the re-arrest in bc of con-victed pedophile Peter Whitmore last Friday proved the perfect moment for the Tories to announce their plans for an "expanded and modernized electronic surveillance program" that includes hooking up parolees to Global Positioning Systems.What better case than Whitmore's to justify to the public the need to spend millions more on surveillance of cons on probation?
"The community at large wants to feel secure," Corrections Minister Rob Sampson tells NOW. "There are enough examples of individuals who have been released and have reoffended."
In their zeal to appear tough on crime, however, the Tories may be contravening the life-and-liberty provisions of the Charter.
"The cynical side of me says that those who would previously have been released without any electronic conditions are going to find themselves monitored and tracked," says Whitmore's lawyer Daniel Brodsky.
On the other hand, defence lawyers could argue that because the technology exists to track their clients, there's less reason to deny them bail. In which case, the Tory plan may unwittingly lead to judges releasing potentially dangerous offenders. One judge has already indicated as much in a recent Toronto trial.
Besides Global Positioning Systems, the Tories are also exploring the purchase of voice recognition/verification, electronic paging and radio-frequency systems. The expanded program will also include those who have curfews or are under house arrest. Can video surveillance in the homes of the accused or those on bail be far behind? Sampson's spokesperson, Sandy Mangat, doesn't shut the door on the idea.
"There are no plans at this time," she says.
The NDP's Justice critic, Peter Kormos, says this Big Brotherish twist, one more item on the Tories' "get-tough, boot-camp" agenda, is also part of their larger privatization plans. "It's a frightening prospect," says Kormos, "because every single private-public partnership this government has entered into has ended with the public getting its pocket picked."
Sampson isn't impressed by his critics' arguments. "People will take issue with just about anything," he says. firstname.lastname@example.org