Experts (III)


Highlighted conclusions of a 2002 survey, conducted for the Justice department, on the deterrent value of mandatory minimum sentencing.

The evidence was mixed with regard to the impact of more generalized MMS of the “Three Strikes” variety.

Enhanced sentences for firearms infractions show some promise, although findings here, too, are inconsistent or unclear.

While the evidence overall underscores the critical role played by vigorous law enforcement and the certainty of punishment in this area [impaired driving], studies provide little reason for optimism with regard to the efficacy of tough sanctions.

Severe MMS seem to be least effective in relation to drug offences.

Drug consumption and drug-related crime seem to be unaffected, in any measurable way, by severe MMS.

MMS calling for lengthy prison terms are likely to carry massive costs.

MMS, such as the Three Strikes and federal drug laws in the US, have produced some grossly disproportionate sentences.


Experts (III)

  1. Here’s one of the conclusions that Aaron didn’t highlight:

    MMS are blunt instruments that provide a poor return on taxpayers’ dollars because they fail to distinguish between low and high-level, as well as hardcore versus transient dealers. An optimal approach might require a mix of accessible treatment for addicted dealers, employment opportunities for part-time dealers, and tough sentences for hardcore, high-level dealers.”

    CBC: The proposed changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act include a mandatory two-year sentence for dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people and a two-year mandatory sentence for running large-scale marijuana grow-operations. It would impose a minimum one-year term for the sale of drugs such as marijuana for organized crime purpose, as well as for drug dealers carrying a weapon or being involved in violence.

    • That sounds very sensible to me. One of the many bizarre features of our drug law is that it classes most drugs together (so that dealing heroin and dealing pot are treated as the same crime) AND it doesn’t distinguish between someone growing a few plants for themselves and a Hells Angels-affiliated commercial grow-up. A two year minimum is hardly Draconian for grow-up criminals. We need to take the emotion our of the drug debate on both sides: no sentimentalising the Hells Angels and no puritanism.

      • J@ack, you’ve been suckered. Do you know how “organized crime” is defined in Canadian law? People think, well, that’s the Hells Angels, the mafia, and assorted badasses. But it is, in fact, an on-going conspiracy to commit crimes involving five or more people. (Could be three. Can’t recall. Too busy to look up.) So a group of teenagers growing a few marijuana plants for their own use and that of friends would be considered “organized crime” and be subject to the same mandatory minimum that would apply to Mexican cartels and the like.

        Almost always, mandatory minimums produce unintended consequences like this. There’s a reason why jurists the world over loathe them.

        • I had no idea about that, thanks for the info. That’s appalling. So while we should be cracking down on the real organized crime, like the Hells Angels and the Russian mafia, they’re using the money to go after small-scale private grow-ops? That’s exceedingly deceitful.

          At the same time, I do think that even medium-sized grow-ops have a very negative effect on the economy and on the overall rule of law, and should be banned. Well, criminalised. Wait, actually tracked down and their owners arrested. Oh, and sentenced. To more than probation. In my view, they wildly skew the economy of a particular region, are often at the mercy of Hells Angels protection rackets (thus fueling serious crime), and generally hurt the little man. We should triple the RCMP’s budget for cracking down on such things.

        • Dan, do you have any credible reason for believing that Canada’s notoriously lenient judiciary would choose to interpret “organized crime” using your very loose definition when it comes to sentencing? My impression is that the Canadian version of MMS would be more of a scalpel than a blunt instrument.

    • Zing?

      Well, maybe not. The vast majority of gang members are the low-level dealers, and they are also the most visible (read: the ones conducting the violence).

      By all means, MMS the “hardcore, high-level dealers” if you like, but what about the other 95%?

      • By all means, MMS the “hardcore, high-level dealers” if you like, but what about the other 95%?

        But that’s just it – the Conservatives are planning to use MMS against the 5% hardcore, high-level dealers. The proposed legislation actually makes sense, and it’s too bad that so many critics have borrowed US arguments against “generalized” MMS even though they don’t apply to the Canadian context.

        Also, I have no absolutely no problem with applying MMS to violent “low-level” dealers — I’d rather have them in jail instead of bloodying Jane & Finch or East Hastings.

    • For the record, I highlighted only those statements that were themselves highlighted in that report

      In general, the report seems to offer some supporting evidence for every point of view.

      Bit like reading Ignatieff on torture.

      • Bit like reading Ignatieff on torture.

        Good comparison! To their credit, both Ignatieff and the authors of this report have developed a nuanced view on a controversial issue – in other words, they have the intellectual honesty to avoid simple black-and-white answers to complex problems.

    • On the other hand, Aaron did say he’s talking about deterrence. Long sentences don’t deter high level drug dealers. When they reduce crime at all, it’s because they increase the time spent in jail between offences. So it’s not really an omission on his part.

  2. Not to rain on anyones parade here. But i know people who’ve dealt drugs in BC. The money to be made even from a small grow op is phenominal. It;s gonna take a lot to deter these guys, at least the hardcore ones.

  3. And none of this addresses the root of the problem which is that criminalization of a commodity creates risk, which in turn creates higher rewards. Escalation of penalites might deter an individual or two, but that only hands their share of the market over to the hard-core criminal who is undeterred. In other words the end result is to escalate the level of violence and desperation of the producers. Current laws are already accomplishing that, as evidenced by the recent gun violence in Vancouver.

    • Legalize handguns now and there will be less criminals!!!

      (That is what you are talking about when you argue against criminalization of a commodity I presume…)

  4. i wonder how consistently these sentences will be applied? e.g., to politicians and police who break impaired driving laws. to many examples of leniency concerning this right now.

  5. It’s quite natural that the Tories should be in favour of mandatory minimums. After all, they have a minimal mandate.

Sign in to comment.