Thursday, August 20, 2015

Professor Emeritus Anthony Doob on "The Harper Decade: The Conservative Take on Crime Policy
"There is no question that Harper’s Conservatives have talked tough about criminal justice, departing from the more moderate tone that has characterized Canada’s history on this topic. Before Conservative rule, Canada had a long tradition of allowing criminal justice experts – like judges and prosecutors – to make decisions in ways that were largely insulated from politics.  One result is that Canada has been able to sustain a stable, moderate rate of imprisonment. Even during decades when violent crime was much higher across North America – when the US was busy generating the policies that would deliver its current situation of ‘mass imprisonment’ –  Canada relied on imprisonment comparatively sparingly. Since 1950, imprisonment rates have varied between about 81 and 116 adults per hundred thousand Canadian residents. In 2005 the rate was about 104. Currently it appears to be about 115.

This tone of moderation in crime policy has changed. With the Conservative politicization of the field of criminal justice we have seen an uptick in rates of imprisonment, an increase in the severity of the punishment experience, and a new reliance on crime as a salient topic with which to mobilize political support. Harper’s Conservatives have overseen decisions to close prison farms, fire prison chaplains, strip judges of sentencing discretion, and increase the use of solitary confinement. The overrepresentation of indigenous people in our jails and prisons – already a problem under past governments – has also become worse during Conservative rule."

No comments: