Pubdate: Fri, 23 Sep 2011
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2011 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Ethan Baron, Postmedia News


Prime Minister Stephen Harper is getting tougher on pot growers than
he is on rapists of children. Under the Tories' omnibus crime
legislation tabled Tuesday, a person growing 201 pot plants in a
rental unit would receive a longer mandatory sentence than someone who
rapes a toddler or forces a five year-old to have sex with an animal.

Producing six to 200 pot plants nets an automatic sixmonth sentence,
with an extra three months if it's done in a rental or is deemed a
public-safety hazard. Growing 201 to 500 plants brings a one-year
sentence, or 1 1/2 years if it 's in a rental or poses a safety risk.

The legislation imposes one-year mandatory minimums for sexually
assaulting a child, luring a child via the Internet or involving a
child in bestiality. All three of these offences carry lighter
automatic sentences than those for people running medium-sized
grow-ops in rental property or on someone else's land.

A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him, or a
pervert exposing himself to kids at a playground, would receive a
minimum 90-day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing
six pot plants in his own home.

The maximum sentence for growing marijuana would double from seven to
14 years, the same maximum applied to someone using a weapon during a
child rape, and four years more than for someone sexually assaulting a
child without using a weapon.

Here in B.C., if police and prosecutors don't rebel against the new
laws, we're going to be hit with massive jail costs, says Simon Fraser
University criminologist Neil Boyd. The new marijuana legislation will
increase the proportion of pot criminals in B.C. jails from less than
5% to around 30%, at a cost of $60,000 to $70,000 per inmate annually,
Mr. Boyd says.

"Why put people who are not violent in jail?" Mr. Boyd says. "People
who commit serious violent crime are already dealt with pretty
harshly, and crime rates are down, not up."

Mr. Harper's U.S.-style war on drugs ignores our southern neighbour's
expensive failed effort. "Eight states -- including New York, where
laws were the most punitive in the nation -- have repealed most of
these mandatory-minimum sentences, and dozens of other jurisdictions
are considering repeal or reform," a February report from Human Rights
Watch says.

Even the government's own Justice Department questions the use of
mandatory minimums. "There is some indication that minimum sentences
are not an effective sentencing tool," reads a 2010 report from the
department. "They constrain judicial discretion without offering any
increased crime-prevention benefits."

Provincial jails -- where most people convicted under the new laws will
end up -- provide far fewer rehabilitation programs than federal
prisons, leading to higher rates of re-offending, says Stacey Hannem,
chairwoman of the policy review committee at the Canadian Criminal
Justice Association.

"There's a real revolving door problem in our provincial
institutions," Ms. Hannem says. "If you're going to throw even more
people in there, you can bet that the recidivism rate in the
provincial system is likely to go up.

"If you want to get tough on crime, that's fine. But don't sell it as
increasing public safety. That's just not true." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.