Regarding Crime With A Different PerspectiveFriday, October 04, 2013 by: Mac Headrick
Anytime in the past when I have dedicated a column to the state of the justice system in Sault Ste Marie (Canada) it was based on the following pattern. SooToday would report upon one or several local police reports. Invariably the news item in question would include a repeat offender; a violation of parole; drug and/or alcohol abuse; break-in; spousal abuse etc. Unfortunately, of course, the crime reported on is sometimes very serious in nature.
In a frothing at the mouth rage (figural speaking) I then proceed to discuss what changes should be made to our Canadian justice system. These “changes” could be summed up quickly with phrases, lock them up; throw away the key; eliminate probation and/or (in the case of a serious crime) shoot the SOB. I have changed my attitude towards crime and punishment as I have aged. It is true I still have low tolerance towards criminals that physically harm their victims. Recent events halfway around the world in Egypt and in Canada and the United States are good examples of why I now look at crime differently. In today’s column I intend to examine my different perspective of the Canadian justice system.
Presently in Egypt two Canadians have been held in an Egyptian jail for over seven weeks. This past Tuesday they were ordered detained for another 45 days. It appears their “crime” was that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Egypt you can be held in jail for up to two years before you have to be charged with a criminal offence. Now… contrast this situation to Sault Ste Marie. Here of course it appears that no one can be detained for any time in jail. The Egyptian justice system has perfected the lock them up and throw away the key approach to crime, or suspicion of criminal activity, or even if the authorities just feel like it.
In the United States in Florida you can shoot and kill someone if you feel they look suspicious. This is very true if the person in question happens to be a young black male. I realize that George Zimmerman was found innocent in a trial. This past September 26/2013 his wife publicly stated she now doubts her husband’s innocence on the self defense claim. Perhaps her point of view might be biased due to George having threatened her with a gun on September 9/2013. Even some members of the jury who found Zimmerman innocent in the shooting of Trayvon Martin have publicly stated they felt the present Florida law allowed him to get away with, at the very least, manslaughter.
Thursday afternoon a woman was shot and killed in Washington as she attempted to drive through a blocked entrance to the White House. Fortunately a one year old child in the car wasn’t injured. The woman in question wasn’t a terrorist or criminal. There has been speculation Miriam Carey the driver might have been suffering from post-partum depression.
Apparently a significant number of Canadians in our federal penitentiary system and our provincial jails have serious mental issues. In the past I have always assumed that people who violated parole conditions, ignored probation and repeated crimes did so because of the following reasons: there are few consequences for their crimes; it is a chosen lifestyle; they are sociopaths, and so on. Now in some of the cases of the individuals who grace the pages the pages of Soo Today the above may be true. When you consider the proceeds from their crimes, the lack of sophistication, and the volume of arrests it is obvious many career criminals also have significant mental problems.
Regardless of mental state I do not accept criminal activity as an excuse. The Conservative Government in Ottawa has made victims rights a priority during their mandate. The CSC (Correctional Service of Canadian) has spent 90 million since 2005 to strengthen mental health care in prison. My point is not that the Conservatives have failed or are not spending the right amount of money in treating prisoners with mental issues.
I wonder if instead of being incarcerated in a federal prisons or provincial jails some prisoners should be assigned to a secure facility with the staff trained to deal with mental issues. I realize there is a cost but perhaps money spent in treatment could result in greater savings in the future. I still react in anger and/or shake my head when I read about latest criminal activity as reported on this site. It really bothers me when yet another case of domestic abuse is committed by a repeat offender on probation.
As I see it, when compared to other justice systems the present Canadian one, although not perfect by any means, could be a lot worse. Perhaps the liberal use of probation and emphasis on individual rights is the price we pay for our freedom. I wonder what percentage of criminal activity is attributed to mental illness?