Monday, September 26, 2011

Punishment vs. Restorative Measures


One of the biggest problems with the sheer size of this bill is that all the various illegal activities and subsequent punishments get rolled into one.  It disallows proper critique.  And anyone brave enough to speak out against it is seen as soft on "crime" or as an apple from the same tree as the sex offenders and violent persons some of this act claims to target.
The simple fact of the matter is prison is good for only one thing and that is keeping those who are completely anti-social, so violent, and dangerous that they simply must be kept off the streets.  Those folks are few and far between and don't reflect the average person caged in Canada today.  That is an unemployed, poor, drug using abuse survivor, a person of colour, often a young man or a single mother.  Locking her up instead of seeking out community based alternatives means her children end up in the system.   

sheryl jarvis, Sept 2011

See what some Canadian's think about using community based alternatives such as restorative justice in the article below.

Emphasis on punishment shuns healing. Feds ignore power of restorative justice, critics charge

By Douglas Quan

There was a time when Manjit Virk would have liked nothing more than to wring the neck of Warren Glowatski, one of two teens convicted of murdering his daughter, Reena, "as if he were a chicken."
But in the fall of 2005, when the two came face to face in a semicircle of chairs in the basement of a church, something very different happened.
"It was the most unusual experience I had encountered in my life," the Victoria father later recounted in his book, Reena: A Father's Story.
"My daughter's killer was shaking hands with me."
This remarkable act of reconciliation is often cited as an example of the potential of restorative justice - the concept that true healing after a crime doesn't necessarily come from harsher punishments but rather from the coming together of criminal and victim, giving them a chance to understand one another and work to repair the harm done.
But despite the existence of programs across the country to facilitate such meetings, restorative justice has never gained mainstream traction, and now some victims' advocates say they worry such programs will be further marginalized because of the federal government's tough on crime agenda and its emphasis on incarceration.
"In reality, there's no interest from this government [in restorative justice]," said Steve Sullivan, executive director of Ottawa Victim Services and former federal ombudsman for victims of crime.
"It doesn't jive with their view of what victims want - punishment."
Some advocates say they are troubled by the government's new crime bill, particularly mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug and sex offences, because they interfere with judges' abilities to tailor their sentences and consider restorativejustice options.
"If they're locked in to mandatory minimums, it doesn't allow restorative justice to take place," said Catherine Latimer of the John Howard Society of Canada.
Not all victims' advocates feel the same way, however.
Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose 16-yearold son Daryn Johnsrude was a victim of serial killer Clifford Olson, stood alongside the justice minister in announcing the crime bill.
While she and her group Victims of Violence believe there is a role for restorative justice, she said in an interview there is a need to toughen up penalties to deal with repeat violent offenders. With longer sentences, "maybe" some lives can be turned around within prisons, she said.
Justice Ministry spokeswoman Pamela Stephens said in an email that "while restorative-justice approaches complement other criminal justice system responses to criminal behaviour, they are not intended to replace them."
A restorative-justice approach only works if victims agree to participate, offenders accept responsibility for their actions and trained facilitators are available, she added.
That said, the government has supported restorative-justice initiatives. It invested $85 million in the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, which seeks to help young or first-time offenders in aboriginal communities.
Restorative justice referrals can come from police before a charge is laid, by Crown prosecutors after a charge is laid, by a judge after a conviction or by correctional officials after a sentence has been imposed.
Studies have shown that victims who go through the process often come out more satisfied than those who go through the regular criminal justice system, and are more likely to receive restitution from offenders. Offenders are also less likely to reoffend.
The perception that participating in such a process is a cakewalk for offenders "couldn't be further from the truth," said Evelyn Zellerer, a criminology instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and a restorative-justice consultant.
"It's a very rigorous process. It's not easy for someone to face their victim and their families, face what they've done and listen to the impact of what their behaviour has been."
Rather than "get tough" on crime, Canada needs to "get smart" about it, she said.
The authors of a review of the Stanley Cup riot seem to agree, saying the first responders and business people affected by the riot could teach the rioters "real lessons a judge can only lecture them about."
The report said: "Far from being a slap on the wrist this is, for many, a deeply troubling experience. But it can also be a transforming experience."
A victim of John Horace Oughton, the "Paper Bag Rapist" convicted in the 1980s of a string of sex offences in Vancouver, counts herself among those concerned about the rhetoric.
Laura, who requested that her last name not be used, said there was a time when she wanted Oughton dead - "preferably at my hands."
But she said her attitude evolved, especially after she met Oughton's brother through a restorative-justice mediator. She was able to gain a "deeper understanding" of Oughton and his family and see that they were suffering as well, erasing the "us versus them" mentality that had framed her thinking for so long.
She worries the strides the program has made could be "undermined" by Ottawa's tough on crime strategies.
"Public safety is more complex than punishment and incarceration," she said.
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