Canada has long been seen as lenient in regards to our criminal justice system. Similar to a dog with more bark than bite many habitual criminals see Canada as a country of opportunity.
Are Canadians more concerned with rehabilitation than crime and punishment? Would a stricter policy for habitual offenders help deter would be offenders? Could some provinces adopt a law similar to the three strike law in states like California and Washington D.C in the United States? Lia Callender, a probation officer with the Solicitor General does not agree. In a face to face interview, Callender stated that, “Adopting a three strike law would be difficult to implement because the Canadian judicial system is too different from the American Judicial system” Callender goes on to say, “We focus more on rehabilitation rather than severe punishment” But is that where the Canadian government fails us? Many Canadian citizens would rather see habitual offenders behind bars than on the street. “Perhaps, but most criminals will commit their crimes, regardless of the threat of punishment because it is the only life they know”
This is where rehabilitation into society is favorable as our jails and remand centres are already pushed to their limits. Even now many serious offenders that are deemed appropriate in the eyes of a judge are remanded into the custody of their community under a conditional sentence order. “If the threat of a house arrest or a curfew does not deter first time offenders than jail may not either” said Callender.
Keysha Marie, an R.N currently employed with the Calgary Youth Offenders Centre also believes that rehabilitation is a more favorable course of action than the strict and inflexible three strike law adopted by many US States. “It is very unfair, many citizens/criminals get charged for crimes and their third crime is usually a petty crime and they end up spending a lot of time in our system” This would put a huge strain on our government as our jails and remand centres are already close to maximum if not already so. “Working with adolescent criminals and providing these people with the support and the tools to be contributing members of society, we should be doing the same for the adults” said Marie in our face to face interview. “Many see the three strike law as a deterrent in itself as the threat of a 25 to life sentence for any convictable felony would prevent anyone from being a habitual offender.”
Some believe that there are those who would abuse the system as many tax dollars are spent on inmates who could be functioning members of society but prefer the confines of the Canadian justice system. Marie goes on to say, “It costs so much taxpayer dollars to keep these criminals remanded or in jail. But it’s a free meal and a roof over their heads, it just puts a stress on our government” Some who work within the Justice system do not believe that some must suffer to create a deterrent for others. As well as having to segregate more so than is necessary. “How it works now (segregation) is good, You’ve got your low observations, high observations, medically unstable, mentally unstable, individual segregation and women (sic)” Marie said.
Many opponents of the three strike law believe the inflexibility of the law would create a different problem all together, “I’m not talking about the three-strikes-you’re-out law,” Said Justice Minister Vic Toews in a Vancouver Sun article dated September 21 2006.. “In the American system, it’s an automatic occurrence. There is no discretion on the part of the judge.”