Monday, February 28, 2011

Conrad Black thinks the Conservatives are wrong on marijuana, and dumb on crime

Perhaps Conrad Black's time in U.S. prison has mellowed his thinking on criminal justice. But when even the died in the wool conservative who poured millions into launching a national newspaper to cheer-lead for the Canadian Alliance and try to take down a Liberal Prime Minister (ok, and maybe also to gain a publication in the country's largest media market and allow his chain to offer a comprehensive national advertising package) thinks your criminal justice policy is, well, pretty dumb, then you may want to take note.

In a recent column in his old paper, Conrad harshly condemns Conservative policy on a national securities regulator, larger prison construction, blindly harsher sentencing and crime in general. He also offers a fiscally conservative argument for why increasing the prison population with non-violent offenders instead of rehabilitation/treatment is bad policy and speaks out against mandatory minimums; particularly for, believe it or not, marijuana possession.

The most recent leaps backwards have been on mandatory minimum sentences, harsher marijuana laws and extension of almost all sentences -- all bad, unjust and expensive mistakes. Mandatory Minimum Sentences deprive judges of any discretion and pre-sentence convicted people without regard to individual circumstances. It is a politically catchy method of avoiding the perceived problem of soft-hearted judges letting people off lightly. It has been a catastrophic failure in the United States, from which the designers of the Roadmap have cribbed it, and emulating it in Canada would be an outrage. This is especially true when minor marijuana offences are penalized doubly harshly, as is proposed, and addiction treatment is de-emphasized in the prisons. It costs $57,000 in the provincial systems and $88,000 in the federal system to house a prisoner for a year. There is no rationale or excuse for confining those who are not physically dangerous, nor for reducing their access to treatment, which is cheaper, more effective, and more humane than prison, though less likely to appeal to knuckle-dragging deadbeats of the jail 'em, flog 'em, hang 'em school.
He even goes on to echo Liberal talking points on Conservative crime policy, describing as "apt" Michael Ignatieff's characterization of Conservative policy as dumb on crime, and accuses the Conservatives of bad policy and shabby politics.

I've never found myself this much in agreement with something Conrad has written before. It's kind of scary. It should be for Conservatives too.

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900ft Jesus said...

Black has done a few like this over the last few months. Maybe some of his views have changed, but I don't know...did he ever write about those things before? My guess is if he had, he would have taken the typical tough on everyone who has no money or power stance, without giving it much thought. But having had time and opportunity to really examine the issues, he recently came up with this point of view.

BlastFurnace said...

How refreshing to hear Mr Barbara Amiel actually have a progressive viewpoint on something -- anything. I'm not sure if his legal troubles had anything to do with it. I think it's actually seeing PMS in action.

Alison said...

Pigs just flew by my window! Now, maybe he could write a piece about the stupidity of canceling the prison farms and stopping or trying to stop important social programs like Insite. Oh, and something about medical isotopes and, and.... Writing about the idiocy of Harpie and his minions could provide years of editorial fodder for Black.