SHOULD THERE BE TOUGHER SENTENCES FOR YOUNG OFFENDERS?

The Harper government is moving forward with its crackdown on youth crime. The government wants longer sentences for juvenile criminals to increase deterrence. (Just last week the Supreme Court put the brakes on this when they said prosecutors must prove that a convicted youth should be sentenced in an adult court.)

This hard line incarceration policy is ironic at this time because youth crime rates have fallen since 2003. The number of young offenders sentenced to secure custody -at an average cost of $80,000 a year – dropped to 2,758 in 2004 from 6,958 in 2000. Ontario saved $18.5million between 2004 and 2006 because of unused detention facilities. The money was reinvested in alternatives to custody and community interventions.

One child care official says “We have gone from being the worst country in the Western world in terms of keeping youth in custody to being one of the best – a 33-per-cent decrease – without seeing any increase in crime.” Youth expersts also believe strongly that juveniles who are no kept under detention are much less likely to graduate to serious crimes and adult jails. Also many incarcerated young people suffer from mental problems that are no properly addressed.

Do you think the Harper government should back off its tougher incarceration policies for youth crime?

Do Canadians want to embrace the American policies of three strikes, you’re out and throw away the key?

23 Comments »

  1. 1
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    The first major error here was made by the Liberals when they introduced the notion that youth penalties should be proportional and not exceeed what an adult would recieve for the same offences. It confused residential treatment with incarceration. One tries to rehabilitate, the other to protect society, first, punish secondly and rehabilitate if possible. Of course, in doing so, they were wooing the Western get tough desire and harper is still doing the same thing. Calls for a tougher juvenile system come from Westen provinces. Perhaps youths are tougher over there than in Central and Eastern Canada.
    Thanks to its Youth Protection Act, using the behavioural problems provision of that act, Quebec can still have young persons in a real rehabilitation program and answer, though not totally, the needs of kids with mental problems. It seems to be working well since we have the lowest statistics…nothing hidden.

  2. 2
    Chimera Says:

    I do not trust the report that says the juvenile crime rate has fallen. Who says it has fallen and on what are they basing that assertion?

    The number of in-custody juveniles was reported to have fallen, but that does not mean that the crime rate is down. It simply means that the conviction rate is down. That could very well mean that the number of criminal charges is down because authorities do not prosecute.

    Since when are accountants and child-care officials credible spokesmen for crime statistics?

  3. 3
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    And Chimera could I ask how you are more credible than others?

  4. 4
    Barbara Says:

    Severe punishment as a deterrent would only work if possible offenders are capable of rationalizing on that basis. Most young people do not consider consequences sufficiently, even in more innocent decisions.

  5. 5
    Joe Agnost Says:

    Not being an expert, and not having the relevant studies to consult, I don’t think my thoughts on this subject mean THAT much… but I can’t see tougher sentencing working.

    I read somewhere that several studies have shown that the opposite is true – harsher sentences and even adult jail only makes the youth (once released) turn to more serious crime. Rather than scare them away it pulls them in farther.

    If ( a big IF) rehabilitation is the goal then I don’t think this is the solution.

  6. 6
    Chimera Says:

    Paul, I’m asking questions and looking for factual answers. Given its recent track record, I don’t trust the Harper government to tell the truth about something as clearly self-serving as “reduced” juvenile crime statistics. I want to know who wrote the report, and on what basis did they reach their conclusions. Why are the numbers down?

  7. 7
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    I don’t trust Harper either even when I see him. But he is not doing the statistics and the current downturn in youth criminal activity goes against his will for tougher measures. So they are not so self-serving, quite the opposite. Now those statistics have to be qualified: crimes against property are down so are violent crimes against people BUT the violent crimes are getting more violent. They are not assaults, but atempted murder and murder. That category of crimes, for juveniles, has always been open to adult sentencing. What the Supreme Court has struck down is reverse proof created by the Liberals.
    The juvenile had to demonstrate why he should NOT be sentenced as an adult, not the other way around. In other words as if he was presumed guilty until proven otherwise which is clearly against all our justice principle. Wisely, Harper has chosen not to try to circumvent that judgment. I guess he too as Baden-Powell wrote has “his 5% goodness in him”
    Statistics Canada compiles those statistics based on Court, Police and Youth protection reports. Now a factor not yet appraised I believe is the power given police officers to refer, in minor cases, juvenile offenders straight to volunteer organisations for “reparatory work”. This measure had a slow start, at least in Québec, but has been picking up momentum on account of its very positive results. It does not by itself explain the downturn in statistics but it contributes to it. It also keeps out of the loop fragile kids liable to be more criminalized by more stringent measures.
    As you wrote, Chimera, on another posting on a different subject: “Is it clearer?”.

  8. 8
    littlepatti Says:

    This is a huge topic!
    I too have my doubts about some statistics. I think that some crimes go unreported by the police, for many reasons, such as keeping stats down, but also, to protect some first time offenders from having a criminal record, when mischief was intended, not a crime.
    I trust that police and the courts do their best.
    Most real criminals can not be rehabilitated.
    However, in the case of a 8 to 15 year old facing charges, I think that the parents should be charged as well. That may called be parental neglect, enabling, abuse, ignorance, lack of restraint or surveillance.
    It’s about time that parents “step up” & “own up”.

    If the parent can prove that they did everything in their power

  9. 9
    littlepatti Says:

    …to correct and guide the child, they get a pass. I suggest that parents of most of the little criminals have fallen down on the job!

    PS, sorry, that part of the comment escaped. 🙂

  10. 10
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Littlepatti, 8 to11 years old can not be charged. As for parents, Québec Youth protection act does give tools to call them to account. However, parents are not, I repeat not, always guilty of things mentioned in your last paragraph. Peer pressure, bullying are also to be taken into account and often the kid is too afraid of peer reprisals to speak out even to caring and loving parents.

  11. 11
    Jim Says:

    Teenagers of criminals bent, in most cases, consider themselves to be invincible. They believe that if they get caught they can weasel out of their predicament. In Canada they don’t know what their sentence will be if they go ahead with their next criminal act. A law should be enacted wherein habitual criminals will be sentenced double the time of their last sentence. For instance, for their first crime they should be sentenced whatever the time is in law. Their next sentence should be doubled in time of their first sentence. And their third shoud be doubled the second time. If the first sentence is 2 years, the second should be 4 years, the third should be 8 years. I ponder, would he go for 16 years? The caveat, of course, is if he commits a major crime calling for 30 years that is what he will get in lieu of 16 years. Now they know, “commit the crime,do the time” From the third offence on, no parole. They can reduce their sentence if they attend school. One year of school, one year sentence reduction. I’ve noticed that the more education they have the less inclined they are to be in prison. The biggest sentence we give teenagers is when they are sent to an adult prison, they get gang raped. Their thinking from then on is that it was their fault and that their worth nothing and what’s the use, They turn against the establishment. From there on they don’t think, they just get even.

  12. 12
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    I think there should be a difference made between a youth that committed a crime once or repeat offenders. Also does anyone know about statisticts that talk about offenders from broken homes or so called intact or good homes?
    I feel the community has to give the one time offender a second chance. I feel that incarceration in that case may make things worse. The young person may learn from other criminals. So, when they get free they will continue.
    They should work off their offence. If possibel, if they robbed an old person or were violent against them they should be, under supervision, abel to show that same person that they can care and that they learned from their deed.They could shop, clean, garden etc. for as many hours as the sentence is. There may be a side benefit. They actually may discover that old people are fun and interesting!
    I also like the way aboriginal people deal with their people that offended. They make them risponsibel. I am not much for incarceration since I think it usually does not benefit society to alienate their “difficult”brothers and sisters.There are people that need to be locked up but in general I wonder if often we could not be more creativ in sentencing since our youth are still going to be around a very long time.

  13. 13
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Heïdi, what you advocate has a name: Alternative Justice. Our laws allow it under certain circumstances and all across Canada many volunteer oganizations provide that service to young offenders. It works, having been on the board of one from 1994 to 2006, 10 of those years as President, I can vouch for it.

  14. 14
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    All criminal activity whether juvenile or adult must proceed with the intention of protecting society against the negative effects of this behaviour. Incarceration is necessary for criminal acts.

    Punishment is not a deterrent. Incarceration has limited protection for society untill lthe person is released from custody.

    We have to create a society where it is easier for people to do good. We must acknowledge that young people are born with a desire to do good. We as adults must continuously affirm them, thereby affirming our hopes that they will exceed our own accomplishments so far.

  15. 15
    Chimera Says:

    “As you wrote, Chimera, on another posting on a different subject: ‘Is it clearer?’.”

    Not really, no. I don’t trust someone else’s interpretations of statistics at all, I’m afraid. Interpretations are always self-serving. And then there’s the problem of Stats’ Canada’s being part of the government, rather than being an independent body.

    And while your explanation was interesting, it didn’t really address my questions. I want to know who compiled the statistics, based on what parameters, where, and when. After that, the question of how the report was written comes into play (in other words, what raw data was crunched, and which part was incorporated and which part was ignored or hidden). The why of it I already know.

  16. 16
    Chimera Says:

    Aaaaaaaargh! Stupid tags! That last comment should look like this:

    “As you wrote, Chimera, on another posting on a different subject: ‘Is it clearer?’.”

    Not really, no. I don’t trust someone else’s interpretations of statistics at all, I’m afraid. Interpretations are always self-serving. And then there’s the problem of Stats’ Canada’s being part of the government, rather than being an independent body.

    And while your explanation was interesting, it didn’t really address my questions. I want to know who compiled the statistics, based on what parameters, where, and when. After that, the question of how the report was written comes into play (in other words, what raw data was crunched, and which part was incorporated and which part was ignored or hidden). The why of it I already know.

  17. 17
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Your last paragraph I have no answer to. Trust can not be legislated otherwise some one would already have done it.

  18. 18

    Chimera:

    When the government”s Department of Health releases statistics related to the incidence of various cancers among Canadians, do you reject them?

  19. 19
    Chimera Says:

    Neil, I’ve never used the term “reject.” That takes it to a whole different place.

    But I don’t trust them, no.

  20. 20
    littlepatti Says:

    As I said…This is a huge topic.
    I think that we all want children to thrive in our society. There just seems to be so many that are broken beyond repair, and one look at the parents…
    I also agree that some very good parents “lose” their kids to crime and drugs and that is heartbreaking. I have known some kids who have had a nightmare upbringing and have grown up to be outstanding, successful and well balanced individuals.
    There is much to be said about heredity and environment.
    I like Peter LeBlanc’s comments “we have to create a society where it is easier for people to do good.”
    and I add, maybe… a society where it is harder to do harm.

  21. 21
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    Paul: thank you for your exlanation! It also comforts me that you gave of your time and effort and caring to such a worthwhile organisation. And I am very pleased that” Alternative Justice” exists. I love young people and where possibel we should include them, not exclude them.

  22. 22
    Joe H Says:

    Ok, my feeling is if a juvenile commits a crime such as rape or murder, then their name should not be with held from the local media . They say they keep the name as to protect the rights of the “minor child”. Did this “minor child” take into account how their victim was going to feel? 2 nights ago just 3 short blocks from my house, a 13 year old girl was raped anally at knife point by a 16 year old boy and his friend. The young girl is traumatized and the 16 year old boy is at home. They had to sedate the 13 year old victim in order to calm her enough to do a rape test. The 16 year old is going around gloating about having sex and that the 13 year old wanted it. I say humiliate them publicly by placing the name of the assailant in the local papers and charge them as an adult. By giving them lessor sentences we are only sending the message that it is okay for them to do it as long as they are not of “legal age”. We need to send a very clear message to our youth. The time for wrist slapping is over.

  23. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy oon the eyes whijch makes it much more pleasant for mme to come
    here and visit moree often. Did yyou hire outt a developer to create your theme?

    Superb work!


RSS Feed for this entry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: