Saturday, December 03, 2005

Oh Fer Crying Out Loud!

Stephen Harper demonstrates once again that he has the originality of thought that accompanies a pavlovian-trained dog.

A Conservative government would legislate mandatory minimum prison sentences of at least two years for people convicted of serious drug offences, party leader Stephen Harper said on Saturday.

The terms would apply to people convicted of trafficking, manufacturing or importing hard drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, Harper said during an election stop in Burnaby, B.C.

His party would also introduce mandatory prison time for anyone convicted of running marijuana grow operations.

He said his party would ban conditional sentences and house arrest for serious and repeat drug offenders.

In yet another example of "let's follow the United States", Harper is proposing harsh "minimum sentence" guidelines for drug offences. Brilliant! How original! Let's duplicate the absolutely brain damaged philosophy of a "war on drugs" that the United States has used with such stunning success. In the United States, there are people sitting in prisons for ten, twenty or life sentences - often for first time drug offences. The US "war on drugs" approach has had no more effect than to increase the size of the US prison population into the millions.

I'm not saying don't enforce the laws, nor am I saying that producers and traffickers shouldn't face serious penalties. However, it is folly to believe that harsher laws will make the issue go away. We need to address drug use not just through criminal sanctions, but also through the social conditions that drive people towards drug use. I will point out that we have been much more successful in dealing with tobacco use and alcohol abuse by education and support programs. (anyone else recall the spectacular failure of the "prohibition era" in constraining alcohol use?)

It amazes me how often the conservative mind seems to lean towards addressing problems with prohibitions. Whether it is "stricter" sentencing for criminal cases, "abstinence" sex-ed plans, or whatever - they seem to default to punishing people rather than actually examining the situation and understanding how those people got there.

Once again, the Conservatives have gone over to the discard pile of wood and pulled another rotting plank out to use in their election platform. This time, it's old, weathered and provably stupid policy. (It's been tried, and aside from being "good electioneering", utterly ineffective)

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