Public safety is so retrograde

The lawyer for a convicted pedophile seems to think that maybe the judicial and corrections systems should review the way they handle high-risk offenders.  Apparently he feels that the system is somewhat careless and disorganised.  You don’t say.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Daniel Brodsky writes that his client’s case raises questions about how Ottawa puts preventive measures in place. Mr. Whitmore had several convictions of child molestation and was deemed likely to reoffend, yet was released from jail. He pleaded guilty last week to kidnapping and raping two boys and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years.

I have a question for the learned Mr. Brodsky:  How is the Prime Minister’s office the most obvious point of contact for judicial and corrections reform?  Are the laws themselves too lax?  Are the maximum sentences for sexual assault somewhat less than those for say, theft over five grand?  Doesn’t look that way to me.  Maybe the thing to do would be to compare the maximum sentence for the offence to the actual sentences handed out to offenders.  Like a certain witty lawyer-blogger of my acquaintance does.  If the sentences consistently come in under the maximum, maybe the problem isn’t the law, per se, but the officer of the court who exercises discretionary powers in sentencing.

In Mr. Whitmore’s case, for example, he had multiple convictions for sex assaults on children dating back to 1989. Still, he was always released from prison despite signs he was likely to reoffend.

Once again, the question is whether Mr. Whitmore’s sentences leaned toward the minimum, maximum or median for his initial and subsequent offenses.  A merciful judge might be willing to give a guy a second chance, but it strains credulity when an offender gets third, fourth and fifth chances.

The Justice Department did not directly respond to the topic of an inquiry, but in an e-mail sent to The Canadian Press, officials listed measures aimed at protecting the public.

Among them is Bill C-27, which the department wrote “would ensure that high-risk and dangerous offenders face tougher consequences when they are sentenced, and are kept better track of when they are released into the community.”

A big part of the problem is certainly the attitude of the judiciary and corrections service, both of whom have clearly abandoned any pretence to securing the public.  By all means, subject high-risk offenders to tougher sentencing and keep better track of them.  But let’s not consider releasing high-risk offenders at all — until they’ve demonstrated enough responsibility to rate a designation other than high-risk.  And if the offender never does so, that’s too bad.  If they get refused by the saner, privately-run halfway houses, don’t shovel them into federally-run halfway houses like the Keele Community Corrections Centre, conveniently surrounded by public schools.

Mr. Brodsky said it’s not necessarily that new rules are needed, but that the system isn’t being executed properly and a lot of offenders are being left on their own with dire consequences.

Is it Corrections Canada’s fault that these offenders can’t be adequately supervised in a halfway house setting?  Or are we pushing offenders out the door and back into civil society just a tad too early?

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