There are more women incarcerated at the Clarenville Correctional Centre this year than ever before. In fact, it’s so overcrowded that 14 women have been transferred to the historically all-male prison in St. John’s for a “temporary holdover” of “hopefully one to two months.”

Concerns about the obvious male-female blending dilemma have been alleviated – there’s a total separation of male and female inmates – the real question has been this: why are so many women being incarcerated, if crime rates aren’t increasing in proportion?

Part of the answer is that reoffenders are going right back to the jail they were released from. Jails, as we run them here, do nothing to change how a prisoner acts in society upon their release. If we do nothing to help them reintegrate with the world, we’re just going to keep footing the bill for their jail time upon their re-incarceration.

And now, with women being sent from Clarenville’s jail to the HMP in St. John’s, there will be a new cost associated with the overcrowding: renovations have already begun at the intermittent facility to allow the women their own space, washrooms, kitchenette, etc.

If, for the first time ever, we’re constructing prison overflow facilities for Clarenville’s prison, than something in our system isn’t working. Jenny Wright, the executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council, says overcrowding at the Clarenville Correctional Centre is the result of a serious and seriously ignored addiction problem in the province, which is resulting in petty crimes, and, avoidable re-offences. We lack the services needed to get them the help they need. If we could lower addiction, we could lower drug-related petty crime.

It’s that simple: if someone is committing a crime to score drugs, cure the addiction and you cull the crime. And yet this modern, educated view is met with resistance from a lot of people who roll their eyes at the notion of footing the bill for treating addicts – why should their problems be our burden? If you’re one of them, look at it this way: it’s not about empathy, it’s about the bottom line. If we don’t treat addicts who’d commit a crime to score drugs, they’ll become criminals whose jailtime is funded by your tax dollars. The more prisoners in our prisons, the more of your tax dollars go to jails, of all places.

Wouldn’t you rather your tax dollars fund addiction services, to create a healthier province, with less petty crime? Consider also the fact that, in the long run, addiction treatment for a person is quicker and cheaper than incarceration. Not to mention a more direct solution.

Why we’re all just crossing our fingers and hoping the overcrowded jail is a temporary issue is in fact baffling, and certainly, denial is the Newfoundland way. We still think the oil  money will always be there. Or council will come around on budget 2016.

We citizens need to stand up and push for change. It’s our tax money the province operates on, after all, whether they’re investing that in jails or addiction services is up to us voters.