Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight Aug. 27, 2004)

A crime matters exam

  By John Martin

September and the new school year are still a ways off but I'm already thinking about the upcoming semester. I've been teaching Criminology and Criminal Justice for more than fifteen years and still find the first day of classes the most nerve rattling. So, this year, I've decided to try something a little different on day one.

When classes start I'm going to give the new cohort of students a quiz to gauge their knowledge of the state of criminal justice in this country. But I thought it might be a good idea to have a dry run at it first. So kick back and see how you do at answering the following questions.

Pick the best answer among the following choices:

1. Sentences for drug offenders are generally: a) longer for repeat offenders, or b) longer for first time offenders.

2. The maximum penalty for failing to register a firearm is: a) less severe, or b) more severe than the maximum penalty for a pedophile who doesn't comply with the new sex offender registry.

3. A Canadian court recently ruled that an inmate is justified, and can't be disciplined or charged, for carrying a knife for personal protection while in prison: a) false, or b) true.

4. Refugee claimants who are charged and convicted of serious crimes in Canada automatically lose their right to stay in the country: a) true, or b) false.

5. A person who commits a new offence while on parole gets the amount of time already served for the previous offence deducted from his new sentence: a) false, or b) true.

6. An inmate recently won a mental cruelty court case against Corrections Canada because the guards would shine a flashlight in his cell each night when they were doing their mandatory head count: a) false, or b) true.

7. Federal inmates, unlike the vast majority of Canadians, don't have to go on surgery wait lists and automatically go to the front of the line: a) false, or b) true.

8. Violent criminals and sex offenders are excluded from the list of those eligible to serve their sentences at home: a) true, or b) false.

9. Offenders who breach the conditions of their parole must serve the rest of their sentence in custody: a) true, or b) false.

10. Svend Robinson has already done jail time for a previous offence: a) false, or b) true.

Well, as some of you no doubt correctly guessed, the answer to each and every question is "b".

If you scored seven or more you probably have a grip on reality or are a hard-core cynic. What makes sense and what passes for the workings of the criminal justice system are often less than compatible. Oh yes, and here's the bonus question:

What is the significance of the number 12,000 in Canada's Correction system?

a) That's the average number of federal inmates in custody on any given day,

b) That's the number of pounds of Atlantic Lobster served up in Canada's prisons in a six- month period,

c).That's the number of rounds of golf inmates played last year.

Hmmm, you don't think it's possible I'd include a trick question do you?

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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