Solutions to Crime, Part 1: Peacekeeping Canada

110519-N-NY820-218 MANTA, Ecuador (May 19, 2011) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Courtney Arthur paints a wall at Angelica Flores Zambrano school during a Continuing Promise 2011 community service event. Continuing Promise is a five-month humanitarian assistance mission to the Caribbean, Central and South America. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric C. Tretter/Released)
Photo credit: US Navy "Creative Commons" license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
Peacekeeping for the Public Good

In my last post, I suggested that there are features shared by the RCMP and the Hells Angels. Both are identifiable organizations or “gangs” which attract young people by offering excitement, camaraderie and the prospect of status and material rewards. Canada can fund its own gang several times larger than our national police force through “incentivized” military service. Done properly, this national organization can draw recruits by appealing to young people’s social and individual needs. Here’s what it can look like…

While students are in Grade 10, they are offered an opportunity to join the military as peacekeepers, provided they satisfactorily complete Grade 12. Volunteers will join “peacekeeping cadets”, showing up on Saturday mornings and at least one evening a week at a designated school or other public facility. They will be provided initial training in first aid, rescue, and survival skills in mock situations. The prospect of becoming full-time members of Peacekeeping Canada (PC) after graduation must be reinforced during their last two years of high school. At about age 15, this opportunity will counteract the short time horizons which are characteristic of many youth in this developmental stage. Above all, their training experiences must be meaningful and led by role models who are competent educators. Once students graduate from high school, they are offered these incentives in exchange for a two-year commitment Peacekeeping Canada:

  • Bi-weekly pay at minimum wage and residency in existing barracks or those which can be renovated or constructed by the first cohorts of peacekeepers.
  • The prospect of earning a two-year “Apprenticeship Diploma” in applied fields such as solar and wind-based power generation, electronics, construction, hazardous waste collection, parks and recreation maintenance, fisheries, forestry, or agriculture, subject to local opportunities.
  • Applied experience as peacekeepers who have as their mandate the protection of the environment, enhancing public space, and other worthwhile projects.
  • Travel to other parts of Canada for public works or for providing assistance in emergencies such as floods and tornadoes.
  • A bonus of $10,000 for completion of the two-year program and paid tuition the first two years of university or a four-year trade program. The second two years of education would be funded with low-interest or interest-free loans. Alternatively, graduates can remain with the Peacekeepers and fulfill leadership and training roles without the requirement to live in residency.

The two-year experience will focus on developing interpersonal skills, cooperative activities with teams and groups, engaging in worthwhile local community activities, health awareness, and physical fitness. Peacekeeping leaders will reinforce the values of cooperation and facilitate supportive communication. A sense of personal responsibility and service to Canada must be a salient feature of recruit’s education and applied training.

The benefits returned by PC would be in the form of lower crime rates, health costs and increased tourism as nation-wide public works improvements add value to Canada’s natural environment and urban spaces. The money earned by the recruit’s labour will be circulated back into local economies rather than being “outsourced” like the practice in many private sector companies.

The logistics of this plan must be addressed, but some general guidelines for implementation could include:

  • Local direction of Peacekeeping Canada’s  public works through provincial boards of directors which include partnerships with the private sector;
  • Continual and ongoing evaluation of the two-year peacekeeping service in terms of implementation and outcome of recruits and benefits to local economies;
  • Funding for Peacekeeping Canada will come from taxing profits made through currency exchanges, much like the “Tobin Tax” as proposed by Noble Laureate James Tobin in 1972 and recently endorsed by Bill Gates.

The cost of Peacekeeping Canada can also be supplemented through hemp farming, manufacturing and sales. That’s Part 2 in a five-part series of ideas for dealing with crime in Canada, forthcoming.

– John

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Forecast: Increased Crime

The Senate has recently passed a bill to provide mandatory minimum sentences (MMS) for anyone growing more than 5 marijuana plants “with the intent to sell”. Growers with 200 or more plants face a maximum of 14 years in jail.

According to the Department of Justice, the proposed law “would help disrupt criminal enterprises by targeting drug suppliers”.

What evidence might we accept in five years from now that the law has met its stated objective? Given that “disrupt” means only to “interrupt the usual course of a process or activity”, almost any policing activity can and likely will be interpreted as being disruptive to criminal enterprises. Note that the government’s claimed benefits of the proposed legislation is strategically fuzzy.

Disruption can include arrests of leaders in criminal organizations but who are not convicted in court because of, for example, procedural violations by the police or Crown. A failure to convict or imprison cannabis offenders still qualifies as “disruption”, but at what cost to the Canadian taxpayer?

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it costs us about $147,000 a year to keep a federal offender in custody. Professor Neil Boyd from Simon Fraser University calculates that if an additional 500 inmates go jail for six months, it will cost $30 million more a year to house these new inmates, and that’s just for BC.

From what we know after 80 years of prohibition experience, the law’s impact will likely include at least the following:

The Senate has recently passed a bill to provide mandatory minimum sentences (MMS) for anyone growing more than 5 marijuana plants “with the intent to sell”. Growers with 200 or more plants face a maximum of 14 years in jail.

According to the Department of Justice, the proposed law “would help disrupt criminal enterprises by targeting drug suppliers”. What evidence might we accept in five years from now that the law has met its stated objective?

Given that “disrupt” means only to “interrupt the usual course of a process or activity”, almost any policing activity can and likely will be interpreted as being disruptive to criminal enterprises. Note that the government’s claimed benefits of the proposed legislation is strategically fuzzy.

Disruption can include arrests of leaders in criminal organizations but who are not convicted in court because of, for example, procedural violations by the police or Crown. A failure to convict or imprison cannabis offenders still qualifies as “disruption”, but at what cost to the Canadian taxpayer?

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it costs us about $147,000 a year to keep a federal offender in custody. Professor Neil Boyd from Simon Fraser University calculates that if an additional 500 inmates go jail for six months, it will cost $30 million more a year to house these new inmates, and that’s just for BC.

From what we know after 80 years of prohibition experience, the law’s impact will likely include at least the following:

  • Cannabis prices will be higher than they are now. As producers assume more risks to cultivate cannabis, associated costs will be passed to consumers. The higher cost of cannabis production means larger sums of cash need to be stored, transported and laundered into the legitimate economy. Crimes involving these transactions will increase.
  • Illicitly obtained cash is a target for those who don’t have to worry about their victims calling the police. Violent crime associated with “settling scores” in some parts of the cannabis trade will increase with a risk of “collateral damage” in our communities.
  • To the extent that some buyers will use the proceeds of property crime to purchase cannabis products, property crime will increase.
  • People charged with crimes carrying mandatory sentences will be more likely to plead not guilty than to risk lengthy prison terms. An unknown number of proceedings will end in acquittals because of the Crown’s “undue delay” in bringing matters to trial.
  • Defense lawyers and the Crown will plea-bargain outside the courtroom. Suddenly 250 seized cannabis plants get counted as 199. This deal gets the Crown a conviction while the accused avoids the higher penalties aimed at growers of larger cannabis operations.

And that’s just a partial list of the likely unintended consequences of MMS for marijuana. The law will not reduce the supply of cannabis in our country, nor will it prevent the proliferation of criminal enterprises. But it will cost taxpayers dearly.