Recently I was in our local court in which a judge sentenced someone to two weeks in jail for shoplifting a pair of runners costing $39.99. The person charged was unemployed, on social assistance and had a grade eight education. Someone employed at minimum wage could have afforded those shoes after five hours of work. To the convicted person, the cost of stealing $39.99 worth of shoes equals something like two weeks in jail( at the cost to our corrections system) plus at minimum wage potential of the accused at $8.80 per hour x 2weeks x 24hr = $422.40. If you divide the cost to the convicted person by four to subtract sleeping time, housekeeping, self care, grocery shopping and leisure you get a figure of something like $105.60. Still, an expensive pair of shoes. The judge noted in his remarks that he realized the paradox of jailing someone who was poor for something that was a basic necessity, but he noted he had the duty to safeguard the public.
Being poor in this province is a risky business; it has heavy personal and financial costs and I’m not looking for sympathy for the convicted person. I am merely recognizing when the government in Alberta cuts our social programs it is often downloading the cost on our corrections system. My suggestion is that is likely making things significantly worse.
George Jason of Ponoka