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 7, 2010

Community sentence sought for graffiti vandal

Dustin Fenby says he’s ready to set aside the spray paint and leave his days as a graffiti vandal in the past.

But that’s not enough to convince a judge Fenby shouldn’t go to jail for a three-month “tagging” spree that left nearly 80 business and property owners cleaning up after him. Judge Lynne Stannard reserved sentencing Monday, saying she was not yet convinced she should accept a joint Crown and defence recommendation that would allow him to serve a 20-month conditional sentence in the community. Stannard told special prosecutor Susan Helenchilde and defence lawyer Giselle Champagne she wants to hear further submissions why a conditional sentence would be appropriate.
A final sentencing date will be set later this month.
Fenby, 23, was among six graffiti taggers arrested in a police roundup in late 2008. He has admitted vandalizing 77 properties along Corydon Avenue, Osborne Street and Portage Avenue between August and November of 2008.
“There was enormous property damage,” Helenchilde said.
Police connected Fenby to pictures of graffiti posted on a social networking site. A search of Fenby’s home later uncovered notebooks containing pictures of his graffiti work and his “tag” — COEK — as well as 17 cans of spray paint and other graffiti paraphernalia.
Fenby has 12 prior convictions for mischief to property in 2006. He was still on probation for those offences when he reoffended in August 2008.
Helenchilde said she was prepared to support a conditional sentence on the word of Fenby’s probation officer.
“He seems to have inspired a lot of confidence in his probation officer,” Helenchilde said.
Fenby claimed impending fatherhood has caused him to reevaluate his priorities.
“It was a really stupid part of my life,” he told court. “I just want to move on, have a baby, grow up.”
Earlier this year Stannard granted a conditional sentence to another graffiti tagger, only to see him back on the street vandalizing property less than two weeks later. Stannard ordered Michael Hudey to serve the remainder of his two-year conditional sentence in jail.
Like Fenby, Hudey claimed the responsibilities of new fatherhood “opened (his) eyes” to the error of his ways.

Graffiti case Judge may hike tagger's sentence
A Manitoba judge says jail may be the only option for one of Winnipeg's most prolific graffiti taggers.
Dustin Fenby showed up in court Monday expecting to walk away with a conditional sentence, proposed as a joint recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. But after hearing submissions, provincial court Judge Lynn Stannard said she thinks the proposed penalty may be too lenient.
Stannard told lawyers she is considering the rare move of ignoring a plea bargain and invited them to make written submissions on why she shouldn't. The case has been adjourned until later this summer.
Fenby, 23, was arrested in 2008 as part of major police crackdown on graffiti. He pleaded guilty last year to 77 counts of mischief, which represents the exact number of property owners he targeted. Most of the damage was done in the Corydon area, court was told.
Fenby would always use his signature tag of "Coek" -- the misspelling was apparently deliberate -- then bragged about what he'd done by posting pictures of his work on social networking sites like Facebook.
"There was a significant amount of property damage done," said Crown attorney Susan Helenchilde. She couldn't provide any specific financial numbers to court, but said some tags cost hundreds of dollars to erase.
Helenchilde and defence lawyer Giselle Champagne were seeking a 20-month conditional sentence for Fenby, which allow him to remain free in the community. Stannard expressed concern about his previous criminal record, which includes numerous breaches of court orders and 12 prior convictions for similar graffiti in 2006.
A pre-sentence report paints Fenby as a high risk to reoffend and says he has unresolved drug, alcohol and gambling issues, which have led to repeated violations of probation and bail.
"Ever since I can remember I've been screwing up and making life hard for myself," he told his probation officer. However, Fenby now claims he wants to "turn his life around," especially with his girlfriend due to give birth to their first child in August.
"It was a really stupid part of my life," Fenby told court Monday of his criminal past. "I want to move on, grow up."
Fenby likely didn't do himself any favours with the judge when he showed up nearly an hour late for his sentencing hearing, which nearly prompted Stannard to issue a warrant for his arrest. He pulled a similar stunt last winter.

I completely agree with the proposition of a conditional sentence. Jail should always be a last resort. The courts need to rely less on jail as a sentence and more on community alternatives. I believe that drug and property offenders and non violent offenders, should not be imprisoned. They will only likely become further entrenched in the criminal lifestyle and negatively impacted, especially since this man is a new father. The impact of prison would also affect his child. 

I would sentence this man to a conditional sentence with conditions of community service work, and restitution to the properties he damaged along with a curfew. I think this would be a more meaningful sentence, as opposed to prison. Since he has drug and alcohol issues, I would also have this man participate in substance abuse programs to help him with his addictions. Prison would do nothing to address the root causes of this man's criminal behaviour and would negatively impact him and his family.

Non violent property offenders should not be imprisoned. Prison should always be a last resort, not over-relied upon. This man should receive a conditional sentence. Prison would negatively impact this man and his family and has no purpose, besides revenge/retribution, which is completely unjustified. Prison would not address the root causes of this man's criminal behaviour, such as his addictions issues. 

Prisons do not accomplish deterrence. Most criminals are impulsive and not rational, cost-benefit weighing actors. This would not teach anybody a lesson. Prison does not deter, prevent or reduce crime. If you want our society to get "tough" on crime, you are essentially advocating for less safe communities, because prisons do not address the root causes of crime and actually increase the chances of re-offending.  

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