Wednesday, September 08, 2010

If Harper Really Wants to Fight Crime

I know this won't be sexy to someone Conrad Black accuses of having a prison fetish but there are better ways to lower Canada's crime rate than building and filling new prisons.

Here's one - cutting illiteracy.  A report from the Canadian Council on Learning warns that rates of low literacy in Canada could increase by 25% by 2031.   What does that have to do with crime?  Plenty.

The U.S. National Assessment of Adult Literacy finds a direct link between literacy and crime rates in America:

85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The [U.S.] Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

Not that Furious Leader ever lets facts get in the way of his rancid ideology but he (and Canada) would be much better off if he relieved his own crushing ignorance by reading books such as The Spirit Level in which the authors, two epidemiologists, present compelling evidence of the links between income inequality (the wealth gap between rich and poor) and a host of expensive and debilitating social ills including crime and punishment, sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancy, even divorce rates.  
Harper would do well to consult Robert Reich and his recent writings on income equality and the role it has played in causing and prolonging the Great Recession in which his America now finds itself trapped.
Unfortunately, Harper wants to lead Canada into the 21st century by reinstating the 18th.  


evilscientist said...

This of course would leave Tories in a quandary. If they improve literacy and education that would reduce crime. Unfortunately increased education also tends to cause people to vote for someone other than the Conservatives.

Oh the dilemma....

Beijing York said...

I've just spent sometime researching best practices in workforce entry strategies for low income families as published by the US Department of Labor and employment/retention programs for ex-convicts published by the US Department of Justice. In both situations, a key component is providing upgrading training for essential skills as well as engaging family and community in providing support and encouragement.

I also developed a youth intervention program with the goal of reducing crime through positive reinforcement of relationships between students, parents, schools and community leaders. It uses proven models that equate increased academic engagement and performance with decreased crime and substance abuse.

Many youth intervention programs rely on recreation as a way to keep kids safe and out of gangs but that really is only one component and often a band-aid approach to dealing with systemic poverty that leads to crime.