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 20, 2010

"Soft on crime crowd brainwashed" -- Tom Brodbeck, YOU are brainwashed!

I love it when the hug-a-thug crowd tries to use crime statistics by comparing us with the United states and declaring how much better Canada’s justice system is because of our falling crime rates.
When political parties like the New Democrats in Manitoba or the Conservatives in Ottawa suggest changes to our criminal justice system such as bringing in new mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and eliminating conditional sentences for serious crimes, the hug-a-thug crowd dubs it the “Americanization” of our justice system.
The proof is in the pudding, they say. Just look at Canada’s falling crime rates and compare our crime rates with those in the U.S. Because Canada’s are lower per capita, they argue, it’s evidence that out criminal justice system is superior.
They then use that as ammunition to try to argue against mandatory minimum sentences and the elimination of soft laws such as conditional sentences.
They’re essentially spoon-fed this stuff by groups like the John Howard Society. They haven’t done their own research on it. They simply regurgitate the JHS line.
If they had done their own homework on it, they would realize quickly how mistaken they are in their position.
Take mandatory minimum sentences for certain serious crimes. The hug-a-thug crowd says by adopting mandatory minimums, we’re going to mimic the American justice system, which they say doesn’t work.
Ooops. Canada has had mandatory minimum sentences for years. And since their adoption, overall crime rates have fallen.
In 1977 Parliament brought in mandatory minimums of one year for a first conviction of using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence. We’ve had mandatory minimums for murder since we got rid of the death penalty. And the Liberals brought in a litany of mandatory minimums in the mid-1990s, including a four-year mandatory minimum when a firearm is used in a manslaughter, attempted murder and a number of other violent offences.
There are about 40 mandatory minimums in the Criminal Code right now. And our overall crime rates have fallen.
The hug-a-thug crowd also insists we shouldn’t get rid of conditional sentences, or house arrest, because that would be copying the Americans. But we’ve only had conditional sentences in Canada since 1996. The crime rate was falling well before conditional sentences were brought in.
What the hug-a-thug crowd fails to understand is the main reason we want tougher laws is not because we have evidence it may reduce the crime rate. Nobody can prove with evidence that one or more policies reduces the crime rate.
We simply want criminals held accountable for their crimes and we want dangerous offenders off the streets for public safety reasons.
It’s fairly simple.

I am offended that you call us the “hug a thug” crowd. At least we have a heart! (and some more compassion and sympathy for the marginalized groups in our society!). I have done my own research on mandatory minimum sentences and they are ineffective. It has been proven in research that longer sentences creates further overcrowding because more people are imprisoned for longer periods. This in turn has adverse effects on inmates and when released, increases the chances of one re-offending and decreases the likelihood of successful reintegration. Why is this the case? For the simple fact that prisons are not effective at addressing the root causes of crime, such as poverty, unemployment, negative peer influences, family violence, etc. etc. Judges should be allowed more discretion in sentencing and mandatory minimums severely limit judicial discretion which can lead to offenders being sentenced too harshly and also leading to more trials as not many individuals want to plead guilty for a charge which automatically places them in prison.
I am a compassionate and sympathetic person towards ALL human beings, regardless of the wrongs they have committed against society. I do not discriminate. This is not about “hugging a thug” which I find offensive. It is about assisting criminals in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society as productive citizens once again. Criminals deserve rights, which is why I advocate for human rights, equality for all, and more prisoners’ rights.

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