Canada's sex offender legislation: 'tough on crime', short on smarts!

Recommendations:

 In light of the fact that the current pardon regime is working, that Bills C-23B and S-2  potentially increases risk of recidivism and, in the absence of any evidence to show that the proposed pieces of legislation increase community safety, we submit the following recommendations:

 

1.       All legislative action must be duly considered and based on evidence. Empirical inquiry is needed into the impact and effectiveness of public policies designed to prevent sexual violence. Funding for research which investigates the impact and effectiveness of sexual violence policies should be a priority.

 2.    Any proposed legislation enacted against sexual offenders, including Bill C-23B, must employ evidence based risk assessment procedures and differential strategies concordant with the level of threat that an offender poses to a community. Restrict access to record suspensions to individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes and who have been individually assessed to pose a significant risk of re-offending.

 3.       We are in agreement with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in that we welcome attempts to clarify the purpose and effect of a pardon by changing to a regime labeled “record suspension” rather than “pardon”. Such a suspension shall not entail ‘forgiveness; bust shall entail successful reintegration”.

 4.       Collaborative efforts should exist between citizens, victim groups, offenders, and treatment providers to render management, probationary supervision, and rehabilitation services that promote community safety.

 5.       Employ standardized reporting and risk level guidelines for all sex offenders making monitoring easier and more effective for law enforcement, corrections personnel, and the courts.  Implement a five-tier risk level; to include NO RISK, LOW RISK, MEDIUM RISK, HIGH RISK, and PREDATOR. Such risk levels, established prior to reentry into society and reassessed annually, must be proportionate not only to the gravity of the offence but also to the personal circumstances of the offender.

6.    The federal government intends to place the onus on the individual to prove why a pardon will enhance the rehabilitation is useless. The benefits of a pardon are clear as it is difficult for anyone to fully integrate into society when barriers are in their way. The onus must be on the government to establish that any legislation impinging on a citizen's liberty is necessary. To that extent, no individual or group of individuals can be automatically and arbitrarily denied access to a pardon. All individuals who have served their sentence, completed probation and satisfactorily completed treatment and assessed at ‘no risk' or 'low risk' must be eligible for consideration for a pardon.

 7.    Any legislation that restricts a person's liberty must for a set period, not for life. Every individual shall have the right to prove he is no longer a risk. To comply with the applicable human rights protections these provisions must have appeal and review of provisions included. Access to a review process by the offender is essential. Require or permit periodic individualized assessments of the risk to the community a former offender may pose before requiring initial or continued pardon restrictions. 

 8.    Pejorative language with regard to offenders must be avoided. Label only actually violent acts as violent crimes - define violence simply and logically as a physical attack or threat that causes real harm. Use of the term "pedophile" should be extremely limited and accurate.

 9.    Educational efforts should be directed at the prevention of sexual abuse amongst  teens and young adults through development of successful coping skills and through understanding of appropriate boundaries. Communities are entitled to the dissemination of actual and research-based information and education about sexual violence and sexual perpetrators.

 10.    Abolish measures which make it difficult for past offenders to reintegrate successfully into the community. Encourage support groups for sex offenders, including help with finding housing, employment and effective treatment, before their release and afterward.

 11.    Treatment, not harsher conditions is imperative to preventing recidivism. Provide separate sex offender correctional facilities and mandatory therapy prior to, and after, release.