Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Harper's McPrisons, Inc.

Okay, so Harper's first throne speech was delivered today, and it included few surprises (although the promise to overhaul the Environmental Protection Act was a bit of a shocker. But given that the Conservatives don't believe in the Kyoto Accord, and recently cut funding to federal climate change programs, we should have seen this coming).

Anyway, those of you that don't pore over the Ottawa Citizen (and yell at it) every day, might have missed this little gem from Canadian Press. Harper's new "tough on crime" agenda will do little to prevent crime, and will lead to a huge prison building boom. And with so many people to incarcerate, and so few funds available left for federal infrastructure, guess what? Private corporations will be happy to step in and build McPrisons, lining their pockets on the backs of the poor souls who will get thrown in the slammer for first-time offenses and minor drug crimes.

When I was in university, I did a lot of research on the private prison industry in the U.S., because it was revealed that Sodexho Marriott, which was Concordia University's cafeteria provider at the time, held a significant stake in a company called Corrections Corporation of America. CCA was infamous for prison riots, a high number of escapees, and many allegations of poor treatment from prisoners. I mean, how much fat is there to cut from a prison's budget? Any cost savings inevitably come from food and health care, leaving an already vulnerable population in much worse shape.

To quote the above-mentioned article, "the U.S. experience with private prisons suggests higher rates of return to jail, more incustody accidents, more escapes, and higher staff turnover." And this is not to mention the fact that the private prison industry is the biggest supporter of "3 strikes you're out" type legislation, because, hey, more lifers means more business for them. Pretty gross, eh?

Anyway, to read more about the U.S. prison industrial complex, check out the Prison Moratorium Project. This is the group that led (and won!) the Sodexho campaign, eventually convincing the company to divest its stock in CCA. But it was too late for Concordia, which had already dumped Sodexho.

Yay for small victories.

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