"Severe [Mandatory Minimum Sentences] seem to be least effective in relation to drug offences. Studies using a variety of methodologies seriously question the value of the 'drug war' approach."
"Drug consumption and drug-related crime seem to be unaffected, in any measurable way, by severe [Mandatory Minimum Sentences] ."
Department of Justice Canada - Research and Statistics Division
"... while the general public appears to favour the use of mandatory sentences for offenders convicted of the most serious offences and repeat offenders, there are important limits on public support for strict mandatory sentencing laws. When the public is provided with more information regarding the law and the circumstances surrounding the offence and the offender, the tendency is not to favour punitive sanctions such as mandatory minimum sentences."
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson(He opposed Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in 1988)
"As a Tory backbencher in 1988, Nicholson was vice-chairman of a parliamentary committee that rejected the expansion of automatic incarceration, asserting that it doesn't work, overcrowds jails and takes too hefty of a social and financial toll." (Hill Times )
Today, Rob Nicholson is leading the charge to impose MMS for drug offenses in Canada.
Is Rob Nicholson a "flip-flopper"?
US "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske
"...lawmakers in “almost every single state” in the U.S. are looking to reduce mandatory minimum penalties because prison populations have exploded with non-violent drug offenders.
[...] policy-makers should recognize there is “a distinct difference” between big-time narcotics offenders and others who come into the criminal justice system “who clearly have an addiction problem.”
“Then the focus of the sentencing, the focus of whatever law that exists, should be as much treatment as any punishment.” That should include treatment of drug addictions behind prison walls.
“Otherwise you’re just being dumb on drugs,” he said. (source)
US: Ernest Drucker - scholar in residence and senior research associate at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He is professor emeritus of Family and Social Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
"A paradigm-shifting look at our criminal justice system that sees prisons as the problem, not the solution."
Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist and William Bennett are but a few of the conservatives promoting Right on Crime, which heralds “the conservative case for reform: fighting crime, prioritizing victims and protecting taxpayers.”
Among the signers of the site’s “Statement of Principles” are former Attorney GeneralEd Meese, former “Drug Czar”Asa Hutchinson, and Bush’s former faith-based programs czarJohn DiIulio.
“I think mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders ought to be reviewed. We have to see who has been incarcerated and what has come from it.”
– Ed Meese, former U.S. Attorney General under President Reagan and Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
The Right on Crime Campaign represents a seismic shift in the legislative landscape. And it opens the way for a common-sense left-right agreement on an issue that has kept the parties apart for decades. There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections - 300 percent more than 25 years ago. The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population. These facts should trouble every American.
Conservative Republicans joined with Democrats in adopting incentive-based funding to strengthen the state's probation system in 2005. Then in 2007, they decided against building more prisons and instead opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches such as drug courts. The reforms are forecast to save $2 billion in prison costs over five years.
UK: Prime Minister David Cameron (United Kingdom) Harper Tories split with friends abroad on crime policy
Feb. 13, 2011 - Globe and Mail In Britain, the Conservative government of David Cameron is working assiduously to make Britain’s prison system less costly. The Cameron Conservatives are grappling with the expensive consequences of 21 criminal justice acts introduced by their Labour predecessors, which “increased the cost of prisons by two-thirds and sent the prison population soaring,” according to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke. “My goal is a conservative one: to find effective ways of punishing criminals while reducing public spending,” Mr. Clarke says. In Canada, the situation appears to be reversed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is emulating Labour. more...
The most recent leaps backwards have been on mandatory minimum sentences, harsher marijuana laws and extension of almost all sentences -- all bad, unjust and expensive mistakes. Mandatory Minimum Sentences deprive judges of any discretion and pre-sentence convicted people without regard to individual circumstances.
It is a politically catchy method of avoiding the perceived problem of soft-hearted judges letting people off lightly. It has been a catastrophic failure in the United States, from which the designers of the Roadmap have cribbed it, and emulating it in Canada would be an outrage.
There is no rationale or excuse for confining those who are not physically dangerous, nor for reducing their access to treatment, which is cheaper, more effective, and more humane than prison, though less likely to appeal to knuckle-dragging deadbeats of the jail 'em, flog 'em, hang 'em school.
Libby Davies, NDP Spokesperson for Drug Policy
"The reality is that mandatory minimums do not deter organized crime. Instead, they affect almost exclusively the small dealers, street traffickers, and non-violent offenders while leaving the door open for organized crime to step in and fill the void created at the lower levels. Mandatory Minimums for drug sentences increase enforcement costs exponentially, and the burden on the criminal justice and prisons systems is great."
There is no proof that mandatory minimums are effective and appropriate measures to reduce drug use and crimes related to drugs. Most evidence shows the opposite.
C-26 does not address the core issue of why people use drugs.
C-26 increases already imbalanced and over-funded enforcement approach to drug use in Canada without reducing crime rates or drug use.
Abandons successful measures such as harm reduction and grass roots education programs.
Moves toward expensive, failed US style war on drugs that spends tens of billions a year on enforcement and incarceration while crime rates and drug use soar.
Leads to greater incarceration rates and greater burden on courts, police, and prisons.
The Bill leaves it open for enforcement to go after the low level dealers and marijuana infractions (The selling of one joint or growing one plant could constitute trafficking) .
Current waiting lists for drug treatment beds is from months to years, depending on the city and region, Drug Treatment Courts will only serve to put more people on a waiting list
New Democrat Libby Davies questioned Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson as to what evidence he had to support the idea that minimum mandatory jail terms will reduce crime. Ms. Davies cited studies prepared for the Justice Department several years ago showing that automatically jailing drug criminals does nothing to deter crime, as has been shown in the United States.
"Many States are repealing their mandatory minimums," Ms. Davies said. Mr. Nicholson declined to supply any evidence to the contrary, but he insisted that "we are absolutely convinced in our consultation with Canadians that this is welcomed across the country." more...
Eugene Oscapella - Ottawa lawyer, founding member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, and former chair and member of the policy committee of the Canadian Criminal Justice Association http://cfdp.ca
Eugene Oscapella appearing before
the Bill C-15 Senate Committee (Part 1) (Part 2)
November 4, 2009 (transcript)
Neil Boyd - criminologist, associate director of the School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University
Neil Boyd characterizes Bill S-10 as "a reckless experiment in sentencing reform."
Trying to Understand the Tougher Sentences of the Harper Conservatives:
You Don’t Need Evidence -- You’ve Got To Have Faith
27 Feb 2011 - Vancouver Sun The Harper Conservatives are under fire for their extraordinarily expensive legislative initiative, Bill S-10. Among other things, it seeks to spend at least hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers dollars on prison building, in order to impose a mandatory minimum term of six months in jail for anyone who grows more than six marijuana plants. Most Canadians, experts and non-experts alike, have criticized the proposal as costly and counter-productive, noting that it will imprison individuals who are mostly non-violent and who sell to willing adult consumers.
What’s initially much more puzzling is the extent to which the Harper Conservatives are ignoring all relevant evidence regarding the utility of mandatory minimum terms for drug offences.
"Bill S-10 will put small scale growers of marijuana in jail for a minimum of six months, even though the RCMP's study of some 25,000 cultivation files reveals that violence or the threat of violence among cultivators is rare," stated Neil Boyd, professor and Associate Director of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. "We will be spending tens of millions of dollars to imprison individuals who represent little if any real threat to the public."
"[The proposed law] won't have much impact on crime rates or drug use, other than you are going to have a lot more people in jail," said Neil Boyd. "Arrest data suggest that we will have a doubling of the prison population in B.C. just to house marijuana offenders."
February 7, 2011 - The Montreal Gazette (quote source)
Neil Boyd appearing before
the Bill C-15 Senate Committee November 19, 2009 (transcript)
Charles Pascal - Professor at the University of Toronto and a former Ontario deputy minister
Stephen Harper’s legislative agenda on crime reinforces the notion that he has created a fact-free zone in Ottawa. According to a thorough analysis of the government’s initiatives, more than 30 per cent of Harper’s current parliamentary docket is devoted to a bundle of fear-factor “tough on crime” bills. All of this at a time when crime stats are going south. And the human and fiscal costs of all of this are staggering.
Megan McLemore - Senior researcher in the Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch
Canada has been a regional leader in drug policy, but Bill S-10 would waste billions of dollars on ineffective approaches that only appear to be tough on crime.
Jeffrey Simpson -
The Globe and Mail's national affairs columnist
"There’s a difference between being serious about crime and playing political games with it. And what we have, sadly, is the politics of sloganeering about crime, rather than serious measures."
"The Liberals and NDP are already being accused of being "soft on crime" because they wound up opposing (sometimes belatedly) the Conservative measures. They will be accused of all manner of threatening civil order in the election campaign because they opposed these measures. Never underestimate on this issue the Conservatives' ability and willingness to engage in sloganeering, fear-mongering and base politics, as parties often do with crime."
Irwin Cotler - Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal and the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
"Mandatory minimums are neither a deterrent nor effective," Cotler told The Sun editorial board Tuesday. "I will not be pressured into legislating because of the politics of the moment -- and I will not be intimidated into changing my principles. I said they are wrongheaded as a matter of policy and suspect as a matter of law . . . They are not effective, even though that is counterintuitive."
Erika Sasson - Former federal prosecutor in Toronto
Convicted members of organized crime are generally incarcerated for much longer periods of time, so a mandatory one-year sentence will have no meaningful deterrent effect. Rather, it’s the low-level street dealers who should be alarmed.
If the Harper government wants to incarcerate street dealers, then it should be forthright and say so. But the government is mobilizing our legitimate fear of organized crime as a Trojan horse against minor drug offenders, the most disorganized of criminals. This is an unnecessary manipulation of public sentiment that punishes the people who have the least impact on the strength of the drug trade.
Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CJCC.ca)
Coalition of churches condemns Ottawa’s justice plan
Globe and Mail (source)
"Public safety is enhanced through healthy communities that support individuals and families, Mr. Champagne wrote. "We, therefore, respectfully ask you to modify your government's policy, taking into consideration the impact it will have on the most disadvantaged, its lack of effectiveness, and its serious budgetary implications."
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc)
LEAP member, Officer David Bratzer, is an active duty police officer in Victoria, BC. He has testified before Senate Committees about this legislation twice so far: Bill C-15 | Bill S-10
David Bratzer appearing before
the Bill C-15 Senate Committees
Novemeber 25, 2009 (transcript)
The CBA has consistently opposed mandatory minimum sentences for the following reasons:
* They do not advance the goal of deterrence.
* They do not target the most egregious or dangerous offenders.
* The have a disproportionate impact on those minority groups who already suffer from poverty and deprivation.
* They subvert important aspects of Canada’s sentencing regime, including principles of proportionality and individualization and reliance on judges to impose a just sentence after hearing all the facts in the individual case. (Source:
CBA Press Release Oct 27, 2010)
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (www.nacdl.org) U.S. org
CCLA has long opposed the use of such sentences in all areas of Canadian law, and believes that they are particularly dangerous in the context of drug crimes. In April of 2009, the CCLA appeared before the federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to speak out against Bill C-15. In its submissions to the Committee, CCLA highlighted the injustice that can result from the imposition of rigid mandatory minimum sentences and urged the rejection of this blunt approach to criminal punishment.
CCLA briefing paper regarding Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentences: The Canadian Sentencing Commission summarized the Canadian expertise on this issue as follows: “Since 1952, all Canadian commissions that have addressed the role of mandatory minimum penalties have recommended that they be abolished”.
NORML Canada (www.norml.ca)
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
NORML Canada, as part of its Resolving Prohibition Tour 2011, seeks to expand national dialogue about Bill S-10 and to educate Canadians about this dangerous legislation through a series of public meetings held throughout the country.
Yet More Groups Opposing Bill S-10...
- AIDS ACTION NOW!
- AIDS Committee of London
- AIDS Committee of Ottawa
- AIDS Niagara
- AIDS Saint John
- AIDS Thunder Bay
- BC Compassion Club Society
- BC Persons with AIDS Society
- Bureau régional d’action sida — BRAS Outaouais
- Canadian AIDS Society
- Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange
- Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
- Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy
- Central Toronto Community Health Centres
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria
- Dianova Canada
- Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, Inc.
- Eva’s Initiatives
- Fréquence VIH
- Global Network of People living with
- HIV/AIDS — North America (GNP+NA)
- HIV Edmonton
- John Howard Society of Sudbury
- Living Positive Resource Centre, Okanagan
- Meta d’Ame
- Northern AIDS Connection Society
- Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy
- Ottawa Coalition on HIV/AIDS
- PASAN (Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network)
- Patients Against Ignorance and Discrimination on Cannabis
- Pivot Legal Society
- Regent Park Community Health Centre
- Research and Education for Solutions to Violence and Abuse (RESOLVE) Saskatchewan
- South East Toronto Organization (SETo)
- Stella, l'amie de Maimie
- Street Health Community Nursing Foundation
- Streetworks, Edmonton
- The Injection Drug Users Harm Reduction Task Force [of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties] IDUHRTF
- Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force