Prison debate divides Okanagan communities

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.

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2 thoughts on “Prison debate divides Okanagan communities

  1. The only positive argument for a prison is in the growth of the local community’s economy. Something must be wrong in society if building a new prison is seen as the only way to develop the local economy. Expanding our prison population may increase the level of violent crime on our streets. The Government’s expansionist policy is not the best way of tackling violent crime.
    With more than 1.4 million inmates, the US has one of the world’s largest prison populations. Despite the number of inmates increasing by more than 160 per cent in the 1980s, violent crime continues to rise.”Imprisonment is not designed to solve social problems, at best it can contain them, at worst it makes them worse.”
    Looking for a “quick fix” solution to our crime problem, actually aggravates the situation.
    The attempt to control crime through the use of imprisonment is a deeply flawed strategy. Imprisonment has a limited effect on the level of crimes.

  2. A prison will be built no matter what. Most see it as hurting tourism, but when you go to a place for a vacation do you Google to see if they have a prison there..no. Most people probably don’t even realize that places they go to have a prison (many lower mainland communities have prisons) The one part it may hurt is the growth of a community because people don’t want to live in a community that has one and again many people don’t search to see if that community has a prison they look more at schools and community activities. (Has not hurt Abbotsford who is continually growing,yes they have one) With the comment that a prison raise crime rates…what causes the crime in the first place..look at poverty levels, population,employment rate..crime is everywhere just more noticeable when a community grows cause there is more people. the government creates crime by decisions that effect the economy force people to find a way to live and then punish them for it.

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