Cutting prison rehab program reflects Harper government's flawed priorities

National Union sees decision to cut award winning prison rehabilitation program as yet another example of Harper government focusing too much on the punitive aspect of criminal justice and too little on the preventative.

Ottawa (17 April 2012) - The decision by the Correctional Services of Canada (CSC) to cut the award winning LifeLine program, designed to help rehabilitate prisoners and keeping them from re-offending, is being criticized by a wide range of experts and advocates including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

The program has been offering support to inmates in Canadian prisons for more than 20 years.

NUPGE sees the decision as reflecting the Harper government's commitment to flawed "tough on crime" policies as opposed to programs and policies that have been proven to work.

National President James Clancy says that "these tough on crime policies have been shown neither to reduce crime nor make our communities safer. It is a flawed approach that has been discredited wherever it has been tried."

In a statement released by the St. Leonards Society of Canada (SLSC), who delivered the program, the organization says that, "For more than 20 years, life sentenced men and women who have proven their ability to reintegrate successfully have offered support, friendship and counselling to men and women serving long term and life sentences. They have offered hope that there can be life after Life."

"This is a huge loss to effective corrections, and the cuts will affect many hard working and dedicated staff who have committed their time to helping some of the most vulnerable people within Canada`s federal institutions. SLSC will continue to bring updates on how we can continue to serve those in need and how we might move forward with the spirit of LifeLine."

The CSC released a statement claiming the program was not cost-effective. But critics point out that while the CSC's annual budget is $3 billion the cost of the LifeLine program is quite small at only about $2 million a year. Furthermore, only two per cent of the CSC budget is being spent on programming for inmates.

Research by the CSC's own staff reported that inmates in LifeLine were less likely to get into problems while in prison, end up in segregation, and that once released on parole are among least likely to re-offend.

The program is considered so successful that other jurisdictions, most recently Colorado, are looking at implementing something similar.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE