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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Begging off pardon reform? Kevin Engstrom, do you have any brain cells?!

We’re going to have to get a smaller violin to play for John Hutton.
The head of the local chapter of the John Howard Society, the country’s top hug-a-thug group, had a presser the other day to bemoan the federal government’s plan to overhaul the country’s pardon system so sickos like Graham James can’t ever receive one.
Hutton said all those people who think this is a good idea are greatly mistaken, and called on opposition parties to unite and vote down the legislation.
To recap, the Harper government’s bill would replace the word “pardon” with “record suspension”, extend the waiting period for ex-cons to apply, and deny anyone convicted of more than three indictable offences or specific types of sex offence.
Oh, and also to put the onus on the applicant to show the record suspension is necessary to lead a crime-free life.
All of this sounds pretty reasonable. In fact, it’s kind of shocking these rules weren’t already in place, no?
But Hutton believes changing the lax legislation would somehow make our communities less safe.
Seems these hard-done-by ex-cons would return to a life of crime if they have to suffer with the stigma of their crimes for an extra few years before getting their record suspension.
“Someone has to point out that it does not serve public safety to make it harder for people to reintegrate after a prison sentence,” said Hutton, flanked by like-minded aboriginal and anti-poverty leaders also opposed to the changes.
Oh, the horror of it all.
Hutton did a pretty good job fearmongering and talking down to Canadians who he obviously feels aren’t as enlightened as he is on the topic.
What he failed to do, though, is mention the rights of victims and their families.
I suppose nobody should be terribly surprised by this, given the plight of criminals receives more consideration in this country than that of victims. But it’s definitely disappointing.
The point of the legislation, at least from my vantage point, was to take a small step towards improving the balance between the rights of criminals and victims. If that makes it a little harder for ex-cons to move on with their life, then, quite frankly, boo-frickin’-hoo.
Instead, Hutton wants Canadians to believe we’re somehow safer with folks like pedophile Graham James going relatively undetected on the streets than incorporating a system that dares to toughen up pardon legislation.
Good luck with selling that piece of logic, John. You’re going to need it.

If you eliminate pardons for those convicted of certain offences or more than 3 indictable offences, where is the incentive to lead a crime-free life? A record severely limits employment and housing opportunities, and with unemployment comes the increased chance of one re-offending. The purpose of the pardon is the facilitate rehabilitation and successful reintegration, which is extremely important. This should always be our main focus. The Conservatives are basing this pardon reform policy on ONE sensational case (that of Graham James) and it is purely an emotional response to the public's outrage. This policy is not evidence-based, rational, reasonable or logical as the stats show that 97% of those granted pardons are successful in leading crime-free lives and only 3% have re-offended since 1970! To me, that seems pretty successful... so there is no need for change!  A pardon is an incentive to remain crime free in the community. Why should we take that away from individuals?

John Hutton is absolutely correct. These reforms do not serve the public safety by making it harder for an individual to reintegrate into society after serving their prison sentence. Also, these people have already served their sentences, and society should NOT be further depriving and punishing them.

The author Kevin Engstrom, clearly has no knowledge about criminal justice issues. Maybe he should do some research on the topic and consider for a second, that the John Howard Society may be correct! They have more knowledge that you do on the subject and at least have done their research and know the evidence! The pardon system is already successful so why do we need to change it? And Kevin also repeatedly refers to ONE sensational case, that of Graham James. That is one case in about 400,000 Kevin. Again, you need to do some research. Apparently, Kevin cares little about public safety. How sad.   

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