Labour Sentencing >> Advent Policy Brief #11

Incarceration is expensive and ineffective at preventing crime. For non-violent infractions, incarceration is a punishment that in no reasonable way fits the crime. My eleventh Advent Policy Brief intends to advance the narrative of prison abolition by imagining how non-violent criminals could instead be sentenced to minimum wage labour or wage garnishing to the same level, where possible in agricultural labour. 

Canada exploits imports temporary foreign workers (TFWs) through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SWAP) from Mexico and the Caribbean. The conditions of work and life for TFWs has aroused criticism for years, but COVID made those conditions deadly. The risk and administrative costs of SAWP will never fall back to pre-pandemic levels. Importing unspecialized labourers from tropical environments thousands of kilometres away has never made less sense, but the labour demand continues to be unmet by domestic applicants.

Enter labour sentencing. 

Labour sentencing is a suitable repentance for poverty crimes. If you steal bread to feed your kid, getting sentenced to paying job is going to create more social stability than placing the perpetrator in prison and their child into foster care.

Labour sentencing makes sense for white-collar crime too. Fraudsters working fields sounds fair to me, but I acknowledge that some criminals have skill sets too valuable to remove from practice. For example, I don't have a family doctor. I would gladly take one that got caught selling prescriptions or cheating on taxes. It wouldn't make sense to sentence in-demand regulated professionals to unspecialized labour when their qualifications are in demand. In these cases, sentences ought to garnish the perpetrator's wages down to minimum wage for a set period of time. 

I am not suggesting non-violent crimes ought to bear "lighter" consequences. I am suggesting that those consequences should be interrogated and realigned to achieve the greatest public benefit instead.