Crimes and misdemeanours from Precedent Magazine, March 2012
When it comes to reducing crime, harsh punishment is not the only answer. Compassion and creativity take us further
When young offenders given parole stand before Justice Lloyd Budzinski of the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto, they get more than just the usual stern lecture about following curfew and avoiding their co-accused.
The veteran judge often hands out lengthy orders, tailored for the particular youth before him. He might ask that youth to set three goals for her probation year and require that she achieve all three. Or have an offender write him a letter every three months to detail the progress he is making in changing his life. Each exercise is designed to get young people pondering the impact of their actions.
“Some people are very dangerous and have to be locked up,” says Budzinski. “Some people need some employment to take them off the street. Others need some counselling to get them back in the right direction.” So when he sees potential, he tries to help turn things around.
Budzinski is not alone in believing in a one-on-one, empathetic approach to justice. Many who work in criminal law say projects that embrace compassion, education, prevention, second chances and community-based efforts have the ability to change lives and impact the safety of our streets.
Canadian initiatives that promote these ideals are part of the reason, in addition to changes in demographics, that we’re seeing crime rates drop to their lowest levels in nearly 40 years. (In the sidebars that accompany this story, you can read more about how hot spot policing, car immobilizers and geography also contribute to fighting crime.)
On-the-ground experience, meanwhile, suggests that the stricter enforcement rules set out by the federal government’s Bill C-10 — which introduces mandatory minimum sentences and harsher sentences for many crimes — could reverse all this hard work.