Differing approaches to youth crime

I was in Victoria Park in downtown Regina last Friday when Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and the press entourage covering his campaign swept across the Prairies for a series of announcements.
I’ve only heard Dion speak through the radio or television, and was curious to see him live in person. For the cameras that would be recording his words, Dion’s makeup was perfect and his hair was well- groomed.
Ralph Goodale, the Liberal member elected from the city of Regina and a former finance minister in the Paul Martin government, had warmed the crowd by tearing verbal strips off of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.
Stéphane Dion always has appeared to me to be uncomfortable with the English language, but I was pleasantly surprised by his delivery in the downtown park. He was eloquent, passionate, and appeared at ease with himself speaking to the crowd.
Mr. Dion was expected to make a major political announcement. Local Liberals waited in the warm, cloudless autumn sunshine and shade of the elm trees that grow in the park. But when the 50 or so media people were removed, along with the six Saskatchewan Liberal candidates and their 30 odd volunteers, there remained only about 20 onlookers in the crowd.
It was a poor turnout for one of Canada’s major political leaders, but that did not deter Mr. Dion from delivering his message on target and keeping to his message through tough questioning by the national media.
Dion announced an $80-million election package for increased policing that would be administered by the RCMP to forces across the country. It was geared to crime fighting, and focused on gangs and organized crime groups.
The other measures unveiled included making crimes committed against women “hate crimes,” and also making bullying, whether on the Internet or directly, a “hate crime.”
Trying to defang Mr. Harper, the Liberal announcement also promised new programs to help divert youth at risk from crime.
In the city that’s home to the RCMP training centre, the announcement was warmly received.
Monday was Mr. Harper’s announcement on crime and he promised to get tougher on sentencing young people. His legislation would change the law so young offenders aged 14 and older convicted of murder could go to jail for life. Those convicted of other violent crimes would face up to 14 years in prison.
Those youth in Quebec would be exempted from the changes until they are 16 years of age (the province of Quebec currently focuses on rehabilitating youth).
Youth who are convicted also would see their identities published upon conviction under Mr. Harper’s plan.
Studies have shown that although people feel really good about incarceration of criminals, the costs and benefits simply do not work. I doubt that lowering the age of placing youth in prisons will help them adapt to the world when they finally leave.
They will have received an education, but is it the education and rehabilitation that will benefit and protect society and the individual. We just have to look south to determine if jailing people is the best policy.
The United States has the highest per capita number of people in prison of any nation in the world. Do the people of that country feel any safer because of that?

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