Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of May 22, 2006)

Still wrong after all these years

  By John Martin

It’s been quite amusing listening to the critics dump on the government’s criminal justice reforms.  The proposed legislation would do little more than impose mandatory incarceration for specified gun and drug related crimes, and eliminate house arrest as a sentencing option for violent and sexual offenders.

But that hasn’t stopped a parade of academics, activists, lawyers and journalists from acting as though Harper was bringing back the noose.  Apparently a populace that is grateful for overdue action in this area is misinformed and not capable of understanding the complexities of what’s really going on. 

Of all the naysayers, no constituency has been more vocal in their opposition to the conservative’s proposals than have academics; especially criminologists.  It’s worth noting that of the dozen or so criminology professors the media routinely turns to for supposed expert and informed commentary, only a couple are trained crime analysts.  The rest are mostly non-practicing lawyers and an assortment of tired Marxists, unaware they were summoned to the tar pits of irrelevancy some time ago.

This hardly comes as a surprise though.  Criminologists were united in their condemnation of Rudy Giuliani’s crime reduction strategy and transformation of New York.  The crime rate plummeted nonetheless.  They were once again outraged when California introduced a host of mandatory sentencing measures.  Thousands of repeat offenders were locked up and crime went into freefall. 

Now they’re determined to discredit the Harper plan and assuming the bills become law, the “experts” will surely have egg on their face once more.

The most common whine from the “it’ll never work” club, is that mandatory prison time won’t deter.  So what?  It cracks down on the repeat offender who has not responded to leniency, periodic custody, or treatment.  It removes the worst of the worst from society and takes the incorrigible out of circulation for a significant time period.  As the saying goes, when they’re doing time – they’re not doing crime.

While police were cracking down on low-lifes in Times Square, academics were arguing for the legalization of all drugs.  When judges in California were compelled by law to start sending chronic offenders to prison, criminologists were belly aching that the justice system was racist.  While coordinated law enforcement units were busting drug houses and taking down gang-bangers, the experts were adamant that more late night basketball courts was the answer.

So, apparently the research says mandatory sentencing doesn’t work.  Therefore it’s a bad idea.  Meanwhile, every evaluation of the gun registry concludes it’s a flop and gun crime has actually increased since its inception.  But dumping the registry would be a bad idea too.

It would appear tenure means never having to say you’re silly.

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

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