Saturday, June 06, 2009

Faint Hope Ignatieff Will Stand Up to Harper

We like to mock the sad state of journalism in the U.S. but what's going on here shows it's not an American thing, it's a disease of the rightwing media.

The headline in the Edmonton Sun speaks for itself: "Killers Face Real Time." The Calgary Herald put it as "Killers May Lose Right to Early Parole."

Real Time ...Right to Early Parole? Fifteen years is real time, a lot more than many convicted killers wind up serving in the U.S. And there is no "right" to early parole. That's sheer, rightwing agitprop. What they're referring to, of course, is the Criminal Code provision allowing convicted murderers to apply for parole after serving at least fifteen years of their life sentences in prison. It's called the "faint hope clause" for a reason.

I've met a few murderers when I toured a couple of prisons. Some of them were the stereotypical "hard core" criminals, the sort with long criminal records. There were a few, however, who had no other criminal history at all. These were pretty much run of the mill, law abiding citizens until something happened and just that once they snapped. Prison officials told me these types tend to be model prisoners who pose virtually no risk of ever offending again.

Our society has seen fit to acquit women who've killed abusive husbands even if, at the time of the killing, their lives were not in immediate danger. There are plenty of others who fall just the other side of that line and are convicted. It's this group for which the faint hope clause was enacted, inmates who, if released, pose no realistic threat to the public.

Harper wants to pretend this group doesn't exist. Abolishing faint hope is a red meat issue for Harper and it's also yet another way to make Iggy his bitch. Ignatieff who already threw all principle to the winds in backing Harper's mandatory minimum sentences on drug offences is hardly going to let the fate of a few convicted killers determine his electoral manoeuvering.


Pale said...

Sums it up pretty much.

I understand that in cases like Clifford Olsen's that the faint hope clause is expensive and time consuming and very hard on the families.

But it is the other cases that will be the most affected like the ones you outline.

I would think it would be possible to keep the faint hope clause, and perhaps put one more hurdle in there.
Say, if you commit more than one murder, (serial killer) there is no possibility of using the faint hope clause. Makes sense to me.

The Mound of Sound said...

Good idea. The provision could be amended to exclude anyone with a criminal history or, as you suggest, serial killers from applying.