Sometimes the answer is nose-to-nose staring you in the face. So obvious, failing to see it requires inattentional or even wilful blindness.
During a press conference Thursday, B.C.’s attorney general and its public safety minister rolled out an underwhelming pseudo-solution to the seemingly everlasting problem of criminal recidivism in this province, against the backdrop of some 200 people generating 11,000 “interactions” with police in one year.
What’s the plan? They’ve hired two experts to study what should be done to nip this decades-long problem of prolific offending in the bud and reveal within 120 days the “necessary solutions.”
Ironically, the mayor of Kelowna identified at that same presser that the problem is B.C.’s “catch and release cycle” of the criminal justice system “building up over time.” This involves career criminals “who are too often released without conditions and without consequences only to be arrested again, sometimes even the same day. Their repeated and constant offending requires stronger consequence.”
Give the man a cigar.
As one who’s been reporting on crime in Surrey for more than 30 years, I can tell you we could wallpaper the walls of the legislative buildings in Victoria with pages from similar reports, commissions, committee findings, studies, papers, yadda.
“Violence of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth sternly said. Again, yadda.
Simplistically, it’s tempting to suggest that repeat offenders who chronically wreak mayhem upon innocent lives be dispatched north to Ellesmere Island to count snowflakes. But that won’t happen.
Just last week, I wrote a story about a guy getting sentenced to 3.5 years for sexual assault and forcible confinement who already had 46 criminal convictions to his name.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, as they say. Are repeat offenders born, or made? Like Pavlov’s dog, criminal recidivists are trained to know that despite all the finger-wagging and stern admonishments enunciated by judge after judge, this forgiving criminal justice system of ours, predicated on the concept that human beings are inherently good, keeps reinforcing the message that somehow society has failed the offenders rather than the message that they themselves are personally accountable for the choices they make.
And therein lies the magic concept, which seems to vanish like mist whenever a politician draws near: Personal responsibility.
Sure judges are bound by legislation and guided by precedent, but they also have some discretion, particularly as each criminal case presents its own mitigating and aggravating factors.
When a prolific offender comes before a judge for a ninth, thirtieth, or forty-ninth second chance, a judge must be ready to say no, not this time, not today. No more.
Prolific offenders need to be made to feel the hair stand on the back of their neck – a shiver up their spine – by brave judges who, at long last and in no uncertain terms, force these recidivists to confront the concept that the choices they make will result in dire consequence. That the jig is up, it’s time to pay the piper, that the proverbial excrement has hit the fan.
The answer is reinforcing the concept of personal responsibility. We don’t need another study to know that.