Let’s face it, jails suck. They aren’t very nice places to be. They’re expensive, and while they do keep people who have done bad things separated from the general population, an awful lot of research suggests that hot housing criminals together in a punitive environment does little to rehabilitate them. Rather, it tends to spit out people who are hardened and stigmatized but who now have more finely tuned criminal skills thanks to their exposure to more experienced hoodlums on the inside.
And given that jails aren’t terribly pleasant, most people would rather not live close to one, all else being equal.
But all else isn’t equal. There are a lot of B.C. communities that are hurting economically, because of the collapse of traditional industries like forestry and agriculture. So governments try to bribe those hard-up places into hosting a prison, by highlighting the jobs and spending that comes with it.
That, inevitably it seems, leads to heated and passionate debate among residents torn between those who are willing to accept the blight of a prison in exchange for the economic benefits and those who aren’t.
The sad thing is, even those who advocate for a prison, would really rather not have it either…
The B.C. government wants to build a prison in the Okanagan. On some level, it needs to, given the number of people being incarcerated here at the moment. I guess coming up with programs that would keep people out of prison isn’t a option in this political climate, never mind that alternatives would probably be cheaper and do more to keep society safe. But never mind, instead, the government has asked its municipal counterparts to do the heavy lifting of community consultations and then propose pre-vetted sites for provincial consideration.
And as I wrote in this Globe and Mail story, small, tight-knit communities are being torn apart.