Are we really soft on crime?

The Tories prefer tough talk to hard proof on punishment

Are we really soft on crime?The federal Department of Justice boasts Canada’s biggest concentration of legal brainpower. Of its roughly 4,300 employees, about half are lawyers, and its policy branch alone employs about 200 bureaucrats. Not surprisingly, the department has a long history of producing sophisticated policy papers and commissioning probing research on crime and punishment. So as the Conservative government continues this fall to roll out its long series of tough-on-crime initiatives built around mandatory minimum penalties for a raft of offences—from gun crime to big-time fraud—it would be reasonable to expect a thick stack of Justice studies explaining why dictating longer prison terms is the way to go.

But Justice Minister Rob Nicholson doesn’t offer up any departmental research at all to support the Tories’ major law-and-order thrust. Nor does Nicholson rely on reports by independent experts to buttress his case for telling judges how long they must lock up criminals for a slew of offences. Instead, in response to requests from Maclean’s for any analysis or data justifying the new minimum sentences, his office produced a 1,000-word memo explaining the policy. It candidly admits that research doesn’t offer persuasive evidence that mandatory minimum penalties, called MMPs for short, reduce crime. “In our opinion,” it says, “the studies are inconclusive particularly with respect to the main debate: do MMPs deter crime?”

If they can’t be shown to act as a deterrent, why put MMPs at the core of the government’s high-profile anti-crime push? Nicholson offers a list of seven other reasons. Some are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the government’s relentless tough-on-crime messaging, like the goal of ensuring that criminals “spend a minimum amount of time in custody to receive the treatment and rehabilitation they need.” The memo also cites the aim of keeping criminals behind bars long enough to disrupt their gangs. But the top reasons on Nicholson’s list have to do, not with actually fighting crime, but with assuaging the anger of law-abiding citizens who believe the system coddles the bad guys.

The top item on Nicholson’s seven-point list: “ensure victims feel that justice has been rendered.” And the second: “ensure that the amount of time served is proportional to the gravity of the offence.” It’s these linked objectives that clearly stand at the centre of the government’s MMP policy. They combine into an undeniably powerful argument: if judges refuse to hand down sentences that fit the crime, then victims will feel doubly victimized and society understandably outraged, leaving the government little choice but to legislate longer prison time.

This seemingly irrefutable line of reasoning, however, rests on the premise that the government knows sentences now being handed down by the courts are too light. In fact, they often haven’t bothered to collect that information. Nicholson’s office and his departmental officials admit they have not compiled statistics on typical sentences in convictions for most of the crimes they’ve targeted for MMPs. And it’s not always clear the new minimum terms will be any tougher than the sentences often imposed up to now. For instance, the government announced last month, with much fanfare, that fraudsters who net more than $1 million will face at least two years in prison under a new MPP. According to some experts, that’s low. Vancouver lawyer Eric Gottardi, who chairs the Canadian Bar Association’s criminal law subsection in his city, says that when a white-collar criminal in an authority position is convicted of major fraud, the “quite settled” pattern is for the judge to hand down “a sentence in the range of three to five years in prison.” And the penalties can be much tougher in extreme cases, like the crooked financial adviser convicted in a recent high-profile Montréal case, Vincent Lacroix, who was sentenced to 13 years.

Statistics on gun crime are particularly murky, since firearms offences often occur in combination with other crimes, like drug dealing or robbery. The government’s Tackling Violent Crime Act dictates at least a five-year sentence on the first offence and seven years on subsequent convictions for using a gun in the most serious crimes, like attempted murder or hostage-taking. But will that really translate into significantly stiffer penalties? For 2005-’06, the latest Statistics Canada figures available, the average prison term for all firearm-related violent crimes—including many offences less serious than the ones targeted by the new mandatory minimums—was just over four years, about double the typical sentence for the same crimes committed without a gun.

The government’s refusal to present detailed evidence of soft sentences to justify imposing minimums makes this a debate more about impressions than facts. That frustrates criminologists who argue that the research, by and large, doesn’t show much measurable benefit from MMPs. Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd says mandatory minimums might be justified, but only if they were more narrowly targeted. Rather than the government’s proposed two-year minimum for anyone convicted of growing 500 or more marijuana plants, he suggests “smart and focused” tougher sentencing only for those who use guns, set spring-traps or endanger children in running a grow op. Boyd slams the broad application of MMPs by the Tories as “not tough on crime, but stupid on crime.”

That’s exactly the sort of exasperated expert reaction Conservative strategists welcome. Ian Brodie, the former university political science professor who served as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008, explained why in an unusually candid talk on Conservative strategy last spring at McGill University in Montreal. “Every time we proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, sociologists, criminologists, defence lawyers and Liberals attacked us for proposing measures that the evidence apparently showed did not work,” Brodie said. “That was a good thing for us politically, in that sociologists, criminologists and defence lawyers were and are all held in lower repute than Conservative politicians by the voting public. Politically it helped us tremendously to be attacked by this coalition of university types.”

The popularity of any policy sold as a crackdown on crime is a given around Parliament Hill. As a result, Liberals show little interest in pushing back against the Conservatives’ law-and-order agenda. Some NDP MPs, including Libby Davies and Megan Leslie, have been more willing to challenge Nicholson. When he appeared before the House justice committee last spring, Davies repeatedly pressed him for evidence that MMPs work. He didn’t offer any. “We have the mandate of the Canadian people,” Nicholson answered, “and they have told us that this is what they want to see us move on.”

The policy extends beyond mandatory minimums to other measures aimed at locking up criminals for longer. Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, Nicholson’s partner in combatting crime, recently announced a range of measures to make it harder for prisoners to get parole. Under a program introduced in 1992, non-violent, first-time offenders often qualified for parole after serving only one-sixth of their sentence. Van Loan is ending that practice, along with the routine granting of full parole when prisoners have served one-third of their time. He estimates the move to make it harder to qualify for parole will cost $60 million a year to pay for keeping non-violent criminals behind bars longer.

Like mandatory minimums, the tougher parole rules play on the public fear that criminals will return to crime soon after they’re let out. It happens, of course, and sometimes with tragic and highly publicized results. But statistics suggest only a tiny minority of offenders commit new crimes while on parole. Correctional Services Canada, part of Van Loan’s department, says 1.3 per cent of federal offenders were charged with another violent offence while they were out in the community under some form of supervision in 2006-’07. After serving their entire sentence, about six per cent of violent offenders are convicted of another violent crime within two years, just under 10 per cent within five years. About the same proportion of non-violent offenders—one released prisoner in 10—are convicted for another non-violent crime within five years.

Dry data of this sort doesn’t make it into speeches by Nicholson and Van Loan. It’s only fodder for discussion among those “university types” disdained by a government that asserts, when it comes to crime, a higher “mandate of the Canadian people.” A more thoughtful debate might include a discussion about how to identify that minority of convicted criminals most likely to reoffend, rather than lengthening time behind bars for broad categories of prisoners. It might seek to first establish a clear understanding of what sorts of sentences judges are actually handing down, before prescribing mandatory minimums as an all-purpose solution. As it stands, Canadians are hearing plenty of the tough-on-crime rhetoric they clearly crave, but not much about evidence-based policy thinking to back it up.




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Are we really soft on crime?

  1. Uplifting to see such a clear and rational critique of this government's visceral approach to law and order. Yet in the same breath, so utterly depressing to realize that most Canadians seem to prefer the lynch mob approach these days.

    We're choosing vengence over safety. Which would be bad enough, if we weren't kidding ourselves into thinking the former can ensure the latter.

    • The article was about a lack of evidence.

      If there is no evidence we cannot conclude whether this works or does not work.

      For all we know maybe this WILL have a good impact…

      • " Instead, in response to requests from Maclean's for any analysis or data justifying the new minimum sentences, his office produced a 1,000-word memo explaining the policy. It candidly admits that research doesn't offer persuasive evidence that mandatory minimum penalties, called MMPs for short, reduce crime. “In our opinion,” it says, “the studies are inconclusive particularly with respect to the main debate: do MMPs deter crime"
        And
        "This seemingly irrefutable line of reasoning, however, rests on the premise that the government knows sentences now being handed down by the courts are too light. In fact, they often haven't bothered to collect that information. Nicholson's office and his departmental officials admit they have not compiled statistics on typical sentences in convictions for most of the crimes they've targeted for MMPs"

        Not what the aticle says at all. Try reading it with your fingers uncrossed.

      • What part of "1.3 per cent of federal offenders were charged with another violent offence while they were out in the community under some form of supervision in 2006-'07" compared to "After serving their entire sentence, about six per cent of violent offenders are convicted of another violent crime within two years, just under 10 per cent within five years. About the same proportion of non-violent offenders—one released prisoner in 10—are convicted for another non-violent crime within five years," is difficult to understand?

        Here, perhaps you need it boiled down further.
        About 1 in 100 commit crimes on parole
        About 1 in 10 commit crimes after serving their full sentence.

        It's really pretty simple. The longer you pull someone out of society, the harder time they're going to have adapting to it when they get put back in. Those frustrations coupled with poor coping skills and possibly violent tendancies, it shouldn't be at all surprising what the result is.

        • I'm just trying to clarify theories and facts……..

          I follow your reasoning wrt the longer you pull someone out of society, the harder time they're going to have adapting to it when they get put back in, but strictly speaking those numbers only show correlation, no?

          Isn't it also possible that the parole process actually does a reasonably good job of identifying offenders who can safely be paroled (the 1 in 100 reoffending group) vs those who are a larger risk (the 1 in 10 group)?

          Are you aware of studies that prove that longtime incarceration causes a higher reoffence rate? Thanks.

          • Y'know there's an interesting phenomenon that I have only observed in practice rather than seen reported in the press. We keep hearing about the harmful effects of long sentences mentally, but we never seem to consider the practical, short term effects of being in jail, even just a few months as you await trial. If you can't make bail, even if you get released without a conviction or time served, you are going to be in long enough to lose your job. Probably your place, which you're probably renting, and you probably couldn't get in touch with your landlord so he probably took your stuff and sold it or put it on the street. There's a 7 in 12 chance it won't be warm enough to sleep outside the night you get out. And if you just got out after a conviction, poof! now you've got a criminal record to go along with the clothes on your back and not much else. Frankly, I'm surprised recidivism isn't higher.

            So while it's useful to study the long term effects of long term incarceration, the practical effects of short term stays shouldn't be overlooked. Although it might offend some people's sensibilities, we're actually safer in the long run when we make it easier to get bail, do temporary absence programs to serve time, and have house arrests.

          • Please suggest some sort of methodology that would prove a causal link. Being as whether someone offends is based on very subjective factors, you can't even ask prisoners because they have no way to compare whether they would not have re-offended had they been in for a lesser amount of time.

            So I think the best we can do is show a high degree of correlation.

            "I saw the lone car coming down the road from my window. As I went downstairs I heard the screech of tires and a person scream. When I ran outside I saw a person in the road who had been run over and the car speeding away. However, since I didn't actually see the person get hit, I can't draw a causal connection so I guess there's no proof here."

          • A plausible alternate causation explanation for the observed correlation is that (in general) parole boards do a good job of identifying which offenders can be safely be released early versus offenders who are more likely to reoffend.

            Not totally sure how to prove that theory over other theories, although a review of the parole board documentation might be helpful, especially files related to early release offenders who did reoffend within a given time period – was there more concern about releasing them early – compared to those who did not reoffend in the same time period.

            Btw, I've reread the paragraph in the article that lists the percentages, and they get murkier each time:
            - the 1.3% reoffend rate refers to 2006-07: is that a single 'budget' year or a true two year period?
            - the 6% reoffend rate after release is within 2 years, so 3% per year
            - the 10% reoffend rate after release is within 5 years, so 2% per year
            all of which makes me wonder whether the difference is somewhat less significant than the 10 to 1 ratio?

            My bottom line is that I'm actually not a fan of 'the latest batch of Tough On Crime' initiatives, mostly because I suspect that those efforts tend to lessen whatever effort we currently put into preparing the offenders (and society) for their eventual release. I asked you about studies that might prove a link between reoffend rates and time in jail because I find questioning my own assumptions helps me acquire a better understanding of issues, and for me this is an issue that is not so clear.

    • I was going to quibble with choosing vengeance over safety, where I initially took over to mean that as we increase the "quantity" of vengeance we would actually lose ground wrt actual public safety, but then I deduced that you are not actually making that claim.

      So now I'm just left wondering if you would accept that any (or all) of the Tough On Crime measures from the last few years could possibly have even a slightly positive effect on increasing actual (not perceived) public safety. If so, I suppose that we are left to make the case that we are simply not getting a lot of safety "value" for our vengeance "dollar".

      • I think the elimination of two-for-one pre-sentencing credit was a good move, because there was solid evidence that it was exploited by defence lawyers.

  2. "it would be reasonable to expect a thick stack of Justice studies explaining why dictating longer prison terms is the way to go"

    Justice is more to do with morals than studies so I think it is unreasonable for us to be employing 200 lawyers to write twaddle.

    "It candidly admits that research doesn't offer persuasive evidence that mandatory minimum penalties, called MMPs for short, reduce crime."

    This isn't difficult, really. Criminals commit crimes. Criminals in jail can't commit more crimes so crime is reduced. I agree tho that they probably don't deter any of these half wits.

    • Indeed. Providing evidence that shows that listening to criminologists in the 60s (by introducing more liberal justice policies) has caused the crime rate to skyrocket would be very helpful to the debate.

    • You are a perfect example of why this article works. Do some reading before you make wide assumptions that "crime rate has skyrocketed since we started listening to criminologists in the 60s". Crime rates were increasing in the 60's through the 80's and have been on a steady decline since.

      Here's an article you should read. http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story….

      And here's a quote from the article to refute your ridiculous assumptions. "Statistics Canada says the national crime rate rose throughout most of the 1960s, '70s and '80s but declined during the '90s and has remained relatively stable since 1999."

      • I have done some reading, clearly you haven't. All measures of crime have increased substantially since we started listening to criminologists and their half baked theories on gaol and how it does not work.

        Crimes are increasing but reporting of crimes is falling because people no longer have faith in justice system and this is evidence that everything is rosy?

        "Every five years, Statistics Canada conducts the General Social Survey. It asks a representative sample of Canadians, among other things, whether they have been crime victims.

        From the last survey in 2004 (the next one is being conducted now, with the findings to be released next year) Statistics Canada reached the following conclusions.

        First, progressively fewer Canadians who are crime victims are reporting the crime to police — only 34% in 2004, compared to 37% in 1999.

        Second, based on the GSS, an estimated 92% of sexual assaults were never reported to police, 46% of break-ins, 51% of motor vehicle/parts thefts, 61% of physical assaults and 54% of robberies." The Sun, Oct 22 '09

    • I agree tho that they probably don't deter any of these half wits.

      Then why are you willing to waste more money than was wasted on the gun registry on policies you concede won't work.

      • Depends on your definition of 'work'.

        I think the main three aims of jail are – punishment of criminals, stop criminals from committing more crimes and to provide justice to victims and their families. Putting criminals in jail fulfills all three goals.

        Criminologists on the other hand seem to think aims of jail are – deterrence and rehabilitation. I agree that threat of jail does not seem to deter much crime and criminals are certainly not being rehabilitated.

        • Really, and here I thought the main goal of jail would be to increase the security of society.

          Punishment of criminals is exactly the opposite of that, since it creates an "us vs them" attitude in a population that is already unstable. And in fact it DOESN'T stop them from committing more crimes, it just delays commission of crimes. What's worse, if you look at the recidivism rates combined with type of crime, people who come out of jail tend to be *more* violent than when they went in. So it doesn't prevent, and it makes the crimes they do commit worse. It's essentially violence training school.

          Brilliant.

          • For interests sake, the actual goals of the prison system are defined as protection of society, deterrence (of the person specifically and society and general), and rehabilitation.

        • Well that settles it. Why don't we elect jolyon, since he already knows everything.

    • Believing crime rates have skyrocketed since the 60's is unreasonable because it is, in fact, wrong. But facts are no issue for conservatives because this is such a simple common sense issue. We all know that "bad guys" commit crimes, so while we're at it, why don't we simplify the issue and just remove criminals' constitutional rights? Would that satisfy you?

      • "Believing crime rates have skyrocketed since the 60's is unreasonable because it is, in fact, wrong."

        Have a look at the handy chart statscan has provided for us and tell me again how crime has not increased substantially since 1962.

        http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/070718/d

        I don't want anyone's constitutional rights removed. What would satisfy me is if we put criminals in jail and not leave them on the streets to commit even more crimes.

        • I'll bite. I can't find anything in those charts to suggest crime is skyrocketing.

          • Maybe we disagree on definition of skyrocketing because crime has increased substantially since the 1960s. Or maybe you are looking at chart upside down and think crime is on decrease like others claim. Criminologists and their hug-a-hooligan ideas have led to increase in crime and a decrease in people's faith in the justice system.

            Canadian criminologists slogan should be 'yes our policies have led to substantial increase in crime but at least our criminals don't have self esteem issues!'

          • You realize you're ranting at this point, don't you?

            Who are these criminologists you keep talking about, anyway?

          • "You realize you're ranting at this point, don't you? "

            Seriously …. that's the best you can come up with? I am not even remotely close to ranting.

            If you read the article you would know at least one criminologist I am referring to. Look up Neil Boyd and how he's all about deterrence and rehabilitation but has very little to say about justice for victims or locking up prisoners because they have broken the social contract.

            It really is not difficult to find all sorts of examples of quackery like Boyd is peddling if you care to look. Why can't people educate themselves instead of relying on others to do it for them?

          • It may by you who's reading the chart upside down, it's clearly evident that crime is on the decrease since the mid 80's-early 90's.

          • "Every five years, Statistics Canada conducts the General Social Survey. It asks a representative sample of Canadians, among other things, whether they have been crime victims.

            From the last survey in 2004 (the next one is being conducted now, with the findings to be released next year) Statistics Canada reached the following conclusions.

            First, progressively fewer Canadians who are crime victims are reporting the crime to police — only 34% in 2004, compared to 37% in 1999." The Sun, Oct 22 '09

            It is not remotely evident that crime is on the decrease. What is on the decrease is people reporting crimes, they have lost faith in justice system to do anything. Why do you think poll after poll finds that people are deeply unhappy with justice system as it is now.

  3. "This seemingly irrefutable line of reasoning, however, rests on the premise that the government knows sentences now being handed down by the courts are too light."

    They are too light, this is not a surprise to anyone who follows the news.

    To take just one example, and there are hundreds if you care to search, take a look at David Chen Wang in Toronto. Law abiding citizen in toronto has his shop robbed by habitual criminal. Wang apprehends thief, ties him up and puts him in back of truck, cops come and arrest both men. Crook cuts a deal with prosecutors to testify against Wang.

    This is the system that criminologists claim works. Putting criminals in jail apparently doesn't work because they are not transformed into suburban dads who putter in their gardens on the weekends. So its better to leave them on the streets to commit even more crime.

    • Jolyon… relatively recent update on that case. 2 of the 4 charges have been dropped again Mr. Wang.

      http://www.metronews.ca/toronto/local/article/359

      One of the issues here is that Mr.Wang apparently did not actually apprehend the 'habitual criminal' in the act of stealing so the arrest was not deemed legal, which in turn led to the charges against him (assault, forcible confinement). I personally am more likely to side with Mr.Wang in this case, although the police walk a fine line as they cannot be seen to condone vigilante behaviour. If they did and it led to a similar situation where the shopkeeper was harmed or worse, killed it would put the police in an even more precarious situation.

      Although I do not appreciate the fact that this criminal was given a lighter sentence for testifying (30 days as opposed to 90 days) this example does not articulate your point as clearly as I think you would like it to. This case involves a 'habitual criminal' who is a known crack addict. Whether he had been given 30 day, 90 days or a year in jail I have little faith it would deter him from similar acts in the future.

      • "Whether he had been given 30 day, 90 days or a year in jail I have little faith it would deter him from similar acts in the future."

        I agree that threat of jail is not likely to deter crook in the future but if he was in jail where he should be Wang would not have to be a vigilante, nor would thief be on the streets committing more crimes.

        • So the crime you want the government to get tough on is shop-lifting? Please.

          • No, what he wants is for permanent welfare to be provided to criminals of all stripes, and, I expect, no welfare provided to those who haven't committed a crime.

    • ‘They are too light, this is not a surprise to anyone who follows the news.”

      Well that’s a relief. i was starting to think most of your social theory’s came out of a fortune cookie.

    • Um, excuse me, but David Chen Wang kidnapped a person and held them unlawfully (allegedly). That stuff's criminal, man, a far sight worse than shoplifting, and if he's convicted of it, he's going to jail. For how long? Well, he DID kidnap person and hold them unlawfully. That's pretty serious business, after all.
      'Extenuating circumstances,' you say? BAW, isn't that just too bad for him in a land where minimum sentences are the order of the day because the government, with no evidence on offer, decides it knows how to sentence criminals better than the judges who oversee their trials? Don't you think he should have thought about that before he committed the crime (allegedly)?

  4. See? Just mention the word crime and a slew of blind fools emerge from the woodwork. Hmpf! I read the Sun editorials! I know someone who knew someone who was invovled in a crime! I don't need no informed people to jerk this here knee of mine!

    • "a slew of blind fools emerge from the woodwork"

      Don't be so hard on yourself.

  5. “ensure victims feel that justice has been rendered.” The Tories are pandering to their visceral, myopic, punishment-fetishist voter base. These "old-fashioned" types – not known for the intelligence or critical thinking – like to do things from "the gut", and don't abide all that long-hair book-learnin' egghead stuff about "facts" and "science" which they simply don;t understand. "Spare the rod, spoil the child." is their motto.

    But the tories' policy is even more sinister than that; they know, for example, that imposing mandatory minimum jail sentences for growing as few as six marijuana plants will cause crime to increase, and this is exactly what they want. Why? Because when the "mom and pop" pot-growers, who present direct market competition to the gang growers, find out that they are facing actual time for growing, they will drop out of the game. This leaves more business fore the gangsters. This will cause more crime, and more gun violence, which future governments will use as justification for even more draconian laws, more cops with bigger budgets and broader powers, and more jails. This policy has been tremendously profitable for a handful of people in the US.

    But rather than give Canadians $3 billion in annual tax revenue from marijuana regulation, the tories would rather take an additional $3 billion per year away from Canadians to build more jails and fill them with people who grew plants that could have generated tax revenue. And Canadians – being the media-addled nincompoops that they are – accept it as necessary.

    Russell Barth
    Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana User
    Patients Against Ignorance and Discrimination on Cannabis
    (PAIDOC)http://www.paidoc.org

  6. The Conservatives seem to love to paint themselves as tough on crime. I'm not sure whether it's because this is a good way to capture swing votes, or whether they are following their own instincts. Not being a conservative myself, I find that I don't always understand how conservatives think.

    But the following quotation seems relevant here – I'm not sure whether it's from Goethe or Nietzsche: "Distrust all those in whom the urge to punish is strong."

  7. So let's re-cap: the Tories plan tough-on-crime legislation which offers sentences that are no different, and in some cases lighter, than what is currentl laid down. It's not based on any evidence that crime is actually increasing. And there's nothing that will lead us to believe that this legislation will actually help public safety. Wow, the conservative three-fer.

    Joylon: "They are too light, this is not a surprise to anyone who follows the news." The "news" is not evidence. We had 46 murders in Toronto this year, 46! And we're already in November. There's barely any crime left to get tough on.

  8. “That was a good thing for us politically, in that sociologists, criminologists and defence lawyers were and are all held in lower repute than Conservative politicians by the voting public. Politically it helped us tremendously to be attacked by this coalition of university types.”

    “We have the mandate of the Canadian people,”

    Bring on the Dictatorship of the Proletariat !! Bring on the Gulags!! Down with the Bourgeoisie!! Bring on the Blue Guard!!

    Okay, so I'm a little prone to hyperbole. But I'm university-educated, so I guess that must mean I'm not Canadian or I'm not people. Or not figuring all this out.

  9. You gotta wonder how many of the good people (mostly ambulance chasers) administering our mickey mouse 'justice' system were hired during the years and years of Fiberal rule. You just KNOW what their findings will be. Fifteen years (faint hope, snuck in during the dark of night by the Fiberals) for taking anothers life is proposterous. Yet, the left will tell you that is fair. Yea, right.

    • I think i’ll take my chances with an imperfect justice system rather than with someone like you who just ” KNOWS” something!

    • "Fifteen years (faint hope, snuck in during the dark of night by the Fiberals) for taking anothers life is proposterous."

      We can only dream about someone taking another person's life receiving fifteen years. Just one example, and there are dozens:

      "The family of a young plumbing apprentice attacked with a knife as he rode the subway home from work is expressing outrage at his killer's sentence.

      "Ten years is a slap on the wrist," said Nick Brown's aunt, Sylvia Aguanno, yesterday. "What kind of message does this send out?"

      Ontario Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk called the slaying a random, unprovoked attack on an unarmed stranger "peacefully riding a TTC subway train, minding his own business."

      But in sentencing John Paul Vallon to 10 years – less four years and four months for pre-trial credit – the judge noted that he has no criminal record and a good work history." TorStar, June 25 '09

    • Judge Begbie, I agree with you. But, I'm sure you are well aware there is nothing in the Universe more self righteous than a Left Wing Canadian! Relax! They have it all under control! They are better than everybody else…remember?…the "Natural Governing Party"?

  10. The sentences will probably not change one iota since the lawyers and judges who administer the already strained justice system will adjust their plea bargains (arrived at in most of the cases) to take mandatory sentencing into account. The easiest way to do that is to reduce the charge to a lesser offense.

  11. Yikes hold on there pot boys!
    I think its fair to say that most Canadians do not believe that the consumption of Marijuana is a crime. This should eventually lead to legalizing the substance and get this the stupid topic away from the real problems that John Geddes is writing about. (ya ya the US/conservative establishment won't let it happen, blah blah blah)
    Rapists, Murderers, Violent Assaults with a weapon these the crimes that Canadians are pissed off with. These are the crimes that create victims. It is the duty of our judicial system to ensure that when these crimes occur the individual who perpetrated the crime is never allowed to do it again. I personally do not care if the "University studies show" that locking up violent offenders doesn't affect the crime rate. Canadians don't want violent offenders on our streets period. If the crime rate for violent offences doesn't change and our judges are actually locking the offenders up for a long time then its not a problem with our judicial system. Where are these violent offenders coming from. Immagration, violent homes, gangs etc. These are the questions we should focus on.
    What's the point of focusing on the root causes if we can't clean up the mess of violent offenders that our out there first.
    As for drug addicts and mentally ill, the treatment centres need to come back. The 1980's feel good society has failed, the mentally ill need treatment in facilities, not unleashed into our unforgiving society to fight with the wolves.
    This one idea alone would eliminate over half of all the minor repeat offenders out there instantly. Get the crack fiends away from my business, home, car and possessions.
    Yes I said it! I am in Vancouver and we know that the mentally ill are the chronic drug users. Hey kick me out into the street with no education, job training, and basic no how with only 400$ a month and I'll bet i'd be smoking the crack and busting your car windows for my habit too.

    • Yes, you probably would. The only topic you made sense on was "clean up the mess of violent offenders that are out there first. " It seems violence, to you, is more criminal than other crimes. I don't know why you think this. Someone is violent at a corner store and kills someone – send him to jail for life. Someone is stealing from an elderly person – send him to jail for 25yrs. Someone burglars a home and takes hostages – send him to jail for life. Start making long sentences and never parole. Let the victims visit the perp and if the victim wants revenge, bring along a similar weapon and be able to use it under controlled circumstances. Watch the face of the perp when this happens Ha Ha JUSTICE ONCE AND FOR ALL

  12. Recidivism the Facts.
    As reported by: The US Bureau of Justice Statistics.
    Recidivism of prisoners released in 1983.
    The older the prisoner the lower the rate of recidivism.
    Keep them in jail until they are old.
    Prisoners that served more than five years had a lower rate of recidivism.
    Make them serve long terms.
    The more extensive the record of the convict the higher the rate of recidivism.
    Put them in jail sooner not later.
    A politically incorrect fact: Blacks and Hispanics had a higher rate of recidivism.
    Last but not least, everything that the Lefty/Liberals tell you is BS.

    • Firstly, keeping people in jail is expensive, both because of the cost to taxpayers and the opportunity cost of that person not working, there is a flipside to long sentences. Secondly, this assumes that the rate of recidivism cannot be changed by prison policy – an assumption not shared by most people on the left.

      •  IntenseDebate Notification <DIV>So you suggest that we should let people out because jail is expensive?</DIV> <DIV>You must be a Liberal!</DIV> <DIV style=”FONT: 10pt arial”>

  13. Finally an article that exposes "the tough on crime agenda" for what it is, pandering to the misconceptions of the general public. Most of the people who commit crimes will eventually be released. I am more concerned with setting up a criminal justice system that will help offenders to be successful on their release rather than focusing on punishment designed to ensure their failure. As for first offences, in all but the most serious of crimes the focus should be on keeping individuals out of prison. For most, just going through the justice system is enough of a deterent. On the fiscal side, I would vote conservative–their social policies prevent me from doing so.

  14. Violent crime is up 321% above what it was in 1962.
    Property crime is up 62% above what it was in 1962.
    The overall crime rate is up 137% above what it was in 1962.
    Fewer Canadians report crimes, only 34% of victims reported crime in 2004 compared to 37% in 1999.
    The reported crime rate excludes federal drug offenses.
    There is more I could go on and on.
    Clearly the soft on crime approach only benefits CRIMINALS, LAWYERS AND JUDGES.
    See my post above fot the solution.
    Tell your MP and PM.

    • Of course there will be more crimes, the population has increased dramatically since 1962. Here's stats Canada homicide figures for the past five years, looks pretty steady to me.

      http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/legal12a-eng.ht

      There is more than one American city that has more murders in one year than our entire country. Your above statement is for the United States, I dare say we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. In my humble opinion modelling our justice system on the one of the country who has the highest level of incarceration in the world is a step in the wrong direction.

      • no fair adjusting for sanity!

      •  IntenseDebate Notification <DIV>All crime stats are per 100,000 population.</DIV> <DIV>You must be a Liberal!</DIV> <DIV style=”FONT: 10pt arial”>

    • If only a third of victims are reporting crime, how can you be so sure how many unreporting victims there are?

      • " Next, since the official crime rate is based on incidents reported to police, does the reported crime reflect the actual crime rate?

        The answer is no. The real crime rate is much higher.

        Every five years, Statistics Canada conducts the General Social Survey. It asks a representative sample of Canadians, among other things, whether they have been crime victims.

        From the last survey in 2004 (the next one is being conducted now, with the findings to be released next year) Statistics Canada reached the following conclusions.

        First, progressively fewer Canadians who are crime victims are reporting the crime to police — only 34% in 2004, compared to 37% in 1999.

        Second, based on the GSS, an estimated 92% of sexual assaults were never reported to police, 46% of break-ins, 51% of motor vehicle/parts thefts, 61% of physical assaults and 54% of robberies. " The Sun, Oct 22 '09

      •  IntenseDebate Notification <DIV>When you ask people if they have ever reported a crime or been a victim. It is not hard.</DIV> <DIV>You must be a Liberal!</DIV> <DIV style=”FONT: 10pt arial”>

  15. china executed some of its citizens they call dissidents….certain ways of dealing with situations deter criminal activity but nowadays it is too rampant so the idea is to, let it pass it might get better…usually does'nt , it gets worse….so the criminals make their own justice…murder or whatever it takes

  16. … and these people set policy… amazing, now I understand why the criminal justice system works so well, but then again, if it worked well justice would likely need only half the lawyers and bureaucrats that they currently employ. The obvious analogy is more suits telling doctors how long recovery in a hospital bed will be allowed… it is culpable abuse, or it should be. Failing to research the matter properly is negligence in the execution of public duty, or it should be.
    I have never understood why non-violent crimes, crimes which victimize no one, are resolved by sending the perpetrator to ‘crime university’ at a cost of… how much per year? (Actually I do understand, you need non-violent criminals in jail so when prisons are privatized in Canada, the profits have minimal cost and danger associated with them, just like in the USA).
    I believe antisocial behavior is still included in the DSM utilized for psychiatric diagnosis, could this actually be abuse of a patient by members of public office? Dereliction of duty for failure to act on evidence that shows incarceration is NOT productive in reeducating criminals?
    Why is it that politicians that get into office with a MINORITY government think they have a ‘public mandate’?

  17. Where has Protection of the Public gone? Violent serial killers such as Clifford Olsen and Paul Bernardo have not killed a single additional victim since being jailed long-term. Long sentences in such cases are 100% effective.

    Our courts since the Charter have so far impaired evidence gathering and forcing disclosure as to park criminal lawyers on the very shoulders of police. I suspect many gang-bangers and drug dealers are held for long pre-trial detention because it's the only way of protecting the public at least temporarily when prosecutors sense they won't be able to get an eventual conviction in our fuddled courts.

    The mantra "Better a hundred guilty men go free than that one innocent man be falsely convicted" fails as a guiding principle. We've had very few wrongful convictions, but arguably thousands of manifestly guilty accused violent and dangerous persons have been freed or had charges stayed because of an overbalance of protection for their "rights".

  18. The Tories prefer tough talk to hard proof on punishment for some demonstrably questionable reasons. What is often seen as pandering to a voter base is, in reality, far more all-encompassing in scope. Such talk is the window dressing around which the Conservatives "tough on crime" agenda must be constructed in order to re-enforce the ideological underpinning from which (cannabis) prohibition, itself, was concocted. That, in turn, will guarantee the need for increased enforcement while providing abundant justification for exacting retribution (at the taxpayers expense, of course); these are hallmark traits consistent with prohibition in the general sense (it is actually surprising that the Tories did not call for a re-introduction of the lash). "Tough on crime" strategies, amid all else, provide opportunities to reinforce the "drugs – and cannabis, in particular – equals crime" scenario. As such, the Tories may as well have attributed their fulmination to Emily Murphy's Black Candle.

    Bill C-15, per se, is an equal opportunity provision. It contains, first and foremost, a scapegoat for the criminal justice system to mollify public fears; second, it contains a rationale consistent for the increasing of enforcement and compatible with that which necessitates prohibition or conversely, with that which prohibition necessitates; and third, but no less significant (though vastly downplayed), it provides organized crime with enhanced opportunities for recruitment, expansion and protection. The first-time offender – the incarcerated, as a newly recruited gang member – will eventually be released back into vulnerable communities (that are) already predisposed (to “drug crime”) because of drug prohibition. Although invaluable to organized crime – in order to expand territories, profits, etc. – these peons are readily replaced, sometimes in multiples thereof; naturally the cycle continues, only now it has been that much more exasperated.

    But still …are we really soft on crime? Of course not. The Tories are just that much more unrelenting in the manufacturing of it (and, of course, the “solutions” to supposedly fix it). The Tories, after all, have everything to lose and they know it.

  19. Mandatory sentences will cost our justice system dearly.

    Any lawyer will tell you to plead not guilty if you are faced with a minimum sentence. After a lengthly trial, if found guilty, the next step would be to appeal. A defendant clearly has nothing to loose by appealing. Many of these defendants will be on legal aid. You can look forward to your tax dollars going towards lengthly trials if MMPs for such things as growing a few pot plants are imposed.

    Leave the mandatory minimum sentences to the violent crimes where they belong and let the mom and pop pot growers alone to do their thing in peace.

  20. Good, smart article.

  21. Its true, Canadian Judges are too soft, if you look at newpaper articles and do some research, you will find that Judges only hand out the bare minimum, open your eyes and see it for yourself

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