Regarding Canada’s Proposed Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Regarding Canada’s Proposed Mandatory Minimum Sentences
August 14, 2010
WHEREAS Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act, which was introduced in Canada’s Senate on May 5, 2010, seeks to amend existing Canadian law to provide for mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses;
WHEREAS NACDL’s broad international membership includes 75 Canadian lawyers and six Canadian affiliate organizations.
WHEREAS NACDL and its affiliate members have long opposed mandatory minimum sentences, which deprive judges of the ability to fashion sentences that suit the particular offense and offender;
WHEREAS mandatory minimum sentences in the United States have (1) produced unduly harsh and disproportionate sentences that disregard the individual‘s circumstances, level of involvement and culpability; (2) transferred discretion from judges to prosecutors, resulting in diminished transparency and unchecked disparities; (3) inhibited defendants from exercising their Sixth Amendment right to a trial; and (4) greatly exacerbated racial disparities in the criminal justice system;
WHEREAS unnecessarily severe sentences waste public resources and disrupt families, creating societal costs that threaten the futures of innocent children and vulnerable communities;
WHEREAS jurisdictions which formerly adopted mandatory minimum sentences, including Michigan and New York, have recognized both the ineffectiveness and costliness of mandatory minimums, and have since repealed or limited the applicability of such sentences;
WHEREAS evidence, including Justice Canada’s review, indicates that mandatory minimum sentences do not reduce drug addiction or the problems associated with drug use, thus having scant impact on the reduction of drug use and crime;
WHEREAS the proposed Bill S-10 offers little help to serious drug addicts, instead proposing seriously flawed drug treatment programs that stress abstinence and disregard the practically inevitable relapse of a recovering addict;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers urges the Government of Canada to abandon Bill S-10 and to reject mandatory minimum sentences; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers urges the Government of Canada to reallocate the money intended for S-10 to fund drug treatment and harm reduction programs, alternatives to incarceration, employment opportunities, and human services.