Legal Studies 3080

The Issues Continued

Restorative Justice Programs

In recent years, the rights of victims in crimes have received more attention than they have in the past. For example, you have read about the use of victim impact statements in sentencing. Many people today believe that victims should play a much greater role in what are called restorative justice programs - programs that focus on helping those who have suffered because of crime to heal and recover. Those that have suffered include not just the obvious victims but the offenders and the community as well.

Conditional Release(or Parole)

The usual argument is that prisoners should have to serve the time they have been sentenced to and that to do otherwise is to send out the message that the Canadian prison system is rather slack. Those who support our conditional release practices, on the other hand, point out the rehabilitative effects of parole and add that the prospect of early release gives prisoners a motive to behave well in prison; without it officials would have a much tougher time controlling them. They also point out that we would have to build and operate many more prisons, at taxpayers' expense, if every prisoner served his or her full term.

Plea Neogtiation (or Plea Bargaining)

In general, the public doesn't seem to like the business of plea bargaining. The idea that criminals are getting off with light sentences and less serious convictions naturally upsets people, and many of them have called for an end to it. Others, however regard plea negotiations as a necessary, if unfortunate, process if the court system is to be able to handle its huge case load.

The issue came to the public's attention in 1993 when Karla Homolka plea-bargained herself a 12 year sentence. When her ex-husband, Paul Bernardo, was later tried for the gruesome murders of two teenage girls, it became apparent that Homolka had escaped far too lightly in view of her role in crimes.

Teacher's Note
Should plea bargaining be allowed? Could the system function without it? If you can get access to media coverage of the Bernardo/Homolka case, you should be able to find discussions of the issue.