Posted via Canadian Content
Did you know that in Canada you can strangle and throw a newborn baby into a dumpster leaving it for dead, starve and severely beat a dog with a hammer, get busted for running a huge marijuana grow-op with a cache of weapons AND kill three people while driving drunk and still not get as much time in jail as an e-mail spammer did in the United States?
On April 9, a Virginia judge sentenced a convicted spammer to nine years in prison. He was accused of sending 10 million e-mails a day. While the result of this man's actions may have been annoying, none of them put public safety at risk.
In Canada, however, the punishment doesn't always fit the crime. On the same day as the American court ruled on that case, a Canadian man charged with killing three people as he drove drunk through a stop sign received a two-year suspended sentence as well as 100 hours of community service. As part of the community service, the 21-year-old will have to speak to young drivers and explain the dangers of drinking and driving as well as the importance of road safety. Because it is said that the bachelor of commerce student convicted had expressed remorse for his actions, he was spared a harsher penalty.
But the debate has been around for years. What is a proper sentence for a convicted criminal? There may not be set rules to determine that, but a prison sentence should teach the person a lesson. How? That is the question. Some people believe that if you are caught stealing you should have a finger cut off. If you rape, you have another part removed. If you murder someone, you should face death. While I don't believe in capital punishment, I do believe in rehabilitating people to make them learn from their actions to become better individuals in the community.
In a recent CBC Newsworld documentary examining Canada's prison system, many viewers were shocked to see that criminals had luxuries that even the "workingpoor" in society don't have. People who work everyday and can barely afford to put food on the table have it rougher than people who have broken the law in this country. The prison cells Newsworld showed had full cable television, stereos, and other luxuries as prisoners are allowed to have up to $2500 in electronics, according to one inmate. It's sad to think that someone who may have murdered someone and doing time in confinement has life easier than someone on the outside who is making the right choices in life.
It may be argued that these prisoners are learning a valuable life lesson by not having freedom, or as much freedom as the rest of the community. That for every minute they sit alone in a cell, they think about how difficult life is behind bars. But then they switch on the TV and watch MuchMusic and those thoughts quickly disappear. At the same time, it appears life would be easier and tastier in prison as it has been recently reported that on occasion some institutions serve inmates lobster for dinner. The mentality that many people have in this country is that it is almost easier to get by in life on social assistance than it is to work and provide for yourself and/or your family. Such is the case with prison.
How effective is the message courts are sending these criminals by issuing such minimal sentences and allowing them such amenities? On the Newsworld program viewers were introduced to a young man who says as many as 12 of his relatives are in the same prison as himself. He also told the reporter that he has 17 children with many different women. If the lesson of jail-time is clear, why would this man be happy about having family bonding time in the slammer with a dozen of his relatives (some of whom he says are repeat offenders)? Because people are not afraid to go to prison. Throughout his interview and so many others on the program, the inmates are seen smiling and laughing and having a good time, like prison is one big party. While that is great for morale and makes the place safer for everyone in it, how does it make a prisoner realize he or she has done wrong and make them want to change? Maybe pulling the plug on the expensive electronics and having quiet time would be a better environment to do some thinking about how best to be a positive influence on, in at least one case, 17 children? Is he thinking about how he can take care of them? Right now, how can he provide for them? He can't. But guess who is providing for them -- I am, you are, we all are.
However, if history is any indication he will more than likely get the chance to be free and live with his family before his sentence is up. How many times do we hear that a prisoner who has been released on bail is caught again, charged with another, if not the same, crime?
And yes, there are "success" stories of former inmates who are in the process of, or have turned their lives around. But with the number of prisoners housed in Canadian institutions increasing, and those "at risk to re-offend", maybe prison should be a tougher ride for them. Many people I've spoken to say a cell should be cement walls with only a hole in the floor as a toilet. These are people who don't commit crimes and know right from wrong. It is for that reason they can have that opinion. At the same time, it is that opinion that is keeping them out of jail.
But to review, I want to see if I have this right- I can go out, get drunk, drive home, kill three people on the way, come home beat the hell out of my dog, then dump my teenage girlfriend's baby in a dumpster and in return I get accommodations with full cable television and lobster for dinner for free? And there's a chance I would get out of the slammer sooner than I am supposed to? Sign me up! What would I have learned from this experience? Possibly that being a do-gooder is for suckers. The future is in good hands.
That's my point. What's yours? Tell me at SpeakFree.
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