high rates of depression and self-injury. 80-90% have survived sexual and/or physical abuse. 34% of women in federal prisons are Aboriginal. When they leave, they deal with trauma, violence, poverty, and lack of access to good jobs, health care and mental health services.
- Ensuring access to participation in a knowledge-based society.
- Creating access to decent work.
- Increasing rehabilitation programs and supports in prison and the community.
- Implementing a national strategy with specific policies and resources dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.
- Creating equal access to health, mental health and education programs.
- Implementing the recommendations of the Arbour Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.