Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/5/2011 (3427 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In Broadway is on probation, too (May 7), columnist Robert Marshall unfairly takes aim at Manitoba's probation officers.
First, it may interest Marshall to know that some probation officers in our province are overseeing approximately 100 cases. Coupling this fact with jail overcrowding, social workers' case loads, and demands on court services, is it any wonder that there are times when things break down within the criminal justice system?
Second, I believe all three cases cited by Marshall (over the course of an eight-year period) involved individuals who would fall under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).
The federal YCJA has an artificial presumption against locking up dangerous young offenders, even if they are violent, repeat offenders. For those who do get locked up, the sentences are too short, and a portion of every sentence must be served in the community, no matter how much of a threat that person may be.
Probation officers cannot be expected to monitor out-of-control kids who should be behind bars -- that's why the law needs to change. Public safety has to be the first principle, and for those kids who are the most violent and the most dangerous, that means keeping them in jail and away from the public.
Third, the government of Manitoba, together with police and the RCMP, corrections and probation staff, and prosecutors, undertook a review of existing probation-breach policies. That report found that Manitoba's non-compliance policy was in alignment with other provinces, and may even be more stringent when it comes to youth.
The report also noted that discretion is built into the federal Criminal Code and is inherent at all stages in the criminal justice system. Probation officers, like police, require a certain amount of discretion to do their jobs.
For Marshall to single out probation officers alone is truly galling. It is everyone from police to judges to probation officers to Crown attorneys to sheriffs and correctional officers that bear the increasingly difficult task of keeping our communities safe. They deserve our sincere thanks.
Manitoba Government Employees Union