Saturday, November 20, 2010

Canadian PM Ratchets Up Crime Rhetoric

Crime Rates Continue to Fall Across Canada

Charles Pascal, a professor at the University of Toronto and a former Ontario deputy minister, wrote a recent op-ed in the Toronto Star taking Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to task for his crime policies.

The policies do not differ much from fear mongering polices proposed and enacted by American politician. At times the policies are more about being "tough-on-crime" than instituting meaningful public safety policies.

One example cited by Pascal is a Harper supported law eliminating a two-for-one credit for time served in remand custody. If someone served 30 days while awaiting a chance at justice (this would be akin to an American inmate unable to post bond) and was then convicted, he used to get credit for 60 days when it came to sentencing. Why? Because conditions in remand are the worst of the worst. And because remand time is “dead time,” not considered when calculating release dates. The effect of this new law will be disproportionate for marginalized populations, especially aboriginal peoples.

Pascal wote in the Star, on the face of it, it appears to be a good idea (tough-on-crime) to scrap the two-for-one credit, the kind of superficial bumper-sticker policy that was opposition-proof. Then, after the bill’s passage, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page did an analysis of costs, concluding that the bill to taxpayers will amount to a minimum of $5 billion over five years for this single piece of legislation — about what would be required for a national early-learning and care program that would, among so many other things, reduce the illiteracy that is so highly correlated with crime.

Pascal turned to Paula Mallea, a lawyer and research associate at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, who wrote a report suggesting that Harper’s agenda has more to do with rehabilitating his “tough guy” image and zero to do with rehabilitating either offenders or his $54 billion deficit.

Some of the tough-on-crime rhetoric doesn't seem to be consistent with reports in Canada, just as those in the U.S., that crime continues to go down across the country, with violent crime moving clearly down, according to the new Crime Severity Index.

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