Pubdate: Wed, 01 Oct 2008
Source: Packet & Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


Criminal lawyer Carl Garland is correct.

When it comes to fighting crime in this region, and probably across
the country, we don't need longer jail sentences. We need effective
drug-rehabilitation and crime prevention programs.

Garland is as familiar with the local face of crime as any individual
in this community. This week he soundly criticized the federal
Conservative strategy calling for tougher sentences as a way of
battling crime.

The Conservative plan includes stiffer sentences for gun crimes, a
crack down on drug-impaired driving offences, changing conditional
sentencing options for violent offenders and lifting the ban on naming
teenagers convicted of serious crimes.

The Tories claim holding young offenders accountable will curb crime
rates. Some of these changes might be desirable, but none of them will
be very effective in reducing crime.

Garland argues that the big problem is drug addiction. He says
deterrence just doesn't figure into the consciousness of someone who
can't think beyond the next fix of crack.

The Conservative stance is political theatre; an effort to play to a
specific demographic. It is designed to create an emotional response
based on peoples' common sense of justice.

It has little to do with fighting crime and everything to do with
winning an election.

Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton revealed that strategy in its entirety
in his defence of the Conservative platform this week.

Citing a distressing number of illegal firearms incidents, Stanton
said the rights of citizens must trump the rights of criminals.

"I know there are people -- criminologists, academics and others --
that would refute that conclusion, but I believe that kind of
sentiment is completely out of step with the feelings of people in our
community," Stanton told The Packet.

Those sentiments do resonate with the general public, but aren't we
talking about reducing crime here? How exactly does appealing to
public sentiment translate into reduced crime rates? Is it responsible
to discount the opinions of people who have dedicated their lives to
studying crime in favour of public sentiment?

Police in the Orillia-area have repeatedly identified drug-use as the
most significant root of crime in this community.

One convicted drug user recently told The Packet that his time spent
in prison provided him with a fine education in crime, and that the
biggest barrier to turning his life around is the difficulty in
separating himself from the drug culture in which he lives.

Part of the Tory plan does include a meagre $10 million in funding for
prevention programs, but it seems to be an afterthought as much as

That amount of funding would be useful in Simcoe County. Nationwide,
it will have the effect of a whisper in a windstorm.

Still, it will probably have a greater impact on crime than all the
other punitive Conservative measures put together.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin