11.07.2019 in Law

Penitentiary System in Canada

The genesis of the penitentiary system in Canada can be said to have started long time ago but took effect in the 1980s. The prisons needed massive overhaul and it took the effort of government arms the will of civilians. Battering of prisoners that were instituted by the barbaric laws of Canada’s colonies and the need to adopt humane disciplinary measures were inevitable. “Empirical data from an extensive follow-up study of the Canadian program is presented as evidence of the potential success using these kinds of approaches.” (1). Legal measures have successfully weeded out mutilation, death sentences and whipping.  In the prison, inmates were classified depending on crimes committed and they were separated by cells. In this essay, we are going to look at the penitentiary system pattern of rehabilitation as instigated by privatization of the sector and the advantages and disadvantages of the system in a bid to come up with recommendations.

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“The penitentiary system in the proper acceptation of the word, relates only to individuals condemned and subjected to the punishment of imprisonment for the expiation of their crime,” (2). In a wider sense, the system confines all people that are arrested either before court rulings or after rulings. Hence the system entails putting suspects and those indicted for committing crimes under confinements, for instance, in state prisons, house arrests and other types of prisons.  The penitentiary system is a debatable issue in Canada. There are those people who are caught in the philosophical reveries and think the system is a necessity to offer philanthropy. This group of people believes that it is possible to bring back to virtues hard core criminals who are taken to confinement in the penitentiary system. With time it would therefore be possible to rehabilitate the whole society till that time when there will be no prisoners and the justice system will have no criminal offenders to prosecute. On the other hand, there are those who think the establishment of penitentiary system is the root cause of evil deeds in the society. This group argues that philanthropy has developed as a profession and everybody is preoccupied with how to make the correction sector more lucrative. In this line of thought, the system exists because there will always be criminals in the society. The need to suit the demand of the two groups mentioned above call for development of a pattern that is adoptable in the penitentiary system. One of the patterns that have been adopted is privatization of the discipline sector to instill rehabilitation of inmates. 

Management of Penitentiary System by Private Sectors

Prison services basically require formidable and justifiable means of management so as to institute discipline in the society. The running of penitentiary systems have been the responsibility of government as bestowed to them by civilians. As a result, the government has been the sole provider of policies to govern the system via empowering various bodies to run it. However, in the recent times, privatization of institutions to run the system has taken effect. This has called for the legal harmonization of rules governing penitentiary systems with the aim of providing guidelines to run the prison sector. Privatization of the sector has brought in new strategies of dealing with crime other than the usual punishment as a strategy for correcting criminal offenders. Privatization has brought in the concept of economic gain from incarceration of criminals. The new pattern aims at rectifying the loop holes that were created by conventional method of public prisons. “At present Canada’s prison system is administered by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), with its headquarters in Ottawa. As of 2000 these 11 institutions held 755 prisoners, a rate of 178 per 100000 of the national population.” (3).

Pros and Cons of Privatization of Penitentiary System

The first advantage of privatization of penitentiary system is that it has led to massive cost reduction in running the system. In order to curb the ever increasing crime rate, cost of curbing the vice has continued to rise. Also, through privatization, the associated cost of running the system would not come from tax revenue collected from the public. This either lessens the tax burden on civilian or means that the monetary allocation intended for the prison services can be redirected to other development sectors. Colorado Commission on Privatization (1997); and Treasury Board of Canada (1997) developed policies that ensured privatization of the prison cut the cost of running penitentiary system by a massive 70%. The massive cuts resulted from salary and benefit’s reduction of prison employees. (4). This concept will go a long way in waste reduction and high productivity rate in order for private management to remain competitive and sustainable. Despite activists’ claims that privately run institutions will lead to poor services resulting from cost cutting measure, the author asserts that interviews with inmates and prison staffs reveal that they are satisfied with privately run prisons.

Also, another economic opportunity that can arise through privatization of prison institutions is the fact that they are money driven. This feat will make such firms to indulge in economic activities like manufacturing whose manpower is majorly provided by inmates. Prisoners engaged in such activities will raise money and gain work experience that would be beneficial to them once they are back in the public domain. This is the most crucial step in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders because prisoners are given an alternative means of earning a living. Moreover, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) undertaken by private corporations will benefit the surrounding community. The same concept has been applied in the public penitentiaries but the level of success of privately run institutions in this field is unmatched by public institutions. According to CORCAN, a body that is responsible for Correctional Services in Canada, “25% drop in recidivism for those who have taken part in one of their training programs. Lest it be thought that CORCAN is doing this purely out of a sense of social responsibility, it should be noted that they reported revenues of $60 million in 1998.” (5).

Another advantage of privatizing this sector lies in the flexibility of privately managed firms. The world continues to experience development of the various sectors, for instance the ICT sector, and the opportunities created by such avenues can be readily implemented by private institutions. Moreover, privatized firms are sensitive to innovative ideas, flexible promotion, demotion and termination of employees as compared to publicly run institutions. Technological changes that can be adopted by private institution can significantly reduce cases of prison breaks, curbing riots and malpractices witnessed in penitentiaries.   

Privatization of penitentiary system also has its own disadvantages. The prime mover of private deals it to make economic gains in terms of profit. Due to this, other private firms may invest as financial backers to institutions that run prison services. This scenario may create conflict of interest. The purpose of penitentiary system is to provide character rehabilitation and reduce crime rate in the society. Since reduced crime rate is directly proportional to reduced monetary gain by private firms, the firms may therefore produce inmates who will in a way continue to benefit them in terms of installments. Other opponents of privatization of penitentiary system believe that such a move will lead to low biding of potential contractors so as to lure government administration to approve tenders. Upon approval, the firms are bound to either increase their costs to higher figures or run bankrupt after taking responsibility. This condition may put the government in an awkward position in regard to provision of penitentiary services.  When private firms are engaged in under biding, in the real sense, there will be no firm that would raise its fee higher than the profit margin could support without attracting attention of other firms in the competition.

Recommendation for Change to Improve the Privatization of Penitentiary System

In order to rectify condition resulting from reduced cost of privatization, emanating from reduced number of criminal offenders, it will be prudent if non-profit private organizations are selected to run the penitentiary systems. However, no such plans have been considered by the administration for adoption. The fact that such institutions are able to provide privatized services without any aim of making profit, will minimize the potential problems associated with privatization as highlighted in the discussion above.  The other issue synonymous with privatization of penitentiary system is corruption. Critics of the system argue that accountability of the systems can never be made public for scrutiny by government arms. In order to weed out the verdict on accountability, contracting is viable and through this avenue, the government can monitor the activities of contractors and minimize corruption. These contractors must carry out their duties as stipulated in the law and since the government arms are answerable to the public, civilians can act like watchdogs on the issue of accountability. This therefore calls for a responsible political system that will ensure the public have their way in rehabilitation efforts of the private institutions.

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