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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Parole tougher to get under proposed Conservative law

OTTAWA -- If you want to be paroled early in Canada, you're going to have to earn your way out.
Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will today introduce a law putting the onus on offenders to prove they aren't a public safety risk by completing prison-run programs before they will be granted parole.
"Our government has long been concerned, even when we were in opposition, that individuals are simply receiving parole as a matter of right," Toews said Monday at a news conference on another subject.
He said the government is "very soon" going to move on the problem with a shift towards the philosophy that "you have to earn your parole."
Most offenders in Canada can apply for day parole after serving as little as one-sixth of their sentence and for full parole after serving as little as a third of their sentence. Those sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder can't apply for full parole until they've served 25 years.
The National Parole Board has little room to deny applications unless there is evidence an offender will commit a violent offence if released. The government has said even if a white-collar criminal is likely to commit fraud once on the outside, the parole board often can't deny early parole.
In an emailed statement, Toews said his government is putting the rights of victims before the rights of criminals.
"Part of keeping our communities safe is ensuring criminals serve their full sentences behind bars -- not releasing them into our streets early," he wrote.
Last fall, the government introduced legislation to stop automatic early parole for white-collar criminals and other non-violent offenders. The bill was never debated and died when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament in December.
Toews' office would not confirm Monday whether the legislation on the docket this week is identical or adds any additional changes to parole conditions.
Last fall, Toews said the government would deal with the issue of statutory release once the issue of early parole had been dealt with. Statutory release requires offenders to be released on parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Only prisoners serving life sentences are considered ineligible for statutory release.
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said there is a definite need for parole laws to be tightened but he said doing so has to be done with a view to the serious overcrowding already in prisons in Canada.
"I think there is room to tighten it but I don't want to do it on the back of a napkin," said Holland.
He said the issue should be studied thoroughly by Parliament first to ensure that however the parole system is amended, it is done properly.

We should NOT abolish statutory release. The Conservatives say that ensuring criminals serve their full sentences in prison will make communities safer. They are completely wrong. If they abolished stat release, there would be more prisoners serving longer portions of their sentence in prison, which creates further overcrowding and is expensive. Having criminals serve their full sentence in prison and then be released, actually makes society a LOT more dangerous, not safer, in the long run. Longer sentences have been proven to increase the rates of re-offending (due to the negative prison environment, influences, gangs, drugs and subculture. Prisons are the schools of crime.) and decrease the likelihood of successful reintegration (offenders become dependent, lack rehabilitation, life skills, institutionalized, and have adopted the pro criminal norms, values and behaviours). Rehabilitation and reintegration need to be the main focus and emphasis of our prisons and criminal justice system. Another major problem with having offenders serve their full sentences before being released, is that when they are released on the warrant expiry date, they will be released from prison with no period of supervision in the community, no conditions, no assistance and no support. This will highly increase the chances that these offenders will re-offend. With financial difficulties, addictions, little rehabilitation, little life skills, unemployment, no housing, no support/assistance, no programming/treatment resources, etc., these offenders are more likely to resort back to a criminal lifestyle. This is not in society's best interests and does not serve the public safety. A period of mandatory supervision in the community is critical to successful reintegration and to assisting offenders in becoming productive and law abiding members of society. There is no evidence that abolishing stat release would increase community safety, in fact, it would make communities less safe. The less time spent in prison, the more likely individuals are to successful reintegration. Prisons fail at addressing the root causes and contributing factors to criminal behaviour.   

When has "What Works" ever been a serious consideration for the Tories. Or Joe Public for that matter? People far prefer to stay ignorant of the scientific data, in favour of ranting about "justice" and "accountability" and "getting tough on crime".

Unfortunately in Canada, we have seen the pendulum shift to a less educated population, which usually translates into far right thinking - think the German population circa WW1 and WW2....

For Stephen Harper and Vic Toews, this translates into a perfect storm. They can be seen to be meeting the will of the people, while simultaneously putting forth their fascist agenda... 

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