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, August 5, 2010

Conservatives blasted after suggesting more prisons needed

OTTAWA -- A senior cabinet minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government came under fire Tuesday for suggesting Canada needs to build more prisons in part because of a rise in unreported crimes.
"We're very concerned... about the increase in the amount of unreported crimes that surveys clearly show are happening," Day said at a news conference. "People simply aren't reporting the same way they used to."
The comments were immediately contradicted by the government's main statistical agency -- and inspired a rapidly spreading Internet video that mocked the minister for not being able to identify the source of his arguments.
Day made the remarks as Harper's cabinet and caucus returned to Parliament Hill for a series of meetings to review the government's agenda and economic policies. He said the government was committed to winding down stimulus spending programs to eliminate the deficit, but added planned multibillion-dollar investments in new prisons would be needed to replace aging facilities, deter violent criminals and cope with what he claimed is a rise in unreported crimes.
"Those numbers are alarming and it shows that we can't take a liberal view to crime (or) suggest that it's barely happening at all," said Day. "We still have situations, too many situations of criminal activity that are alarming to our citizens and we intend to continue to deal with that."
Day is not the first minister or Conservative MP to suggest the police-reported crime rates are an inaccurate picture of crime in Canada.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, in an email missive to supporters July 22, blamed statistical dishonesty and soft-on-crime apologists in the media and Liberal caucus for suggestions the crime problem in Canada is getting better.
"No amount of statistical manipulation is going to dissuade Canadians from what they know to be true: in this great country, we have a crime problem," Toews wrote.
He went on to say Canadians are no longer reporting crimes, in increasingly large numbers, to the police.
"Whether it's in respect of serious sexual assaults or more commonplace property offences, the argument that Statistic Canada's "police report" statistics show that the crime rate is falling, is seriously flawed," he wrote. "As with all statistical measures, it depends on your point of reference -- and often, your level of honesty."
During an appearance before a parliamentary committee in March, Toews pointed to 1999 and 2004 victimization surveys by Statistics Canada as evidence crime rates have gone up 15 to 19 per cent. He said crime rates in cities like Winnipeg and Vancouver exceed those in most U.S. cities.
Those surveys, conducted once every five years, suggested the proportion of crimes reported to police dropped from 42 per cent in 1994 to 37 per cent in 1999 and 34 per cent in 2004. The proportion of violent crimes reported went up slightly from 31 to 33 per cent between 1999 and 2004.
The percentage of people who had been the victim of a crime in the previous year went from 26 per cent in 1999 to 28 per cent in 2004. The rate of most violent crimes, including sexual assault and physical assault had stayed the same or gone down. The rate of household crimes, including robbery and vandalism, had gone up.
The surveys suggested most people who didn't report crimes kept silent because they dealt with the crime another way or because they didn't think the crime was serious enough to report. Victims were more likely to report the crime if they were injured or had lost property worth more than $1,000.
Statistics Canada quickly shot down Day's assumption, saying this data cannot be compared to police-reported crime statistics, since it only surveyed eight types of crimes as opposed to the hundreds of crimes investigated by police.
"So for example, you can't ask somebody: Have you ever been a victim of a homicide?" said Warren Silver from the agency's centre for justice statistics.
"It's just not possible to do. So what (the Statistics Canada research) does do is track some of the types of crimes that people might not report and might report and some of the reasons why."

NDP MP slams Tories over new organized crime regulations
NDP MP Libby Davies says it's "outrageous" that the Conservative government has quietly enacted new organized crime regulations — which include making bawdyhouse offences a "serious crime" — while Parliament is on summer break.

As part of its plan to crack down on organized crime, the federal government put through several regulatory changes to the Criminal Code in the middle of July. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the changes on Wednesday.

"The fact that an offence is committed by a criminal organization makes it a serious crime," Nicholson stated in a press release. "These regulations will help ensure that police and prosecutors can make full use of the tools in the Criminal Code that are specifically targeted at tackling organized crime."

While most of the regulatory changes announced to the Criminal Code affect gambling, betting or drug trafficking, the government also included "keeping a common bawdyhouse (subsection 210(1) and paragraph 210(2)(c))."

Bawdyhouse laws have been repeatedly used by police to target gay bathhouses and raid them, as recently as 2002 in Calgary and 2004 in Hamilton.

NDP MP Libby Davies, who has studied the country's laws around bawdyhouses and sex work, is concerned.

"It's outrageous that they do it in the dead of summer," Davies says. "This is such a characteristic now of the Conservative government — they bring about manoeuvres and policy changes and announce them when they think no one's paying attention.

"To have changes to the Criminal Code that are regulatory and to do it outside of Parliament, when there's less chance of scrutiny because everybody's away, is terrible. It means that we can't hold the government to account because everyone's away, because Parliament's not sitting."

"We shouldn't be under any illusions that they're in some way protecting people," says NDP MP Libby Davies of the Conservative government's crime agenda.
As to the specific bawdyhouse provisions, Davies feels this is little more than the government maintaining the illusion that it is cracking down on organized crime when she feels the existing laws are tough enough.

"If their intent is to put a tighter grip around bawdyhouses, then that will affect sex workers, and it will affect their safety and their rights. We should be very concerned about what they're up to here."

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland has also raised red flags. "When you do legislation as a political weapon, when you do legislation in the middle of the night with no consultation, no utilization of Parliamentary committee, and you just whip it together to try to change the channel politically, it has all kinds of unintended consequences," he says.

Justice officials state in the release that making these provisions serious offences will make it easier for police and prosecutors to take full advantage of specific Criminal Code offences dealing with organized crime.

Davies begs to differ.

"We shouldn't be under any illusions that they're in some way protecting people because the story is, is on their crime agenda, their laws are actually very harmful — particularly when it comes to people who are in vulnerable positions, such as sex workers or people who use drugs."

We do not need more prisons. The prospect of punishment and imprisonment fails to deter, prevent or reduce crime in Canada. What we need to do is stop over-relying on imprisonment as a sentence and start imposing alternative sentences such as conditional sentences and others that take place in the community. Prison is a negative environment which harbours pro-criminal attitudes, values, beliefs, gangs, drugs, and fails to facilitate or encourage rehabilitation or reform. Prisons increase the chances of re-offending and decrease the chances of successful reintegration. We must place more emphasis on rehabilitation and address the root causes and contributing factors to crime, such as poverty, addictions, mental illness, etc. 
So, the Cons want to build more prisons to house unidentified perpetrators of unreported crimes? And they want to base their decision on surveys that are at least 6 years out of date? Hmmmmm.
So to be clear....we are going to spend billions on new jails for unreport crimes? First - how do you charge, much less convinct, someone for an unreport crime? Second - even if we could convinct someone of a crime that went unreported, Mr Day's own "evidence" says that these crimes are not the type of crime that you go to prison for.

This is the worst case of Karl Rove/George Bush "scare the crap outta people" politics we've ever seen. Harper and his social conservatives what people to believe that crime is getting worse in this country because they believe it's a good campaign issue for them. This is just twisted. This is why the Tories want to make Stats Canada useless - so they can make stuff up, and no one will have the data to disprove them.
Just as Day didn't know which way a river flowed, he demonstrates he doesn't know if crimes are being committed, but wants more prisons built.

The crimes being committed are crimes of stupidity that are perpetrated upon us
This is the same guy who said humans walked the earth with the dinosaurs. Is it any wonder he think it's a good thing to spend billions building new jails when the stats prove the crime rate to be dropping? Perhaps if he spent any money on prevention programs, the jails would not be necessary and there would be less victims.
If crime goes "unreported" what are we building more prisons for?

Surely if no one reports a "crime", nobody can be brought to justice for a crime that was not "reported' so how can we imprison anybody?

By the way, when incidents are "reported" that by definition takes them our of the realm of being "unreported": Hence an investigation can be initiated (depending on circumstances; whether it is a serious crime, and whether or not the police force is at Horton's ejoying their do-nut.)

The point is, only "reported" crimes can be "punished". Unreported crimes go unpunished, because . . . well, you figure it out from there.

Geez, these Conservatives: Dumb, dumb, dumb and dumber . . .
First; if the crimes are unreported there is no police investigation. If there is no police investigation there are no suspects to arrest. If no one is arrested and charged there is no one to send to prison. So what is Day really saying here? We are going to put people who do not exist in prison? What an idiot!
Did any of the commentators actually read the report here. The reference to crimes that go unreported as one commentator put it "If crime goes "unreported" what are we building more prisons for?" completely misses the point. This is made in reference to people who believe crime rates are decreasing when in fact a portion of crimes do go unreported thus skewing peoples perspective of what is truly happening.

To suggest Stockwell Day is calling for jailing non existent criminals and thus justifying his call for more jail cells is both fatuous and ridiculous, get a grip folks!
If the reason we need more jails is that the ones we have are full, say that. Not some mumbo jumbo about unreported crimes. If you read the last paragraphs of the story, crimes go unreported when damage is minimal (as in less than insurance deductibles) or if there were no injuries. That's unlikely to change with new prisons.

Crime requires more complex solutions than either the neocon iron fist or the liberal namby-pamby "forgive the poor little (insert some socioeconomic or racial identifier here) for he knows not what he does."

The solutions have to span the range, from dealing with root causes to providing legitimate economic activity and sufficient childhood activities (community activity centers, etc.) to a justice system that toughens up the process of punishment and rehabilitation. Progressive mandatory sentences, as in mandatory sentences that increase with each offence, jails where prisoners are actually expected to work and abide by accepted protocols (a military protocol, perhaps) (which makes the idea of re-offending less and less attractive), and providing skillsets so that prisoners don't leave prison only to find crime is all they know.
Another typical Con ideological tempest in a teapot. Using "unreported" crimes to support justice initiatives. It would be laughable if it wasn't from the mouth of a minister. A Con's view of the world is that anyone who breaks a law should be put in jail for a long time. It's all part of the nasty Con view of the world, just like the people who constantly lament how bad our justice system is. To them the sky is falling, the sky is falling.... 

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