Tag Archives: justice

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

An Animal is Most Dangerous When Cornered

By Jason Menard

They say an animal is most dangerous when cornered. With that in mind, if we continue to chase after Karla Homolka, at this rate, the public as a whole will bear part of the responsibility if she lashes out again.

Canadians, who believe that the plea bargain that Homolka, who now goes by the name Teale, signed was a deal with the devil that should be rescinded, have zealously attempted to ensure that she can never return to a normal life. Instead of placing our faith in the justice system and hoping that the demons that drove Homolka to commit such horrible crimes have been exorcised during her incarceration, Canadians are taking out their fury against Homolka and resorting to vigilante tactics.

But to what end? What does the constant chasing down of Homolka do in the long run? What does forcing her from one home in Montreal to another do? How does chasing her out of one job to another benefit us? Most importantly, if we don’t let Homolka live her life in the light of day, why should we be surprised if she finds solace and comfort in the dark underground?

What Homolka did to the French and Mahaffey families, and her own kin was and is horrific, unforgivable, and sub-human. However, what we’re doing with our frenzied hunt for Homolka is driving her to exactly the element that she should not be associated with. If she cannot find acceptance, as limited as it may deserve to be, in regular society, why would we be surprised if she finds comfort in the darker segments of our society? We’ve seen what happens when Karla is influenced by dark, so why are we working so hard to drive her back there?

We want her in the light of day, trying to remake her life, and subject to the strict terms of her release. Our anger against a judicial system that, in retrospect, made a significant error in judgment clouds the fact that that very same system has tried to make amends for its earlier error by enforcing strict restrictions against Homolka’s freedom.

Forced to notify the authorities of every move she makes, down to changes of her appearance, Homolka’s freedom is not as absolute as the angered masses believe it to be. Yes, she’s no longer behind bars, but her emotional and social prison extends wherever she goes. In this brief period of time since Homolka’s incarceration has ended, we’ve seen what type of life that she’s going to be subject to. Whether it’s co-workers, employers, or casual contacts who are ready to run to the media for their 15 minutes, or a media eager to continue publishing photos and stories on a grizzly topic that’s captured the Canadian interest, Homolka will never truly be free.

That may be small comfort to the families who were irreparably damaged by Homolka’s actions, but, as hard as it may be for those in our society who feel cheated by Homolka’s plea bargain and light sentence for such horrific crimes, we have to let go of the anger and trust in our authorities. What we have to remember is that we have the animal caged, albeit not behind bars. However, if we keep poking the animal with a stick, why should we not expect it to lash back out of anger and frustration?

When we resort to vigilantism, we become no less of a monster than Homolka and Paul Bernardo are or were. This escalation of anger can have no positive resolution. And, if someone decides to go to the extreme and chooses to perform a violent in retribution for the loss of life, then we truly have lost our humanity. There is no greater good that would ever justify an evil act.

We, as a society, do not have to forgive or forget what Karla Homolka did. But what we have to do is live with the situation as it presents itself. Whether or not we agree with the actions of the police, the judicial system, or the penal system during the time of the trial or since, what was done is in the past, and we have to deal with the present. We don’t have to turn a blind eye to Homolka, but we have to make sure that we don’t poison the situation with a jaundiced one. While we can’t rewrite history and atone for the mistakes of the past, we will have to live with the consequences of our actions for the future.

No amount of harassment, hounding, or vigilante justice towards Karla Homolka can bring back Leslie Mahaffey, Kristen French, or Tammy Homolka. But if we continue to use these tactics, why should we be surprised if the animal strikes again? And who would we have to blame, other than ourselves?

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved