Senator's comment distracts from issue

Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu stirred up controversy when he said that prisoners convicted of murder should be given the tools to commit suicide.

“Each assassin should have the right to a rope in his cell to make a decision about his or her life,” he said, according to a Feb. 2 Globe and Mail article.

While a public official like Boisvenu shouldn’t contradict Canadian law or common sense, his views are the result of a tragic past. Boisvenu’s daughter was abducted, raped and murdered by a repeat offender in 2002. His harsh perspective on prisoners is undoubtedly influenced by this experience.

Boisvenu argues that fewer prisoners would mean cost savings. But if finances are a concern, then more attention should be given to omnibus crime bill C-10 than to facilitating suicide.

Bill C-10 — which includes a number of new mandatory minimum sentences and increased jail time for certain drug offences — was passed by the Conservative majority in the House of Commons on Dec. 5.

Incarcerating a prisoner in a maximum-security prison costs upwards of $100,000 annually, compared to roughly $70,000 in medium- and minimum-security prisons. Bill C-10, now undergoing revision in the Senate, could drastically increase the number of people who serve time for their offences.

The Canadian Bar Association has publicly critiqued the bill, claiming that it favours incarceration over rehabilitation and reintegration.

Quebec Justice Minister, Jean-Marc Fournier announced that the province is refusing to pay for the costs of Bill C-10, which could add up to $600 million. Ontario’s Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur said the province is demanding that the federal government foot the costs of Bill C-10, which could add up to $1 billion.

Prison’s primary goal should be to rehabilitate criminals and ensure that they never again commit the crimes that put them in jail. Giving prisoners a rope is an implausible proposition. Upon being incarcerated, prisoners are stripped of anything that could be used as a weapon against a guard, fellow inmate or themselves. Boisvenu made an insensitive remark that skirts a real issue.

With the nationwide cost of incarceration totaling in the billions, it’s Bill C-10 that should be up for debate.

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