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.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Somebody should be ashamed? Maybe it's you.

A pardon for Graham James from the Government of Canada via the National Parole Board is too much to believe. While nobody's pushing to see James back behind bars (not yet anyway), the public is rightly shocked that he no longer wears his scarlet letter, the criminal record he brought upon himself.
A measure of society is how well it cares for its most vulnerable, how far it will go to protect them and how much of that protection it's willing to sacrifice to find compatibility with other values.
In the case of Graham James, it seems we were willing to take some risk. James is a convicted pedophile. He's a molester. He went to jail but can now claim, thanks to Canadian law and the ill-thinking of the parole board, that he's criminal-record-free.
The rules for getting his pardon are pretty generous. Be out of jail for five years and don't get caught by the cops. And that's part of the problem -- assuming automatically that not getting caught equates to crime-free. That should be a crime of its own -- first-degree naivete.
Most crimes are never cleared. Of all the crimes reported to Winnipeg police in 2008, only 22 per cent of them were cleared. That reality is made worse with the knowledge that molesting is grossly unreported. And even when sex crimes -- including molesting -- are reported, of the 661 that made it to the Winnipeg police in 2008, less than a third were solved.
James was in a position of trust and his victims were kids. He deserves that full-time criminal record until the end of his days.
A pardon doesn't alert a potential employer to be wary of how a child molester might be working a business, its buildings or its privacy into his next scheme. Child molesters are world-class cons with built-in sonar that allows them to zero in on prey. They are manipulative, cunning and devious. They lie and cheat at every corner. They savour vulnerability and thrive on secrets, like the one that a pardon allows. It's one hassle as they lay out their future plans.
There are experts who have studied pedophiles and will argue to the ends of the Earth that there is no cure for them. Theoren Fleury, who says he was molested by James as a junior hockey player, is resolute that "these kind of guys can't be rehabilitated, (they) always re-offend."
Craig Jones, Canadian director of the John Howard Society, an organization that works with offenders, says nobody should be upset with the National Parole Board over one rogue case. Maybe he's right, but I doubt it.
If, and that's a big one, there were only one case, perhaps a concerned public should cool its jets. But let's all grow up a little bit.
There are thousands and thousands of pardons granted every year -- James was one of the 14,748 granted in 2007. According to the Globe and Mail the number of pardon applications has grown and today stands annually at about 40,000 (that's about 200 per day), with 99 per cent of them approved.
With those numbers, does anyone really believe that James is the only one who slipped past the gatekeeper?
The whole thing smacks of a bureaucracy at its worst, shrouded in secrecy, where careful consideration has taken a backseat to ticking off boxes.
Imagine, a pardon being a legitimate, government-sponsored response to child abuse. How does a child-victim ever cope with such a lack of validation? The idea that a pardon can be granted to someone whose victims will struggle for a lifetime is unfathomable. The whole process is reprehensible. Somebody should be ashamed.
And there's no comfort to be found in a proclamation that a record still exists because it's a secret.
James went to prison in 1997 for molesting children. How surprised is anyone that 13 years later complaints are still surfacing and that he is once again the subject of police investigation?
Now, the big question: What does the criminal-pardon balance sheet look like? Do the benefits reaped by a pardoned child molester outweigh the lives destroyed in his wake? What about the future victims who get caught in the web? Where will the secret bureaucrats be then?
As long as there's no cure, there should be no pardons. Ever. Why take the risk? Unless we don't give a damn.

Here's where you're wrong:
While their is no "cure" per se, sex offenders can definitely be rehabilitated. I think you mistakenly thought that the two words meant the same, when they are completely different.

Believe it or not, when sex offenders are cleared of their criminal record and have more employment opportunities, there is a decreased probability that they will re-offend as opposed to being unemployed.

Furthermore, you failed to mention some very important statistics. Only 0.2% are granted to sex offenders, 97% of offenders granted pardons are successful in not re-offending and only 3% of pardons are revoked. 

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