Experts (IV) -

Experts (IV)


Dan Gardner has written extensively on this stuff, but this column of his might be the most entertaining on the topic—Gardner asks the Justice department to provide the research used to support its move toward mandatory minimums, hilarity ensues.


Experts (IV)

  1. Courage, Aaron! That column on bogus evidence is from 2006. The department has since refined its methodology. Now it no longer hands out any evidence to support its claims. Progress!

    • With respect, you’re wrong Mr. Wells. Canadians *feel* that crime is out of control, can *sense* their neighbourhoods are dangerous to walk in at night, and *know in their guts* locking up criminals and throwing away the key is the answer.

      Only lefty-liberal-progressive hacks can deny the validity of such evidence. As Descartes *meant* to say, “we feel, therefore we are.”

      • The people you mock are correct. Violent crime rates go up and down over the years but, overall, they are 35% higher now than they were 20 years ago and 320% higher than they were in 1962. So we have less property crime but more homicide, attempted murder, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault . And this doesn’t even take into account the number of people who think the police can be assed anymore so they don’t report crimes at all.

        And only lefty-liberal-progressive hacks think this is nothing to be concerned about. Jails don’t work don’t you know!

        • Whether jails work or not is one question. Whether crime is up or down is another. Whether the public feels unsafe is a third. I think they’re only vaguely related.

          IMO, what make the public feel unsafe is the number of stories circulating by word of mouth about so-and-so, Jennie’s cousin, who was caught red-handed slashing people’s tyres — and it took them a year to put him on trial — and the trial lasted six months, what with the delays — and in the end he got community service. There are thousands and thousands of stories like that, most of them true, and they seriously undermine the public’s confidence that Crime Doesn’t Pay. This doesn’t mean that naturally law-abiding people turn to crime, laughing all the way to the bank, but it does make them feel less secure and, in a way, a bit frustrated that they should feel compelled to obey the law of their own accord when others needn’t bother.

          So I would say that a) the public’s perception that crime is up is itself a major issue, not to be dismissed with statistics showing the contrary; b) that perception has to do as much with justice delayed as with justice denied; c) a mandatory minimum of five days in jail would do as much as a MMS of six months, in terms of satisfying the public’s natural appetite for vengeance on the criminal element, but suspended sentences, community service, and probation appear to non-sociologists to be identical to justice denied.

          • It’s worthwhile to note that when Canwest dies, the media network with the most outlets specializes in reporting crime stories, and that you don’t sell papers without painting as sensationalistic a picture as possible.

          • Who reads newspapers these days?

            I really think word of mouth is the thing, not the media, especially in small-town and rural Canada. You only have to hear a few stories like that to wonder why you’re not out there with your own grow-op or truck-stealing operation. Doesn’t mean you’d do it, of course, but it gives you the sense that crime is out of control.

          • (shakes head)

            and ppl wonder why their *children* have given up on the future, some resorting to crime in order to solve disagreements and problems, when they see their hypocrites for parents/older adults in politics, business, discussions, et alii, stealing, misrepresenting the truth, breaking laws and getting away with it?

          • Jack M

            Word of mouth gossip is bad no doubt and justice delayed is not helpful either but I think the stories we read/watch about people committing crimes with no/little sanctions destroys people trust in justice system. The horrific stories of Francis Pitia, Kerrianne Parks, Andy/Nettie Miller, Saramma Varughese, Susan John, Hardupinder Gill, Rick/Leslie Kelly (the list is endless) show what a mess our justice system actually is in.

          • jwl, I have to confess I’ve never heard those names, but then I believe the world is a vale of tears to begin with so crime doesn’t bother me that much.

            LeenieJ, I think you mean not “et alii” (“and others”) but “et alibi” (“and elsewhere”), as the series you were extending was one not of people but of place.

  2. I’ve often thought of Vic as Canada’s answer to Joe Arpaio

    Add a ‘tent city’ amendment to the legislation and think of the votes the Clownservatives will attract!

    Other thoughts:

    Demographics – Does an aging population mean less crime? You’d think so. How hard would it be to overlay crime stats to the age groups who commit most of these crimes. Law enforcement like to tout declining crime stats to the effectiveness of crime prevention programs but I have faith that this is only partly true. Senior citizens most likely commit less violent crime compared 18 year olds.

    Perhaps Vic needs to look over this most obvious trend rather than simply engaging in a faith-based vote buying.

    • “How hard would it be to overlay crime stats to the age groups who commit most of these crimes.”

      I remember reading article that said if we locked-up all males aged 16-25 (or something like that) crime would fall to negligible levels.

      I support mandatory minimums because it stops the clowns in the justice system who claim jails don’t work and so release chronic criminals back into society to commit more crime.

      • There are several ways to read that last sentence, none of which are sensible.

        Kinda shows you why it doesn’t matter that there’s no evidence that mandatory minimums work, esp. when you’re trying to attract a certain kind of voter.

        • sad, but true.

      • I don’t remember anyone saying ‘jails don’t work.’ I imagine for a certain portion of the population, jail will be the best/only remedy to protect society from them.
        But current laws provide for that.
        What the Conservatives are proposing here are mandatory minimums for perpetrators of certain crimes – prescribing jail for these crimes – with little or no regard for whether it actually ‘works’ at reducing crime.
        The ‘soft on crime’ people that conbots like to disparage don’t think all criminals should be let free, nor do they think crime is acceptable and jails are not. What they do propose – these so-called-‘experts’ – is that jailing people willy-nilly is not necessarily the most effective method of reducing crime. Their solutions do include jail, but only as part of a broader mix of alternatives.
        Conservatives, it appears, are not interested in anything that might help reduce crime, but are rather more interested in appearing to be tough on crime (while doing very little to actually address it).

    • If Vic would look into that, my guess those CON scientists promoting carbon capturing will be asked to come up with a youth-flavoured soilent vert for the masses. Just as long as it mixes with their anti-science koolaid.

      • Your quirky little rants are quite adorable. Not particularly well-informed, but adorable nonetheless.

  3. There’s no evidence whatsoever that this will help the public … but that’s the same as every plank in the platform of every party. Their purpose in expanding government is not to benefit you – the purpose is to benefit themselves.

    If you ask questions and analyze dispassionately their various policy proposals it becomes obvious that there is no difference between the Clownservatives, Lieberals, Dippers, Greens or Blocheads. They all want the same thing.

    • yeah? who allowed this to happen; the saw doesn’t human; the human saws. we, the ppl need to take responsibility for this and fix it.

      • ego venit ego sawed ego victum

  4. Am I right, incidentally, that both the Liberals and the NDP have made haste to support the latest bogus evidence-free crime legislation? It would be fun to be wrong about this, but I am not optimistic.

    • Knee-jerkery is rampant — I demand mandatory minimum leg restraint.

    • last i heard they’re supporting it as part of a whole that needs to be devised to tackle the real problems that cause these things; with an eye for future improvement. best they can do with the current govt.

    • I think both the NDP and certainly the Liberals will not oppose it, but only because it’s a no-win. for them. This tough on crime thing plays well with a certain demographic, and opposing this would only kcik up a big kerfuffle over dumb legislation right in the middle of a economic crisis (whereupon the media narrative would be that the ‘politicians are only playing politics…..unconcerned with the real issues affecting Canadians’ s….the same way all parties were tarnished with that same broad stroke when Harper launched his ‘fiscal update’ attack on the oppostion parties in November). Here, I think the oppos are being pragmatic, and letting the baby have his bottle.

  5. Criminologists create studies that show tough-sentencing laws don’t work. Less governments enact tough-sentencing laws. Which makes us feel unsafe.

    The evidence shows we should be locking up criminologists.

  6. So where’s the evidence that the government’s radical, U.S.-style approach to criminal justice will make us safer?

    This is the fundamental problem with Dan Gardner’s analysis. He assumes that the Conservative proposal is no different than the “radical, US – style” approach. If you look at the actual legislation, you will see that it is quite different than most US MMS approaches, because the legislation applies to a specific class of dangerous or organized-crime offenders (the US approach tends to be more generalized, which leads to systemic abuses).

    It’s too bad that Toews hasn’t been more vigorous in citing applicable research, but the fact is that most of the US research doesn’t apply to the Canadian approach we are talking about here.

    Many large scale grow-op operators are rational actors who take the risk of jail time very seriously. MMS may not be a deterrent for addicted drug dealers, but surely it will factor into the decision making process of sophisticated grow-op criminals.

    • Shorter CR: “Ergo, Toews was probably mostly right, if you just apply additional reason (but no additional evidence).”

      • I don’t have time to research all the literature on the subject. I think it’s enough that I read Gardner’s article, the proposed legislation, and the 2002 Canadian report on the limitations of MMS that Wherry cited earlier.

    • Um, CR, I don’t see it. To the extent that a mandatory minimum is less sweeping, rigid, and punitive, it is less likely to produce unexpected and undesirable outcomes (like sending people who steal a slice of pizza to prison for life). On that score, you’re right that American research may not be helpful in analyzing some Canadian proposals. (Although be careful with your generalizations: The Americans have 51 justice systems and a heck of a lot of diversity in sentencing.) But that’s not the point. Here, the question is whether mandatory minimums are an effective way to reduce crime. Their alleged effectiveness is the result of deterrence and incapacitation. Thus, the more sweeping, rigid, and punitive a mandatory minimum is, the greater the effect we can expect to see. So to the extent that the Conservative policies are less sweeping, rigid, and punitive, that’s simply a reason to believe they’ll be less effective than the American policies — which are themselves not effective.

      As for the point about large-scale grow-ops, well, I’d love to see some evidence. I’m afraid that’s just the old Homo economicus assumption playing tricks on you because there’s heaps of research that shows even crimes that one would think are all about rational calculation are not nearly so responsive to rational calculation as one would think. Even tax cheats, for goodness sake! And if you want a demonstration of the failure of this sort of thinking, look at the United States itself: Large-scale marijuana production is treated as a very, very serious offence pretty much across the United States and yet the US is flooded with marijuana like never before. And where does it come from? By far the largest source of marijuana in the US is the US. I don’t see a whole lot of deterrence going on there.

      • Dan, thanks for your helpful and informative response. You make a very convincing point about the limited deterrence effect of MMS, even for supposedly rational crimes such as large scale marijuana production. Do you think that lengthier incapacitation – the other side of the MMS coin – could help reduce the frequency of such crimes, especially given the number of repeat offenders? Examples of grow-op recidivism abound in the Canadian media, such as the following article:

        • Incapacitation is likely to be less effective regarding grow-ops than for other crimes for the simple reason that the market is self-correcting: Put a sufficient portion of major growers in prison and the supply will be reduced (this is the point of prohibition, after all); reduced supply raises prices; higher prices entice more people to get into horticulture.

          It’s important to bear in mind that while we think of major drug producers and traffickers as scary bad guys, most are not. In fact, one study of mid- to high-level traffickers in Canadian prisons a few years ago found only one-quarter were the sort of violent career criminals we would expect in that line of work — the rest were otherwise law-abiding people who met someone who knew a friend who had an idea…. That’s the key thing about prohibition: it generates criminals.

  7. I don’t really see why the Conservatives even bother to argue that mandatory minimums for violent crimes will reduce them. I view minimum prison sentences for violent offenders as more of a justice issue and I suspect that I am not alone. I don’t really care if it’s a deterrent.