Thursday, July 1, 2010
Conservative crime bill is regressive and mean spirited!
The minority Conservatives have another five billion reasons to abandon this ludicrous bill that they say is designed to get tough on crime.
Conservative supporters may say that the party is doing a gutsy thing, and moving forward despite criticism.
But if real courage is found in admitting when we are wrong, then this party can be categorized as nothing more than a bunch of cowards.
For months, Justice Minister Vic Toews has been hearing logical and compelling reasons as to why this bill is a very bad idea. It's as though Toews and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are sticking their fingers in their ears like children who don't want to hear the truth.
In addition to the fact that in every other jurisdiction where this approach has been tried the result is the opposite -- more crime -- we now learn that the cost to the federal prison system will be $5 billion over five years.
B.C. residents can't be too happy about this either. At a time when we have a provincial government that cannot seem to manage the B.C. economy, there will also be significant costs for provincial corrections systems across the country.
At the centre of this poorly thought out idea is to shift the focus in both the adult and youth corrections systems from rehabilitation to punishment.
While there is a small percentage of unrepentant, evil offenders who ought to be locked up as long as possible, the majority of adults and youths who go into our jails respond well to efforts at rehabilitation.
And we have an example of exactly this premise at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.
Though B.C. Corrections seems reluctant to say so publicly, it is a published fact that graduates of the 28-bed therapeutic community at NCC offended 44% less than offenders in a comparison group over a one-year period.
It is programs like this, that successfully treat offenders rather than punish them, that go toward lowering our crime rate. And make no mistake, Statistics Canada has documented the decline in the crime rate in Canada.
So why do minority Conservative insist on moving ahead with such a regressive piece of legislation?
It boils down to one word. Votes. In the craven desire to get their elusive majority, the party is appealing to one of the most base emotions in the panoply of human emotion: Revenge.
The majority of Canadians are hard working people who abide by the law. They are rightly upset when they see crime occur.
And therein lies the problem. The minority Conservatives are very careful to strip out the context of crime. If we were to listen to their screeds, a person would think we are all potential victims of criminals lurking around the next corner who have just been released from jail.
After we look at the fact that crime happens here, in context we can say with certainty that overall Canada is a very safe nation in which to live.
Where the minority government ought to be putting its energy, if it wants to combat crime, is in fighting white collar crime. That is where organized crime is working feverishly to either commit financial crimes or to clean up drug money. Take the profits out, and we put a serious dent in organized crime.
To insist that some petty criminal can't get credit for time served is not only mean-spirited, but makes no sense.
And now Canadians are going to have to pay $5 billion to implement this ill-considered scheme.
Let's hope the minority Tories find some real courage.
Excellent article! Couldn't have said it better myself. Basically summed up my thoughts and views perfectly.
Canada's parliamentary budget officer projects that one new law-and-order bill will require 13 new federal prisons to house more than 4,000 additional offenders.
In a report released yesterday, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page concluded that the additional cost to the federal penal system will be about $5 billion over the next five years, and at least that amount for the provincial system.
That means that the government's new Truth in Sentencing Act -which eliminates two-for-one credits for time spent in pre-sentence custody -will cost the entire prison and jail system at least $10 billion in additional spending in the next five years.
His analysis pegs the total costs of corrections, federally and provincially, at $9.5 billion by 2015-2016, up from the current overall spending of $4.4 billion.
Page cautioned that the figures are his best estimates because he was stonewalled by the federal government in trying to obtain data.
Page's analysis could reignite a long-standing dispute with provincial governments, which for almost four years have been lobbying for additional federal funding to help pay for Conservative government measures to put more offenders in prisons and jails and to keep them there longer.
Page's report deals with one new law, that took effect in February and stripped judges of their discretion to hand down sentencing credits to compensate for time spent in pre-sentence detention.
Several provinces have pushed hard for elimination of the credit. The federal government has rejected the pleas for more money, saying that the provinces are obliged to absorb costs for measures they have sought.
Provinces are responsible for jails, in which offenders serve sentences of less than two years, while the federal government oversees penitentiaries, where prisoners serve terms of two years or more.
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland, who asked Page for the analysis, said the law-and-order agenda will be "crippling" for a deficit-ridden government. He noted that Page's report covers only one bill, so the entire government tab will be much greater.