Monday, October 24, 2011

Canada’s crime rate continues to fall. So why Bill C-10?

Continuing the downward trend of the past decade, the crime rate in Canada dropped by 3 per cent in 2009 and was 17 per cent lower than in 1999, according to Statistics Canada in July, 2010.

Nevertheless, on September 20, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government tabled C-10, the government’s new let’s-get-tough-on-crime and beef-up-the prison-system bill.

Formally known as The Safe Streets and Communities Act, the bill actually comprises nine small bills that were introduced by the Conservative government during its minority rule, but were never passed.

For good reason.

Smack dab in the middle of the omnibus crime bill are major changes for the youth justice system that would put more young offenders in jail for longer periods in time.

This is of concern to many parents of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, like myself. Some of these young people find themselves in and out of the criminal justice system because they lack good judgement; are vulnerable and easily manipulated by people with criminal intent; and have difficulties understanding consequences related to cause and effect. These young people need better supportive services, not jail.

Want to create a hardened criminal? Put a youth offender in jail for a really long time.

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children know this. They believe Youth Justice was not properly studied or debated in the last election, and they question if putting more people in jail would really deter them from criminal activity and increase public safety.

They also ask the following questions: Does broadcasting young people’s names help them become responsible adults, and what actions actually do reduce violence against young people and by young people?

The Coalition believes that if the government really wants to prevent violent crime committed by youth, they should provide more funding for professionals in the schools and health system who can recognize problem youth, and give those youth help before they become a problem. “You'll spend a lot less money long-term, and help create a more civil and bearable society.

“It has been proven in the U.S. over and over that the proposed tactics don't work. So why are they even on the table?” The Coalition is concerned that the government knows nothing about youth offenders, or drug addicts, and “is proud of the fact that they don't consult anybody who DOES know about them, and puts solutions like this on the table in the absence of any reliable input.”

Concerned parents and the Coalition aren’t the only people who think the government’s get-tough-on-criminals plan is, well, just plain criminal.

According to The Globe and Mail, Canada’s youth crime plans bewilder international observers in “countries whose systems, for the most part, closely resemble Canada’s – can’t figure out why this country is planning to shift toward a jail-intensive approach. Everyone else seems to be doing the opposite, not for ideological reasons, but because evidence shows it works. ”

Even Texans believe the “send them to prison” approach to crime is dumb. And that's something.

CBC political reporter Terry Milewski quotes Conservatives in the United States' toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction — Texas — who say the Harper government's crime strategy won't work.

"You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up," says Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. "And there will come a point in time where the public says, 'Enough!' And you'll wind up letting them out."

Adds Representative Jerry Madden, a conservative Republican who heads the Texas House Committee on Corrections, "It's a very expensive thing to build new prisons and, if you build 'em, I guarantee you they will come. They'll be filled, OK? Because people will send them there.

And if people from Texas­ believe that, you can only imagine how the  rest of the informed world thinks.

For further information about the Bill and its effects on young people, please see the Coalition's website

Better yet, contact your MP and tell them issues need to be studied and reassessed before passage of the bill. Make yourself heard.

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