Life without parole, coming soon to a Canada near you

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Life without parole, coming soon to a Canada near you

Peter MacKay says worst criminals shouldn't be freed

Quote:

Justice Minister Peter MacKay says the Canadian government is considering new rules to lock up certain violent criminals and throw away the key, as family and friends grieve Serena Vermeersch, the 17-year-old who was killed last week in Surrey, B.C., allegedly by a known violent offender.

MacKay said that the criminal justice system will always operate within a framework of rehabilitation and that some offenders will be released after serving their sentences, but that the scene must be set foremost for the protection of the public.

Slumberjack

There are certain crimes where an individual recuses him or herself from society.

Ghislaine

I agree with life without parole for certain crimes.

6079_Smith_W

The Harperites always spin this stuff as vengance and fear.

I think it is important to not fall into that trap, as much as we might think certain things deserve certain responses. We already have people making arguments that people suffering from mental illness should be "held responsible" for crimes.

I sympathise with the sentiments, and in some ways I agree. But I think we have to try and hold to the ideal of harm reduction and public safety, and resist the notion that it is all about punishment and vengance. I know the justice system isn't unbiased, but I don't think there is any possible progressive argument other than to promote the ideal that it SHOULD be. The alternative is nothing but vigilanteeism - small scale or systemic.

I do support indefinite detention in the interest of public safety. As punishment? It is cruel and unusual and anti-human. And we have seen far too many cases where it - and capital punishment -  have been applied in an unfair way.

 

bekayne
6079_Smith_W

@ bekayne

Yes... exactly.

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

What the UK has is a "Rehabilitation of Offenders" Act. Unless it is a life sentence, 5 years after the end of your sentence, it is automatically expunged. The Canadian "Pardon" or "Record Suspension" system is a long, complicated, and expensive process, according to what I have heard. Because so much requires a criminal check, Any kind of criminal conviction is a kind of life sentence to diminished expectation. It is much the same in the USA. With a Canadian "Rehabilitation of Offenders" Act, we could keep the Parole Board working on people who are actually under parole. It is funny how many social conservatives claim they are Christian, and do not practice redemption while preaching it. Being so diametrically opposed to rehabilitation, we have a situation in Canada which flies in the face of the UN Charter of Human Rights.

6079_Smith_W

@ montrealer58

YOu mean that nonsense from MacKay? I Agree. Dangerous offender legislation I agree with in principle, although I see the potential for misuse. What else are you going to do with a person who has demonstrated a clear intent to reoffend, but who is not mentally ill?

 I think it is a reasonable provision, even if it is one that needs a lot of oversight.,

 

 

Slumberjack

Misuse can potentially be addressed through a remedy of the court.  It doesn't matter what society we're talking about, or what system of government, or what use politicians make of the issue.  Redemption is a matter for Jesus.  Even an anarchist society would need to come to terms with such predatory behaviour and callous disregard for life.

6079_Smith_W

And if one remained predatory and callous, there would be an argument for indefinite incarceration as a dangerous offender.

But I'd turn the religious appeal around and say that eternal punishment is a matter very much promoted by organized religion, (if not by Jesus).

If we are seriously considering ending a person's civil life for an act that may have been committed in one's 20s, and justify that punishment - because it is nothing other than punishment - on an assumption that there is no capacity for change, I'd say Shaw had the right answer in his argument in favour of capital punishment:

Quote:

The real problem is the criminal you cannot reform: the human mad dog or cobra. The answer is, kill him kindly and apologetically, if possible without consciousness on his part.

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/flashbks/death/dpenshaw.htm

And no, I don't agree with Shaw's thesis. But I think those who would effectively end a person's life by incarceration are not that much  different than those who support death. It is doing the same thing (without admitting or taking full responsibility for it)  by shutting someone in a box.

But the more important argument, as I said above is that these harshest of penalties are always doled out in an unfair fashion. For every Bernie Madoff that gets locked away for good, there are thousands upon thousands of poor and less advantaged who don't deserve it.

 

6079_Smith_W

Great fodder for tunes though.... not least this fine one by Merle Haggard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TBbj5_zA-8

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

If a person can stay out of trouble for 5 years after the end of their sentence, I think they should have a chance to rejoin society with all the privileges which go with that, and no record shown. Any incorrigible criminal is not going to wait 5 years to reoffend. Perhaps, there is no logic working, and they could be a danger to society. There are many people who have been convicted of non-violent offenses (and indeed victimless crimes) who have lost many opportunities in their lives because of our barbaric penal system in this country. Rock musicians caught with weed can't go and play in the United States. People like Peter McKay probably find this funny, as he has power over them.

Dangerous criminals can indeed be rehabilitated, but they are often so well known that it would be politically impossible for any government to let them back on the streets. In most cases, if a very dastardly crime is involved, it is a life sentence, so there would be no possibility for it to be wiped clean. Even if Bernardo became an angel, he is not getting out.

As time goes on, psychological testing is going to get better with brain scans and whatnot, so the convict's personal assurances to the Parole Board can be backed up with experiemental data.

The problem with long-term sentences in this country is the conditions in our prisons, where many are killed, maimed, and otherwise injured. A person who is killed in prison has received an unofficial death sentence. The possibility of death in prison for nonviolent offenders (at least 25% of which have mental illness issues) is cruel and unusual punishment, pure and simple. They can say it is a deterrent, but they cannot guarantee there is no one in there who has been falsely accused and convicted.

The danger goes for staff as well as inmates. It has been found in Europe that when conditions are improved for prisoners, violence dramatically decreases, and so does the rate of reoffending.

I say if a person has paid their debt to society, society should set them free. What makes people so vindictive in this country?

NorthReport

Don't think many Canadians are going to buy the bleeding-heart approach right now.

Raymond Caissie had been considered likely to kill by parole board

Man accused of killing Surrey teen Serena Vermeersch was considered a high risk to reoffend

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/raymond-caissie-had-been-...

 

takeitslowly

Does living in prison simply harden the prisoners, making it hard for them to get better?

Bacchus

Essentially yes. Also, for the vast majority of it, the circumstances that caused them to commit crimes is not addressed so re-offending is a given once they are released (poverty, literacy, therapy etc)

Sean in Ottawa

Lots is known about how to improve things but they stopped listening to experts in 2006 as a matter of policy. And pride.

Slumberjack

6079_Smith_W wrote:
And if one remained predatory and callous, there would be an argument for indefinite incarceration as a dangerous offender.

But I'd turn the religious appeal around and say that eternal punishment is a matter very much promoted by organized religion, (if not by Jesus).

The right to live and to be a person should't be punished or put at undue risk either.  Prisons are obviously not being managed effectively if they're turning out recidivism as horrilble as this, after years of incarceration.  This should be treated as gross negligence, an inquiry called, people held responsible, and restitution to the family undertaken.  The 'dangerous offender' designation could certainly use a review.  Why do such designations tend to be based on the number of bodies?  Isn't once enough of an established pattern with offenses like this? Of course, no amount of general and specific deterrence seems to have made much of an impact on frequency of initial incidents.  This is more of an issue for society.  Mission impossible in the predatory one we have now.

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

Northreport, why don't we just kill them all?

6079_Smith_W

I agree there are some big problems, both inside our prison system, and outside of it. But I'm not sure what you are saying, SJ. Do you honestly think locking up and throwing away the key is a solution?

I seem to remember California trying that; it didn't work.

 

Webgear

Put the fucker against a wall and shoot the son of a bitch.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Webgear wrote:

Put the fucker against a wall and shoot the son of a bitch.

Seriously?

6079_Smith_W

Or for another look at how the strategy of tossing the worst of the worst in jail to rot forever. Look at how that strategy has turned out in Brazil:

http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/sao-paulo-takes-aim-at-prison-...

Quote:

In May 2006, the PCC orchestrated coordinated attacks on security forces and public transportation services in the streets of São Paulo -- a city of 20 million people -- and in 73 prisons across the state, paralyzing commercial activity for days. 

More recently, the group has carried on a prolonged battle with the police. The PCC is also reportedly ratcheting up its activities as the World Cup approaches.

While prison administrators in Brazil have long sought to limit gang members' contact with the outside, progress is slow. Authorities claim to have seized almost 35,000 cell phones from inmates in 2012 alone. When compared to the national prison population, this figure represents one phone for every 15 prisoners, yet the seizures have had no apparent impact.

 

6079_Smith_W

I think he means life without parole with no oversight.

That, or they are gearing up for an election.

 

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

I think he means life without parole with no oversight.

That, or they are gearing up for an election.

 

I'd put my money on election grandstanding.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

I think this is interesting.

In 1979,2 thugs threw 2 teens off the Jacques Cartier bridge.

Bothof them,Gilles Pimpare and Normand Guerin has been behind bars since that time which is 35 years.

Pimparé has been denied parole 6 times in 13 years.

It seems to me that life imprisonment already exists in Canada.

Wtf is MacKay yammering about?

I had to edit the post. Read the story here; http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/infamous-1979-bridge-killer-gilles-pimpare-de...

Arthur Cramer Arthur Cramer's picture

My late Uncle (blessed be his memory), was  Provincial Court Judge. He said 15 years was more then enough to break a man; he had expereince here and knew about what he was speaking. OK, there is a problem where people with Mental Health Issues are concerned. But, I'll take what my Uncle told me as defintive here. You don't need to put people away for life if all you think our legal system exists for is to destroy people. For a bunch of so-called "lefties", there sure seems to be a lot of blood lust. Remember Niewmoller. Its just as applciable here. I don't beleive in needlessly locking someone away; and yeah, if I sound "holier then thou", well, that's your problem. This is wrong, will be abused and for my opinion, some of you really need to give your heads a really good shake. Then, go for a really long walk.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Sorry Arthur.

People like Pimparé belong locked up.

Personally,I believe that prisons should be the very last resort. I think that non-violent crimes would be better served in the community.

But some people are beyond rehabilitation.

The man who randomly killed that teen girl in Surrey is an example of a person who deserved to be locked up for life.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Well, Arthur, I think your uncle was mostly right, but not always. Ages ago, when I was in law school, I took a course in criminology, which is more sociology than law. The data back then was pretty conclusive about this, and I don't think a lot has changed. If you kept a man incarcerated until he was over 55, the odds of his coming out and attacking society were vastly lowered, as compared to younger men. Still, there are always the Bernardos and Olsons and Picktons of the world. These types are not safe at any age.

Arthur Cramer Arthur Cramer's picture

Allan, sorry, don't buy it. Not much difference between this and us acting like a mob. I want no part of it. I wouldn't have expected to see it here. Not a lot of clear thinking going on here on this.

Arthur Cramer Arthur Cramer's picture

Thanks for the reply Michael. My Uncle was no feint bleeding-heart. I'd almost bank on what he said, but thanks for giving me more to think about. I am really getting creeped out by what I feel is basiclly blood lust. Years ago I went to a Town Hall meeting because they wanted to setup a House for underage Teens in my neighborhood. It was attended on the "what's the big deal about this side", by me and a NDP MLA. Everyone else was against the house going in. I ended up taking on the whole damn crowd and spent almost 45 minutes being attacked for being a "bleeding hurt, good-deed doing, Lawyer". Given I'm a retired Naval Officer, that was a real laugh. I've seen mobs up close, and they aren't pretty. I'm not jumping on this bandwagon. I respect yoru comment and appreciate your taking the time to answer me. Thanks very much!

6079_Smith_W

Is any of us the same person we were 20 or 30 years ago?

There is no way you can tell the changes a person will go through in that time.

Other than the very few offenders who are mentally ill, or otherwise simply not going to change, this talk of locking people up for life is nothing but vengance.

But more importantly, it is a form of punishment - not justice - that only perpetuates more of the same, and which which will ultimately fall apart under its own weight.

Never midn that we have a government which, beyond mandatory sentencing, is removing any sort of treatment, couinselling, or anything that might prepare people to rejoin society. Does no one not even consider the example to the south of us, or the other side of the balance - european countries which are closing prisons.

Just one example of needless, and harmful punishment:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/08/11/national-post-editorial-b...

Pondering

I know I don't want Luke Magnotta moving into my neighbourhood in 15 years nor Paul Bernardo. How about Robert Pickton?

I do not believe in capital punishment because the state should never take a life in cold blood nor should that be a job. For the state to sanction killing in cold blood sends the message that there are circumstances in which it is justifiable; it's just a matter of who gets to make the decision. Failing that some people should spend the rest of their life behind bars because they are too dangerous to let loose.

Having said that I can relate to Webgear's reaction.

NorthReport

Obviously this person should never have been released back into society.

Unfortunately some people, not all, but definitely some, are not suitable to be released, and in this case the parole baord even thought he would re-offend. 

Somewhere there must have been a bureaucratic breakdown, and that poor young woman has paid the untimate price.

montrealer58 wrote:

Northreport, why don't we just kill them all?

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

I'm cerrtainly against Peter McKay's proposal, that being life in prison with no chance of parole for 'dangerous offenders'.

While it's true that some offenders won't rehabilitate themselves, that can only be ascertained over the course of their life if they don't rehabilitate themselves. There's no way to accurately predict whether an offender will or won't rehabilitate themselves. As such, I don't buy the argument that some offenders are beyond rehabilitation.

Even violent criminals such as Bernardo and Pickton could potentially rehabilitate themselves if given the right supports. It's not very likely, but it could happen.

Webgear wrote:
Put the fucker against a wall and shoot the son of a bitch.

How is this language in any way acceptable on babble (or anywhere, for that matter). And I'm not referring to the position that some offenders should just be taken out and shot (with which I disagree), but rather the use of the terms f***er and soab.

Bacchus

Hmmm its used upon ocasion to describe Bush, Harper, Trudeau, etc

Slumberjack

Left Turn wrote:
Even violent criminals such as Bernardo and Pickton could potentially rehabilitate themselves if given the right supports. It's not very likely, but it could happen.

I doubt any potential neighbors of theirs would want to roll the dice in that regard, or society in general for that matter.  I think it's vital to distinguish between types of crime.  Parole shouldn't be simply based on a person having served enough time for consideration in all cases, or by the fact that, by not having raped and killed someone recently, that somehow this reflects favourably upon their rehabilitation while under lock and key.  Where it concerns parole boards, what skills are these matters submitted to for determination?  Are they qualified to perform this work?  What is the criteria for being selected as a member of a parole board?  Obviously there is a systemic and tragic failure occurring in this area.

Ghislaine

I agree with the comments above re: Pickton, Bernardo, etc. How would the families of their victims feel if they were let out.

Also, with all of the focus on the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women - what would the point of an inquiry be if their murderers cannot be put away for life?

Slumberjack

Ghislaine wrote:
Also, with all of the focus on the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women - what would the point of an inquiry be if their murderers cannot be put away for life?

Aside from that, some public accountability for investigations, and highlighting incidents of inaction on the part of authorities would be good.

6079_Smith_W

Ghislaine wrote:

Also, with all of the focus on the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women - what would the point of an inquiry be if their murderers cannot be put away for life?

They can be held indefinitely if they continue to be deemed a threat. It is highly unlikely that Paul Bernardo or William Pickton will ever be released.

But the point would be trying to find a measure of justice, not abstractions about never-ending punishment, and making policy based on the worst of the worst and horror stories.

Consider that some of the convicted people we are talking about have themselves been affected by our racist society and justice system. And I am not saying that to excuse any crime, but rather to point out that the lines here are not  cut and dried.

Beyond the moral question (of life sentences, AND of execution, which I think this whole debate is just trying to avoid), that approach is unsustainable. And worse, it ignores the fact we have a real problem to deal with, not just theory. As much as no one wants to live next to a released pedophile, once they have served their sentence we have to be prepared to accept them back into society.

Unless we want to consider those real-world alternatives, of course.

 

 

Slumberjack

6079_Smith_W wrote:
But point would be trying to find a measure of justice, not abstractions about never-ending punishment, and making policy based on the worst of the worst and horror stories.

The more immediate concern and emphasis should be about preventing horror stories.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Pondering wrote:

I know I don't want Luke Magnotta moving into my neighbourhood in 15 years nor Paul Bernardo. How about Robert Pickton?

I do not believe in capital punishment because the state should never take a life in cold blood nor should that be a job. For the state to sanction killing in cold blood sends the message that there are circumstances in which it is justifiable; it's just a matter of who gets to make the decision. Failing that some people should spend the rest of their life behind bars because they are too dangerous to let loose.

Having said that I can relate to Webgear's reaction.

I refuse to refer to Magnotta as Luka.

He's just a loser named Eric Newman.

Slumberjack

Left Turn wrote:

Webgear wrote:
Put the fucker against a wall and shoot the son of a bitch.

How is this language in any way acceptable on babble (or anywhere, for that matter). And I'm not referring to the position that some offenders should just be taken out and shot (with which I disagree), but rather the use of the terms f***er and soab.

Yes, its altogether the kind of language of reactionaries use.

Pondering

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Beyond the moral question (of life sentences, AND of execution, which I think this whole debate is just trying to avoid), that approach is unsustainable. And worse, it ignores the fact we have a real problem to deal with, not just theory. As much as no one wants to live next to a released pedophile, once they have served their sentence we have to be prepared to accept them back into society.

Unless we want to consider those real-world alternatives, of course.

I don't know what Harper is planning but the dangerous offenders act only applies to the most extreme cases not your everyday run of the mill pedophile or murderer. A hit man for example, or someone who murders for a personal reason, does not get the dangerous offender designation.

 

Pondering

Slumberjack wrote:

 What is the criteria for being selected as a member of a parole board?  Obviously there is a systemic and tragic failure occurring in this area.

I'm not sure, there is a list here of appointments:

http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=824229

Most seem fairly well suited but I have heard that it is a spot for patronage appointments. I would like to know how often they work and what they get paid.

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

Let's not forget about Vincent Li.

It makes me ill that he's basically free to walk the street now.

6079_Smith_W

Are you kidding, Alan?

Are we going to start doing this to the mentally ill now? More than we do already, that is?

It is bad enough that the province knuckled under to public pressure to overrule doctors' recommendations about him getting time out of doors, and that the media gave a soapbox to the assertion that a person ruled  not criminally responsible by the court should "pay for his crimes" - with very little and sometimes nothing offering the facts of how mental illness is considered under the justice system.

Is this the 21st century or the 18th? THis isn't justice; it is vigilanteeism.

 

 

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Are you kidding, Alan?

Are we going to start doing this to the mentally ill now? More than we do already, that is?

It is bad enough that the province knuckled under to public pressure to overrule doctors' recommendations about him getting time out of doors, and that the media gave a soapbox to the assertion that a person ruled  not criminally responsible by the court should "pay for his crimes" - with very little and sometimes nothing offering the facts of how mental illness is considered under the justice system.

Is this the 21st century or the 18th? THis isn't justice; it is vigilanteeism.

 

 

 

 

Here's some points about Li,Smith.

It was determined that he was a schizophrenic...supposedly he had paranoid delusions...apparently he was in fear of his life.

But if he truly was paranoid,why would he taunt the police with the head? To me,that doesn't sound very paranoid..Sounds like he knew exactly what he was doing.

In any case,after a year or 2 of treatment he's free.

If he was sick enough to decapitate,eat and taunt the police ,this man should have been long term therapy and followed very closely.

As a person living with mental illness,I sympathize with those who are sick. I just think Li knew what he was doing.

Now,having said all that,why didn't any of the passengers intervene? In a sense,they were accomplices.No one made an effort.

I'm not sure if I would be very sympathetic if I was McLean's family and the nature of that murder leaves me with very little sympathy for Li.

6079_Smith_W

alan smithee wrote:

Now,having said all that,why didn't any of the passengers intervene? In a sense,they were accomplices.No one made an effort.

For the same reason that many people in terrifying situations do not act. Would you be so sure of what you would do? There are plenty of people in situations like that who have blamed themselves and even committed suicide.

But accomplices? That is a terrible thing to say, and it is nonsense.

As for Li. What he needs is to make sure that he stays on his meds and stable. That is all.

As for the feeling of the dead man's family (and yes, I have seen them on TV, and I consider it exploitation on the part of the media) it is a tragedy, but not all victims of crime are so consumed by vengance; especially not for a man who was not criminally responsible for his actions.

Webgear

Slumberjack wrote:

Yes, its altogether the kind of language of reactionaries use.

I miss read this I thought you said "revolutionaries" at first. 

alan smithee alan smithee's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

alan smithee wrote:

Now,having said all that,why didn't any of the passengers intervene? In a sense,they were accomplices.No one made an effort.

For the same reason that many people in terrifying situations do not act. Would you be so sure of what you would do? There are plenty of people in situations like that who have blamed themselves and even committed suicide.

But accomplices? That is a terrible thing to say, and it is nonsense.

As for Li. What he needs is to make sure that he stays on his meds and stable. That is all.

As for the feeling of the dead man's family (and yes, I have seen them on TV, and I consider it exploitation on the part of the media) it is a tragedy, but not all victims of crime are so consumed by vengance; especially not for a man who was not criminally responsible for his actions.

It's complex.

Should his use of meds be supervised and enforced? Absolutely.

As I said,he should be supervised for the rest of his life for his safety and the public's. The idea that he should be given some meds and be on his way is irresponsible.

I do agree with you that the media exploited the family.

But I don't think it's absurd to question the character of the other passengers.

It's not like Li is a big man and he wasn't armed with a gun. He could have been subdued.

It was a real tragedy but the issue is complex.

What do we do?

Maybe the government should invest in mental health. As far as I know,mental health funding has been cut over and over again,it's time to reinvest.

Sadly,our government would rather use those funds on prisons and police. And the last time I checked,cops are not social workers.

So what is the answer,Smith?

6079_Smith_W

I think you answered it yourself.

We are in a situation where cutbacks to our medical and social systems have meant that crises wind up being dealt with by the police.

It is no solution at all.

As for people who might become unstable; it is not always necessary to keep someone institutionalized in order to ensure they take medication (though Li still does live in an institution).I really think the public reaction in this case comes down a misunderstanding of that, and more importantly to an irrational desire for vengance.

Coverage of the decision, earlier this year, to allow Li unsupervised outings:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/vince-li-granted-unsupervised-out...

 

 

 

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