QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS?
ANSWER A: "I expect the government to make informed decisions about how best to deal with the current problems we face as a society."
ANSWER B: "As long as the government tells me what I want to hear I really don't care what they do in reality."
If you have selected 'Answer A' then please read on because this site was made for you...The Canadian Conservative government wants to look tough on crime and to that end they've introduced legislation such as Bills S-2 and C-23B. These bills will prevent the reintegration of former offenders. We're told that such legislation is necessary to ensure the "safety" of society, but this is patently untrue. In fact, these bills will makes society LESS safe. The Conservatives nonetheless believe that this legislation will pass because they believe that:
Around the world there are many dedicated individuals and organizations who work diligently with sexual offenders and victims in order to ensure that both are treated humanely and that no further victimization occurs. For decades now their work has been undermined by public fear and hatred- much of it reinforced by misinformation. The government of Canada is using this same misinformation to further their 'tough on crime' platform and by doing so they reinforce those untruths, exacerbate society’s fears and false sense of security; all the while distracting society from the far more prevalent dangers to children. Even worse, they undermine the treatment offenders are receiving, increasing their risk of recidivism.
WHO ARE THESE SEX OFFENDERS?
Here are the cases of three individuals who are/were on the sex offender registry. They, like the majority of individuals on the registry are not rapists and murderers. They have lower rates of recidivism than any other type of crime. Do you believe that they should not have the opportunity to pay their debt to society and to be reintegrated into the community? Do you truly believe that any measures the government decides to take against 'sex offenders' such as these are justifiable?
HERE IS A QUICK OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH PROVIDED ON THIS SITE:
1. Studies have consistently shown that sex offenders, as a whole, have a far lower rate of re-offending than any other crime type. Of those few former sex offenders who do recidivate, the majority are convicted of NON-sexual offenses.
The results of these recidivism studies show a clear disconnect between sex offender laws and reality. Registration and pardon restrictions is premised on the need to protect society from repeat sexual offenders. However, even the most liberal estimate of recidivism shows that 73% of former sexual offenders will not commit another sexual offence. If Bill C-23B passes then, it is inevitable that a great majority of these former offenders will baselessly be subjected to continuing community ostracization.
Perhaps Canadian politicians should be concerned with establishing a registry for those groups of individual who have a far greater rate of recidivism (including those who have been convicted of beating children, dealing drugs to children and those convicted of terrorist activities- none of whom currently appear on any registry or are prevented from receiving a pardon).
2. It is important to realize that a pardon does not erase a person's criminal record, but it means the information is kept in a separate file and doesn't show up on checks of the Canadian Police Information Centre, a key law-enforcement database used by the RCMP and other police forces. There have been changes to the legislation that became law in August 2000, which affect sex offenders who have been granted a pardon. These new changes enhance the capacity of police forces to explore the criminal background of those who wish to work with children. This includes a review of criminal records for designated sex offences where a pardon has been granted. By placing a 'flag' on the records of sex offenders in the Canadian Police Information Centre, police can be alerted that a pardoned record exists so they can request the Minister of Public Safety Canada authorization to unseal it.
3. The vast majority of those who are pardoned never reoffend ( The National Parole Board has granted over 400,000 pardons since 1970. Only 4% of those pardons have been revoked, indicating that the vast majority of individuals who are granted a pardon went on to live as law abiding citizens). Public Safety Canada determined that "automatic denial of pardons to sex offenders would unnecessarily curtail the liberties of the many ex-offenders who remain crime-free". Retrieved from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/sum/cprs200003-eng.aspx
4. Preventing the rehabilitation of former offenders may lead to increased recidivism
Having a criminal record can be very damaging to an individual’s opportunity for: employment, getting a job promotion, bond-ability, travel, education, getting a loan or mortgage, immigration, volunteering, adoption and child custody. The proposed legislation will thus make it more difficult for these individuals to remove their criminal records from public databases so they can successfully rehabilitate into society as law-abiding citizens. This legislation may actually INCREASE recidivism for individuals who are prevented from reintegrating back into society.
Making it difficult for former sex offenders to find and keep gainful employment is counterproductive for public safety. Structured, full-time employment is a cornerstone of nearly all re-entry programs for offenders. According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, "Research has shown that meaningful employment can provide a stabilizing influence by involving offenders in pro-social activities and assisting them in structuring their time, improving their self-esteem, and meeting their financial obligations."
Employment contributes to the likelihood that people who have previously committed crimes, including sex crimes, will not reoffend. A 2001 risk assessment study by Virginia's Criminal Sentencing Commission found employment to be a major factor affecting whether paroled sex offenders relapse and reoffend: sex offenders who had been unemployed or not regularly employed were found to recidivate at higher rates than sex offenders who experienced stable employment. Another recent study showed that former sex offenders who committed subsequent offenses were more likely to be unemployed. According to a different study, the only factors associated with reduced reoffending among sex offenders were the combination of stable employment and sex offender treatment.
Retrieved from Human Rights Watch:
5. The government is aware of what its own researchers has determined- that "risk assessment can differentiate offenders who pose a significant risk for re-offending in the future from those who are likely to refrain from committing future offences" (Retrieved from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/res/cor/sum/cprs200701-eng.aspx). Why then, is the government denying access to a pardon for every individual convicted of a certain offence rather than based upon their individual risk level? It's evident that the Conservatives are determined to punish former offenders, not for what they may do in the future, but for what they have done in the past.
So, most sexual offences are initiated by first time offenders and most individuals on the registry never re-offend. The government has no justifiable reason then to deny pardons for former sex offenders and to further increase restrictions for those on the registry. Although the government argues the changes are necessary to "better protect Canadians from sexual offenders" (http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/media/nr/2009/nr20090601-2-eng.aspx), we can clearly see from the information provided above, that the Canadian government has ignored the research and recommendations submitted by their own departments and has done so in the interest of appearing 'tough on crime'.On this matter the government has also disregarded the learned opinions of :
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association:
The Canadian Criminal Justice Association:
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada:
Human rights Watch:
National Pardon Centre
WHAT SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT BE FOCUSING ON..?
Distorted assumptions about the nature and prevalence of sexual abuse have led to distortions in our approaches to prevention. To correct the errors in our public policy we must begin by focusing carefully on what is known empirically about child sexual abuse.
Here is the sad irony of current legislation: although sex offender laws arise from particular publicized crimes (Stephenson, Homolka, James), the laws focus on this small, atypical group of offenders without providing meaningful relief to victims. If sex-offender laws were truly about the victims and preventing sexual abuse in the future, they would included legislative provisions allocating funds for victim counseling and research into programs that address the underlying causes of abuse. Finally, a sex offender policy that truly cared about victims and prevention would focus on- rather that disregard- the precious empirical knowledge we have garnered about sexual violence.
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO!
If you believe, as we do, that the legislation of any government should be based upon solid research and facts, not upon the attempts of politicians to enhance their political careers while exacerbating public misconceptions, then now is the time to make a difference. Please, take a moment and send an email to these Canadian political leaders:
If you agree with us, just tell them that you know that:
"Research has clearly proven that current sex offender legislation will do nothing to enhance security and will likely prevent reintegration and thus increase recidivism of former offenders. Canadians politicians from all political parties should oppose these bills and instead focus on supporting evidence-based practices which will prevent offending and re-offending."
Thank you in advance for your support!