Ken Wilber defines the difference between the Left and the Right by the way they approach human suffering. The Right tends to assign the responsibility for human suffering to the faults of the individual. The Left tends to claim that the individual is a product/victim of his/her society. In a previous post I expanded on that by saying that the Right tends to look for short term, immediate, simplistic solutions to problems, while the Left tends to look at things more long term and involving more complex factors.
We can see this in Harper’s current Crime Bill. Looking at it closely we can see that while some parts of it are meant to plug some legitimate holes, the general temperament of the Bill is to institute more state controlled, punitive consequences on crime. Even though the crime rate is generally down in our country, the Conservatives feel a compulsion to build more prisons. Someone has got to inhabit them, so more crimes must involve compulsory jail time, to the point that marijuana growing will have more severe penalties than pedophilia. In particular young offenders, who could benefit the most from some sort of social intervention, are now more likely to end up in jail, where they can hone their criminal skills. Parole officers aren’t seen as competent to do their job, so now victims will be able to involve themselves in parole hearings so that their emotional bias can help to keep prisoners incarcerated. Aside from being a social injustice, new prisons are expensive bills for taxpayer to have to pay. This is the cost of short term, simplistic solutions.
In addition, there are further ambitions on the back burner. Well known Conservative goals for future crime bills include the end of the gun registry, revival of secret hearings in cases of suspected terrorism, power for police to conduct Internet surveillance (-and I don’t buy the disclaimer in the article-), and (wow!) mandatory jail time for people smuggling tobacco.
The Conservative government sees the necessity to elevate the need for prisons and the severity of punishments in a time when law and order seems to be working fairly well. In Toronto, the bill would result in more prisons being built at the same time as the municipal budget is reducing funding to the Police Force, freezing the hiring of additional personnel and almost resulting in officers being laid off.
Nowhere do you see the government addressing any of the social factors that might be causing crime. The money which would go to building and staffing new prisons might be better spent in other ways. Social services, especially to women, are being cut. Poverty is not being addressed. Why should it? It’s their own fault that they’re criminals! Let’s just teach them a lesson.
Except that Texas, -a pretty conservative place-, has already tried this rout and it was an unequivocal disaster.