Tag Archives: justice

Vigilante Justice, Vigilante Politics

By Jason Menard

Earlier today, local radio station AM 980 asked why are “some so quick to embrace vigilante justice?” It’s for the same reason we embrace vigilante politics. We want the quick fix. We want the satisfaction of having our needs met. And, most insidiously, we think we know everything.

Vigilante justice is immediate, visceral retribution for a crime. Often it’s a crime so heinous that we’re willing to dispense with long-developed traditions. We’re not willing to wait.

Some treat politics the same way. They don’t like the status quo, so it’s time for a visceral response. Unhappy until the bloodletting begins, it’s all about sacrificing process at the altar of action. Continue reading

Running on the Back of the Boogeyman

By Jason Menard

For the London-Fanshawe Conservative candidate, not supporting their plan to fight the boogeyman is akin to supporting sexual predators. And while Cheryl Miller continues to bully the NDP candidate in an attempt to coerce an agree/disagree statement about their GPS plan, are any of us sure that this idea even works?

The Ontario PC party is playing the politics of fear with its constant reiteration of their desire to mandate that convicted sex offenders wear GPS tracking devices, promoting it as a tool to increase public safety.  Continue reading

Child Molesting Repeat Offender Renews Call for a Karla’s Law

By Jason Menard

Every once in a while a story comes around that challenges your beliefs; in my case, they generally revolve around children. And while I’d like to think I’m a progressive-thinking young(ish) man who is tolerant of those around him, I have to say a recent story got my blood boiling.

I don’t believe in capital punishment; I don’t believe that guns have any purpose but to kill (and I don’t buy that bullshit line about how guns don’t kill people, people kill people); and I do believe that people can be rehabilitated. I’m not a violent guy, by nature. Continue reading

Blind Justice Doesn’t Mean Lack of Vision

By Jason Menard

Justice is blind. While the positive image behind this statement implies that all are equal in the eyes of the criminal justice system, the negative connotation is that our justice system also suffers from a horrendous lack of vision.

Yes, justice may be blind, but that doesn’t mean that the community as a whole will merely follow in blind allegiance to its principles – especially when dangerous criminals are increasingly benefiting from questionable calls by those in our justice system.

When Christopher Broad, an admitted sex offender, steps of the bus and essentially warns the community that they should be afraid for their children, the community has a right to be concerned. That fear is augmented by the fact that a Superior Court judge expressed certainty that this man would be before the courts again – moments before he sentenced him to time served and released him into the public.

And just recently, a man charged with multiple shootings in the downtown core gets released on bail – then promptly disappears. It’s enough to make one lose faith in the criminal justice system. And that’s one path we don’t want to find ourselves taking.

Obviously I’m not so naïve to believe that this 32-year-old sex offender — who pled guilty on Tuesday to forcibly confining a nine-year-old boy and possessing child pornography – is the only predator currently taking refuge in our fair city. And there’s something to be said for knowing who to watch out for. But none of us in this community relishes the idea of someone with this predilection coming to town, especially when he’s admitted that there is a potential that he can fall prey to his own demons.

The judge in Timmins who let him go expressed the belief that he’ll leave “a wake of tattered and shattered lives,” on his way back into the justice system. Parents throughout this community have to wonder why our children are being put at risk. Why does one more child have to have their innocence taken from them before the justice system does it job.

And what happens if someone makes the misguided decision that they will cure the disease that the justice system has inflicted on our community? Would any of us be surprised that this could happen? Should we?

Our system of justice and order is predicated on the belief that our police and legal system will catch the bad guys so that the good guys can live their lives in peace. We can safely go about our lives, not armed to the teeth, because we feel confident that there are those watching out for our best interests. But what happens when the community feels its protectors are abdicating their jobs? What happens when red tape threatens to cut off the Thin Blue Line from the community it’s dedicated to protecting?

Anger and fear are a toxic combination. And unfortunately hysteria can run rampant amongst the masses. Actions normally frowned upon can suddenly become much more appealing when the justifications hit closer to home.

I have two children and I don’t know how I’d react if they were abused by someone. I’d like to think that I would be content to let the justice system run its course. But I’m not sure I’m that good of a man. Just the thought brings my blood to a boil and sends hatred coursing through my veins. And if my child’s abductor was given a light sentence in return for the life sentence that they’ve inflicted on my son or daughter, the temptation would be strong to exact a measure of revenge. I like to believe that I’d stand behind the integrity of the justice system and support it to the ends – but I don’t know how I would react if that faith was put to the test. Do any of us?

Is it right? No. Is it primal? Yes. Is it reality? Unfortunately.

We’re not that far removed from the days of vigilante mobs. We’ve seen in this generation how fear and anger can make groups of people do strange things. The only thing that separates us from that type of mass hysteria and the evils that it can bring is the fact that we have a set of rules and laws that ensure we live in a civilized society.

The police do an admirable job with the resources at hand. We, as a public, can feel their frustration when criminals of this nature fall out of the system into their laps. And there’s also the need to understand that these criminals need to have the opportunity to get the help they need – to rehabilitate and reform in the hopes of becoming a functioning part of the community. But to do that, we have to trust that our lawmakers and justice system will do right by us. We need to know that our interests are being protected – otherwise it won’t be long until a misguided few will take matters into their own hands to protect their families.

Justice can remain blind, but it needs to have the vision to see what can happen when those who are supposed to be protected by its laws suddenly feel abandoned by them.

2006© 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

Appeal Underscores Need for Karla’s Law

By Jason Menard

Karla Homolka can’t help but continue to serve as a source of lessons learned for the Canadian justice system. But now it’s time to learn from those mistakes and take steps to prevent them from ever happening again by creating Karla’s Law.

Again, Homolka has defeated the system at its own game. A Quebec judge ruled in favour of Homolka’s appeal against the strict, court-imposed restrictions placed upon her freedom following her release from prison in July. As our justice system undoubtably learned some painful lessons about the art of making deals thanks to the after-the-fact revelations of Homolka’s involvement in the schoolgirl murders, so too should our justice system learn from the mistakes of this after-the-fact application of restrictions and make post-release conditions mandatory for those convicted of violent crimes in the future.

Despite our general disgust with Homolka and her actions, the fact of the matter was that our judicial system played the game with her and lost big. She made the deal and it is up to us as law-abiding Canadians to uphold the nature and intent of the law. What would it mean in the future if potential informants realized that any deal they cut now could simply be changed depending on the social and political will in the future?

That said, despite being a bitter pill to swallow, the decision is the right one. Now, we must take our medicine and work to find a cure for the system.

While Homolka may have argued that the restrictions placed upon her upon her release may have been harsh, the fact of the matter is that this is exactly what we need to make the norm, not the exception in this country. When a person commits a violent crime, they should no longer be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the rest of us law-abiding Canadians. They have shown that they can’t play our social game, so there should be no problem if we choose to adjust the rules to the players.

Violent crimes aren’t the result of a mistake. Often they are done with some sort of premeditation and almost always with malice. They are not the run-of-the-mill lapse of judgement or careless mistake, so they need to stop being treated – or punished – the same way as common criminals.

If you commit a violent crime: such as rape, murder, or assault with a weapon, then you must pay the price for your action for life. Yes, a stint in prison pays back your debt to society, but it’s time we consider the life-long repercussions as the interest on the principal.

Upon release from prison, violent offenders need to be registered. Their movements need to be tracked for life. If that means monthly check-ins with the local authorities, then so be it. If it means submitting current photos and reporting changes in appearance, then all the better. And if it means restrictions upon where and with whom you’re allowed to associate, that’s no problem.

If a violent criminal is truly reformed then they should have no problem complying with the requests and look at these restrictions as payment for the right to enjoy the same freedoms that the rest of us do.

Is it too much to ask that we know where our rapists, murders, and violent criminals are? Is it too much to expect that they stay away from potentially negative interests when they’ve shown a proclivity towards making the wrong decisions in the past? Are measures designed to reassure the public that much of a price to pay for the right to walk the streets in freedom again?

Best of all, if the knowledge that these strict restrictions are a potential ramification of an action causes just one person to rethink their plans to commit a violent crime, is it not worth the investment?

The case of Karla Homolka has exposed the cracks in our judicial and penal system – now it’s time to introduce Karla’s Law to show that we, as a society, have finally learned from our mistakes.

Unfortunately for the French and Mahaffey families, we can’t change the past. But what we can do to honour the sacrifices their daughters made is take steps to prevent this type of abhorrent crime from ever happening again. And if Karla’s Law is the way in which we need to get tough on violent crime, then perhaps we’ll prove that we’ve finally learned from our mistakes.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved