In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Crime Agenda

Posted 1/14/2012 by Grant Mitchell

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It is hard to believe that in this day and age there would be a Canadian government that would contemplate a draconian crime bill like the one currently working its way through Parliament.

 All of us want to see crime reduced. The question is how that can be done most effectively, both in terms of cost and outcomes, and without damaging, unintended consequences.  None of those criteria can be applied successfully to the current crime agenda of the Conservative government.

 Bill C-10 is notable for many reasons, but it is most prominently characterized by the provision of mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of offences. The problem is that there is not a shred of evidence that this approach to crime will reduce it. In fact, all the evidence is that it increases crime.

 When confronted by this evidence, the government invokes the defence of victims’ rights to justify the bill. But, there is very little in here for victims of crime. It is not a bill about compensation or counseling services for victims. In fact, it will create more victims because it will create more angry, bitter, and "competent" criminals because with harsher sentencing more people will be sent to prison or in prison longer, and generally, without access to the kinds of programs they need to address the mental health, or substance abuse, or fetal alcohol syndrome or whatever other problem lies at the root of their criminal impulses.

 Some of the "crimes" that will be addressed by this bill will be victimless in any event, until the system makes a victim of the perpetrator of the "crime". Who is the victim of an 18 year old who grows 6 marijuana plants and goes to jail for a year for it? The 18 year old.

 There are many more effective and much less expensive options than incarceration. Interestingly, authorities in Texas have said over and over again that filling the jails does not reduce crime. It just increases costs and crime. Washington State has developed a remarkable protocol and system for evaluating crime prevention programs. It assesses all the costs and benefits and best practices of various rehab programs, family support, education, intervention, and allows public crime policy to be based upon them, ranked for their actual real money savings and returns.

 Why doesn’t the government use a smart approach like the one in Washington State that could be me much more effective than Bill C-10?

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