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Friday, February 27, 2009

Crime and Punishment

True to their ideology, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have introduced another "get tough on crime" bill. This one increases the jail sentences for gang-related killings.

There's only one problem. It won't work. Everyone with an IQ over 100 knows that you can't stop gang violence by just increasing prison terms for the ones who get caught.

Today's Toronto Star has two articles on the topic. The first one, Tory gang approach too little too late: critics, explains the consensus opinion of leading criminologists.
The punitive response may play well to citizens who fear gun battles erupting on city streets. But that get-tough approach lards the Criminal Code with redundant laws that haven't worked in other countries, says criminologist Irvin Waller.

"This is yet again a debate about penalties when it's very clear from looking south of the border that these penalties do not make a lot of difference to the number of people killed," he said.

"It's not a debate about what will actually stop them from happening."

Waller, a professor at the University of Ottawa, wrote the book Less Law, More Order to educate politicians on prevention and smart policing practices that have worked in other countries.
The second article, Critics say more jail time won't help curb violence, goes into more detail about what the experts are saying.
Criminologists predict tough sentences won't be effective in preventing gun and gang violence

Proposals to slap first-degree murder charges and tougher sentences on gangsters and police assailants will have little practical effect on curbing gang crime and gun violence, criminologists and other critics say.

More front-line officers, more intrusive investigative police powers and more resources for crime prevention are needed, they say.

Ross Hastings, director of the Institute for the Prevention of Crime at the University of Ottawa, joins other criminologists in arguing there is no evidence tougher sentences deter criminals, but the "certainty of being caught" is more likely to do so.

Nonetheless, amid an alarming rise in Vancouver's gang violence, politicians of all stripes rushed yesterday to endorse federal proposals to label gang killings first-degree murder offences, and to stiffen jail terms for drive-by or reckless gang-motivated shootings and assaults on police.

All three federal opposition parties promised to fast-track the measures proposed by the Tories.
I'm disappointed in all four political parties. Most of our MP's have IQ's above 100 and they know the rational response to gang violence. They know that this bill will be completely ineffective.

The only reason for supporting it is to pander to voters who don't understand the problem. There are far too many voters whose knee-jerk reaction in the face of any crime is to call for "justice" by increasing jail time. A majority of those voters probably support the Conservatives so there's nothing to be gained by the opposition parties' lack of fortitude.

Shame on Stephen Harper for his (probable) hypocrisy. Shame on Michael Ingatieff, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe for being even more hypocritical. They should know better.


  1. The late Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker referred to this as the mad dog approach: lock 'em up like a mad dog and keep 'em locked up.

  2. Criminologists predict tough sentences won't be effective in preventing gun and gang violence

    Tough punishment measures were extremely effective in reducing gun and gang violence in the USSR to near zero levels (by Western standards). Similarly, communist China eradicated opium abuse issue in about a decade - simply by not hesitating to punish.

    So it does work. The real issue is at what expense to the society and what the society would be willing to bear? Policing is easy and effective in a police state. It's all a matter of priorities and compromises...

  3. The problem is that an astonishing 50% of citizens have an IQ below 100! :p