Feds building more prison cells
OTTAWA - The federal government will spend nearly $160 million to build 576 new prison cells at six penitentiaries in Kingston and Montreal.
Wednesday's announcement is part of the government's tough-on-crime agenda that will see $2.1 billion spent over the next five years to add 2,700 cells in the country's prisons.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews made the announcement in Ottawa, but revealed details of the new cells at Kingston's medium-security Collins Bay Institution, which is getting a 96-cell maximum-security unit.
Bath Institution, also in Kingston, is getting two new 96-cell units, and Millhaven Institution is getting an additional 96 cells.
Three Montreal-area prisons are getting 192 new prison cells for $60 million.
The cells should be up and running by 2013.
"Our government is prepared to take the necessary steps to keep dangerous criminals behind bars," Toews said in Ottawa. "We believe that is a distinguishing factor between our government and the opposition.
"We believe that dangerous, repeat offenders should remain in prison until their debt to society has been paid."
Four new units were recently built at Collins Bay, at a cost of about $15 million per unit.
The government has decided to add cells to 35 penitentiaries instead of constructing new prisons.
QMI Agency obtained the 35-prison list in August, but the government has refused to answer questions about it.
The list indicates six federal prisons in Ontario will see construction of new units, including minimum-security Frontenac Institution, where the government recently closed a convict-operated farm operation, despite a national protest movement.
The prison farm program cost about $4 million annually, but the government said not enough prisoners were finding jobs in the agriculture industry upon release to warrant keeping the program.
"I think it's very ironic that they're building more prison cells at the very place they're cutting programs for prisoners," said New Democrat public safety critic Don Davies. "Every criminologist in the country, every person who works in corrections will tell you that it does not work to simply lock people up without having programs for rehabilitation."
Davies said while there may be a need to build new prison facilities, the Conservatives' ideological approach to punishment is "wrong.”
"This is about the Conservatives taking an ideological approach to crime — an American-style approach to crime — where they want to lock more people up for longer periods of time," he said. "They want to punish their way into a safe society, and that does not work."
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland lashed out at the Conservatives for copying the American-style justice system, which he said has left streets there less safe than before.
"We're chasing a disaster," he said. "Let's look at what happened (in California), where budgets soared for prisons and it led to less-safe societies.
"It created essentially crime factories, where these prisons became so over-bloated and there was no money for programming that it made California much less safe."