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Ottawa Intent On Minimum Sentences


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Two Justice Reports Say Such Laws Don't Work

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is pressing ahead with plans to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug crimes in spite of two studies prepared for the former Liberal government that say such laws don't work.

A 2005 report prepared for the Justice Department -- Mandatory Sentences of Imprisonment in Common Law Jurisdictions -- said that minimum sentences "constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased crime prevention benefits."

A 2002 report -- Mandatory Minimum Penalties: Their Effects on Crime - -- also compiled for the department, offers a similar view: "Harsh mandatory minimum sentences do not appear to influence drug consumption or drug-related crime in any measurable way."

The Conservatives unveiled legislation last week to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug possession, production and trafficking. The automatic minimum jail terms range from six months for illegally growing and selling marijuana to three years for producing c*** or c***** m*** in a home lab. A clause in the bill would allow judges to exempt offenders from prison if they pass a court-monitored drug treatment program.

The 2002 study said mandatory minimum sentences do not appear to deter crime, for a variety of reasons:

. They sometimes lower conviction rates, as juries refuse to convict accused people facing automatic but seemingly unfair prison terms.

. While they deter firearms or drunk driving crimes, particularly among repeat offenders, they appear to have no impact on drug crime.

Nicholson, introducing the bill, said it was a response to the growth in recent years in drug trafficking, grow-ops and other criminal activities.

Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 CanWest News Service
Contact: letters@thejournal.canwest.com
Website: canada.com
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