Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On unsupported assertions

John Geddes documents the latest example of how the Cons' dumb-on-crime policies are based on no evidence whatsoever. But it's worth pointing out just what it is that the Cons aren't even bothering to try to back up:
Treasury Board Stockwell Day, for instance, spoke in detail during a news conference last summer about how repeat, violent offenders often got off with no jail time under the Liberals, particularly thugs who broke into the homes of senior citizens and beat them up.

Day painted a disturbing picture. But when I asked his officials for background on the judicial outrages he so vividly described—cases, reports, anything at all—they could provide nothing. Shunted along to the Justice and Public Safety ministers offices, I discovered they, too, couldn’t point to examples that support Day’s remarks. In fact, as I discovered when I looked into the question, Canadian judges typically hand down sentences of eight to 13 years in for violent home invasions, and prison time has been getting longer in recent years.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that judges have been systematically handing down sentences for some crimes that Canadians might find too lenient. The government simply hasn’t bothered to make that case. Instead, the Conservatives seem to be using mandatory minimums mainly as an easy way of signaling their outrage.
Now, it's not at all surprising that the Cons' message flies in the face of any actual evidence about broad trends. But what's most striking about Geddes' request is that it could easily have been met with something less than systemic data which would have made the point: say, a single case provided as a "for instance", from which some staffer might have extrapolated a conclusion that similar cases happen "often".

But the Cons have apparently reached the point of not even bothering to have a single supporting example for their crime spin. And it's well past time for the media to take everything they say with enough skepticism to counteract that complete disregard for accurate information.

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