Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let the punishment fit the crime

.There was an article awhile back in the  Montreal Gazette that complained about the new bill  Bill C-1o — the Conservative government’s Safe Streets and Communities Act, which increases mandatory minimum sentences and changes eligibility for conditional sentences. The claim  in the paper was that this bill would inevitably produce more prisoners serving longer prison sentences, Adelina Iftene and Allan Manson, of the faculty of law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., write in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The  reporter sites two law professors who state, "The fallout will be dramatic increases in already overcrowded prisons, “more stress, more volatility and the likelihood of more violence,” as well as increased spread of hepatitis, HIV and other infectious diseases, Manson said in an interview.

“From both an ethical and public safety perspective, one needs to consider a simple fact,” Manson and Iftene write in the CMAJ, noting that most prisoners in Canada will eventually be released. “The intrinsic difficulties of reintegration after a period of incarceration should not be compounded by physical and mental health challenges.”
“We’re in an era where jails are becoming the asylums of the past for many people with mental health problems,” Manson said.

Without more resources, more prisoners will overwhelm already overburdened prison mental health services, he said, “and that continues to be an issue after someone is released from jail. “People with mental health problems sometimes experience difficulty in conforming their behaviour to commonly accepted standards.”

The Montreal Gazette is correct in its criticism of the bill, but they are off the mark. The Harper government is only interested in punishment not rehabilitation.

In an interview with CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday night, Mr. Harper said he believes the death penalty sometimes fits the crime. He added that he was speaking personally

The minister of justice said he is not interested in evidence-based policy: “We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics,” he said. “We’re governing on the basis of what’s right to better protect victims and law-abiding Canadians.” What he might have said is that he’d prefer to pick and choose — or sometimes create — evidence to fit the marketing strategy of the day.
Canada annually spends about $4 billion on correctional services. Unfortunately, since our policies are based more on what works politically than what the facts say works.

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