Thursday, July 31, 2008

Youth Crime as Election Issue

You can tell when an election is pending, the polititians trot out their favourite issue they know will generate public anger that they can convert into votes. Last week Jeff Martin, MP sent out a circular about youth getting away with serious crimes and how his party was cleaning things up. The myth about youth crime is seldom dealt with honestly by polititians or the media. I replied to Mr. Martin with the following.

"Your recent flyer "Age is no Excuse", indicates that you have extremely limited knowledge about crime, its root causes and what needs to be done to effect change. The problem is not, as your flyer suggests, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the need for stiffer sentences. Crime is a societal problem with complex dynamics and has much to do with social disadvantage in all its forms. If you think stiffer sentences are the answer, look south. The United States imprisons more of its citizens than most countries in the world and its crimes rates continue to remain unaffected. The majority of those jailed are poor, black and have serious drug problems.

Here are some of the issues you might want to address if you are serious about youth (or any crime):

1. Child poverty

2. Lack of educational opportunities (high tuition costs, poor granting programs)

3. Lack employment opportunities for unskilled workers (or skilled ones for that matter)

4. Lack of support for children in need of assistance to stay in school (remediation services, psychological services, literacy programs etc.)

5. Poor cohesive communities - poor neighbourhoods breed disenfranchisement

6. Racial and social intolerance - (the use of the words "thugs" and "punks" in your flyer shows a serious lack of compassion and tolerance)

7. Services to address addictions issues - crack cocaine is a serious problem, and rather than treat the issue as one of public health, your party prefers to demonize its victims rather than address the mental health problems of the user. These addicted kids are the ones who will be filling our jails under your strategy.

Your flyer asks which party is "on the right track?" I know which party is the least likely to put resources into the things that matter in dealing with youth crime. We've seen it here in Ontario at the Provincial level, when Harris attacked vulnerable people with his policies, rather than the real problems facing our communities.

Barry Cull"
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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