Mr. Speaker, I will get on with the business at hand and get to the bill. However, I will say this about what went on here today. If the Speaker is accusing me of using unparliamentary language and unparliamentary antics, then I would ask the Speaker to go back and look at what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister was saying in this House.
I am one of the individuals he attacked. I would tell the parliamentary secretary to say it out there. That is why I am on my feet on this point. I will leave it at that, but this has to stop, these kinds of antics by this parliamentary secretary in attacking individuals and smearing their names, with no basis in fact.
I will get back to Bill C-12. As I said, the title of the bill, drug-free prisons act, is little more than a rhetorical statement when one examines the contents of the bill itself.
In his 2011-2012 annual report, the Correctional Investigator made the following observation with respect to the prevalence of drugs within our federal prisons:
A “zero-tolerance” stance to drugs in prisons, while perhaps serving as an effective deterrent posted at the entry point of a penitentiary, simply does not accord with the facts of crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world.
That quote is on page 17 of his report.
Bill C-12 targets individual offenders by imposing requirements for the provision of urine tests subsequent to having obtained parole, statutory release, or an unescorted temporary absence.
This legislation makes no reference to, nor in any respect addresses, the problem of offenders with drug and alcohol addiction problems or in any manner addresses the access and prevalence of drugs within federal institutions.
Currently, under the act, when staff or authorities have grounds to suspect a violation by an offender with respect to drug use while on parole, work release, temporary absences, or statutory release, they can order a urinalysis test. These tests are conducted to ensure that the conditions upon which release was granted are respected and adhered to. Within institutions, such tests can be ordered on a random and collective basis if individuals are, again, on reasonable grounds, suspected of the use of illegal drugs.
Bill C-12 does little to contribute to what the Office of the Correctional Investigator called for in his most recent annual report:
... a comprehensive and integrated drug strategy should include a balance of measures—prevention, treatment, harm reduction and interdiction.
That was in the annual report, 2011-2012, page 17.
While the Liberal Party is supportive of initiatives that will enhance a drug-free prison environment, the issue is with respect to the methods adopted to achieve this objective.
Bill C-12 is taking an exclusively punitive course of action that targets individual offenders who have been granted parole and those being granted statutory release or an unescorted temporary absence. The requirement is that prior to release, the offender, having been approved for release in the case of parole, must provide a urine sample, and in the case of statutory release or an unescorted temporary absence, could be so required.
There is nothing in this legislation related to what appears to be a wider systematic problem of drugs within federal institutions, their prevalence, and their access. Certainly there is nothing in this bill, and I believe other speakers have brought this point up as well, that talks about the cost of these decisions. Will it mean more time in prison? Will it mean more expense? The government always fails in these justice bills to bring in the cost factor along with the bill so that we can see a cost-benefit analysis.
In any event, we know that the Conservatives' whole approach to law and order is punishment, punishment, punishment. Bill C-12 is a measure that at best can be said to address the symptoms of a serious Correctional Service problem without contributing anything of substance to resolving the problem.
I will move away from the bill for a moment and talk about an institution in the private sector, in Guelph, called the Stonehenge Therapeutic Community. It is one of Canada's longest-serving substance abuse treatment programs, with separate facilities for men and women with chronic or acute substance abuse issues. It provides a full spectrum of addiction treatment programs to clients and their families as well as to those involved in provincial and federal corrections. Its services range from what it calls “Let's Grow Together Day” to support groups for pregnant and parenting women in the community, to the long-term residential programs it offers men and women from across Ontario and throughout the country. It has become a benchmark in addiction treatment and prevention, empowering clients with the skills to choose a healthy lifestyle and to thrive within their communities. It is a well-run institution, with quite a history, that has done well with drug abuse and substance problems.
The government's proposed drug-free prisons act really does nothing along those lines. It does nothing in terms of building a strategy to effectively deal with the problem.
The objective of government policy should be to ensure that offenders, when in the process of assessing parole or other forms of release, are less likely to have been exposed to the use of contraband drugs within the institutions. Bill C-12 in no respect aims to address this issue. In fairness to the Correctional Service, and even in fairness to the minister, preventing drugs in prison is not an easy endeavour.
I would suggest that if one were to walk into a prison, pull out a wallet, and take out five twenty dollar bills—I say five, but you, Mr. Speaker, would probably have twenty in yours—as long as they were not brand new, and put it through the machine that tests for drug residue, one would find that a good number of the bills would, in fact, have drug residue on them. It is unbelievable.
I have been in those institutions. I have talked to inmates and Correctional Service workers. In fairness to the government, it is not an easy endeavour to prevent drugs from entering prisons. That is why it is much more important to try to address the issue in a holistic sense.
This legislation would target those who have been granted parole, statutory release, or an unescorted temporary absence. What has to be considered is that a great proportion of the people in federal prison have serious substance abuse problems. They had them before they went in, and sometimes their substance abuse within the institution, sad to say, even with everything that is done, gets worse.
According to the 2011-2012 annual report of the Correctional Investigator, “Almost two-thirds of federal offenders”, keeping in mind that the current population is approximately 15,000, which means an estimated 10,000 offenders are involved, “report being under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants when they committed the offence that led to their incarceration”.
What is more disturbing is that on page 15 of that report, it states that “A very high percentage of the offender population that abuses drugs is also concurrently struggling with mental illness”.
According to evidence provided to the public safety committee by the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, “Upon admission, 80% of offenders have a serious substance abuse problem”. He went on to inform the committee that “anywhere up to 90% of a standing prison population would have a lifetime problem of substance misuse or dependence” and “This dependency does not magically disappear when they arrive at our gates”, meaning at the prison gates.
I quote those statistics because it speaks to the seriousness of the problem. Just presenting a drug-free prison bill to the House is not going to solve the problem in any way. It is much bigger than that.
Because the minister may go out there and say, “Look what I've done”, the government cannot take a bumper sticker approach stating that the minister has said that we will have drug-free prisons. The reality is far from that. How does one invoke a strategy about drugs in prisons, one that will work with offenders to get them off drugs and substances, get them back into society and contributing to it in a positive way to the economy of the country and to raising families, rather than costing over $100,000 a year? The government should be looking at that.
The issue of drug prevalence and use within federal institutions is a complex problem. The Correctional Investigator has acknowledged that the presence of intoxicants and contraband substances is difficult to measure and monitor. While a number of seizures under the interdiction initiatives of the Correctional Service of Canada has increased, there is no way of yet determining if “the service is on top of the problem or simply scratching the surface”.
I will give the minister credit for this. In August, the Minister of Public Safety announced a five-year, $120-million investment into CSC's anti-drug strategy. The investment contained the following four components: expansion of drug detector dog teams, hiring of new security intelligence officers, new detection equipment, and more stringent search standards. According to the Correctional Investigator, the results of these measures, although done with good intent and a heck of a lot stronger intent than this bill, appear mixed and somewhat distorted.
For example, while there has been an increase in the amount of drugs seized, the scope of the problem is difficult to determine. With respect to the results of the random urinalysis tests administered, there has been a decline within institutions. However, after correcting for the removal of prescription drugs, the rate of positive random urinalysis tests has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, despite increased interdiction efforts. Don Head, Commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada, confirmed this conclusion in testimony before the public safety committee in December 2011.
Correctional Service of Canada's current anti-drug strategy, according to the Correctional Investigator, lacks three key elements. I do not see any of these three key elements in this bill, but let us name them. What does the Correctional Investigator claim are the three key elements to deal with an anti-drug strategy within prison? What are they?
First is an integrated link between interdiction and prevention, treatment and harm reduction. Second is a comprehensive public reporting mechanism. Third is a well-defined evaluation, review, and performance plan to measure the effectiveness of investments.
None of that is happening in this bill. What might have been of value prior to Bill C-12 is that these elements would have been addressed by CSC to determine the efficacy of the programs currently in place and upon which Bill C-12 is building.
In my view, it does not bode well that CSC's substance abuse programming budget fell from $11 million in 2008-09 to $9 million in 2010-11. The way to deal with this problem is not by taking money from the very programs that are in effect to deal with the problem itself.
Bill C-12, without the appropriate in-facility measures and assistance, is merely a punitive measure. It may prevent some people from getting out, it will add costs to the system and still, in effect, it will really do nothing about the drug problem at the end of the day.
We will be recommending that the legislation be approved at second reading for further study before committee. I believe there is a lot the government has to answer for in terms of what it has not done to really deal effectively with the drug problems in our prisons.