Is "Tough On Crime" Creating Bigger Criminal Justice Problems?

An editorial in the Calgary Herald asks an interesting question: is the tougher stance on crime taken by Canada's federal government, including imposing mandatory minimum sentencing and removing conditional sentencing as an avenue explored in the defence of the accused, doing more to harm Calgary society than help it?

Because of the new laws and procedural rules put in place, there are now more criminal cases in the Calgary and Alberta courts, and there's no real evidence that these tougher laws have actually contributed to lower crime rates as effectively as diversion programs and better social support.

Furthermore, despite the increased focus on prosecuting even minor crimes rather than seeking more preventative and rehabilitative measures, there has not been a matching increase in the level of funding to Crown prosecutors. This means there is a greater risk of serious crimes in Calgary not getting prosecuted due to delays in the courts.

The workload is going up because of the complexity of files and the number of people doing the work is going down, according to Len MacKay, president of the Association of Justice Counsel.

Instead of focusing on defending Calgary from the worst crimes, the government wants to make sure minor crimes meet with the fullest punishments available under the law. Everyone, from prosecutors to defence lawyers to every citizen of Calgary, should ask if this is worth the price, or if this is what we want from our government and criminal justice system.