Bill S-10 and Canadian Drug Policy in the News
Fiscal Pressures Lead Some States to Free Inmates Early
May 5, 2008 - Washington Post
Reversing decades of tough-on-crime policies, including mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug offenders, many cash-strapped states are embracing a view once dismissed as dangerously naive: It costs far less to let some felons go free than to keep them locked up.
"You've got two decades of failed policies," said Laura Sager a consultant in Michigan for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. She said mandatory sentencing laws and tough penalties for drug offenses in the 1980s "bloated prisons and prison populations, and the taxpayer is paying a very high price."
Canada's drug crime bill brings calls for caution from U.S.
April 25, 2008 - Canwest News Service
The Conservatives are also pushing ahead with Bill C-26 at the very moment the United States is repealing or reforming many of its own mandatory minimum drug penalties, because of mounting evidence that they don't work.The Conservatives are also pushing ahead with Bill C-26 at the very moment the United States is repealing or reforming many of its own mandatory minimum drug penalties, because of mounting evidence that they don't work.
The U.S. also has the world's highest per capita rate of incarceration - 751 people in jail for every 100,000 in population - more than Russia at a rate of 627, China at 119, and Canada at 108.
In 2007, the U.S. also passed a sobering milestone: more than one of every 100 adult Americans is now locked up in jail.
Mandatory drug laws contributed to this situation. Since 1980, the number of Americans jailed for drug crimes has soared to 500,000 from about 40,000.
The result is overcrowded prisons and overburdened corrections budgets. But the biggest problem is the failure of such laws to ensnare the criminals they're designed to target - the kingpins and dealers at the top of the drug trade. More...
April 24, 2008 - The Montreal Mirror
The Harper government, say critics, are still taking lessons in pursuing a war on drugs from the United States, with all the attendant failings.
“Mandatory minimums have been an unmitigated disaster,” says Eugene Oscapella, an Ottawa lawyer, criminology professor at the University of Ottawa and a founder of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (and, he says, not a marijuana smoker). “It boggles my mind that anyone can look to the U.S. as a model for anything except as a colossal failure.”
“[Bill C-26 is] a redundant, unnecessary and harmful bill,” says NDP justice critic Libby Davies. “It’s all about optics for the Conservatives…. Prohibition is a failed model. All this bill does is give us the illusion that they’re doing something. It’s a dividing tactic, playing on people’s fears.”
| Canada must not follow the U.S. on drug policy
February 22, 2007 - Ottawa Citizen
The U.S. drug czar, John Walters, is in Ottawa today, trying his best to put a positive spin on one of the greatest disasters in U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Part of his agenda is to persuade Canada to follow in U.S. footsteps, which can only happen if Canadians ignore science, compassion, health and human rights. More...
POLL: Canadians See Drug Offences as Illness, Not Crime
Feb 1, 2007 - Angus Reid Global Monitor
|Q: Do you think the best approach to drug abuse is...
|Treat the use of illegal drugs as an illness and focus on prevention and treatment for addicts
|Treat the use of illegal drugs as a crime and get tough on enforcement of drug laws among addicts
| Canada not, never was, soft on crime
January 27, 2007 -
Despite these sensational anecdotes, however, a review of the evidence reveals that Canada is not, and never has been, soft on crime, that the putative laxity of the criminal justice system is perhaps the most persistent, pervasive and pernicious myth in Canadian society today. more...
U.S. has say in Tory drug strategy
December 12, 2006- Montreal Gazette
Conservative ministers and their aides are consulting with "keen" U.S. government officials on a new national drug strategy, according to internal documents obtained by CanWest.
"There have been various senior-level meetings between U.S. officials and ministers/minister's offices," states a summary of a June 16, 2006, meeting on the Tory drug initiative involving top federal bureaucrats at nine federal departments and agencies.
"U.S. officials have been keen to discuss drug issues with the current government." More...
PS warning that Tories' crime laws won't work was ignored
Mandatory prison terms ineffective, lawyers told new justice minister
July 6, 2006 -
The Tories apparently ignored the advice from Justice Department lawyers, which was contained in a briefing book for Justice Minister Vic Toews released yesterday through an Access to Information request.
"Research into the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences has established that they do not have any obvious special deterrent or educative effect and are no more effective than less serious sanctions in preventing crime," said the briefing book. more...
| Minimum Sentences, Minimum Effectiveness
April 14, 2006 - Centretown News (ON)
Conservative policymakers have long arugued that minimum sentences are effective deterrents. But the harshness of the penalty is not what deters someone from committing a crime; rather, it's the likelihood of getting caught, says Barry Beyerstein, a member of the Canadian Centre for Drug Policy.
And mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea on principle. In western legal systems, part of the reason everyone gets their own trial is that the circumstances of individual cases are always unique.
Politicians have no business making pre-ordained decisions on the future of people brought before the courts. A judge who has heard the case from start to finish should be the only person to decide what penalties are appropriate.
Simply put, it's too draconian to pass a law that ignores mitigating circumstances. More...
| Lawyers blast tougher gun laws
November 13, 2005 - Ottawa Sun
Critics fear the move is a sign that electioneering and exploiting public fears are taking precedence over common sense and the integrity of the judicial system.
Tony Doob, a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto, called mandatory minimums for gun crimes an "insult" to judges, who are already legally bound to tailor punishments to fit the crime.
"Study after study shows these things have zero impact on crime (but) everybody's looking for a quick fix," said Doob, who added that he's most troubled by politicians who are pretending to make Canada's streets safer.
"They're trying to deceive the public into thinking that they've done something effective. It's just simple dishonesty." More...