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.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fakers trash Tories? Please educate yourself Tom Brodbeck!

Did you ever notice how critics of the federal Conservatives’ “tough-on-crime” agenda rarely, if ever, go after other political parties who support the changes brought in by the Harper government?
Pro-criminal groups like the John Howard Society and their disciples consistently bash the federal Tories for their “misguided” and “knee-jerk” reactions to justice issues.
They accuse the federal Tories of trying to score cheap political points with the voting public by pandering to the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key crowd.
Their attacks are usually quite visceral and personal.
But they’re almost never directed at the provincial governments — many of whom are NDP or Liberal administrations — who not only support the changes but who lobbied for them in the first place.
The latest onslaught from  the John Howard Society crowd has to do with the elimination of 2-for-1 pre-sentence credit.
The federal Tories have eliminated the double-time credit — which was judge-made law — and replaced it with 1-for-1 credit in most cases.
The objective of the change is to ensure criminals serve something close to the sentences they were given in court.
Critics of the move say it’s bad policy because it won’t reduce crime (it’s not meant to) and it will cost taxpayers more money.
But what’s interesting is their vitriol never seems to be directed at the provincial governments who are partly responsible for bringing it in. In Manitoba, for example, we have an NDP government that for years has been lobbying the federal government aggressively for a number of “tough-on-crime” changes including the 2-1 amendment.
In fact, the NDP in Manitoba has been a leader in demanding the elimination of 2-1 credit. They have been arguing for several years that 2-1 credit encourages criminals to delay their court cases because they know every day they stay in remand will count as two days at sentencing.
Which means some criminals are staying in the provincial jail system longer than necessary when they should be in a federal penitentiary. In those cases, the province is footing the bill for jail time instead of Ottawa.
It’s one of the many salient points Ottawa’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page missed in his latest report on the cost effects of this change.
Despite that, I don’t see the hug-a-thug critics going after politicians like NDP Justice Minister Andrew Swan.
Why not?
They love jumping all over big, bad federal Conservative Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
But they conveniently leave provincial Liberal and NDP governments alone, even though those administrations have contributed to and still support the changes.
Sure, it’s a federal law. But the administration of justice in Canada is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments.
Ottawa enacts criminal law — often with advice from the provinces — and the provinces and the federal government jointly administrate it through policing, prosecutions, courts and corrections.
Which is why they often work together when making changes to the Criminal Code.
The truth is, most of the criticism of the federal Tories’ justice reform agenda has more to do with partisan politics than real policy debate. If it weren’t about partisan politics, the critics would be going after provincial NDP and Liberal governments just as much as they trash the federal Tories.
It’s pretty obvious.

The Conservatives are only implementing tough on crime policies that sound appealing and which cater to the uneducated or misinformed voters who only seek revenge. Getting tough on crime has proven in other countries to be an expensive failure. So what makes us think it will work here in Canada? All it does is get them votes. It is ineffective though in reducing and preventing crime. It will only imprison more people for longer periods, increase prison overcrowding, and levels of violence within prisons. It will disproportionately affect the marginalized groups, such as Aboriginals and non-violent drug offenders. It will not increase public safety. Longer sentences have been shown in research to increase the rates of re-offending. Why is the Harper government ignoring the research compiled by educated criminologists who study crime trends? Plus, why the need to get tough on crime when crime rates are currently decreasing and have been for the last 25 years? We are shifting from correctional policy based on rehabilitation to policies based on punishment and retribution, which is dangerous. Rehabilitation should always remain the prime focus, along with assistance and support in reintegration after serving a prison sentence. If the government is truly interested in reducing and preventing crime, they should be spending more money on crime prevention programs, and programs that address the root causes of crime.  

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