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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mandatory minimum sentencing rules could cost provinces

The federal government's rules regarding mandatory minimum sentences will cut into the bottom line of the provinces, some critics warn.
Parliament has already passed legislation that establishes mandatory minimum sentences for impaired driving and serious firearms offences. Now, another bill focused on organized drug crimes is before the Senate.

Mandatory minimums will lead to longer sentences behind bars and require additional prison space. But NDP justice critic Joe Comartin says there are also additional prosecution costs to mandatory minimum sentences.

"People are not going to plead guilty," he said. "We're not going to have plea bargaining arrangements because the prosecutor basically has nothing to offer the accused person in terms of a reduced sentence. So we end up with many more trials."
Provinces pick up most of the tab for trials, including the bills for security, stenographers, court time, some judges and provincial prosecutors.
Federal authorities prosecute most drug crimes in Canada. And with the drug bill before the Senate, the Conservative government has already set aside $33.5 million over five years to support the prosecutors who work for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
But provincial attorneys general say that, so far, they're not getting any additional funds from the federal government to cover the costs of additional trials.
New Brunswick Attorney General Kelly Lamrock says he expects his province alone will incur an extra $2 million a year in prosecutorial costs.
"In our province we've gotten our crime rate down. We've done it by being tough on the causes of crime as well as being tough on criminals when they deserve it," he said.
"If they're going to pass on millions of costs, on doing it their way, New Brunswickers would respectfully ask that if they're overruling us on the best way to keep ourselves safe, then frankly they should gamble their dimes on it."
He says the federal government has not yet acknowledged these extra costs.
"The only response we got is someone said, 'Well, we've increased funding for the health-care system, so you should be able to absorb it.' But obviously those calculations weren't done with this in mind."

Transfer payments increased

A spokeswoman for the federal justice minister says the government increased transfer payments to the provinces this year.
In an email to CBC News, Pamela Stephens says, "Canadians lose faith in the criminal justice system when they feel that the punishment does not fit the crime."
Saskatchewan Attorney General Don Morgan says his province wholeheartedly supports the federal legislation but has not determined what the costs will be.
"We don't know and won't know until it's been operational for awhile," he says. "But there's no doubt it will increase the time demands on prosecutors and the time requirements on our court system."
Morgan says the prosecutorial costs will probably be manageable, adding that provinces must do their part to crack down on crime. However, he said he has some concern about what the rules could mean for prisons.
"The one that's going to be a little harder to manage in most provinces is going to be the correctional facilities," he said, noting that most provinces are now operating at or near capacity.
"So if you had something that all of a sudden imposed a significant increase, that's really going to create some challenges."
Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan says he too is supportive of the federal government's tough-on-crime agenda, though it could lead to more demand for legal aid. Swan says the government used to be an equal partner in funding the program.
"Successive federal governments have choked that legal aid system so that, now in Manitoba at least, the federal government is paying about 20 per cent of the total cost."
"If there is the prospect of a mandatory minimum sentence, it may put more pressures on that area," he added. "We have a very good legal aid system here in Manitoba. We plan to keep it that way, but we could certainly use federal help."
Kelly Lamrock says all of these issues will be raised this weekend when Atlantic Canada's attorneys general meet in Newfoundland.

I am completely opposed to mandatory minimum sentences and believe they should be abolished as they have no place in our justice system. They treat certain crimes and criminals as if they are equal, when they are very different. They leave judges with zero discretion in considering all circumstances of the offender and the crime, in determining an appropriate sanction. They also lead to further prison overcrowding, as more people are being imprisoned for longer periods of time. This does not create safer communities and is not in our best interests. Longer sentences have been shown to increase the rates of re-offending due to the negative prison environment, subculture and influences and decrease the likelihood of successful reintegration because inmates become dependent, institutionalized, and are released with no rehabilitation and little assistance in reintegration, employment and housing. Also with mandatory sentences, there is likely to be more trials and more clogging of the courts. Nobody wants to plea bargain or plead guilty to a crime which carries a minimum prison sentence, so they are more likely to fight the crime in a trial. This will be expensive and ineffective and only cause more backlogs. All individuals learn in prison is how to be dependent, how to survive in prison, how to be angrier and violent and how to better conceal crimes. Prisons are the schools of crime. 

If we are truly invested in preventing and reducing crime, we need to address the root causes and contributing factors such as mental illness, addictions, unemployment, poverty, family violence, negative peer influences, gangs, etc. Prisons are ineffective at addressing these causes, preventing, reducing or deterring crime. 

If mandatory sentences worked, then the US should be the safest country in the world. There is no research or evidence to show that mandatory sentencing has any positive effect on crime rates or recidivism. So why are we implementing a policy which is ineffective and which has no evidence or support for its effectiveness? 

The crime rate in Canada has been declining since 1991, so our system WAS working to reduce crime with the Liberals. Why do we need to make more mandatory sentences and get tougher on crime when the system wasn't broken or in need of change? Mandatory sentences will not do anything to reduce crime. 

Currently our prison system does not rehabilitate, when this is where the most emphasis should be placed. Prisons do not prevent, reduce or deter crime. We need to improve prison conditions, focus on rehabilitation and reintegration, provide assistance upon release, give prisoners more rights and less deprivations and imprison less people for shorter sentences. Aboriginals, addicts, the mentally ill, drug, property and non-violent offenders should always have the least restrictive sanction considered and very rarely be sentenced to prison. Prisons currently cause recidivism rates to increase. That is not effective. 

Harper's billion dollar failure "get tough on crime" approach is costing Canadians and isn't solving any problems. It is not a long term solution to crime. MMS appear to be doing something but in reality, have little to no impact on addressing crime in Canada and its causes. The Conservative approach has been a proven failure. Why do Canadians continue to support a government with a record of complete failure regarding crime and justice and an apparent policy of lying to the public about everything? They make their crime policies based on a perceived fear in the public (which is not rational, but only due to the media sensationalizing rare, violent and unusual crimes), and the policies are based on emotions, not reason, logic or rationale. Their crime and justice policies are not evidence-based. If you want more failure and less safe communities, then by all means, keep voting right-wing! 

MMS will not work and they never have. Just look at the US! They not only are expensive but they also do not reduce crime! Did Harper even read the research and stats that say crime is DECLINING in Canada and has been for 25 years? Why do we need more MMS? 

Here are some comments from CBC.ca that I enjoyed:
The two camps on the crime issue can be simplified as follows:

Those who view criminals as worthless animals better off dead, and those who see criminals as human beings with complex and often insane reasoning for their actions.

I suspect both sides are as often right as they are wrong. Of course there are those criminals who are much more like animals - without remorse, without emotion, without compassion or an ounce of humanity - but this is not every criminal.

The vast majority of people we have behind bars are there for the simple fact that they are addicts like many people are, only we don't arrest people for gambling away their life savings or shopping till they drop.

The conservatives would love us all to believe that anyone in prison is a dangerous thug beyond all hope, because then we'll want them all locked away forever - more prisons, more guards, more convicts released on society without skills, without having had treatment for their addiction, to keep the cycle going on and on and on.

Should our goal not be to reduce the number of people locked up in prisons? I guess if we see there are millions of Canadians locked in prison, than justice must be working, and we must be safe!

Meanwhile, corporate criminals get to quietly retire to their private islands on money they never paid any taxes on.

What both camps need to come to realize is that everyone wants less crime. We've seen crime rates steadily decline decade after decade, but our prisons are still busting full. What is the societal incentive to decrease crime if the decrease of such results in the politicians inventing new crimes to lock us up for to keep feeding the prison machine?

"Everything costs. But what price can you put on public safety? Get the dangerous ones off the street- we'll save the money on health care, insurance and funerals."

Agreed. But then why would you support a bill that is not aimed at these dangerous criminal and is aimed at regular law abiding Canadians, who's only crime is inhaling an herb. Are three people standing on the street smoking a joint the dangerous people you are referring to?

We need to have support and services and social programs for the poor, addicts, mentally ill, and the unemployed. 

If the feds reinstated capital punishment the multitudes of millions in money saved on keeping convicted killers behind bars could help offset this cost
You should think twice about that statement. It could happen to one of your family members. Then you would be singing a different tune. Have you ever heard of the wrongfully convicted. Just look up Thomas Sophonow or David Milgaard and how their lives were destroyed.

Crime rates have been falling for the last decade.

The so-called "war on drugs" is pointless and will never be won, nor in most cases should it be (pot, for example).

This bill is such a huge waste of money and resources.

If the feds reinstated capital punishment the multitudes of millions in money saved on keeping convicted killers behind bars could help offset this cost."

it costs far more to execute someone than to keep them behind bars. then, there's the problem of executing innocent people wrongfully convicted, although i suspect that simply being arrested is all the proof YOU need to be convinced of guilt.
david milgaard, stephen truscott, guy paul morin...
the fact that they weren't executed is the sole reason we discovered that the wrong people had been punished for crimes they didn't commit. again, i suspect that you wouldn't care if they had been, even though that would mean the state murdered innocents (hell, it does that in every war it fights), AND the real perps are still out on the street committing fresh rapes and murders.

"Reducing sentences is not the answer."

no, prevention is. increasing sentences just leads those who are committing crimes to be more violent about not getting caught. sentences are not deterrents that stop criminals. prevention does stop people most likely to commit crimes, the poor, from ever choosing that path.

I don't agree with mandatory minimums for anything. Set reasonable maximums and let a judge decide based on circumstances. (Fire judges if they aren't doing their jobs, but don't tie their hands). I'm not adverse to getting tough on real crime within those maximums (which are already quite high for most offenses), just be careful who you call "scumbags". That's the problem with this.

The mandatory minimums proposed for cannabis production greatly disturb me. Anyone who has ever grown marijuana knows that you can't do anything with "5 plants". If you start 5 plants you will most likely get nothing desirable. Anyone who seeks to sustain themselves without having to buy it from criminals would be running afoul of the minimum sentencing. This administration is a bunch of creeps who don't care about the harm they will cause in the name of law and order.

I don't want people to buy cannabis produced by biker/gang/triad grow operations. If not produced by themselves, I would rather see it obtained from friends or casual people who have a green thumb, or better yet, I want it legalized and taxed so it can be better controlled (proper procedures, good strains, less harm) and some money goes back into the economy, and to the government.

General legalization is never going to happen though, because the US will interfere. Yeah, yeah, "Cry Havoc!" at the thought, but the reality of the situation is they would send troops here if their political/economic bullying didn't work. We need to decriminalize simple possession and use discretion to tolerate a bit of small scale growing (it would be a start, anyway). Save the big jail time for those who seek to spoil things for everyone else.
"Jail does not rehabilitate, only the person who does the crime can rehabilitate themself.
Jail however does work, it stops the prisoner from breaking into your house while they are in jail.
Please do not think that these people are in jail for minor offences only, ask anyone of them off the record and they will gladly tell you that they did another 20 or 30 crimes that they never got caught for.
How do I know? Go work inside a jail for 16 years and you will see the complete lack of remorse that they show, unless that is if you are a Parole Board member, Social Worker or chaplain then it's nothing but remorse and "I'm not like that anymore!""

i call bullshit on you. i spent 7 years in prison. all i ever learned in prison was how to be angrier, and violent. the most brutal individuals i ever met in prisons wore guard's uniforms.
and yes, i did get away with a hell of a lot when i was committing crimes. it's one of the reasons i lost so much of my lide being warehoused. see, there was no money being spent on preventing someone like me, a drug addicted victim of pretty vicious childhood sexual abuse, from sinking into that world, and there's no money being spent preventing it now. maybe because it works so much better than filling jails up and forgetting that everyone in there is every inch as human, and if you actually were a guard, more human, than you.

i was last released form prison in 1999. i've earned a degree, become eligible for a pardon, and i held a good-paying job until an assault left me with a crushed foot.
now, i know you'll say karma, and that don't matter to me. careful sociopaths like you always find some way to justify your callousness, and often find a career expressing it, just like you did.
Mandatory minimum sentences have not been effective in deterring the trade of illegal drugs in the US. The US is now repealing these extremely costly laws because they do not work and the US cannot afford them.

Mandatory minimums do not prevent drug use or trade, that has been proven in the US. To try and bring these ineffective and expensive laws in Canada, when they have a history of ineffectiveness and great cost, is asinine.

We must get rid of the cancervatives at all costs! Drug prohibition is exacerbating crime in this country, just like with alcohol prohibition. All these laws will do is drive up the price of illegal drugs and cause more criminals to get in the game. Legalizing and regulating through government systems is the only way to remove the criminal element, and we would derive tons of tax dollars!

It's a no-brainer. Save money on justice costs AND get more tax revenue. WIN WIN!!
"As someone who obeys the laws and doesnt commit crimes i have no problem with having minimal sentences, even if there is additional cost for it."

you never commit any offenses? and you don't care how much money is spent AFTER the crime, to punish the "guilty?
funny, 'cause you always seem to care how much money is spent attempting to provide those who are most likely to commit crimes (note the future tense), the poor, the addicted, the mentally ill, find an alternative to committinng crimes.

"i dont care if it hasnet shown any reduction in crimes in the states yet."

and it won't. long facts of history prove that it increases the crime rate, and you'd know that except you are blinded by your rightarded ideology.

"It is better than murderers getting only a conditional sentence where they stay at home or drunk drivers who kill others getting off with only a suspended licensce and community work."

what murderer has ever gotten a conditional sentence. do please cite a credible source. the voices in your head are not credible sources

"if there are minimal sentences for the more serious crimes that involve innocent people dying or children being sexually abused or women being raped that i am all for it."

why look! there are sentencing standards for those crimes already. guess your ignorance is even more vast than i could imagine it to be.

"if it keeps career criminals off the street longer than i am all for it since they certainly havent changed their ways."

career criminals? define career criminals, please. desperate junkies? bike gangs? investment bankers?

"now let all the bleeding hearts who are more concerned about the criminals than their victims give me a thumbs down or slam me for my comments."

a penny of prevention worth a pound of cure.

The law they are proposing puts people in prison for simple marijuana possession. Or growing a few plants for personal use. The groups commissioned by the Canadian and American governments to study marijuana have both said Marijuana is not nearly as harmful as other legal products, and should be legalized. Yet it remains illegal, unjustly, in an attempt to fill our prisons with otherwise law abiding people. The conservatives have a lot of interests in American profit prisons, and are attempting to balloon our legal costs as justification to bring in these institutions, which have only caused more harm than good in the U.S. where they have been operating for decades.
All we have to do is look south of the border to see that this "tough on crime" war on drugs does not work.
A gimmick to give the older, christian (voting) population a sense of security to keep them voting conservative.
Young, people: educate yourselves and VOTE! Things can be different!

Conservative ideology is always so expensive.
The Harper 'Cost-Benefit' Con: Cost = all Canadians; Benefit = Harper and the Con's

How about some cost-benefit analysis instead of blindly implementing extreme right wing agenda of Stephen Harper.

The Harper tough on Crime is a prime example of ideology based policies without any consideration for who has to pay the price and whether there will be any real benefit for all Canadians.

As it turns out Stephen Harper and the Con's have nothing to support their position to say that it is in the best interest of all Canadians. In fact, all the evidence points to the exact opposite. This is illustrated by the Report just released (Sep.'09) by Graham Stewart, Prof Michael Jackson, et al.

The response by the Con’s, “The professor has a different philosophy than us,” then Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan (to CBC). You got that Right Van Loan.

The difference:

rationally based polices that have been vetted for benefit of all Canadians


a right wing, extremist philosophy with a significant Theocratic element, thus blurring the separation of state and Church, appealing to a small but well defined segment of society.
Time and time again tougher sentences have been proven ineffective in reducing crime. This will only make the cannabis business more lucrative for hard core criminals who are willing to do the time. This policy is totally backwards, and I am embarrassed that this government is forging ahead with this bill.
Jail does not rehabilitate. Nor does it prevent crime. It actually INCREASES crime. If you don't understand this. Get educated.

However, jail and the like does something more than increasing crime. It buys Conservatives some more votes, so that they can continue this vicious cycle that will lead to the destruction of this country.

Apparantly people don't understand and that is why they are playing into the hands of conservatives who want to enslave them.

The ignorance of ignorant people is doing more damage and destruction to this country than any terrorist would want to achieve.

With this many ignorant people, this country is doomed.

And the government does not care because their plan is to fill our prisons until the cost is too much for Canadians to handle and then American for profit prisons will ride in on white horses and save us all. Until we get their bill and find out it is larger, the prisoners come out worse than they went in, and the crime rate in Canada doubles to be more in line with that of the U.S. But by then it will be too late. Conservatives don't let things like facts or figures get in the way of their goals.

Another Conservative waste of money. They are now sticking their noses into the affairs of the provinces and running up their bills just to pander to the 20%'ers who are afraid of the world outside their doors.

Never mind crime has been going down year over year for over a dozen years now - WE MUST SPEND MORE - to fight a problem that was going away already.

And who wants to wager they want more penalties on users of marijuana? This lock-em-up mentality is a direct response to their complete lack of vision and ability to rationalize what they are doing. Simply look South to see what a complete and utter failure the lock-em-up society has produced. Is there anything American this group doesn't want to emulate? At least pick the good things for crying out loud!

Introducing mandatory minimum sentences is purely a political move. It does nothing to improve the justice system in this country. It appeals to a segment of the population that sees the world in a black and white perspective.

Good people make bad choices all the time, and bad people make good choices too. And sometimes people do learn from their mistakes. True justice would take all factors into consideration before condemning the actions of a person.
It's hard to oppose a "tough-on-crime" bill without being derided as some "pro-crime" loony.

But seriously, these reforms are not needed at this time. Crime rates are falling and we have many more pressing issues to deal with. Besides, stiffer sentences generally don't work in reducing crime. I'd rather see this money spent on crime prevention and rehabilitating drug addicts.
organized drug crime in THIS bill is growing a few pot plants, and even more severe if you are renting the property where it is grown. any production of hash is also mandatory minimum sentence. this is outrageous, this is aimed at small-level, personal use, producers and does NOTHING to address the industrial-scale growth that is operated by the serious, violent gangs.

instead of penalizing the little guys (some, who are trying to keep money out of the pockets of organized crime by producing their own, instead of buying from drug dealers) we should LEGALIZE AND TAX marijuana!

OK, so for everyone who wants the government to be "tough on crime". I hope you have your wallets open to pay for it. More prisons, more security, more cops ... they all cost big bucks, so don't complain about taxes if you want more people locked up longer.
Mandatory minimums are a way of bringing politics into the courtroom. Instead of allowing a legal professional to decide, we are letting our politicians decide the sentences without any regard for the context around the crime.
Hey, the Cons are just blindly mimicking the model adopted by the deep South US. And look hot it worked out for them - America is a crime and debt free nation!

The cons are clueless dinosaurs clinging to archaic ideologies intent on making this country a second rate failure......At any cost!

From the article: ""In our province we've gotten our crime rate down. We've done it by being tough on the causes of crime as well as being tough on criminals when they deserve it," he said.

"If they're going to pass on millions of costs, on doing it their way, New Brunswickers would respectfully ask that if they're overruling us on the best way to keep ourselves safe, then frankly they should gamble their dimes on it.""


This holds true EVERYWHERE in this country. Through enlightened approaches, we are REDUCING crime. And now the ideologues want to WASTE money on techniques that are used in countries with HIGHER and RISING crime?

Ignoring the facts on the ground is one thing. Fixing something that ain't broke is another thing. Wasting money where it is not needed and will not help is yet another thing. We have the only government in the Developed World that will go to the wall forcing ALL 3 down our throats, at our expense.

Maybe I've missed something here, but looking at the past decade and a bit down in the States (as they began adopting mininum sentencing) I have been able to find *absolutely* no hard data that shows that mininum sentencing has ANY positive effect on crime rates or recidivism...

Seems to me its just a meat-and-potatoes kind of decision that's tossed out there because politicians *know* it'll get them votes.

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