EDITORIAL: If public safety program works, why cut funding?

Once again, Canada’s justice system is under fire after Raymond Lee Caissie, a high-risk sex offender on release from prison, has been charged with second-degree murder in Surrey teenager Serena Vermeersch’s death.

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has indicated the Conservative government is now looking at toughening up the system by keeping some convicts locked up indefinitely – a provision, mind you, that is already available through dangerous offender designation.

But it will remain to be seen if whatever legislation the Tories enact to curb prisoners’ rights will really take or simply be rendered political window-dressing after the Supreme Court of Canada no doubt picks it apart.

For the time being, one solution to help prevent criminal recidivism is for the government to continue funding programs such as Circles of Support and Accountability, as it has for a couple of decades now.

This is a national program for sex offenders who have been released from prison. According to news reports, a study in 2009 found that program participants were 83 per cent less likely to reoffend sexually and 73 per cent less likely to reoffend at all.

And what that means, if the study is correct, is a safer Canada and that somewhere within this nation, a child or woman isn’t being raped as a result.

But instead of supporting this program, the Conservative government is set to cut funding for it by next April and suggests the private sector pick up the tab.

Public safety is the responsibility of government, not the private sector. Moreover, the government should continue to fund this program, as it apparently works. The government should also require that sex offenders complete their treatment courses in prison, and if they don’t complete them, keep them locked up.

And here’s something: Why not require sex offenders to also complete the Circles of Support and Accountability program once they’re released, on pain of being sent back to prison if they don’t.

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