Go to the heart

The province is looking at new ways to get the money that it it owed. In the province of Ontario more then $669 million dollars is outstanding from Highway Traffic tickets alone. Normally, these fines are added to a renewal of a drivers license. When a person tries to renew the license after their current one expires the fines are added to the cost. The issue that the province is finding with this system is that people simply don’t renew their license. They continue to drive around on their old one avoiding the police as much as possible and also renewing their license.  The provinces new plan to add the fee’s to the license plate renewals should force drivers to pay up if they have a ticket. Thunder Bay Police board members feel that it should bring in more cash for the city as more payments roll in. The issue becomes that drivers who have avoided renewing their drivers license for the same reasons will avoid other things. Unless the police are allowed to remove plates completely from vehicles who haven’t paid up drivers will continue their daily routine. There needs to be a more severe form of punishment for those who continue to break the law and do so willingly. I have a couple changes in mind that I believe could help to get the province and the city its money.

A) Garnish wages: While this should likely be a last resort for the province when trying to get its money back. People who reach a certain threshold of money owed should have it collected through a wage garnishment. Drunk drivers can consistently come out of court with $7000-$8000 dollars worth of fines after just a first offense. Typically, people who have been drinking and driving are doing so also with a suspended license, and no proof of insurance. A level of $60,000 could be considered just and fair for an individual to be considered for wage garnishment. While this move could be viewed as detrimental to the persons ability to provide an income for themselves or others. The lack of compassion for the other drivers of the road should provide enough justification for the move. An amount collected could be determined based on the income, geographical area of the individual. This service allows the province and the city to recoop some of the most spent on enforcement, and incarceration.

B) Website portraying the person based on the amount of fine uncollected could be another push for them to pay up. It could be broken down regionally and show off a host of different information about the person including the breakdown of fines. This website could provide a deterrence for people who may only have a couple outstanding fines to avoid having their name in the spotlight. It could also provide awareness to drivers about the actual number of people who are driving without insurance/ under the influence. The website could also serve as a teaching tool for students and young people who have one of the highest death behind the wheel rates. While I’m not for embarrassing people when they make a mistake; to get yourself on this website would take occurrence after occurrence.

C) Community Work: If a person has multiple charges and the fines are racking up then he likely will be in jail. He could be in jail as an intermittent inmate or a full time inmate. In order to reduce the amount that this person’s cost to the system he could be provided to volunteer his time at a center like the shelter house or halfway house as repayment. He could be an inmate every second weekend with the other weekend being spent doing community work (sleeping at the jail). This service to the community could be used as a form of repayment for his debts if he is unable to repay those debts.

We need to get to the root cause of why these people aren’t paying their debt. If it is pure laziness or due to financial hardships. We need to do something different then what we are doing now because it simply isn’t working for the system or the people.

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Government making prison problems worse

Today is was announced in Kingston that the jail there would be closed. It was one of Canada’s maximum security jails and houses criminals like Paul Benardo and Russel Williams. In total the jail was built to hold around 412 but is holding around 460 of Canada’s hardened criminals. Paul Benardo was convicted of kidnapping, beating, raping and then murdering two young girls. Russel Williams was the base commander of CFB Trenton but in the night he murdered a couple girls after raping them repeatedly and broke into houses to steal girls underwear. These two men will now be transferred to another jail to add to the growing populations in them. Almost all of Canada’s prisons are overstocked and understaffed and in today’s announcement around 150 people received notice that there job likely wouldn’t be there anymore.

So what if jails are overcrowded right? Overcrowding is a normal in today’s jails but its one of the worst things you can do to someone. These jail cells are small and made for 2 men maximum but there are lots of times when a guy is shoved onto the floor to sleep because there is no room. Tight situations cause hot flashes between inmates and can lead to injury or death. They also create a bad situation for officers who are guarding the inmates. They are already outnumbered by an average of 8:1 and adding more to the situation can lead to rioting, injured correction officers and overcrowding has even resulted in officer deaths. In New Mexico, a jail that was overcrowded eventually was taken over by inmates who couldn’t handle the situation anymore. They took over the jail and started beating on each other, officers got involved but were easily overtaken by the number of inmates. Riots, fires, beatings, stabbings all occurred in this jail when it was taken over, and it wasn’t for a couple days before it was again taken over by police/corrections. In the end the building was burnt severely, up to 30 inmates died and a couple corrections officers lost there life in the rioting. The New Mexican government was forced to build a new facility capable of handling the numbers of inmates and introduced a tier system which is showing to be successful. These things could happen in Canadian jails if we don’t learn from other people’s mistakes. It costs more to staff these buildings because officers want to be paid more for the danger and rightly so. The costs to run the buildings rise and the overhead of the buildings rise.

Kingston penitentiary is a building which has served as a jail since the 1835 and served the community well. It has held some of the toughest criminals we have in Canada. The building was only slightly overcrowded and likely was a safe place for the criminals to be held in silence. With the government’s passing of the onimus crime bill there are a number of different smaller bills that will make life harder for corrections officers.

One being the axing of the 2 for 1 program, which was better known for reducing sentencing for time served. If a person had been charged and then held in prison for a year, and his sentence was 4 years. He would normally get 2 years served because he wasn’t convicted when he was thrown in jail, while this wasn’t overly popular the judge had the option to forgo this. This helped to reduce the number of inmates they had in jail at one time and pushed people out the door faster.

They also added mandatory minimums for people who were charged with certain offenses. They were mostly drug related and put a huge emphasis on pot smokers and pot growers. Its been said that if a person was caught with 6 marijuana plants that they would be sent to jail for 18 months and no judge would have a say on that. Things like this will send a large number of youth to jails and continue the overcrowding of jails across the nation. In BC, they are expecting already overcrowded jails to go closer to 150-200% capacity which may eventually become a human rights issue. They will also add to the backlog of cases faced by the BC court system which is already under siege. They have so many cases that a drunk driver may get away with killing someone because he has the right to “a fair and quick trial”. This is something that will happen across the country as provinces with smaller incomes then the federal government are forced to deal with the growing prison populations. Its expected that the Ontario government will have to pay an extra billion dollars a year in corrections costs to deal with the Ominus crime bill while the federal government pays close to 98 million.

Then there is the question: What happens to the building? The building itself is a thing of beauty and has stood on the Kingston waterfront for centuries. It was designed to be a jail, and is a heritage building which means that there are a small number of people who would be interested in buying the building. To see it torn down would be a shame and to see it rot would be just as much of one. When the government returns to surplus I could see them returning to the building to use it again as a jail. This building needs to be protected and saved from any type of wrecking ball or demolition.

While it may save the government ‘120 million’ as they are claiming from closing these sites it may be much less in the long run. There are a lot of convicts that can be rehabilitated and can be made to be working parts of society. This is true in children who have gotten off the path due to drugs, addiction or poverty. Throwing more people in a overcrowded jail, will increase the level of violence and reduce the amount of rehab work available to people. This may save us money now but likely we will see it for years to come.

Time to revise the YCJA

For all who don’t know what the YCJA is; it is as follows: Youth Criminal Justice Act. It was an act created to protect the names of youth who had gotten off on the wrong side of the law and allow a second chance in the future. The terms are also much shorter and more likely then not people are sent on probation and told to clean themselves up. While many do, we only hear about the ones who don’t.

This past weekend 3 Mac’s were robbed by the same person who was later caught in the week. He was a 17 year old male who was released on probation. Name and reason for probation are unknown at this time but he was charged with 3 counts of robbery, 3 counts of breach of probation and 3 of another charge. The kid is lucky because he is under the age of 18 so protected under the YCJA and will have his record wiped clean when he turns 18. The problem seems to be that probation isn’t teaching these kids any lessons and is only a scapegoat to the law system to get them out of there hands.

The most notable story in 2011 for this probation issue was the robbery of a 80 year old lady outside the casino. A young man grabbed her purse and in the process knocked her to the ground. She sustained serious injuries but they were non-life threatening and she managed to recover. In his testimony the young man stated that he didn’t mean to hit the women and didn’t know he had. He received an addition to his probation from 12-18 months for one charge and got another 18 months for the theft charge. He was allowed to serve them at the same time and was sent on his way. It was likely that his probation included staying out of trouble, away from booze, away from the women and the casino and possibly other items but nothing it seems to really deter this person.

Once a person gets into the justice system they are more likely to commit again when released and setting an example early may help to break the cycle.

With this robberies continuing and many being committed by youth I would like to see a change in the way the YCJA works. Currently, if a youth commits a crime under the age of 18 they are protected and receive lighter sentences. I would like this to continue but when a youth commits the same crime and is within the age of 16-18, I would like his name released to the public and the youth to be tried at a level between adult and youth. Robberies are thefts with violence in the criminal code and need to be dealt with more severely. Jail time for repeat offenders along with mandatory anger management, and possible addictions services must be added to help people deal with the issues.

Crimes that the criminal code feel is more dangerous to public need to be help as such with the youth and repeat offenders need to have the veil lifted from them. Making mistakes is part of growing up but learning from them is the biggest part of making mistakes. If we allow kids to continue the activity and they dont learn from the mistake then they might never learn.

In total I would like to see repeat offenders have the veil of secrecy removed from them. A 17 year old is an adult and can make proper decisions and doesn’t need the protection of the courts.

In saying this the government needs to properly finance the services that can help not only children but adults to become parts of society. They need to add addiction services, counseling services, add rooms to allow for more freedom to reduce violence in prisons. Add more culture based support and give them the tools to return to society, allow for them to learn life skills.

We need to protect our kids but we also sometimes need to give them a swift kick in the ass too. If we don’t provide the proper services to help them get out of jail and back into regular life then we will arrest and rearrest every 3-4 months.