I know some members are talking about some other very prominent people involved with drugs, especially in Toronto, who have not taken advantage of the treatment programs available and who have continued in office when many of us believe they ought not to.
However, we have to turn back to the question. If we are going to have a bill entitled drug-free prisons, then let us go back and look at why drugs are in the prisons. Again we come back to the fact that 80% of those convicted of criminal offences resulting in more than two years in prison have drug and alcohol problems.
What has been the major contributor to that? It is mandatory minimum sentences, another great Tory policy when it comes to drug-free prisons.
The real problem is not criminal behaviour. The real problem is social disorder caused by drug and alcohol problems. When someone appears before a judge and he or she may have drug or alcohol problems, the Conservatives want to take away the discretion of the judge to divert that person into a treatment program, and instead make him or her serve time because they are tough on drugs.
All that does, in fact, is put more addicts into prison and create a higher demand for drugs in prison.
When we talk about the lack of treatment, because of the way Corrections Canada keeps statistics on programming, it is difficult to identify, specifically, the number of those on waiting lists for addiction treatment. However, we know it is somewhere between 2,400 and 3,000 of those 15,000 people in prisons. Many of those prisoners will complete their sentences without ever getting the addiction treatment, and as I said earlier, they will end up back in the community, back in their old patterns, victimizing themselves and others, because of addiction.
In the parliamentary secretary's speech to open this debate, she talked about 2.7% of corrections funding going to programming.
Let us stop to think about that for a minute; 2.7% of the funding is going to programming. That means, really, what we are doing is warehousing our prisoners. As well, that is not addiction programming, that is all programming. That is all the training. That is all the rehabilitation. That 2.7% of the total budget is all the drug programming combined.
What is happening to the budget of public safety and specifically of corrections? The Conservatives, in the last budget, cut that budget by 10%. Cutting that budget by 10% at a time when the number of people who are being imprisoned is increasing because of the various Conservative mandatory minimum sentence and longer sentencing initiatives means that we are cutting the budget by 10% when the population in prison is increasing by about 5% every year.
The Conservatives like to stand to say, “Oh, no. We'll take the highest estimates anybody ever gave, the highest projections we ever had for prison, and we'll point out to you those were never achieved”. That is to try to cover up the fact that the prison population is steadily increasing. Therefore, there are more people in prison, more people with addictions, less money and less programming. How in the world would this contribute to drug-free prisons?
The other thing that happens as a result of the increasing numbers and the decreasing budget is reduced training opportunities in prison.
Why am I talking about training opportunities and drug addiction in the same breath?
One of the problems that people have in prison is not having enough to do. There is an old saying that idle hands do the devil's work. Why in the world are we cutting back on training opportunities in prison?
The federal institution in my riding, William Head, has now lost the carpentry apprenticeship program. Why did it lose that? It was because of cutbacks. When the instructor retired, he was not replaced. Therefore, we have no more carpentry apprenticeship program.
We know that in all of the provinces across the country we have severe shortages in the trades. There are great opportunities for people to get employment when they get out of prison. We could keep them occupied in prison with a very useful training program that would result in employment that might keep them out of poverty and addiction problems when they get out. However, because of budget cuts, we do not replace the instructor when he retires.
William Head has a very good electrical apprenticeship program. The bad news is that the instructor is just about to retire. What will happen when he retires? It is very clear. It has already been announced; he will not be replaced. Now we will lose the electrical apprenticeship program, as well as the carpentry apprenticeship program.
To me, if we are really talking about how to do what is best for public safety, what is best for the community, and yes, in this case, what is also best for those who have offended, we are going in completely the wrong direction.
Part of the problem, we know, is that for addicts in prison, where there is a will there is a way. The Conservatives have tried to devise technology and other interdiction methods that would stop drugs from getting into prisons. That is probably a hopeless task. Even if we could interdict drugs, then prisoners would resort to the use of other substances, which would be even more damaging to them in that prison setting. They would make homemade alcohol, which will sometimes cause very serious injury, blindness or death. They would find a way.
One of the other things that has contributed to drugs in prison is an unusual one, and that is the Conservatives' fascination with privatization. Let me draw the connection for people who would not see it immediately.
Conservatives would like to have things like laundry, food service and cleaning in the prison contracted out. That is happening more and more across the country. That brings low-paid workers into the prison system, who are not hired by Correctional Service Canada, who only have the most basic screening and, because they are most often paid the minimum wage, are in very vulnerable positions. We have had many examples already where the path to drugs in prison comes through those private sector employees who come through the gate everyday. It is very easy for criminal gangs to identify who those people are. I am not saying these are evil people. It is very easy for them to be identified, for pressure to be put on their families and for them to bring drugs into prison. We have had many examples of privatization actually leading to an increase in the drug supply in prisons.
I will go ahead and talk a bit more about the problem of reduced budget.
One of the things Correctional Service Canada has had to do is try to find more efficient ways of delivering programming. Regarding the programs that the member for Northumberland—Quinte West liked to point to that were adopted around the world, there is not enough money for those programs to be run in our prisons anymore. Therefore, the corrections officials have taken what were separate anger management, drug addiction and other of those initial programs and they have rolled them together into one program that inmates will initially go through. This program tries to deal with all of these problems at the same time. I wish the designers of the program well, and I hope that it works. However, I am very concerned that we are, for fiscal reasons, taking those programs, which were so effective in dealing with some of the problems that people came into prison with, combining them into one program and doing an experiment in our prisons to see if that works as well as those programs we know were very effective programs that were adopted in places like Norway and were seen around the world as exemplary kinds of programs.
Another program that has been reduced or eliminated in many of the institutions in Ontario is called CORCAN. It provided vocational kinds of training so when people got out of prison, they could escape the circumstances that led them perhaps into addiction and therefore into crime.
However, the other thing the Conservatives have done is questioned why prisoners who take part in this training are paid. They have suggested we take away the pay for participating in CORCAN. This was not high pay, not even minimum wage pay, but it is an incentive for prisoners to get involved in the CORCAN training programs, which will lead them to better opportunities in their new life outside prison.
In fact, we have had a situation going on in Canadian prisons where we have had work stoppages because of the low pay that is offered to prisoners who do meaningful work while they are in prison. Because of this straw man, the Conservatives like to parade about the luxurious conditions in prison, at the same time, they have increased the number of items that prisoners have to pay for themselves. I think many Canadians would be surprised to know prisoners have to buy their own soap, toothpaste and shampoo out of the very minimal amount they are paid for work in prison.
The Conservatives like to draw a picture, saying that no one pays for their toothpaste or shampoo, but my point is not that they should not have to pay for these things, but that when they do work in the prison system, they should be able to earn enough money so they can pay for those basic necessities.
Once again, coming back to what our real policies are on this side of the House, and not the straw man the Conservatives like to put up, the NDP has always been steadfast in our support for measures that will make our prisons safe. The Conservative government has ignored recommendations from the corrections staff, the corrections union and the correctional investigator, all of these recommendations that were aimed at decreasing violence, gang activity and drug use in our prison.
Stakeholders agree that the bill would have a minimal impact on drugs in prison. Therefore, those who have listened to my speech will know I am not opposed to what is being proposed in the bill. What I am opposed to is the propaganda of its title and the whole Conservative approach of moral condemnation followed by interdiction, instead of measures that would really attack the drug problem in our prisons and our society.
What we really need to do is focus on addiction programming in our prisons if we want to achieve or move toward the goal of drug-free prisons.