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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Justice's revolving door -- We need to address the root causes to prevent crime

How long do you think it will be before all the scumbags responsible for the latest wave of violence in Winnipeg will be back on the street ready to commit more crimes?
A couple of years? Three? Five, maybe?
Most of the suspects in this week’s rash of violence have either been apprehended by police or will likely be arrested in the future. Police are pretty good at getting their bad guys.
But the courts and our corrections system are not so good at keeping them off the street and invariably, the same people commit the same or similar crimes over and over again.
The sentences they get are almost never the ones they end up serving, as time behind bars gets whittled down to a toothpick by lax parole laws and misguided policies like statutory release.
And so the revolving door of justice continues.
It appears we now have kids caught in the crossfire of Winnipeg’s burgeoning gang warfare with two separate shootings this week resulting in the death of a 16-year-old and the injury of three others, including girls as young as eight and 10.
It’s hard to even wrap your head around that last one.
It also appears elementary school girls are no longer safe from violent sexual predators on city streets after a six-year-old girl was the victim of a serious sexual assault Sunday.
It’s impossible for any sane person to wrap his head around that one.
A 26-year-old woman was attacked this week near the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and dragged, sustaining injuries to her upper body.
And another 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted at knifepoint Monday.
The man charged in that incident was convicted in December 2008 of eight counts of robbery with a weapon and other offences related to commercial robberies. He had a lifetime weapons ban.
Wait a minute. Convicted in December 2008 for eight counts of robbery with a weapon? That’s just a year and a half ago. What the hell was this guy doing back on the street?
And that’s the point.
Police are stepping up their enforcement in the West End where the shootings occurred. That’s great and they have to do something to respond. But it won’t solve much.
The only thing that’s going to make a real difference is to ensure people who commit violent crimes over and over are kept off the street.
Whoever is responsible for sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl should never get out. Ever.
You can’t rehabilitate someone who is that screwed up. And letting him back on the street again three, five or eight years from now will put another victim at risk.
It’s practically a guarantee.
So why do we do it? Why do we let these repeat, violent, sometimes sexual offenders back on the street when we know they will hurt more people?
If anyone knows the answer to that, please let me know.
Because I don’t understand it at all.
I understand the argument that we need to do more to help prevent crime by trying to solve the root causes of criminal behaviour.
We can always do better there.
But why, for example, would we ever let a dangerous, violent pedophile back on the street when we know you can’t rehabilitate pedophiles?
Do the courts and our corrections system want to put the community at risk? I don’t get it.
Until that changes, we will continue to see an escalation of violence, especially among young people with guns, and we will continue to hear about violent dangerous pedophiles.
It’s pathetic.

Tom Brodbeck: Our justice system is not supposed to be about punishment. It is supposed to be about rehabilitation and successful reintegration. Imprisoning more people for longer periods of time is a quick fix, but not a long term solution and it will not reduce, prevent or deter future crime. Longer imprisonment terms have been proven to increase the rate of re-offending, due to the negative prison environment filled with gangs, drugs and pro criminal attitudes and behaviours. In the long term, this makes society more dangerous, and less safe. If we want to prevent and reduce crime, we need to address the root causes and the courts need to rely less on imprisonment and more on community alternatives as programs in the community have been proven to be much more effective and better funded than those in prisons. 

The longer we keep someone locked up, the more chance they have of re-offending when released, so that is why we released them on statutory release. It is in the CSC's mandate to aid in the successful reintegration of offenders. If we keep them in prison until their warrant expiry date, they will be released with no supervision, conditions, obligations or assistance. That is a recipe for disaster as they are often released with no rehabilitation, substance abuse issues, mental health issues, no housing, no employment, financial difficulties, lack of support network and no assistance. Under these conditions, they are likely to resort back to crime. 

You're wrong about sex offenders. They cannot be cured, but they can be rehabilitated with risk management skills and relapse prevention programs. And sex offenders should be released from prison and provided with more intensive rehabilitation in the community. You don't even know what circumstances they may have and you already lump them all together and say they should never be released. That's inhumane and uncivilized. Plus. prison is likely to worsen their psychological conditions and they will not learn any risk management skills in prison. Sex offenders can be rehabilitated. I would enroll them in an intensive sex offender program, preferably one in the community, that focuses on risk management and relapse prevention. Both of these strategies have been proven effective in reducing recidivism.  

Getting tough on crime has proven to be a stupid response as it does not prevent, deter or reduce crime. If we truly care about preventing and reducing crime and about creating safer communities, we need to address the root causes of crime. Getting tough and imprisoning more people for longer periods, increases recidivism rates and creates less safe and more dangerous communities. Rehabilitation and restoration have been proven to be the most effective approaches, as opposed to overreliance on prisons. I believe that with intensive help and rehabilitation, people do and can change. You have to be optimistic about human nature and have compassion for these socially marginalized and disadvantaged groups of people who are oppressed and criminalized by society. The tough on crime approach is an expensive failure. Read some research papers about the ineffectiveness of imprisonment and the negative effects and then read some about the effectiveness of rehabilitation, community options and restorative justice and you will see. We need to get smart on crime and that means addressing the root causes. Clearly, it you support the tough on crime approach, you are not interested in reducing or preventing crime, because getting tough only creates less safe and more dangerous communities.

I enjoyed this comment on the Winnipeg Sun's website:
"Wow Brodbeck I wish I had your job, it must be easy. Instead of being a responsible journalist that gathers facts and uses them to prove a point, you just tell people what they want to here with no actual knowledge of how the justice system works. Then you use words like "scum bag" to further try to please the "tough on crime" audience that are equally ignorant. If you actually studied any criminal justice you would know that people that get long sentences with no rehab programs are at a greater risk to reoffend. But that little bit of info wouldn't fit into your kind of tough rhetoric would it. Between this and your stadium debate I think that you are the most irresponsible journalist in the city."

It's so true what this individual said. Brodbeck has no knowledge in the criminal justice system and is not looking at what the research and stats say. If he had studied criminal justice, he would know that longer sentences increase recidivism and that punishment is not the main objective of our criminal justice system; rehabilitation and reintegration are.  

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