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SOSC 2652 - lecture 1 & 2 readings.docx

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CRIM 2652
Anna Pratt

CRIM 2652 – Lecture 1 Readings Chapter 1: Criminal Justice in Canada: An Overview Models of Criminal Justice - Two competing perspective underlie our criminal justice systems – developed by Herbert Packer, the two models are crime control & due process - The crime control model stresses the importance of controlling crime & favours providing criminal justice professionals with considerable powers for responding to crime - Crime control advocates would support giving police wide powers to search suspects, enter people’s houses, & detain persons accused of a crime - The due process model limits the powers of the criminal justice system to prosecute accused persons - Due process advocates argue that if the State is not subject to some limits, society will become intolerable as people will be subjected to constant surveillance & police interventions - The due process model prevents the State from having unlimited power over the lives of suspects & accused persons – for ex. police are required to obtain permission from a court prior to placing a wiretap on a suspect’s telephone line, police officers cannot stop a person & search him /her without reasonable grounds for doing so, etc. - The due process model is more concerned with protecting the rights of the accused & following correct legal procedure - A criminal justice system founded exclusively on one perspective or the other would be problematic - Pursuing crime control completely to the exclusion of due process would result in increase in the number of people wrongfully convicted & a system that stressed due process to the extreme would result in a higher number of wrongful acquittals – guilt people would avoid punishment because police would be restricted in their search for incriminating evidence - The Canadian justice system them has elements of both perspectives Public Opinion & criminal justice - Public polls have indicated that Canadians are more positive than negative about their justice system - Although the proportion of respondents expressing a great deal of confidence in the justice system is lower than the proportion of people expressing confidence in the educational system & health care system– the proportion isn’t significantly lower - Important to note that the health care & education systems have mandates very different from that scribed to the justice system - While these two systems’ activities are directed toward one goal – improving the well being of the patient without any competing interests, the justice system has a more complex mandate to fulfill: responding to the interests of multiple parties – offenders, victims, & the families of both groups have rights & needs that sometimes conflict - Therefore it is unreasonable to expect confidence levels to be comparable for the justice & health systems - The public may lose sight of the complexity of the justice system’s mandate which may explain why justice professionals receive somewhat lower ratings of public confidence Confidence in branches of criminal justice - In general, the public has a great deal of confidence in the police & far less confidence in other criminal justice professionals - This finding is not restricted to Canada: similar trends emerge in all other countries in which such surveys have been conducted Explaining Variations in Confidence Levels - Several explanations can account for this hierarchy of confidence - With respect to Packer’s two models of criminal justice – the public is more sympathetic to crime control than to due process - The public is equally intolerant of obstacles to prosecution (& convicting)defendants - The judicial system can make two kinds of classification errors: it can convict innocent people & it can acquit guilty parties - In legal thinking it is better to acquit 10 guilty individuals than allow an innocent person to be convicted, the public however appears to be less concerned about the occurrence of wrongful convictions - Most people favour a justice system that gives police & prosecutors significant powers rather than a system that follows procedural safeguards to ensure that due process is maintained - So the police are more closely allied in the public mind with a crime control mandate & for this reason receive higher ratings - In the popular mind, judges are probably associated far more closely with a due process model of justice – one that, as we have seen , attracts less support from members of the public - The public is seldom aware of the true nature of the prosecutorial role – who must consider the interests in justice & not simply pursue the conviction of the defendant - One final explanation for the higher public approval ratings of the police is that they are more visible to society - The police are the most visible of all criminal justice professionals: they wear uniforms, drive (usually) marked vehicles & perform their duties in public, on the streets of the nation - The public nature of the policing contrasts the work of other professionals such as judges or lawyers whose duties are discharged out of the public eye - Higher levels of exposure to the police likely promote confidence in the policing branch of criminal justice Punishment & prevention - Polls reveal that there is widespread support for crime prevention amongst the public - Given a choice between punishment & prevention, Canadians have always supported prevention Public Knowledge of criminal justice Public perceptions of crime trends - Public opinion surveys in many nations show that the public always think that crime rates are rising regardless of whether crime is going up or down or remaining stable - Public perceptions of crime trends are generally unrelated to actual trends - Recent poll in 2010 – half of sampled Canadians believed that crime rates had increased when in fact they had declined - The resulting misperception has important consequences for public attitudes toward the criminal justice system: if most people believe that crime rates are steadily increasing, then they may well also believe that the system has failed in its principal function – namely, to prevent crime - This misperception of crime trends is probably responsible for much of the public criticism of the criminal justice system - Also, most members of the public believe that a relatively large proportion of crime involves violence when in reality violent crimes accounts for relatively small percentage of crime reported to the police - Most crime involves nonviolent criminal conduct – but people tend to focus more on the most serious offences – namely those that involve violence Sentencing - Opinion polls have shown that most Canadians feel sentences are too lenient & not harsh enough & that the justice system was “too soft” toward people convicted of crimes - This perception is often founded upon inaccurate knowledge of the actual severity of sentences imposed - People tend to underestimate the severity of sentencing practices – thus the perception of leniency in sentencing is based upon a misperception of the actual severity of sentences imposed - Many people also mistakenly believe that increasing the severity of penalties will have an appreciable impact on crime rates – the reality is that such a small percentage of offenders are actually sentenced that the ability of the sentencing process to reduce crime is very restricted - Sentencing is low because of case attrition – means that cases drop out of the criminal justice system - Only some crimes are reported to the police & of these, only some are deemed founded by the police, of the founded ones, some do not result in the laying of a criminal charge & of the charges brought to court, some are dropped or stayed, & the remainder do not end in the conviction of an accused - When such a small percentage of crimes result in the imposition of a penalty, the nature of the sentence will have little impact on the overall volume of crime – thus the sentencing system is limited in its ability to reduce crime rate Use of incarceration as a sanction - Statistics show that incarceration rates in Canada are high relative to those in most other countries - Even with the incarceration rates declining in recent years , the incarceration rate in Canada was still significantly higher than in many other Western nations - Canada relies too heavily on imprisonment as a sanction yet the public is often unaware of this reality - Polls have indicated that most Canadians believe that the incarceration rate is lower in Canada Corrections - There is a significant gap between public perception & the reality of prison life - Many Canadians feel that an inmate’ s life is an easy one & are not aware of the difficulties suffered by incarcerated offenders - Most people are unaware of the high rates of homicide, suicide, and assault in correctional institutions - As well, many members of the public believe that if prison conditions are much harsher prisoners would be less likely to reoffend & risk reincarceration – however research has shown that making prisons more harsh & taking away privileges may make prison life more unpleasant, but it does not result in lower reoffending rates - Making a prison very inhospitable place to live will not mean that prisoners will be less likely to return to a life of crime - Preventing reoffending involves ensuring that ex – offenders get jobs & have a stake in the community Parole Grant rates - Most Canadians believe that too many inmates are released from prison too early – this view is based largely in misperceptions about the purpose of the parole system - In general, the public believes that most prisoners are granted release on parole & that parole is easy to obtain - In reality, less than half the applications for full parole release at the federal level are approved - In addition, prisoners applying for parole must convince the parole board that they are not at risk to the community & that their progress toward rehabilitation would be assisted by release Success Rates of parolees - The gap between perception & reality is probably greater for parole & early release issues than for any other criminal justice topic - Intense media coverage of the small number of cases in which a parolee is charged with a serious offence likely contributes to widespread public concern about prisoners released on parole - The public tends to believe that a significant percentage of parolees commit further offences but in fact, the failure rate of offenders on parole tends to be quite low Costs of Incarceration versus Supervision in the Community - Most people underestimate the cost of incarceration & overestimate the cost of supervising an offender in the community - when in reality on average, the cost of supervising an offender is 1/5 the cost of imprisonment - If the public knew how much money the system could save by punishing offenders in the community rather than in prison, they would probably be more supportive of community - based sentences & parole Lecture 2 Readings Chapter 3 – Criminal Justice in Canada: Exploring the latest trends - The criminal justice system in Canada involves multiple levels of government & has three key sectors: police, courts & corrections 1) first step for an alleged criminal act to enter the criminal justice system is for it to be perceived as criminal by either the victim or a witness who turns to the police 2) the police must determine whether the incident is in fact a crime – in the absence of reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has taken place the police record the incident as “unfounded” & no further official action is taken, if the police believe a crime was attempted or committed they deem the incident “founded” & proceed to investigate 3) in an accused person is identified in connection with the incident then the police must decide whether to lay a charge or deal with the individual less formally by carrying out an alternative measure ex. asking the individual to write a letter of apology to the victim 4) if a charge is formally laid against the accused the case enters the criminal court system – at this stage the courts may decided to deal with the person informally through an alternative – measures program, if the case goes to court a plea may be negotiated to avoid the formal court process otherwise the case proceeds to trial 5) if the case goes to trial, a decision is to be made to proceed by the judge alone or if the option is available, by judge & jury 6) ultimately the accused can be found guilty or not guilty, the case can be withdraw or the proceedings can be stayed 7) depending on the seriousness of the crime, if the accused is found guilty, they can be sentenced to a tern of incarceration, a conditional sentence of imprisonment, a period of probation, a fine, or some combination of these sentencing options 8) if the accused is sentenced to a term of incarceration, a conditional sentence, or a period of probation, he or she enters the correctional system - in the case of incarceration, depending on the length of the sentence, the offender will serve that time either in a provincial/territorial institution (for terms of less than two years) or in a federal institution (for terms of two years or more) - prior to the termination of their sentence, inmates can be considered for some form of conditional release & serve part of their sentence in the community – for ex. offenders serving a sentence of 2 -3 years are eligible for day parole after serving 6 months of their sentence, eligible for full parole after finishing one third of their sentence & eligible for statutory release after serving two thirds of their sentence - goal of these release options are to help prisoners reintegrate into society Diversion & Alternative Measures - Diversion & alternative – measures programs are alternatives to the formal criminal justice process - Diversion programs exist for both youth & adults - The legislation governing the youth criminal justice system is the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) - Alternative measures for youth are currently known as extrajudicial sanctions – other diversionary measures have been included such as police warnings, referrals & Crown cautions - Formal diversion programs for adults include apologies, community service and personal service or financial compensation for the victim - Administration of formal diversion programs to adults or youth is carried out by three types of agencies: governmental agencies (e.g. probation services), nongovernmental organizations, and Youth Justice Committees Policing - The police are employed by municipal, provincial, and federal governments - While the federal government is responsible for criminal law under the Constitution Act, each province & territory assumes responsibility for its own policing at the provincial, territorial, and municipal levels - The federal government through the RCMP is responsible for the enforcement of federal statues in each province & territory as well as providing services such as forensic laboratories, identification services, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and the Canadian Police College - Provincial policing involves enforcement of the Criminal Code & provincial statutes within areas of a province not served by a municipal police service (rural areas & small towns) - The RCMP provides provincial/territorial policing & community policing services in all provinces & territories except Quebec & Ontario – who maintain their own provincial police services, for ex. for Ontario we have the Ontario Provincial Police - In Quebec & Ontario, the RCMP provides policing only with respect to federal matters - Municipalities have 3 options when providing municipal policing services: 1) to from their own police service 2) to enter into a service – sharing agreement with an existing municipal police service 3) to enter into an agreement with a provincial police service or the RCMP to have them assume policing responsibilities for the municipality Policing Costs Continue to Rise - Policing expenditures have been increasing consistently for more than a decade The Number of Police Officers Has Increased Since 1998 - Police officer strength in Canada has been steadily increasing over the past decade, following a period of decline throughout the 1990s - The number of female police officers has been gradually increasing – in 2009, women accounted for about one in five officers in Canada while a decade ago it was one in eight Crime Rates in Canada Have Been Declining - While police work has evolved, most police work can still be characterized as reactive - The growing complexity of crime influences the amount & type of police intervention as well - In general the volume & severity of police – reported crime in Canada has been decreasing over the past decade - About one in five crimes reported to police are violent & in general - In general the police – reported violent crime rate has been declining since 2000 primarily due to drops in high – volume crimes such as common assault & uttering threats - In general the rates for most major police – reported crime categories have declined over the past decade (break & enters, motor vehicle thefts, sexual assaults, robberies & minor assaults) – but there are some exceptions to this trend – the rate of homicide has been relatively stable while rates of serious assault & kidnapping/forcible confinement have increased About 4 in 10 crimes are solved by police - Overall police clearance rates have remained relatively stable over the past decade - Clearance rates however vary depending on the type of crime for ex. crimes that have direct victims/witnesses & are reported in a relatively timely fashion tend to result more often in the police clearing the offence – thus violent crimes tend to have higher clearance rates than property crimes - In 2009 for ex. more violent crimes were cleared compared to nonviolent crimes & among several notable serious offences, clearance rates were highest for assault, then homicide, sexual assault, and robbery - There are three complementary ways to measure the nature & extent of crime in Canada: 1) the police – reported crime rate: traditional measurement of crime in Canada, measures the volume of crime & is calculated by taking the total number of Criminal Code offences (excluding traffic offences) known to by the police and dividing it into the total population of Canada & multiplying by 100,000 Each crime is counted equally (one incident of bicycle theft is counted the same as one homicide) so the police reported crime rate is dominated by high – volume, less serious offences 2) police – reported Crime Severity Index: takes into account not only the volume of crime but also the relative seriousness of different offences – each type of offence is assigned a weight that is derived from court sentences , offences having harsher sentences are assigned higher weights than those with less serious sentences As such, more serious offences have a greater impact on year – over – year changes in the index 3) victimization rate: measures the volume of crime in Canada but the number of offences is based on self – reported data from Canadians aged 15 years or older for 8 crime types: sexual assault, robbery, assault, break & enter, theft of personal property, theft of household property, motor vehicle/parts theft, and vandalism – the victimization rate is much higher than the police – reported crime rate since not all crimes are reported to police Legal Aid - Legal aid programs have been established in all provinces & territories to help low – income Canadians retain professional legal counsel - In most jurisdictions, legal aid coverage is available for those charged with serious criminal offences –the provision of legal aid services in Canada is a shared responsibility between the federal & provincial/territorial governments - Responsibility for the delivery of the legal aid services lies with each of the provincial/territorial governments but the federal government collaborates with each province & territory by providing contributions for both criminal & civil legal aid Legal aid plans in most provinces spend more on criminal matters than civil matters - After adjusting for inflation, legal aid plan expenditures have experienced both increases & decreases over the past decade Legal aid services declining since mid – 1900s - In general the total number of lawyers providing legal aid services has been declining since the mid – 1900s - The decrease in legal aid services has coincided with a drop in the number of applications as they have dropped due to factors such as changes in pre – screening procedures, changes in legal aid coverage, and stricter eligibility criteria Courts - There are four levers/tiers of courts in Canada with responsibility shared among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments 1 level: Supreme Court of Canada - holds the highest position in the Canadian court system & represents the final court of appeal from all other courts Has jurisdiction over disputes in all areas of law such as criminal, administrative, and constitutional law 2 level: provincial/territorial courts of appeal & the Federal Court of Appeal – each province & territory has a court of appeal that hears appeals from decisions of the superior courts & provincial/territorial courts as in the superior courts – judges are appointed & paid by the federal government but court administration is the responsibility of the provinces & territories 3 level: provincial & territorial superior courts – they deal with more serious crimes & handle appeals from judgments rendered in the provincial/territorial courts they also deal with civil law matters rel
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