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Recently the newspapers have had banner headlines, "PM TAKES AIM AT CRIME", Tim Hudak the Progressive Conservative Leader wants to:"MAKE CROOKS WORK."

As they say, bad news sells and makes waves to frighten us into believing that Canada is a bad risky place to live and raise our children. Crime is supposed to be rampant in nearly every city and hamlet in the land.

Stats Canada does not support the theory that we Canadians are in harms way. In Ontario in 2006 we had less then 800 violent crimes for every 100,000 people which when you do the math is less then one percent of the population. Bye the way, the numbers show that Ontario had the lowest crime rate for the third straight year in Canada.

I have lived in the London area all of my life and have never ever felt threatened.

Over the years our crime rate has fallen and yet some of our politicians want to focus on building mega prisons at the outrageous cost of billions of dollars to you the tax payer.

I recently encountered a man in London East who had recently served five years at Warkworth Institution in Campbellford Ontario. He wanted to remind me that the prisoners are no longer offered the chance to learn a useful trade in ie. welding, machine shop. The power that be even closed down prison dairy farm operations that offered the inmates the chance to be employed by the local farmers.

The Federal Government policy is to warehouse the inmates until they are eligible for parole or have served their full time allotments.

I have had the opportunity to spend some time in our jails: they are no longer houses of correction. Elgin Middlesex in London is a maximum security facility where most of those who run afoul of the law await sentencing.

My cell for the day, was A23, which had a concrete bed, toilet, 24/7 night light with no outside window to see the sky. Food was served through a slot in the door. There was no access to tv or computers for the inmates in their cells. There was a common area where the "guests" could access a pay telephone for collect calls to their families. There was a small television set on the wall and a few picnic tables to sit on that were bolted to the floor. Everyone wore a flaming coloured pink jump suit and slippers that had no shoe laces.

There is absolutely no privacy afforded the inmates while the serve their time. Family members can visit the institution to speak to the inmates on a house phone to the prisoners that are enclosed in a glass enclosure.

I spent some time at the Vanier Prison for Women in the Kitchener area and found similar dismal surroundings for women who disobeyed the rules. They faced the dilemma of how to sleep on a bare concrete floor while in isolation with only a blanket for warmth.

The prison common areas are run by the toughest guy on the range who are often times members of biker gangs. As long as it is quiet the guards do not intervene. The first time young inmates learn to keep to themselves and not challenge the rule of the toughs.

I wager that our politicians who think jails are a great solution to societies ills have not taken the opportunity to experience what it is really like to try and survive in a locked down environment.

There are viable alternatives to incarcerating people. Early intervention Murray Faulkner, the former Chief of the London Police Force, taught me pays back ten fold in preventing crime.

The cost of housing an inmate in a Federal Penitentiary Stats Canadaís report in 2007 was $93,000 per year.

Letís compare the cost to provide a college education to our youth. Howard Rundle, President of Fanshawe College recently shared with me an email. "Our government grant is $4,500 per full time quivalent."

When you crunch the numbers our children who graduate from post secondary schools you discover that they are worth $600,000 over their life time to better our society.

Canadians can try and emulate the tough-on-crime agenda that many United States legislators have unsuccessfully tried. We can lock up and throw away the key to freedom and positive change for those in most of need. Or, early intervention for youth who are at risk of offending providing learning opportunities for all of our youth.

You choose.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com