Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Harper’s ‘tough on crime’ is all torque

During five years in minority government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives introduced 61 crime bills. In doing so, they successfully portrayed themselves as favouring harsh treatment for offenders. If “being tough” were all there was to criminal punishment, they would have been successful. But it isn’t that simple.

Most Canadians believe what the law has said for years: “A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.” But ensuring that this happens is not easy. In 2010, the Alberta Court of Appeal noted that judges sentencing identical cases would often hand down different sentences. When prison sentences are imposed, the portion of the time that is actually served in prison is not completely predictable. Many people think offenders will routinely be released on parole, although that isn’t the case.

Sentencing and release from prison, two parts of our punishment system, deserve thoughtful attention. Fixing the problems that exist in each will not be easy. But the Conservatives have systematically avoided addressing the difficult and real problems facing the criminal justice system.

Read on...

Tony Doob, one of the authors of this piece, is a Professor Emeritus at the Centre.  Tom

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