The tough on crime era

‘The deeply embedded nastiness of the current governing party’


A Manitoba judge has defied one of the Harper government’s mandatory minimum sentences.

Mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes are intended to address the scourge of drive-by shootings and gang turf wars, not to put a remorseful bullying victim behind bars with hardened criminals, Menzies said. “The means used by Parliament to address the objective of gun violence more than minimally impairs the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,” he wrote in his 33-page ruling…

Mandatory minimum sentences give an unfair advantage to the Crown by making it more likely for the accused to plead guilty to a lesser offence for fear of risking a long prison sentence, Menzies said. There is also more reluctance on the part of the court to convict an accused facing a lengthy sentence, he said.

Putting first offenders in prison alongside more serious criminals also increases the chances of recidivism and makes it more likely the inmate will join a gang just to survive the sentence, Menzies added. “And in cases such as the present one, there is the danger of reversing all the progress made by an accused in seeking out treatment while waiting his trial by sending him to a federal penitentiary,” he said.

That makes at least five judges—following a judge in British Columbiatwo judges in Ontario and another judge in Manitoba—who have ruled against applying mandatory minimums to individuals found guilty of firearm offences. One of those cases is among a half dozen that the Ontario Court of Appeal will be ruling on.

Meanwhile, the former director general of the government’s corrections and criminal justice directorate is generally unimpressed.

“The current government has an approach that they like to call tough on crime. I say that’s the last thing it is. In fact it’s quite soft on crime because it’s really a lot of slogans and failed policies that do nothing to address crime or victimization.”

Some of the rhetoric, she said, was on display this summer when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new legislation for dealing with child-sex offenders. “The fact is we don’t understand them and we don’t particularly care to. We understand only that they must be dealt with,” Harper said at the time.

Campbell said those remarks are “chilling when we think of them used with other groups of citizens today and in the past.” “The deeply embedded nastiness of the current governing party is constantly displayed in their actions, whether it be creating even more punitive carceral conditions, erecting barriers to reintegration, never letting the offender be more than the worst thing they have ever done, using victims for political ends – the list is truly endless,” she wrote in her conference speaking notes.

Prisoners in four provinces are currently on strike to protest a cut in the amount they can earn for doing work (they currently earned an average of $3 per day).


The tough on crime era

  1. you know what I hate about this tough on crime agenda that the harper cons are always shoving out in front of tax payers faces everyday, they(cons) never put money into how to prevent crimes from happening(its all about clamping down). with the low unemployment rate for young people todaythat could bread crime(no job, no money, can equal crime). no jobs for young people means boredom and possibly more crime for Canadian taxpayers. so the easy solution would be to find ways of getting youth back to work, instead of making more prisons to house them. if this tough on crime approach keeps up(locking up more of our young people), Canadian taxpayers will pay for it ten fold.

    • Yes, the root cause of crime is boredom. If only the federal government would buy an Xbox for every Canadian, we’d have no crime at all.

      Because criminals aren’t responsible for their choices at all, the federal government is responsible for everything.

      • Yes, what’s more important than lower crime rates is properly assigning blame.

        And if we lowered crime rates, just think of all those potential criminals that wouldn’t get the punishment they deserve.

      • Although you might not believe it, you’re actually on to something.

        I need to find the study again, but some researchers who were looking at the question “do videogames cause violence” found there was actually a statistically significant negative correlation between the rate of youth crime and the presence of videogame stores.

        Of course, that’s just correlation.. there could be any number of other factors actually providing causation.. but still.. I found it interesting.

        • In this groundbreaking book, James
          Gilligan examines the epidemic foremost in the minds of most
          Americans–violence. As he tells the
          stories of the men he treated at a hospital for the criminally insane, Dr.
          Gilligan traces the devastating links between violence and shame. He shows how that deadly emotion drives
          people to destroy others and even themselves rather than suffer a loss of

          An eye-opening, revisionist
          analysis of the social and psychological roots of violence argues violence
          should be approached as a problem in public health and preventative medicine,
          rather than one of biological or moral origins,

          and shame is the common denominator
          that links violent perpetrators.



  2. They claim to be tough on crime, yet Harper and his cronies continue to pal around with known criminals, cut an anti-organized crime task force at the Canadian Revenue Agency and the list goes on.

    Tough on some crimes, tight with organized crime.

    We need a Charbonneau commission for the federal government.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • They let visitors to US prisons smoke pot with the inmates?
        Who knew!

  3. “Tough on crime” is pure showboating by politicians looking to score an easy sound bite. It’s easy to sound angry and promise to beat criminals harder, but it’s much harder to reduce crime by doing so. (It certainly doesn’t prevent crime; as noted above it’s more likely to increase recidivism by leaving prisoners indebted to gangs for their own survival.)
    Don’t let your politicians get away with vague promises about “getting tough on crime,” and don’t settle for the easy lie that longer sentences make for more peaceful societies. It didn’t work out too well for our neighbours to the south…
    — Steve

    • So you don’t believe that denunciation or deterrence have any place in our justice system?

      • I would if I thought tough sentence guidelines and mandatory minimums worked…. but there’s no sign of that at all, and every sign they’re delegitimising the process by rendering some absurdly-disproportionate sentences that get widely reported in the press.
        — Steve

      • Was there a special on red herrings at the fish store this morning? You’ve come in here with a whole bucket load.

  4. Everytime I hear the phrase “tough on crime” I’m reminded that Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair believes the effective way to be tough on crime is to prevent it happening in the first place. (Don’t know the exact quote, but that’s certainly the sentiment.)

    • Obviously the best way to lower the crime rate is just to give would-be criminals what they want before they have to commit a crime to get it.

      Brilliant analysis. If people would just stop calling the police when they’re robbed or assaulted, then we wouldn’t have a crime problem at all, either.

      Denunciation and deterrence should have no place in our justice system. When someone commits a crime, it’s obviously because he’s been let down by society. It’s never the criminals fault.

      • And yet again Rick you take the time to engage in an ideological rant instead of a thoughtful dialogue.

        • There’s nothing ideological about my rant. I’m simply making fun of the fact that you’re “point” is that the best crime rate is no crime rate. That couldn’t be more obvious.

          But the fact of the matter is you can’t “prevent” all crime, can you? You seem to be inferring that there’s some program the government can just throw money at that will “prevent” more crime. But it’s been proven time and time again that a very effective way of preventing crime is to lock up the people who commit crimes.

          • “you’re “point” is that the best crime rate is no crime rate.”

            Your reading comprehension is getting so bad, I’m wondering if you’re actually hallucinating when you try to read people’s comments.

          • I’m not suggesting that it’s possible to prevent all crime. We will always have criminal behavior. My point is that some crime can be reduced by intervention/diversion programs to steer young people away from a life of crime BEFORE they commit more serious crimes. There are lots of programs which are both effective & cost-effective & compared with the costs of incarcerating people considerably more fiscally prudent. Instead this gov’t focuses on increasingly punitive actions which do nothing to reduce the actual crime rate & more importantly nothing to increase rehabilitation – WHICH REDUCES RECIDIVISM. You can lock people up for longer & longer periods of time & yes, they don’t commit crimes when they are locked up – but they almost always get out of jail. Our goal should be to put as few people in jail as possible & when we do jail people, we should have rehabilitation programs so that they stay out of jail when they are released. It’s both good social policy & saves money in the long run. People need to stop simply labeling criminals as “bad people” and use that label as an excuse to wash their hands of them.

          • OK, so produce some credible evidence supporting your glib assumption that longer incarceration is a deterrent to crime. You’d need to demonstrate that crime rates are lower in those jurisdictions were the rates of incarceration are higher. I don’t think you can find such a correlation anywhere in the world where such stats have been obtained (in fact, the inverse of that correlation appears to be true in the USA).

            If your response is that people who are locked up can’t commit crimes then, using the same kind of facile “logic”, you’d have to advocate locking everybody up indefinitely. Ergo, zero crime rate.

            Rick’s world: empty streets, zero crime. Nice.

          • I’ve caught tricky Ricky in a lie before and he’s still sulking. He claims he has researched stuff all the time, but it turns out his idea of research is not really the same as other people’s.
            PMO talking points are Ricky’s research material and he can barely repeat them in a cohesive way.

          • It’s a bad omen that Rick always continues his full defense of the Harper Regime …seems ideological to me.

      • And another reading comprehension fail from NotRicky.
        In this case his mind seems to have replaced the comment he’s was reading with an image created by his imagination.

  5. I did Pen time and I can tell you that the system needs to get TOUGHER with drug dealers as they often view imprisonment as simply a cost of doing business. Increase sentences for those individuals to completely get them out of the game and you will have real measurable benefits.

    The same holds true for those convicted of molesting or harming children. Prisons are not as solid as the public believes and most of these offenders are treated no worse than others — often trading their prescription drugs that they get by faking symptoms for protection and acceptance.

    As for non-violent offences, society would be better served if those individuals were giving sentences of house arrest coupled with being forced to work at prescribed jobs in the community for 10 hours a day.

    As with everything, one size does not fit all. The biggest failing of the government is they spend all their time listening to academics, coppers, unionized guards and parasitic so-called public servants and none of it on guys who have been inside behind the bars that can tell you first-hand what works and what programs are utter b.s. and counter-productive.

    • Getting tougher is not going to change a thing. In the US they put some people to death for murder, and yet people still keep on murdering people.

      People are willing to take all kinds of risks to make money. Our society values being rich. Some people get that by dealing drugs. Some people get that by ripping off their investors. Some people get that by being ruthless business people, paying their workers minimum wages and denying them benefits. Some people get that by destroying the environment.

      It is just a matter of where the line is drawn.

Sign in to comment.