Kingston city council made a commendable decision last Tuesday to approve a new pilot prison work program. Inmates from minimum-security facilities in the Kingston-area will come into the city two days a week to paint over graffiti.
The Whig-Stardard reported that Mayor Mark Gerretsen told city councillors that city workers can’t keep up with widespread graffiti, necessitating extra help. City council has stated that if the project is successful they will be open to expanding the project to other areas.
With the closing of Kingston’s prison farms, interest in creating work programs has been high. Enlisting inmates to paint over graffiti serves a valuable purpose. The program will contribute to inmates’ rehabilitation, arguably the most important goal of the Correctional Services of Canada.
Portsmouth District councillor Liz Schell has suggested the prisoners could receive a reduced sentence for their work. While serving time is an integral part of Correctional Services, the housing of a detainee is costly, making reduced sentences financially prudent.
With the weak local job market, the union representing the city’s workers has voiced opposition to the program. Because of the low skill set required for painting over graffiti, it’s unlikely the prisoners will take jobs from Kingstonians who need them. In fact, inmates will not be learning valuable skills which they can use upon their release—one flaw in this program.
A concern for many is the seeming danger of having inmates out in the city, but given that the prisoners are all from minimum-security facilities, the danger is negligible. Giving inmates the chance to work for the betterment of society and be rewarded for it helps fight the troublesome label they’re often given. “Convict” carries a stigma that fails to take into account an inmate’s identity.
The work program has minor flaws, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
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