HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html In Praise Of Punishment
Pubdate: Tue, 29 Nov 2005
Source: Chilliwack Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Chilliwack Times
Author: John Martin
Note: John Martin is a criminologist at the University College of the 
Fraser Valley.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


It just keeps getting better and better for criminals in Vancouver 
and the rest of B.C.

First came the report Beyond the Revolving Door: A New Response to 
Chronic Offenders, which confirmed street crime in the nation's third 
largest city is out of control. The 134-page report concedes that the 
revolving door justice system has been a horrific failure in 
attempting to address repeat offenders and property crime. As quick 
as police can arrest law breakers, they're back on the street 
committing more offences.

Then the Vancouver Board of Trade released an analysis showing 
Greater Vancouver was the worst major metropolitan area in Canada for 
property crime.

And now comes another report confirming, once again, that sentences 
are lighter in Vancouver than other jurisdictions. The Canadian 
Bankers Association released data showing that fewer bank robbers are 
given jail time in Vancouver than Toronto, Edmonton or Calgary. And 
when they are sentenced to custody, it's for considerably shorter 
periods of time.

B.C., and the Lower Mainland in particular, is the best place to do 
crime. All other things being equal, offenders face fewer 
consequences here than anywhere else in the country.

True, punishment doesn't always work and carelessly applied it can 
certainly make a bad situation much worse. But carefully thought out, 
punishment is a most effective deterrent and crime prevention strategy.

Consider the case of marijuana grow-ops. Anyone in Washington State 
convicted of running a grow-op can expect a minimum five years in 
jail. If they're growing on their own property they've just lost 
their house. If they have young children they can expect social 
services to remove them.

What happens in B.C.? The grower loses his light bulbs and might pay 
a fine equivalent to a couple ounces of product. And he's back in 
business the next day. Consequently, grow-ops are not a problem in 
Washington State. While in B.C. they number in the thousands.

So let's lay the "tough penalties don't deter" myth to rest.

Clearly, more treatment for addicted offenders and better 
coordination between social services, health and criminal justice 
agencies is required. Concerns of under-funding in these areas are 
completely legitimate. But that doesn't necessitate we roll our eyes 
in disgust at the mention of increasing sanctions and resign 
ourselves to the fast diminishing quality of life B.C.'s law-abiding 
citizens are experiencing.

The highly touted, four-pillars model advocating equal attention to 
education, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction is all well and 
good. But it's missing a fifth pillar-punishment.

Because as the grow-op analogy demonstrates, punishment works and it 
works well. It's B.C.'s failed "catch and release" justice policy 
that warrants retiring.
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