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November 28, 2007

Canadian politicians punishing mandatory minimum drug sentencess

The CanWest News Service has this interesting article highlighting that the debate over mandatory minimum drug sentencing is spreading north of the boarder.  The article is entitled "Ottawa intent on minimum sentences despite suggested ineffectiveness," and here are excerpts:

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is pressing ahead with plans to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug crimes in spite of two studies prepared for his own department that say such laws don't work, and are increasingly unpopular as crime-fighting measures in other countries.

"Minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool: that is, they constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased crime prevention benefits. Nevertheless, mandatory sentences remain popular with some Canadian politicians." That's one conclusion of a 2005 report prepared for the Justice Department...

Despite such conclusions, the Conservatives unveiled legislation last week to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug possession, production and trafficking.  The automatic minimum jail terms range from six months for growing and selling a single marijuana plant to three years for producing any quantity of coke or crystal meth in a home lab.  A clause in the bill would allow judges to exempt certain offenders from prison if they pass a court-monitored drug treatment program.

The proposal has been widely criticized as counter-productive by criminal lawyers, criminologists and at least one former Canadian judge. Those criticisms appear to be backed up by the government's own research.... "Severe MMS seem to be least effective in relation to drug offences," said the 2002 study. "MMS are blunt instruments that provide a poor return on taxpayers' dollars."

Nicholson did not respond to a request for an interview on the subject Tuesday. "Drug trafficking, grow-ops, a whole host of activities, have become much worse in recent years," he said last week as he introduced the changes. "I think Canadians and most people will applaud this move."

That, says one observer, is the main reason for the legislation, whether or not it is passed by Parliament. "This is patent stupidity," says Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer who teaches drug policy at the University of Ottawa. "The only excuse I can think of, for why the Conservatives would announce mandatory minimums, is the perceived political mileage this will earn them among certain segments of the public."

November 28, 2007 at 07:40 AM | Permalink


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this is what happens when the conservatives get hold of power. Their first thought is "population control"

Posted by: EJ | Nov 28, 2007 9:03:57 AM

thanks for your valuable insight, EJ

Posted by: | Nov 28, 2007 12:17:16 PM

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