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.
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.