Sunday, November 18, 2007

Criminals have all the rights - Lorrie Goldstein - Criminals have all the rights
Researching a column last week about how our underfunded justice system pushes even hardened criminals back onto the streets as quickly as possible to save money, I came across a revealing government document.

It was on the Correctional Service Canada website. CSC runs federal prisons. It was a perfect example of the frustration Canadians have with the system that supposedly protects us from the bad guys.
Page 4 of the CSC document, for example, solemnly lists all the laws protecting the rights of our 12,400 federal inmates including: "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- freedom of conscience, the right to practise their religion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to legal counsel, the right to a fair hearing, the presumption of innocence (in prison?), freedom from arbitrary detention and imprisonment, the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment and punishment, the right against unreasonable or abusive search or seizure, Canadian Human Rights Act, Privacy Act, Access to Information Act, Official Languages Act, Transfer of Offenders Act, United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners."

And what of the rights of victims, the people these criminals murdered, maimed, raped and otherwise harmed?

They're not mentioned until page 16, where, we're informed, they can obtain "basic, publicly available information about an offender such as: The offence and the court that convicted the offender, when the sentence began and the length of the sentence, and eligibility and review dates of the offender for unescorted temporary absences, day parole and full parole."
But what if they want to know, say, "the location of the penitentiary where the sentence is being served, the date, if any, on which the offender is to be released (for anything from a day pass to parole) ... the date of any hearing for the purposes of a National Parole Board review, any of the conditions attached to the offender's ... release, the destination of the offender when released ... whether the offender will be in the vicinity of the victim while travelling to that destination, whether the offender is in custody and if not, why, and whether or not the offender has appealed a decision of the National Parole Board and the outcome of that appeal"?

Well, that "may" be given to victims "if the Commissioner of the Correctional Service ... or the Chairperson of the National Parole Board determines the interest of the victim clearly outweighs any invasion of the offender's privacy that could result from the disclosure."

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