Monday, 29 March 2010

Yo! Opposition! Oppose This!

When I was a teenager, my stepfather used to ask waggishly every weekend: 'What are you protesting this week?'

One of the things I protested -- successfully -- was the Spadina Expressway. Anybody with a functioning neuron could see plain as day what such expressways had done to Merkin cities.
Notable among the opposition was urban theorist Jane Jacobs, who moved to the Annex in 1969, fresh from a battle to stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York City. Marshall McLuhan, too, was opposed to the expressway and said: "Toronto will commit suicide if it plunges the Spadina Expressway into its heart... our planners are 19th century men with a naive faith in an obsolete technology. In an age of software Metro planners treat people like hardware — they haven't the faintest interest in the values of neighbourhoods or community. Their failure to learn from the mistakes of American cities will be ours too."

(As a aside, dig this quote from CONSERVATIVE Premier Bill Davies: 'If we are building a transportation system to serve the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to start. But if we are building a transportation system to serve people, the Spadina Expressway is a good place to stop.')

We stopped the idiocy that was Spadina but the ReformaTories are still pursuing FAILED Merkin ideologies.
Ottawa will spend more money on federal prisons in coming years – a rare exception to government-wide restraint and a sharp contrast to efforts by cash-strapped American states to save money through lower inmate populations.

New figures released this week show the budget for Corrections Canada is projected to rise 27 per cent from the 2010-2011 fiscal year to 2012-13, when it will reach $3.1-billion. More than 4,000 new positions will be created at correctional institutions and parole offices across the country, with estimates of a 25-per-cent increase in employees during the same period.

The spike in spending is clearly linked in a government report to the Conservatives’ suite of law-and-order crime bills, which legislate longer prison sentences for a range of offences and limit the opportunities for parole.

Yeah, the Stupid on Crime program.

Crime rates are falling. And mandatory minimum sentences do not deter crime.
Canada's overall crime rate declined by 15 per cent between 1998 and 2007, and the Crime Severity Index, which tracks the relative severity of a crime in comparison with other crimes, declined by 21 per cent. Experts appearing before both the House of Commons and Senate Justice committees testified that mandatory minimum sentences do not deter crime, and in the U.S. have led to skyrocketing incarceration rates. A 2001 report by the federal Justice Department reached the same conclusion.

Ah, but don't bother those ReformaTories with that facty-researchy stuff. Let's just go down that Merkin-style tough-on-crime path and then in a few decades, we'll get to follow them down that undo-the-tough-on-crime path.
In contrast, in the United States – where incarceration rates have risen by a startling 705 per cent over the last four decades – several states are now undoing measures that restrict access to parole and require longer incarceration periods, partly due to budget pressures created by the economic downturn.

As a result, the number of state prisoners in the U.S. dropped last year for the first time in nearly 40 years, according to a survey of detention data released this month by the Pew Center on the States. California has reduced the number of convicts returning to incarceration by changing parole violation rules, while Michigan has reduced its inmate population by 6,000 by waiving some measures requiring convicts to serve 100 per cent of their sentence in prison.

From the Pew link:
“The decline is happening for several reasons, but an important contributor is that states began to realize there are research-based ways they can cut their prison populations while continuing to protect public safety,” said Gelb. “In the past few years, several states have enacted reforms designed to get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars.”

Here's Vic Taews covering his ears and going 'lalalalala':
Mr. Toews told The Globe and Mail on Friday that he was not aware of developments in the United States, but defended the planned Correctional Service Canada budget increase.

“Security is obviously an important issue for this government and we’re moving on that file,” he said. “I’m not familiar with the American system. I know what is necessary in order to ensure that the Canadian public is safe and that prisoners are well treated.”

So, how are they going to pay for all this prison building?
They also hint that controversial cuts lie on the horizon. For instance, the documents project a 25-per-cent reduction of the overall budget at Environment Canada. That includes slicing the department’s budget for “climate change and clean air” from $242-million in 2010-2011 to $76-million in 2012-13.


A similar caution is included in the report from Agriculture Canada, which is projected to lose 42 per cent of its budget. The department’s report projects spending on “food safety and biosecurity” will drop from $154-million in 2010-2011 to $90-million in 2012-13.

And here's Stevie Peevie doing the ear-covering from that YouTube embarrassment:
“Since research has shown that mandatory minimum sentencing does not deter future crime, what makes you as the Prime Minister believe this is still an effective way of persecuting criminals?”

RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Well, I think the view of the population of Canada on this issue is actually pretty clear, that when serious crimes are committed, people expect the penalties to match these crimes. And obviously, you know, for 40 years our criminal justice system was going in a very different direction. We were…you know, there are these arguments that told people somehow if you don’t punish criminals, that crime will go away. I never quite understood the philosophy, but I think people understand that that approach has not been effective. So we have been, since we’ve come into office, trying to make sure, trying to toughen up our laws and make sure that the crimes are appropriate. You know, for example we think that if people commit serious crimes, violent crimes, we don’t think it’s appropriate that they would serve their sentence at home, what’s called conditional sentences, effectively house arrest. We don’t think it’s…and we don’t think it’s appropriate that very serious or repeat crimes would not be subject to at least some kind of minimum penalty, minimum prison time. I mean, surely if a crime is serious enough, a murder charge, for example, there should be some prison time for a murder charge. So these are the kinds of changes we’ve been making over time. They’ve been very well supported by the Canadian public. I don’t want to say crime is out of control in this country, but we do know that there have been some very worrying growth areas, particularly if you look at the areas of guns, gangs and drugs, and this is a growth area, not just in Canada, but around the world. It’s an international phenomenon. But we do think it’s very important that the criminal justice system send a strong message that such behaviour is not acceptable, and that it be appropriately punished, and that those who engage in such behaviour understand what the likelihood of punishment actually is. Because what we do know about deterrence is it doesn’t work unless people are actually certain they’re going to get punished. But if you create a system where there’s always a loophole, and you can always get out of the punishment, or the punishment can always be downgraded or forgotten, then it’s clear, that kind of a system does not deter people.

PATRICK PICHETTE: Is not credible.

RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Is not credible. It’s not credible. I think…I’m not an expert in this area, but I think the evidence suggests it isn’t the length of the punishment that matters; it’s the certainty of the punishment. And if there’s no certainty you’ll be punished, then no possible penalty will matter. So that’s why we think it’s important to actually have a minimum penalty for serious crimes.

Shorter: I'm not an expert but I'm going to ignore experts because the polls tell me my stupid fellow citizens want it. And I want a majority.

So here's the challenge to the Opposition. OPPOSE THIS.

I'll help. Here is former justice minister, Martin Cauchon, who served under Jean Chrétien:
Mr. Cauchon said it's often more difficult to explain good justice policy to voters, but said it's possible, it just takes some hard work. He pointed out that when he first started arguing in favour of same-sex marriage around the Cabinet table more than 60 per cent of Canadians were opposed.

"When you have a vision and you believe in this as I did you roll up your sleeves, you travel, you communicate to people," he said. "You work with your caucus and at the end of the day you succeed. And look at same sex marriage that was enacted about five years ago and today we don't even talk about it. Canadians society is on side; they have accepted it and they know today it's exactly where we had to go as a society."

The research is already done. So, roll up your sleeves, Dippers and Libs. Communicate this to the public.



Anonymous said...

i hope the oposition gets their act together so we can vote these idiot out

Jennifer Smith said...

Toews "isn't familiar with the American system"?!? That would be horrifying enough if it were actually true. Or maybe he meant that he's only aware of those parts of the failed American policy that fit with his ideology.

BTW, I fought the Spadina Expressway too. When I was little, I heard that it (or maybe it was the subsequent planned subway route) was going to cut right through our neighbourhood park. So I wrote a letter to Bill Davis asking him to stop it. I even drew a little map of our park. I would have been 8 or 9 at the time. Even then I was a community activist :)

chris said...

Brought this to mind.

"Spending twice as much on prisons as higher education should prompt some soul searching. I won't hold my breath; in all likelihood the status quo will be maintained and the share of the budget devoted to corrections will continue to increase. Devoting one of every ten tax dollars to locking up the poor is understood as the cost of doing business in a state and society that choose to solve the problem of a persistent underclass the same way it deals with trash; that is, by collecting it in cities and shipping it out to the middle of nowhere to be buried under a mountain of other garbage, never to be seen or thought of again."

Anonymous said...

There was a good radio show on crime hosted by Michael Enright of the CBC on the weekend that interviewed a nice array of guest panelists (the show isn't up yet, but here's a link:

The panelists came to the following conclusions:
1. We need to get SMART on crime, not TOUGH on crime;
2. We're wasting $3 billion on new prisons and are going to create another useless incarceration system like that of the US;
3. Stephen Harper, despite being an economist, is ignoring plain, bold statistics that refute EVERYTHING related to a tough on crime agenda and has gone on record saying that he'd rather stick to fictions created by the gun lobby than fact;
4. Tough on crime makes for good marketing and is borrowed from the 1980s Republicans;
5. The gun lobby should stay. It will cost governments about $3 million per year in ongoing costs. Getting rid of it would be stupid and contradict the wish of nearly EVERY police officer in this country;
6. Crime is the only agenda possible when you actually don't have a platform or vision for the country.

Beijing York said...

^^^That panel was excellent. The public needs to hear more of this. The media has to stop slavishly supporting Harper's tough on crime/war on drugs agenda.

And damn right, Martin Cauchon: "When you have a vision and you believe in this as I did you roll up your sleeves, you travel, you communicate to people," he said.

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