HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Law Will Fill Jails, Expert Warns
Pubdate: Thu, 22 Nov 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s already crowded jails will need to squeeze in
another 700 marijuana growers per year if new mandatory sentences are
enacted, an analysis of sentencing figures suggests.

"You basically need a new prison to facilitate that," said Darryl
Plecas, a criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley
who studies marijuana sentencing. "You're going to have hundreds, if
not thousands, of people going to jail who aren't going now."

On Tuesday, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson unveiled
legislation that would create mandatory minimum sentences for a number
of drug offences, including growing marijuana.

Currently, according to recent figures, only about 10 to 15 per cent
of convicted growers in B.C. serve any time in jail at all. Most get
house arrest or a fine.

Based on numbers from 2002 to 2004, the most recent data available,
about 850 people are convicted of growing marijuana in B.C. each year.

About 125 of those go to jail, for an average of about six months

That leaves more than 700 growers a year who aren't going to jail now
but, if the new law is enacted, almost certainly will.

And most of them, according to data collected by Plecas, would end up
in B.C.'s provincial jails.

Those jails, however, are already full.

"I'd say we're at the limit," B.C. Corrections spokeswoman Lisa
Lapointe said. "There's no question that the provincial correctional
centres are at capacity."

There are currently 2,735 inmates in provincial jails and about 80 per
cent of them are double bunked.

B.C. Solicitor-General John Les acknowledged housing more inmates will
be a challenge, but said he supports the new sentences.

"We'll find a way," he said. "We're not going to let capacity issues
stand in the way of appropriately dealing with those who break the
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