Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tough on Crime Doesn't Make Sense

The Conservatives' tough on crime stance does not make sense. The latest example of this is the "Truth in Sentencing" act. This will cost us about ten billion dollars by 2015. Once again, the Tories do not regard the facts at all in their decision. Research shows that shutting criminals away in jail for an extended period of time makes them more likely to commit another crime when they get out. The Tories even reject the fact that housing more prisoners is going to cost more.
Instead of using the report as a chance to rethink the wisdom of spending billions of dollars -as much as $9.5 billion by 2015-16 -Public Safety Minister Vic Toews rejected Page's figures, saying he "must be making this up."
Tough on crime will be a waste of government spending as it doesn't work. What we need is to make sure that criminals do not become repeat offenders after they get out of jail. Longer stays in jail will actually make our society worse.
Canada has a $47-billion deficit, a crime rate that is falling steadily, and a public that is not clamouring for tougher crime laws. Yet in the face of little real need and even less available money, the Conservative government is planning to more than double the country's spending on prisons, to double the number of inmates.
Read more at the Montreal Gazette.
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7 comments:

  1. The Conservatives keep pandering to their base instead of doing what works. Its so frustrating. And on top of it all the higher incarceration rate is going to cost the provinces more money!

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  2. So there must be a "perfect" amount of time in jail then because your data says longer sentences create hardened criminals, right? So is the perfect system a system with no jails at all or is there some curve that shows the optimal time, a place where time in provides just the right amount of incentive not to commit any more crimes but not enough to expose one to too much of whatever it is that makes criminal behaviour worse? You have that data, right? Otherwise all you are saying is criminals who get long sentences tend to commit further crime upon release but you aren't offering a constructive alternative. After all, if the crime rate falling is good and we had a lower crime rate in the 1950s then what did we do better if the 1950s than we do now? Show us your magic bullet!

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  3. "Research shows that shutting criminals away in jail for an extended period of time makes them more likely to commit another crime when they get out.


    Could you please post the link for this scientific fact. Thanks.

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  4. @Rat

    There are a large number of problems with the crime rate as a statistic. It depends on what is considered a crime when the measurement is taken and if a type of crime is more or less likely to be reported. For example domestic violence and sexual assault in 1950 was much less likely to be reported than today, but was probably at least as prevalent.

    The CPC is assuming that all people are healthy minded and rational -conservative rational anyway-. But there are clearly people who commit crimes that no healthy minded individual would do. At very least this suggests that there is a flaw in the CPC's assumption. This means that we ought to find different ways to rehabilitate people who commit crimes because clearly what we're currently doing isn't working. I don't see how expanding a broken system will solve anything.

    A majority of people who commit crimes suffer psychological dysfunction(s) which inhibits or prevents them from getting or keeping employment, and functioning in a social setting. Additionally these disorders can prevent them from making they type of rational calculation needed to make deterrence work. If such people are sent to prison their psychological disorders go uncorrected and often worsen. Thus, when they are released recidivism is probable. This is why adding jail time for any particular offence will not correct behaviour.

    Deterrents can only work when there is a suitable alternative to the crime. A good social safety net provides that because it is a means to survive, be accepted by society, and have one’s basic human dignity recognized. When this is absent the cost of committing a crime can never exceed the benefits. In the 1950s Canada’s social safety net was far better than it is today. This means that even the poorest of people feel that they have something invested in society. This lessens their likelihood of feeling disenfranchised and committing a crime since they now have an alternative means of getting the help they need and live an honest life. A society that cares about its members ensures that its people will feel like a part of something that they don’t want to lose.

    The prison system needs to be reformed in order to rehabilitate people more effectively. They can do this if they seek to understand the underlying causes and consequences of criminal behaviour. A person who can get help to correct their psychological disorder(s) will become a functioning and contributing member of the community. It’s not something that will be easy or inexpensive; but it is better to spend money on redemption than damnation.

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  6. To "The Rat" (Is your name Mark?)
    "So is the perfect system a system with no jails at all"
    Yes, in a perfect world there would be no jails, because there would be no reason to commit a crime. We may not be able to become a perfect world but we can aspire to become as close as possible to perfect world as we can and eliminate the reasons that crimes are committed. When you prevent crime you prevent victims, but in order for Harper’s policy of punishment to function there must be victims first before there is retribution.
    As far as time to be served is concerned, most of us are not the judges or the physiatrists who make the determination whether a person is or is not safe to release onto our public streets, but neither are Vic Toews or Steven Harper. Each person has a unique situation that requires rehabilitation and there is no magic number of days behind bars that can cure criminal behaviour. What we know is, the less time behind bars means the streets are safer, there are fewer victims and there are lower stress levels in society. Let the trained judges and the shrinks do their jobs because Harper and Toews are not qualified and they are certainly not listening to the experts.
    http://www.buscalegis.ccj.ufsc.br/revistas/index.php/buscalegis/article/viewFile/33029/32209
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119317142/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
    http://www.justitie.nl/images/Review%20correctional%20rehabilitation%20Lipsey%20Cullen%202007_tcm34-85922.pdf
    http://www.hlpronline.com/Vol3-2_ClearAustin_HLPR.pdf

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