08 October 2015

#68 Forever AND a Day

Unhappy, perhaps, with the way the justice system keeps rejecting its mandatory minimum sentences, or the way the National Parole Board works, the outgoing government has also enacted changes that would bring us into line with the society that most jails its citizens — particularly those not of the majority ethnic group —the US of A.

When I have heard of sentences in the US of imprisonment for hundreds of years, I can’t help but snort derisively. Do they keep the corpse in there until the time is up? Are they just trying to ensure the profitability of the privately-run for-profit facilities that are gradually replacing state-run correctional institutions? Well, the Tories seem to want to take us in those directions, too. Hence the over-the-top-named “Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act”.

They are now prescribing consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences for serious crimes. Now, I’m not going to say that serious crimes shouldn’t have serious consequences, but there are measures that are more laughable than effective, and serve only to throw away lives that might otherwise have been recuperated. When you crowd prisons with extra people because of your mandatory minimum sentences and then you make it possible for people to be sent there for many lifetimes, you are saying that there is no amount of programming that might help the person readapt to become a productive member of society at some point in the future. You are also giving a big vote of non-confidence to the National Parole Board, which determines prisoners’ readiness for release, but I guess that would be reasonable if you had stacked that body with a bunch of people who are not there for their professional capacities, but for their affiliation to your party.

Take the case of the young man in New Brunswick who went on a rampage and killed two RCMP officers. A terrible crime, and he was justly convicted of first degree murder. First degree murder in Canada carries a mandatory life sentence, with no possibility to apply for parole before having served 25 years. At year 25, release is certainly not guaranteed, as there is an assessment of the prisoner’s readiness to resume a peaceful and productive life in society before and doors are opened. The 24-year-old convicted of this crime was sentenced to life imprisonment, but the period of parole ineligibility was calculated with the consecutive rule: 50 years before being eligible to apply for parole.

Now this guy will be 74 before he is allowed to apply for parole, providing he survives that long in the prison environment. Who does that serve? Don’t you think there is a way to offer him the kind of programs that would address his violent tendencies and anti-social actions over the course of the next 25 years that would allow us to take stock of his progress and evaluate the danger he might or might not represent to society after half a life spent in prison, as opposed to two-thirds of a life spent in prison?

Do we not trust the National Parole Board to make that assessment? They don’t have such a bad record in Canada, as recidivism is pretty low, but I guess they could do even better if we made sure they were staffed by professionals and not cronies. This is possible if you have an interest in fixing people and helping them to be productive citizens instead of some other motivation.

Further reading here

Seven hundred years
Is that enough time to keep
us safe from a corpse?

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