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.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Government too soft on youth crime?" I don't think so!

THE Harper government isn't going far enough in toughening up the much-maligned Youth Criminal Justice Act, Attorney General Andrew Swan said Wednesday.
Swan said while Ottawa is taking some positive steps in holding young people more accountable for their crimes, changes recently introduced are actually a step backwards in protecting the public.

YCJA changes in the works

OTTAWA wants to change the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Here's what's on the table:
Requiring the Crown to consider seeking an adult sentence for offenders age 14 to 17 convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault.
Expanding the definition of violent offences to include reckless behaviour and endangering public safety.
Giving judges discretion on the publication of names of young offenders convicted of violent offences.
Requiring police to keep a record of "extrajudicial" measures imposed on young people even if they have not been convicted of a crime in court.
"Even though the federal government sounds like it's doing the right thing on sentencing, there are real concerns about the bail provisions," Swan said. "It will be a lot tougher for a Crown attorney to make a successful argument to keep someone in custody even where the Crown attorney can make a good case that there's a risk of reoffending, there's a risk of someone failing to comply with conditions."
Swan made his comments on the eve of his first meeting as justice minister with his counterparts from the western provinces in Vancouver Friday.
He said he wants the other provinces to lobby with Manitoba to close these holes currently under consideration in Ottawa.
"We don't want to take steps backward," Swan said. "The Youth Criminal Justice Act is now open for discussion. In our view, this might may be our only chance to get it right for a long time."
The federal bill to amend the YCJA focuses more on holding youth charged with serious crimes that carry sentences of five years or longer for pretrial detention, not those charged with lesser offences who are likely to reoffend if released on bail.
"The new provisions as they now stand would not allow a judge to keep a young offender in custody even where there's a pattern of offences, and that's a problem," Swan said.
He said both Manitoba and Saskatchewan need restrictive bail conditions to continue the crackdown on young auto thieves.
Swan also said he wants the other provinces and Ottawa to continue to rework legislation aimed at fighting organized crime. That includes strengthening the law against buying sex on the street, so ''johns'' who are caught repeatedly go to jail.
"We know that the street sex trade is innately tied to drugs," he said. "We know that drugs are innately tied to organized crime."
Swan said the maximum penalties are too low as currently johns caught buying sex more than once are only fined.
"We think there should be more options available for people who just don't get the message despite going to john school," he said. "The risk of (jail) we think would be another useful thing to encourage people not to be driving around looking to pick up people, especially those who may be underage."
Progressive Conservative justice critic Kelvin Goertzen said Swan should also raise the matter of how the criminal records of young offenders aren't carried with them when they become adults.
Goertzen said a young offender should earn a clean record by being crime-free for a period of time as a young adult instead of seeing it automatically disappear on their 18th birthday.

We need to stop using the terms "soft" and "tough" on crime. We just need to look at the research and see WHAT WORKS AND WHAT APPROACH IS EFFECTIVE! Toughening sentences for youth does NOT work. Rehabilitation for youth is much more beneficial than prison. Prisons for youth are the schools of crime; they learn better skills, and negative environments and influences do not foster, encourage or facilitate rehabilitation or reform. Only the most dangerous young offenders should be in prison, with a greater emphasis on intensive rehabilitation. Prison fails to deter, reduce or prevent crime. We need to do what works and prison does not work. It is a quick fix not a long term solution. We need to address the underlying factors contributing to criminal behaviour if we are truly invested in prevention and reduction of youth crime.  

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