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Fearmonger and Through The Glass: Books that undermine Harper’s omnibus crime bill

December 21, 2011

Written in an accessible manner while reflecting the author’s own extensive background in criminal law, this analysis picks apart each of the Conservative crime agenda’s multi-pronged proposals based on an objective, reality-based approach that can hardly be accused of partisanship. Rather, Mallea cobbles together research, expert voices and common sense refutations that illustrate how an indefinite increase in punishment for punishment’s sake will in fact make society less safe and cost untold billions in the process.

….Why is it, Mallea asks, that at a time when various American states are realizing the folly of their massive investments in the prison-industrial complex, Canada appears headed down the same path? The answer appears to be purely ideological, as Harper and his ministers do not wish to have the facts interfere with their version of reality. Fearmonger illustrates how the crime rate continues to decrease while incarceration rates go up, and that cornerstones of the Harper argument, from mandatory minimum sentences and the alleged deterrence effect of long years in the penitentiary, are simply not supported by the conclusions of everyone from chiefs of police to Corrections Canada itself. But the crisis in prison overcrowding, the diminishing number of rehabilitative programs, and the warehousing of nonviolent offenders are all set to skyrocket unless there is a serious pushback.

….Mallea argues there is another way, examining successful alternative models both in Canada and abroad, largely based on restorative models of justice that deal with the rips in community fabric that result from crime while exploring prevention strategies that keep people from courting the kind of trouble that sends them behind bars to begin with.

It’s that alternative way of seeing crime that is at the heart of a brutally honest first-hand account of going through the current system written by a woman whose husband was designated a dangerous offender after he kidnapped and sexually assaulted two women. Through the Glass could have been a simple-minded rallying cry to abandon such perpetrators to deal with their sins while forever locked away, but is instead, in the hands of Shannon Moroney, a well crafted journey through the nightmare of Canada’s courts that painfully illustrates how many victims of crimes are never truly accounted for in the trial process.

….While Jason sits behind bars, Moroney finds she is the one who has to deal daily with the consequences of his actions, from close friends turning on her to her employers casting a suspicious eye on her as well. She is also a victim, yet there are no services for her as she tries to piece her life back together. She also makes the crucial decision to stay in touch with Jason, as she deserves an explanation for what happened just as much as everyone else who has been affected by his crimes.

But every step of the way she hits institutional walls: how can Jason get the treatment he needs, especially after he did his first stretch in prison like a robot, shut down emotionally and completely disconnected from the source of his rage; how can his willingness to plead guilty have no impact on the snail’s pace journey toward a trial date (and the beginning of some sort of resolution); how can she and her family deal with the fallout that must be faced everyday though they themselves have committed no crime?

As part of her own desperate search for answers, Moroney comes to conclusions that lead her to investigate restorative justice, the very thing Harper is discarding in their Canadian infancy. She learns that the court system views crimes as assaults against the state, whereas she comes to see that crime is in fact a breach of relationships of trust. The answer, she learns, is not to literally absolve someone of responsibility by placing them somewhere that they never have to see or hear from the victims again, but rather, a process by which relationships can be restored. This approach widens the circle of those whose lives have been forever changed by a tragic act, and allows for the type of healing that will strengthen community and prevent further harm.

Read the whole review.


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