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.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Four years for a life" -- An appropriate sentence in my opinion

The case of the Winnipeg teen who killed city taxi driver Antonio Lanzellotti when he crashed a stolen SUV into the Duffy’s cab in 2008 is a perfect example of how broken our youth justice laws are.
The teen responsible for the death, who raced through city streets at speeds of 139 km/h, got a puny two years in jail Friday, on top of two years time served. What a travesty of justice.
For this, Queen’s Bench Justice Lea Duval is the recipient of this column’s Eight-Ball Award, handed out to highlight some of the worst travesties of justice in our court system.
As injustices go, this is a big one. Duval had the option of sentencing the youth as an adult. She failed to do so, opting instead to give the offender the usual slap on the wrist that fuels the revolving door of justice in this country.
The reckless killing of Mr. Lanzelloti, 55 — a dad, a husband, an honest, hard-working member of the community — was a lightning rod in 2008 for the many people fed up with this pathetic justice system.
People expect justice for these kinds of gruesome acts. And once again, they didn’t get it.
Their politicians who drafted the Youth Criminal Justice Act let them down. And the courts, including Justice Duval, let them down.
I can’t even imagine how the family of Mr. Lanzellotti must feel to see that their loved one’s life was only worth four years behind bars.
We need reform. We need reform in a big way.
First and foremost, killings like this should always attract a lengthy term of incarceration for any criminal, whether the offender is 14 or 34.
The setting for a 14-year-old should probably be a boot camp or wilderness camp where the offender can be removed from the poisonous environment that created them. They should go to school, get exercise, learn skills and try to adopt a life that might eventually turn things around for them.
Sticking them in a youth jail for a couple of years and sending them back to the broken environment they came from is virtually a guarantee they will reoffend.
And that means there’s another Mr. Lanzellotti just around the corner awaiting the same fate.
I’ve not once heard a valid argument from the social worker types and the pointy-headed bureaucrats on how sending a very broken teen back to the people who helped get him into trouble in the first place is a good idea.
“Community sentencing” for people like this has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. The entire philosophy behind the Youth Criminal Justice Act has been a failure.
Look at this kid. He’s a multiple offender, has gang ties and breached his court orders so often, his probation officers didn’t even bother reporting them to police.
And now they’re going to do it all over again in a couple of years or less?
How did Einstein define insanity again?
I hope Justice Duval enjoys the Eight-Ball. The good judge certainly earned this one.
Justice Duval apparently has a lengthy written decision for us explaining the Lanzellotti killing case. But the judge didn’t release it Friday. On the one hand, judges and lawyers accuse the media of not reporting the full story of cases like these. Yet in this case, they refuse to release all of the details of a sentencing decision. Not very credible. When I get it, I’ll put it on my blog Raise a Little Hell at winnipegsun.com.

I completely disagree with changing the YCJA. It`s goals currently, are rehabilitation and successful reintegration and we need to keep those as goals for youth. Locking them up in prison is an emotional response to the crime and is only a quick fix. It is not a long term solution and fails to address the underlying causes and contributing factors to the crime. Punishments should not be proportionate to the crimes. A sentence needs to take into consideration, the mitigating and aggravating factors of an offender and the sentence must sufficiently meet the needs of the offender, in terms of rehabilitation and reintegration. If we simply lock these teens up, with no rehabilitation and release them with little assistance, they will likely resort back to crime. In prison, there are negative influences, drugs, gangs. pro criminal attitudes and behaviours and is a general, negative environment. Teens will likely become more hardened criminals and more involved in the criminal lifestyle. They will be negatively impacted by prison. Prison should only be used as a last resort and only to protect the public from an individual who legitimately poses a risk to public safety. Those with mental illnesses,  of aboriginal descent, drug or property offenders, should not be imprisoned unless it is needed, as the environment will have a more negative impact on them. Prison does not accomplish deterrence, prevention or reduction of crime. 

"Sticking them in a youth jail for a couple of years and sending them back to the broken environment they came from is virtually a guarantee they will reoffend."

EXACTLY! Which is why sending youths to adult prisons or sentencing them for adult sentences, would be even LESS effective. They will be even more negatively influenced by the prison environment, gangs and drugs and be released into the same conditions which contributed to their crime initially, with little assistance and be much more likely to re-offend. These teens need help and assistance. Community sanctions have been proven to be more effective in rehabilitation and reintegration than prison, which is why we need to implement them more often. 

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