Tag Archives: crime

Condemn to Death? No. But There May Be Another Option

By Jason Menard

As we enter the sentencing (and, likely, the appeals) phase of the Tori Stafford murder trial, the flames of passion sparked by our collective disgust at the crime have ignited the debate over capital punishment in this country.

There are Facebook pages gathering supporters for the now-convicted murderer to be given the death penalty. Others who have previously never entertained the concept now question whether some people are just beyond any sort of rehabilitation. Continue reading

Williams Memories Should Be Burned – But Only Into Our Minds

By Jason Menard

By now most Canadians know the macabre story of Russell Williams, the former colonel who was in command of Canadian Forces Base Trenton and now finds himself in another federal establishment – Kingston Penitentiary.

Wednesday, they went to Williams’ former home in Tweed, ON to recover all military clothing, documentation, and equipment, in accordance with military rules. Yesterday, military personnel from CFB Trenton burned the aforementioned items. Today, I say they’ve made a horrible mistake. Continue reading

Is Rooting for Vick Out of Tune?

By Jason Menard

On Nov. 15, 2010, Michael Vick was on top of the world, with thousands of people cheering his name as he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a resounding 59-28 victory on Monday Night Football. Just over three years ago, countless more were hoping to see him locked up for so long that the only football he’d ever play would be for the Mean Machine.

So was anyone uncomfortable watching that spectacle? As fans, how much does a player’s personal life impact your enjoyment of the game? And should it? Continue reading

Union Must Decide Who it Represents

If the NBA’s players’ association actually appeals the suspensions levied this weekend against noted bad boys Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest, then they’re doing a disservice to the rest of its constituency.

I get it. You’re a union. And unions protect their membership without fail. There’s something admirable in that for sure, but the positives are grossly outweighed by the negatives.

After all, there are no absolutes in life, and this is one case where the players’ association should realize that discretion is truly the better part of valour.

Jackson and Artest were each suspended seven games on Saturday for off-the-field incidents: Artest’s May misdemeanor domestic violence charge and Jackson’s June shoot-‘em-up outside of an Indiana strip club. And while Jackson, for once, has shown grace in accepting his punishment, his union representation is already floating trial balloons about the inherent unfairness of these punishments in light of past precedents.

Let’s just hope those trial balloons pop — and soon.

Maybe, when compared with previous suspensions for off-the-field transgressions, these suspensions are a tad harsher. But the union has to understand that this is the dawn of a new era in sport.

There’s a huge backlash against thug culture. What started innocently as the big, bad Raiders, morphed into the more gangster lean of the NBA. Tatooed bad boys with a heart of gold like Alan Iverson, for a while, were the poster boys of the league. Long gone were the days of crew cuts and nut huggers — piercings, ink, and baggy shorts were the style and the kids ate it up.

But now the pendulum’s shifted too far. Not a week goes by without some NFL player getting busted for some sort of transgression — usually involving alcohol, violence, or both — a fact that inspired ProFootballTalk.com to set up a Days Without an Arrest counter. NBA players have gone from Thug-lite Iversons to full-on, remorseless punks like Artest and Jackson. It wasn’t that long ago that these two were at the centre of a disgraceful display in Detroit — and they apparently haven’t learned their lesson.

Yes, the NBA Players Association has a mandate to protect its membership. But who needs protecting here? Two childish morons who think slapping women or endangering innocents with a firearm are just fun and games, or the majority of hard-working NBAers who are going to have their reputations tarnished simply through guilt by association?

Artest and Jackson have had chance after chance. Of course, this is also an association who felt that a suspension for a player choking his coach was unjust, when in truth jail time would have been warranted.

It’s a changing world. People are fed up with the inmates running the asylum. The average sports fan isn’t sitting on the couch, polishing his 9 and running down a list of people in whom they’re going to bust a cap. They’re not making it rain at the local adult emporium and then getting their posse to rough up a poor kid just for looking at them cross-eyed.

No, they’re at home with their kids, looking for an evening’s diversion with their kids. They’re looking to root for their favourite club without wondering if they’re supporting drug runners, rapists, and murderers. They’re looking to the LeBron Jameses, Shaquille O’Neals, and Ladainian Tomlinsons of the world to entertain them.

Unfortunately, too often they’re getting the Artests, Jacksons, Tank Johnsons, and Michael Vicks. Eventually — and arguably it’s already started – they’re going to get fed up and show their displeasure with the only resource they have at their disposal — their money.

When the fans leave, so too do the mega-million salaries — and that impacts each and every player, not just the goons who brought this cloud of negativity.

So the NBA players’ association needs to make a choice. Who is it protecting — the majority of players who are solid, hard-working players who are representing the union’s membership to its fullest, or the few bad seeds who are taking advantage of their position and poisoning the rest of the league with their selfishness.

A union is supposed to be a collective working together to support each other’s best interests. So before they rush to a negative judgment, maybe the union should consider in whose interests Artest and Jackson have been working.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Toews Bats .500 on Crime

By Jason Menard

While Justice Minister Vic Toews swung for the fences in tabling tough new three-strikes legislation, the fact of the matter is that he only batted .500 – making solid contact on getting tough with crime, but whiffing badly when it comes to effective prevention of future crimes.

Similar to “three strikes” legislation present south of the border, Toews new proposal would mandate indefinite prison sentences for violent and sexual offenders after their third occurrence. In addition, it would be the burden of the offender to convince a judge as to why they are no longer a dangerous offender as a condition of their release.

Whether it’s political posturing or not Toews’ motion is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it’s too much a step in the Right direction, with not enough consideration for the traditionally Left leanings. This three-strikes legislation focuses too much on punishment and not enough on prevention.

Simply put, you’d have to rape three people, or commit violent acts on three separate occasions to qualify for this strict punishment – and that’s three times too long. And nowhere are criminals compelled to deal with their tendencies while in prison. Instead, they’re able to sit in prison, fermenting their anger and rage, and learning new and interesting ways to commit new crimes from their prison cohabitants.

Where’s the prevention? Where are the measures to help people learn to integrate into society? And where’s the acknowledgement that we have to treat the disease, not just put long-term bandages on the symptoms.

Toews’ measure is a reflection of an increasingly agitated Canadian community that’s fed up with perceived leniency in the punishment of our society’s criminals. He’s preaching to a converted choir of disgruntled voters who are experiencing growing concern for the safety of their city streets. And while harsher sentencing may be an effective knee-jerk reaction, it’s one that’s going to end as effective as a kick in the teeth.

It’s not enough to put criminals away and forget about them. They must be dealt with and they must deal with the ramifications of their actions. First, longer prison sentences shouldn’t be where it stops. There should be life-long after-release monitoring for violent and sexual criminals. Just like we tried to do with Karla Homolka after the fact, we should in the future make regular police checks, inspections, and monitoring a part of all future sentences for violent and sexual criminals. If entering into a life-long relationship with your local police station doesn’t get some people to reconsider a life of crime, I don’t know what will.

Secondly, while in prison, violent and sexual criminals must attend and participate in psychological counselling and other programs designed to reintegrate them into the mainstream society. Unfortunately, our prison system is better at removing than rehabilitating and once one is released from jail, they often find themselves on a circuitous route back to their cell because they can’t cope with the pressures and temptations that await them outside the prison walls. Unfortunately, as most programs of this nature are currently voluntary, they don’t need to attend and won’t get the help that may assist them in their transition.

So take away the choice. Weekly mandatory therapy sessions for the duration of one’s prison sentence should be the norm. That way we can ensure that whatever issues have driven these people off the path that most of us take, at least we can do our utmost to steer them back on track.

Any complaints? Too bad. Criminal lose the right to be protected by our society and our laws due to the very fact that they’ve shown an inability to play by our rules. You can’t contravene the expected norms of our society and then expect that same society to protect you. Hey, you can’t play by our rules, don’t be upset when we change the game.

Finally, why do we have to wait for three strikes? Why do more people have to be victimized before we act? Why not make an effort before someone gets to this point, so that other innocent members of our society don’t have to have their lives shattered. Let’s work to root out the cause of this type of violent activity and put in place measures to counter it. Whether that’s support lines, safe houses or centres for those about to commit an act of violence, or programs to help people deal with their emotions in a productive and socially acceptable manner, we have to invest in the security of our society.

Yes, the measures will cost more in the short-term, but the long-term benefits for our society are priceless. Locking them up and throwing away the key won’t work – finding the key to unlock their inner demons and helping them deal with it might.

In baseball parlance, three strikes means you’re out – but wouldn’t it be better if everyone in our society was playing on the same team?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Take Off the Kid Gloves with Young Offenders

By Jason Menard

Why do we continue to handle young offenders with kid gloves? It’s high time for the gloves to come off so that we can get a firm grip on the crime situation.

Recently many Londoners were appalled by the fact that two of three young offenders recently detained by police following a car chase had, in fact, been in contact with police over 430 times.

That’s right. 430 times total for two 16-year-olds. That’s 215 times each, on average. Now, assuming that these kids began their life of crime at 10, this means that they’ve been contacted by police an average of over 35 times a year. That’s almost three times a month!!

I’m no math expert, but I know that adds up to one heck of a failure for society. That’s not rebellion. That’s not reckless behaviour. That’s a concerted effort to one bad-ass stain on our society. You have to realize that this represents only 430 times that they’ve been contacted by the police. How many times have they gotten away from police scrutiny for their actions? Not even the most bumbling crook gets caught every time.

The third child, at only 13, also has an extensive history with the police. Presumably the younger hooligan is just beginning a life of crime – and the 13-year-old has certainly picked the right two thugs from whom to learn the ropes.

A London-based psychologist, with a marked gift for understatement, weighed in on the situation stating that “it sounds like these young people will have a high probability of continuing into the adult criminal justice system.” What he omitted to add were the words, “next week.” I think it’s safe to say that the second these kids are back on the street, they’ll be looking for ways to get into trouble.

So why let them back on the street in the first place?

Listen, I’m as liberal as the next guy and I know life can be tough. I also understand that people make mistakes and should be forgiven – once, twice, maybe three times. But 430 times? Sorry my patience has been tried, exhausted, and trampled upon. There’s a point where you’re no longer opposing the law, you’re now simply balling it up, spitting on it, and throwing it back into law-abiding citizens’ faces.

And it can be stopped. But fear has to enter the equation.

Simply put, kids aren’t afraid of consequences any more. We’ve become so hypersensitized to the plight of the marginalized that we fail to realize that we’re, in part, enabling their behaviour. After all, breaking the law is a choice – and it’s one that’s made all the more easy by the fact that consequences have no bite. Listen, you give a rat that goes down the wrong path a mild shock, it may try again. You buzz it so bad that it vibrates to its bones and it learns to fear going down that direction. We need to teach these human rats to fear going down the path of crime – the risk must outweigh the reward.

Incarceration is the best deterrent. Country club atmospheres, house arrests, or gentle slaps on the wrist don’t do anything but embolden future actions. Throw a kid behind bars, joining rapists, murderers, and drug runners, and you may scare a few straight. Keep ‘em safe from the general population, but instill a little fear for the future.

But locking them up and throwing away the key isn’t the only answer. You need to care for these offenders after the offence – and try to deter them before the offense. Mandatory counselling and follow-up visits should be a part of any youth’s sentence. Try to get at the root of the problem and then supervise them so they have less opportunity to reoffend. And make sure that kids have something to do instead of getting in trouble.

We don’t have to coddle our kids and make sure that their lives are filled with stimulation and cater to their every whim. Kids need to learn how to be bored without being destructive. However, finding ways to get kids to stop hanging out on the streets and getting involved in something productive is beneficial in so many ways. Whether it’s basketball leagues, community centres, or other projects, find out from the kids themselves what they’re looking for. Instead of them breaking the law for a thrill, help them find something else to fill the void.

There is room for compassion, there is room for leniency when dealing with young offenders. That should be the difference between children and adults – the sole difference. Otherwise, similar crimes should face appropriate consequences. Our kids are committing big boy and big girl offenses, they should face big boy and big girl consequences.

After all, if they know they’re going to be treated with kid gloves, what’s to make them fear taking their best shots?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved