Hate crimes, Canadian prisons and the Leveller

The Carleton Leveller has just recently informed me both of the letters I wrote in response to their November issue will be published. I give them a warm thanks for this.

The letters were both in response to two articles by David Koch. One was on a recent Stats Canada report detailing an increase in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation in Canada from 2007 to 2008. The other just outlined some of my thoughts regarding crowded Canadian prisons and the general ineffectiveness of the penitentiary system.

Here is a link to the November issue of the Leveller for those whom want to read the original articles.

http://leveller.ca/2010/11/volume-3-issue-2/

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Unnecessary Pessimism on Hate Crime Statistics?

In “Activists Demand End to Homophobic Violence”, in November’s Leveller, David Koch cites a Statistics Canada report showing hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation increased over 100% from 2007 to 2008. I have not read the report myself and am sure Koch knows the details of it better than I. However, my understanding from the information Koch provides in the article is that the frequency of these crimes has not necessarily increased at all. Rather, it is possible that is has stayed about the same or even declined.

Koch writes that the Statistics Canada report lists “police-reported hate crimes” increasing into 2008. The article then goes on to say, “And these numbers likely undercount the true number of hate crimes that occurred, because victims often choose not to report hate crimes to police, for reasons including fear of retribution and feelings of humiliation.” What has increased, then, is the amount of police reported hate crimes, not necessarily the frequency of those crimes themselves. These are not the same thing.

Can one interpret the Statistics Canada report as not more crimes but as less people worried about fear of retribution and feelings of humiliation, and as a result reporting their abuse to authorities? If for the longest time these numbers were artificially suppressed due to fear or embarrassment among victims, then we are now closer to seeing the reality of the situation. If the latter is true than this is something to be optimistic about. One, victims are finally feeling confident and empowered enough to report their victimization to someone, and two, people might be alerted to the real seriousness of the problem, which previously was hidden. Only if we properly identify a problem can we try to solve it.

In the same issue of the Charlatan David Koch has an article directly above the one mentioned here, in which he quotes individuals that claim the Canadian government is leveraging Canadians’ fear of crime to push through questionable policies. At the same time crime is actually on the decline. In light of this we should, while not ignoring reports such as this, attempt to view them from all possible angles, reflect, and see if there are interpretations that do not necessarily lead us to pessimism and despair.

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Ideas on Jail

In David Koch’s article, “No Vacancy”, in the November Leveller, Koch quotes Howard Sapers’ report as saying conditions in prisons are preventing “rehabilitation”. Not until I became much older did the notion of jail as “rehabilitation” enter my mind. I have a feeling this is some kind of doublespeak along the lines of “war to end peace” and “quantitative easing”. Only after hearing it enough does one actually begin to accept it. From what, exactly, does jail rehabilitate one from? Why is jail as a form of rehab, free yet mandatory, frequently trying to be escaped from by its inmates? Of what is Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker to Wikileaks, being rehabilitated? A friend of mine spent a night in rehab. He did not think of it as that nor call it such.

I found interesting the comment by Justine Piche. He maintains that, “The punishment agenda is about not… meeting the needs of victims”. This is true. Presently an individual who has their home broken into pays the costs of the damages to their home, and on top of that, the costs of housing and feeding the person who committed crimes against them. It would be cheaper and more just to have criminals compensate the victims of their crimes for damages they caused. When someone burglarizes several homes, rather than being put in a box by the government where he “pays his/her debt to society” why should they not reimburse their victims? The people who were stolen from receive compensation, the productive abilities of the burglar are put to work rather than literally stored away in a cage, and there is no expensive, oppressive, and enormous government “rehabilitation” program.

Also, Canadians imprisoned for non-violent crimes, the majority of them, should be released.

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