Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New probation oversight, review

Free of ordered ankle bracelet, teen re-offended

A provincial probation officer recently allowed a high-risk young offender to return to the community without wearing his court-ordered electronic ankle bracelet.
The youth, 17, went on to commit several new crimes, including a violent home invasion in which the youth and two adult gang members attacked the victim in front of his four-year-old son.
An internal Manitoba Justice investigation is now underway to determine exactly what went wrong, with the results expected to be forwarded to provincial Justice Minister Andrew Swan in the coming days.
"This is going to hit the fan," a justice source said Monday. The matter will also be discussed in-depth at the next regular meeting between Crown attorneys, probation officers and police.
"This sort of thing is going on all the time," a veteran prosecutor told the Free Press.
The NDP government came under fire last week after a probation officer revealed in court their department regularly overlooks court orders by not immediately reporting breaches to police. A 14-year-old chronic car thief was able to thumb his nose at the law 24 times without consequence in a six-week period leading up to him killing a Winnipeg cab driver with a speeding, stolen SUV.
Swan responded to criticism by announcing a review of how other provinces are monitoring young offenders on bail or probation to determine if any changes should be made to Manitoba's policy. But Swan said a zero-tolerance policy on breaches, as the Opposition Tories have demanded, is not on the horizon.
This latest case shows more than just breaches are being ignored. The teen -- who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act -- has a long criminal record that began in 2006 and includes two dozen prior convictions for crimes including car theft, mischief, break-and-enter and numerous breaches.
He was sentenced in December 2008 to 100 days of custody and supervision, in addition to time already served, plus one year of supervised probation. His conditions included wearing an electronic ankle bracelet for 90 days following his release from jail. The judge wanted police to be able to track his movements and hopefully deter him from committing further crimes while being watched.
The teen was apparently outfitted with the monitoring equipment when he returned to the community in February but never reached the 90-day mark. He was rearrested weeks later on several serious charges including robbery. He spent several months behind bars until he was released from jail again on Sept. 10, 2009, this time without the bracelet.
Probation officials said they initially forgot there was still time left on the order -- then made an internal decision not to enforce it once the error was discovered.
"We decided to give him an opportunity to comply in the community without the device," a probation officer wrote in a pre-sentence report that was submitted in court last week.
The plan backfired. Police rearrested the teen on Sept. 26 and charged him with a string of new breach charges. He pleaded guilty in late November and was given time in custody plus another 40 days behind bars. He was released from jail on Jan. 6 -- once again without an ankle bracelet -- and then got involved with his most serious crime yet.
The youth, along with two adult associates of the Manitoba Warriors street gang, went to a North End home and yelled "Winnipeg police, open up" at the front door. The masked men then stormed inside, repeatedly punching an adult male victim and his friend who were inside. The victim's girlfriend, four-year-old son and nine-month-old child were all in the room and witnessed the attack.
They stole several items including a widescreen television, Xbox, video games, DVDs and several knives and swords. The victim grabbed a large stick and began fighting back, cutting the teen suspect who left a trail of blood behind as he fled the scene. The victims were traumatized but not seriously injured.
Police arrested the boy, but he refused to identify his two co-accused. He claims the Manitoba Warriors were seeking revenge on the victim for a previous incident and "recruited" him to get involved.
"It seems to me he has little respect for life, for people's homes," Crown attorney Mick Makar told court. Provincial court Judge Lynn Stannard sentenced the teen to 16 months of custody and eight months of community supervision, in addition to time already served. She said he would have been looking at between eight and 10 years if he'd been an adult and committed a similar crime.
Swan said last week discretion is needed when enforcing court orders against youth criminals to help "manage the risk of people in the community." He said over the past year, probation officials have brought in a new system to better monitor high-risk violent and repeat offenders.

This article is very biased. You can immediately tell what the author's views are, without even reading too far and that is a clear sign of bias. No mitigating factors for this youth are explained, why did he commit crimes?, nothing is mentioned about his childhood experiences, possible hardships, addictions, gang influence, etc.   It only states the crimes but gives no information about the offender and his needs.

Most often, teens do not join gangs because it's a choice. It is more often because they long for a sense of belonging which they don't feel in their home life, or because of extreme pressure and threats. 

By this article only stating all the crimes this teen has committed and breaches, it is portraying failure in the probation system, when the article fails to mention the other side of the story. The majority of non-incarcerated young offenders, do not re-offend in the community. The problem in this teen's case, is not the probation system. This article is portraying the probation system as a complete failure, when it's not. It's the fact that the probation system is not effective enough with its programming and in addressing this young teen's underlying factors contributing to his criminal behaviour and matching the right programs to the teen's needs and risk level.

When the media increases reporting on crimes among youth, as they have been doing recently now, the public gets the perception that youth crime is increasing or getting worse, when in reality, youth crime and all other crimes for that matter, have been decreasing for 30 years now. The media only chooses to report on the incidents of teen violence, teens and gangs, violent youth crime which is very rare and when something in the system is wrong. The media has created a moral panic on youth crime, causing the public to react in an outrage, which is completely unnecessary. With a moral panic, the public believes that the only answer to prevent, reduce and deter youth crime, is by getting tough on crime and incarcerating teens. What they dont realize, is that THIS DOES NOT WORK! What we need to focus on is what works. Prison does not work for youths. There is zero evidence that harsher punishments for youth, reduce the crime rate. In fact, the opposite has been found; incarcerating youth actually causes more crime as prisons are the schools of crime. Incarceration of youth produced a 3% increase in recidivism and 6% increase for longer periods. 

What we need, is not prison for youths. I completely disagree with the sentence of the youth in this case. He will likely be given little programming in prison, as they lack funding and are overcrowded, and will be released into the same conditions which caused crime in the first place. We NEEED to understand and uncover the root causes of this teen's offending behaviour and then help to address it through programming and treatment and counseling. Programs in the community are far more effective as they are independently run, have more funding and are more well-designed and multi-faceted (meaning they address multiple issues with one program). They have been proven to have higher success rates than programs in prison, and higher success than prison in general. Clearly, our society is not interested in creating long term solutions to crime as prisons are only quick fixes.      

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