Crime, Disorder and the Civic Good

The Globe&Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson had a column today about playing politics with crime — the current government being obsessed with spending more money on prisons, creating new crimes to put even more people in prison, and so forth. This is not inexpensive and as usual the boys are very coy about how much it will cost. And the recent spectre of the G20 shows that force can and will be used to suppress views not concurrent with their own.

Meanwhile, the education system is slowly starving of funds, unemployment is rising even in places populated with many prisons, and mental health programs are being slowly dismantled and the staff who work in them brutalized by increasingly unrealistic working conditions.

So it will gradually become even more expensive for the taxpayers, and since the causes of crime remain unabated, even enhanced, crime will rise. We will have achieved the worse of all possible worlds.

Why is it so difficult for these folks to tackle the root causes instead of the end results?  Slapping back at crime is a jerk reaction to current problems to be sure. But to address the sociological roots of crime require two things that appear in short supply within the Canadian ruling class. They need to look beyond their agendas and ‘principles’ and look at the world as it is. And they need vision to see the developing results of their compassion-lite approach.

At one point, Ontario had a network of residential mental health facilities where people could be housed who were not capable of functioning in society. So in a fit of ‘Con’ compassion-lite these folks were forced into the community and the facilities closed (although at least one has been re-opened under private US management). When their violence brings them into contact with the law they may go into a critical care hospital facility for a while ($$$) before going off to prison for a cooling off period. Then back into society to repeat the whole cycle.

So in typical fashion the ‘Cons’ are saving short term dollars and maximizing long term costs. Other recent examples have been closing the prison farms and shifting food sources from locally produced to commercial purchases from California and Mexico. Or the KGH move to dismantle its kitchens and buy packaged meals from Toronto or shut down their laundry to ship dirty linens to a commercial plant in Ottawa, two hours up the road. So fewer local jobs, higher costs long term — a success all around. And let us not forget health care — adding layers of intermediate management organizations between the front lines (squeezed more and more to contain costs) and the top, countless new and well paid management positions. But basic performance statistics are not maintained so management is realisticly impossible. Probably a line item in a future strategic plan just below picking out the new panelling and carpets for the executive offices.

I would suggest that the common thread on all of this is a willful blindness about the world around them, a lack of vision and a short term focus that leaves the future to take care of itself. In a way, there is always plenty of money and time for damage control.


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