Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in the News
• June 17, 2011: States cut drug penalties as Canada toughens them
After more than 20 years of the war on drugs, more than a dozen U.S. states are reducing penalties for many drug offences. The move away from mandatory minimum sentences without any chance of parole comes as states struggle to cover the costs of overcrowded prisons in the midst of tough economic times. Republicans and Democrats alike have also recognized weaknesses in their tough-on-crime, one-size-fits-all sentences. That's different from Canada, where the Conservative government has started toughening sentencing and imposing mandatory minimums for a number of crimes.
• June 16, 2011: Call Off the Global Drug War
By JIMMY CARTER
NY Times, Op-Ed Contributor
Some of this increase has been caused by mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws. But about three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980. Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state’s budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.
• June 13, 2011: Mandatory Minimum Terms for Cannabis Cultivation: How Crazy are the Harper Conservatives?
There is a very real sense in which we - or at least the Tories - are operating without a shred of science on our side. Why are they doing this? The costs of jailing marijuana cultivators will soar into the billions of dollars within a few years - and it will be the provinces, not the federal government, that will have to pay for the construction and operation of these new provincial facilities. Why have the provinces been so silent? Are they looking to create prison industries in rural areas of their jurisdictions, shoring up longstanding unemployment, and potentially converting these voters to their cause? Do they not care about the costs and the consequences of putting thousands of non-violent offenders in jail? Could this money not be better spent on health care, or other more useful collective endeavours?
• June 2, 2011: Canada’s utterly failed drug policy
[National Post editorial board]
"And yet, shockingly, a Conservative Canadian government, which purports to understand capitalism, proposes to re-introduce legislation that would impose mandatory minimum sentences for small-scale marijuana growers. This ridiculous policy seems designed to keep the trade in the hands of criminal lowlifes, who police can then pursue and hopefully catch and prosecute — if there’s room in a courtroom and a judge is free some time in the next seven years, that is.
• June 2, 2011: War on drugs ‘a failure,’ international panel declares
Globe and Mail
A high-powered panel of former heads of states and United Nations officials says it is time for governments to find new ways to deal with the world’s drug problem
“The fact is that the war on drugs is a failure,” former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said Thursday at the unveiling of a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Along with Mr. Cardoso, the commission includes former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Canadian Louise Arbour, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
• May 21, 2011: Crime and punishment: Inside the Tories’ plan to overhaul the justice system
Among the more controversial aspects of the bundle is mandatory minimum sentences. Minimum sentences are hardly new to the Criminal Code, and they are hardly partisan — the previous Liberal government imposed mandatory minimums on several child-exploitation offences. But the Conservative omnibus bill will dramatically expand them, limiting judicial discretion to levels unseen before.
"The legislation is more based on punishment than prevention, and that's dramatically new," said Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa. "It's one of the most punishment-focused [agendas] in Canadian history."
• May 14, 2011: Drug prohibition is dumb on crime
by Conrad Black and Dr. Evan Wood - National Post
Here in Canada, this thinking is the basis for proposed federal mandatory minimum sentencing legislation. Unfortunately, like archaic cultures that clung to the belief that the Earth was flat, those who support mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes are willfully ignorant of the near universal consensus that mandatory minimum sentences are both extremely costly and ineffective.
• May 13, 2011: MP Blake Richards obediently champions Conservative "100 days" Omnibus crime bill
"Our goal: Safer street within the first 100 days"
Wild Rose Report: A column by MP Blake Richards
Canadians have waited long enough for these measures. We promised during the election that a majority Conservative government would bundle and pass into law our outstanding and delayed justice bills within Parliament’s first 100 days and that is just what we intend to do.
This comprehensive legislation will include new measures that will: crack down on organized drug crime; <snip>
MP Richards also uses his column to spread misinformation about opposition parties stalling Conservative crime bills in the past
Many of our government’s bills faced co-ordinated obstruction by opposition parties who are apologists for criminals.
• April 7, 2011: Conservative majority would hustle crime bills into law all at once
Stephen Harper is promising a majority Conservative government would bundle all the law-and-order legislation it’s been trying pass into one omnibus bill and pass it within 100 days of taking power.
This omnibus bill would include Bill S-10, misleadingly referred to in the article as a legislation to, "Crack down on organized drug crime."
• March 25, 2011: The Conservative Cabinet was found to be in contempt of Parliament FOR NOT REVEALING THE FULL COSTS OF THE CRIME BILLS and then lost a confidence motion. Many of the bills that were in progress died when the government fell. Bill S-10 was one of them.
CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, ruled that the Conservative cabinet was in contempt of Parliament for withholding cost estimates over its prison-building program.
The Conservative government refused to release details of the prison-building costs to a parliamentary committee. This, says Speaker Milliken goes to the core role of MPs which is to hold the executive branch of government – Cabinet and the Prime Minister – to account for its actions. By being denied relevant financial figures Parliament cannot fulfil its role as an overseer of government spending.
Mr. Milliken writes that, “This is a serious matter that goes to the heart of the House’s undoubted role in holding the government to account.”
A Vancouver Sun editorial commented: “For any government to be found in contempt of Parliament would be an affront to all Canadians. For one led by a prime minister who ran on a platform of openness and accountability, as Harper did, doubly so.”