Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Platform: Crime

Crime is an incredibly complex issue. It is one of the easiest ways for politicians to scare people or gain their approval. The right wing "tough on crime" approach and the left wing fondness for "forgiveness and reform" are both overly simplistic and naive, neither approach actually has much impact one way or another.

In order to fully address crime there is a need to address the question - what do we have a criminal justice system for. In my opinion the answer is simple: public safety. Public safety is what caused humans to band together and form civilizations in the first place. Society only functions to the extent that people feel they are safe and protected in their homes and in their streets.

In order to have any real impact on crime we have to examine what crimes we are talking about, why those crimes are committed and what can be done to prevent them. No single approach handles everything. In some cases the 'get tough' approach actually creates more crime and there are some people who simply cannot be rehabilitated.

Here is what I think needs to be done.

First: Greatly reducing poverty will, all by itself, have a profound impact on crime. Many property crimes and petty thefts are committed by people who are desperate for money. While there is much debate about the correlation between poverty and crime there seems to be strong evidence of a correlation between income disparity and crime - poor people living amid great wealth tend to commit more crimes.

Second: Canada needs to get serious about mental health care. The brain is an organ like any other, it is prone to illness and damage. The difference is that when a person suffers an illness dealing with the brain (as opposed to say the liver, or the heart) they can be unpredictable, erratic, and even dangerous to themselves and others. To date though the resources put into mental health care in Canada are woefully inadequate at best.

Third: As we learned from alcohol prohibition in the United States prohibition does not reduce crime, it increases it. The more you crack down on drugs the higher the prices go and the higher the prices go the more people are willing to engage in the trade. The higher prices, frequently in to the millions and billions of dollars, make people desperate and greedy and willing to do terrible things to get at that money. The 'War on Drugs' approach actually amounts to a subsidy of organized crime.

Marijuana should be legalized and regulated, possession and small (personal use) cultivation should be completely legal for adults. Commercial cultivation should be allowed and regulated - if farmers were allowed to devote a small part of their land to cultivation the new cash crop would solve most of their economic problems. Commercial sales should be regulated by the provincial liquor control boards. For drugs other than marijuana Canada should look to European harm reduction methods. Only use police resources on large scale dealers and producers of drugs, let social workers and medical professionals do the brunt of the work with low level users of drugs.

Fourth: In addition to greater investment in mental health care, mental health professionals need to be more deeply involved in the sentencing of and appeals for parole of convicted criminals. People who are deemed to be a danger to society should not be returned to society. Mental health care should be a core part of rehabilitation and it should be within the prevue of the courts to commit people to indefinite psychiatric care or to order psychiatric follow up as a condition of parole.

Fifth: All criminal organizations should be added to the list of banned terror organizations - in this I include known Mafia families, street gangs, the hells angels and any organization which advocates, promotes or engages in criminal activity. Mere membership in such an organization should, at the very least, result in probation.

In short my approach to crime would be to remove dangerous individuals from the streets until such time as they are no longer dangerous as well as removing as many as possible of the motives for crime.

My Platform: Introduction
My Platform: Arts and Culture
My Platform: Poverty
My Platform: Business and Industry

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