Pubdate: Thu, 08 Dec 2005
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005, BC Newspaper Group
Author: John Anderson


To the Editor,

Conservative leader Stephen Harper talks tough about crime prevention,
but his plan for mandatory minimum sentences will have little or no
impact on public safety.

Under Conservative thinking, crimes such as cannabis cultivation will
be deterred through mandatory minimum sentences (MMS). Judges will
have no discretion in these matters - instead they will sentence
offenders according to fixed penalties specified in the Criminal Code.
The evidence that mandatory minimums will deter crime is in short supply.

A comprehensive study by Professors Thomas Gabor and Nicole Crutcher
in the Research and Justice Division at the Department of Justice
recently evaluated the effect of mandatory minimum sentences, mostly
by examining the U.S. experience. Some key findings in the study are:

- - Deterrence through MMS works best with occasional or opportunistic
offenders (e.g., drinking and driving), but has little effect on
persistent offenders.

- - Evidence that gun crimes are reduced by MMS is "contradictory and

- - Harsh sentences available through MMS are least effective for drug
consumption and drug-related crimes.

The consequences of mandatory sentences will be very costly to

Judging by the U.S. experience, more defendants will plead not guilty
and elect trial by judge and jury. These will be lengthy,
time-consuming trials and require far more resources.

One of the concluding recommendations by the researchers who conducted
the federal report is that mandatory minimum sentences "should not be
introduced merely to placate a political constituency."

Mr. Harper should advocate crime prevention strategies that can be
defended on the basis of their likely impact, rather than appealing to
voters' emotions.

John Anderson, Criminology Dept.

Malaspina University-College
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