In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

More "common nonsense" in the Conservatives crime agenda

Posted 2/10/2012 by Grant Mitchell

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Punishment, pure and simple is the real root of the Conservative crime agenda. It is really not about deterrence or helping victims because there is no evidence that the threat of jail time deters or that it makes offenders less likely to offend in the future. All the evidence is to the contrary. Despite the Conservatives protestations that C-10 is about helping victims, the bill does nothing by way of compensation or programming to help victims. Rather than helping victims, in fact, it will actually create more of them because jailed offenders are more likely to offend upon their release.

George Lakoff writes in his article, "Metaphor, Morality and Politics", that the right wing has a balance sheet vision of morality...if someone commits a crime they "owe" us their punishment. It is not a philosophy that truly embraces the crime reduction/victims support spin that the Conservatives put on their crime agenda.

 This approach as it is embodied in Bill C-10 runs against common sense in so many ways:

 1. Is it not the case that no matter how many drug dealers we take off a given corner, there is always another one to replace them?

2. Does anyone really think that a 15 or 16 year old who is sufficiently needy ("screwed up") that he finds acceptance in a gang and commits a murder would ever be deterred by the threat of a prison sentence?

3. When it comes to addictions that drive so much crime, does anyone really believe that an addict can just will themselves a cure and just turn off the driver that causes them to commit multiple crimes? How many of us have fought an addiction to tobacco and know how difficult it is simply to turn that off, despite the fact that in the back of every smokers' mind, there has to be some level of understanding that they are facing a death penalty for doing it?

4. I believe that an 18 year old can make a stupid mistake, and many have, and that it does not define who they are or who they will become. Bill C-10, however, will define and ruin their lives. What good does it do to imprison a youth for one year for having 6 marijuana plants when they will emerge with a criminal record, have difficulty finding jobs for the rest of their lives, be more inclined to be a criminal in the future, etc.?

5. It also seems clear to me that many offenders have addiction, mental health, or fetal alcohol syndrome problems that are the cause of their behavior. The cost-benefit of programs addressing these issues infinitely outweighs the costs of imprisonment.

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