The Managing Director of The Defence Group, Arun S. Maini, was recently interviewed by the Toronto Star for his opinion on Canada’s “answer to capital punishment”: the Dangerous Offender designation. The Dangerous Offender provisions in the Criminal Code were designed to give the government the tools to protect the public from society’s most dangerous violent offenders and sexual predators, like serial killers Paul Bernardo and Robert Pickton. Only a very few people qualify for that most heinous label, and its legislative sister, the Long-Term Offender designation. Once the courts label someone a Dangerous Offender, they are effectively incarcerated for life. Only in the rarest of circumstances is a Dangerous Offender released, usually because the offender is on his deathbed. Long-term Offenders are high-risk inmates who can only be released into the community in a limited and strictly controlled fashion, with intensive, round-the-clock supervision. The trouble with extreme tools such as the Dangerous Offender and Long-term Offender designation, is that governments like to use them, especially in a politically charged environment where “get-tough-on-crime” initiatives are considered good politics. Too often, the government seeks to label someone a Dangerous or Long-term Offender when a lengthy jail sentence and strict parole would suffice. When these special provisions are abused, they risk imposing the most severe punishment on people who are not the most serious offenders, and take resources away from the prosecution of those rare few who truly deserve to be locked up and have the key thrown away.
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