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 21, 2010

Robber's 18 month sentence upheld because he's been successful in rehabilitation efforts

A Winnipeg man who went on a violent robbery spree will not have to return to jail, even though Manitoba's highest court ruled this week he should technically be behind bars after receiving an unfit sentence.

The strange case of Milos Maroti -- in which the Crown both won and lost its appeal at the same time -- exposes an interesting legal loophole.
Maroti, 24, pleaded guilty last year to seven knifepoint holdups and was given a sentence of 18 months time in custody plus three years of supervised probation. He targeted vulnerable victims who were working alone at city gas stations, and even threatened to stab one of the clerks he robbed. Maroti stole nearly $5,000 worth of cash and cigarettes, and less than half of that was recovered by police. He focused on Domo gas stations because he used to work there "and knew they would offer no resistance," court was told. The crimes all occurred during a 10-day period in January 2008.

The Crown argued the sentence was too lenient, and the Court of Appeal issued a decision this week agreeing with that position. Justice Freda Steel said Maroti should have been given four years in prison to properly reflect the seriousness of his crimes, including the "fear and anguish" suffered by the victims.

However, Steel said they had also decided not to overturn the original sentence handed down by provincial court Judge Brian Corrin because of special circumstances. They noted Maroti has been free on bail pending appeal since his June 2009 sentencing and has not reoffended or breached his conditions. He has started taking treatment for a crack cocaine addiction that fuelled his crimes and has been attending all court-ordered programming. He has found a job, is upgrading his education and has strong family support in the community. He is deemed a strong candidate for rehabilitation.

"I do not think the accused or the community would be well served by removing the accused from the community at this point and reincarcerating him," Steel wrote in her decision. She said there is precedence that allows the court "to take into account changes in the condition of the accused that have occurred between the original sentencing and the appeal hearing, whether those changes be positive or negative." Given Maroti's progress and the passage of time, the sentence handed down last year can now be viewed in a much better light, she said.
"Although the judge did commit an error in law...I would not change the sentence as imposed," said Steel. Corrin was also criticized by the high court this week for failing to provide any reasons for the sentence he gave Maroti.

I completely agree with the decision to uphold the 18 month sentence, which was appropriate and to let this man continue serving his probation. He has been doing exceptionally well in the community and there is no reason to imprison him further. The only purpose for further imprisonment would be revenge and that is not sufficient enough. This man has been attending all court programming, has found employment, is upgrading his education and has strong supports in the community. Prison would just take all of his hard work away from him, where he would not be able to continue his programming, would lose his job, would lose contact with family and friends and experience other deprivations along with a negative prison environment filled with drugs, gangs, and pro criminal behaviours and attitudes. Further prison for this man, after all of his hard work and efforts at rehabilitation, would be likely more damaging and cause more harm than good. Longer prison sentences have been proven to increase the probability of re-offending. That is not in society's best interests. This man has made the effort to change and demonstrates a real desire to change his ways. Prison would undo all the work he has done and "punish" him for his rehabilitation efforts and successes. He has made progress and has had success in the community and there would be no reason to imprison him further, besides revenge. This man has demonstrated a real desire to change and I am glad the courts acknowledged that!

Our justice system's purpose is to successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate those who break the laws. Therefore, we should not through this man back in prison and undo everything he has done to rehabilitate himself and then having him released disheartened at the prospect of living a productive life, left with no employment or home, and having been exposed to a negative prison environment. Prison would likely only do more damage and harm than good for this man. I would much rather see him continue his rehabilitation efforts as he has demonstrated success and progress in the community. That is the purpose of our criminal justice system and I am so glad the Judge saw that in this case.

The purpose of our justice system is rehabilitation and segregation in prison for the few dangerous people who need to be in secure custody, not punishment, retribution or revenge. The purpose of prison is not to punish but to ensure that the person cannot re-offend while they are being rehabilitated in prison. The threat of punishment in prison does not deter potential criminals. The prospect of getting caught does. Most criminals act on impulse and are not cost/benefit weighing rational actors. Prisons do have rehab and education programs but they are ineffective in most aspects as they are underfunded and the negative environment and subculture of the prison counteracts any skills an inmate may have learned through a program. This man is doing well in the community and there is absolutely no reason to take away all of his hard work, efforts, progress and success that he has accomplished. If society is not interested in successful rehabilitation and is only interested in punishment, then we are not truly invested in preventing or reducing crime. If somebody shows that they are being rehabilitated we should commend them and respect that. It sets a good example for others and also gives offenders an incentive to improve themselves, so they can avoid further prison time. When people are addicts, like this man, they make mistakes and we need to acknowledge that.   

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