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

Mandatory minimum sentences have no place in our justice system

The four-year prison sentence handed to Peguis First Nation man Jordan Flett is a classic example of why mandatory minimums work and why we must ensure they never disappear from our Canadian justice system.
It also demonstrates how much Canada’s judiciary is out to lunch with what Canadians want our justice system to be: Criminals who are guilty get punished and the sentence fits the crime.
At Flett’s sentencing hearing Thursday Judge Brent Stewart seemed stunningly apologetic because he was forced to follow the law and hand out a strict sentence. The offence of discharging a firearm with intent to cause bodily harm is one of those where a mandatory minimum must be handed down. Gee how awful. A judge having to be tough. What’s Canada coming to?
“In my opinion, this is a perfect example of why minimum sentences shouldn’t be forced on the court without some discretion. I unfortunately have my hands tied,” he said.
What a load of hogwash. The guilty man in this case brought a gun to a party and shot a man. Just what kind of message is to be sent if Judge Stewart got his way and used leniency?
We shudder to think what Flett might have been sentenced to if Stewart had the free hand he mentioned. Quite likely it would have been, “you brought a gun to party but you’re a good guy, don’t worry about it.”
That’s one of the big problems in our justice system — judges feeling sorry for criminals and giving them less time then the crime deserves. The “discretion” Judge Stewart talks about ends up being a way out for judges to be soft on criminals.
Court heard Flett, 20, had never been in trouble with the law but after drinking for several hours at a friend’s house party he became upset because an ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend were there. Flett left the party saying he would be returning with a gun. Because he’d never been in trouble before, most of the partygoers didn’t take the threat seriously. All that changed when he returned with a rifle and fired off a round, hitting the victim — a boyhood friend — in the upper thigh.
Despite the fact the Crown attorney indicated Flett was “shocked” by what he did and actually tried to get others to help the man he’d shot, it still doesn’t excuse his violent actions.
Nor should anyone be influenced by Flett’s tearful mother who was present in the court room.
As much as the judge hates it, the sentence is appropriate. The man brought a gun to a house party with an intent to kill or injure someone.
It’s absolutely outrageous to think any judge would feel this is not serious enough for prison time.
Thank God for mandatory minimums.

This editorial is appalling and enrages me! Mandatory minimums (MMS) are so unfair and they should be abolished. They are unfair as they treat all crimes and offenders as equals by giving them the same sentence when in reality, they are all different. MMS leave judges with no discretion to consider the circumstances of the offender or the crime. Judges should be trusted in their sentencing decisions and should have discretion. MMS do nothing to prevent, deter or reduce crime, so if you are interested in creating safer communities, MMS do not accomplish that! Longer sentences have been proven to increase the chances of re-offending and decrease the likelihood of successful reintegration into the community, which does not translate to safer communities. If we are truly invested in reducing and preventing crime, we need to allow judges more discretion in deciding upon an appropriate and fair sentence.  

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