Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Is Old City Hall, Day 8

I learned several things about Justice K----- [pictured above] while watching him preside over drug plea court today:
  • He keeps the courtroom humming like a beehive, by scaring the bejesus out of everyone with the misfortune to be there -- Crown, defence, accused, clerks, court police.
  • He doesn't believe in conditional sentences (see below).
  • He doesn't suffer fools.
  • He may have a soft spot for troubled youths.
About conditional sentences, I don't know if I agree with His Honour. He suggests it's hypocritical to sentence an offender to a term in prison and then not to send them to prison. If the crime is one for which a term in jail is warranted, so be it; if not, he either awards an absolute discharge, or imposes a term of probation whereby the accused must be responsible for his own life, not babysat in his home.

Maybe conditional sentences are hypocritical -- but maybe it's just pragmatic to have an intermediate sentencing option when supervised release is too lenient and imprisonment too strict. Who in the justice system is prepared to defend the proposition that jail really leads to rehabilitation? Use of the conditional sentence regime tacitly acknowledges that imprisonment only begets further crime and imprisonment, and that it is therefore in the public's interest that some sentences be served in the comfort of the offender's own home rather than where a single crime might will turn into a life of crime. However, that tacit acknowledgment is what makes the conditional sentence a philosophical danger zone: diverting offenders from prison because prison is too toxic for them is obviously not a viable long-term solution, nor one the public is likely to find to its taste.

No comments: