The making of a murderer – and how to prevent it

J.P. Moczulski

This is Joe’s story.

At age 18, he was convicted of second-degree murder, accused of stabbing another boy to death.

Joe’s name isn’t real – police changed it to protect his privacy. But his story is. Police in Prince Albert, Sask., use it to illustrate their strategy.

This timeline traces Joe’s run-ins with police and social services through an infancy marked by domestic violence, alcoholism and abuse, a violent childhood and a series of petty-crime charges.

Early intervention, police maintain, could have prevented the murder years before it happened. The crime-prevention program is working so well, Anna Mehler Paperny reports, Toronto is adopting the same one in a new pilot project

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Canada’s youth crime plans bewilder international observers

A group of boys play basketball at the St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center Tuesday, July 19, 2011. The juvenile rehabilitation program houses from 50 to 100 youth between the ages of 9 and 17.
(Photo by Whitney Curtis for the Globe and Mail)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

If Canada follows through on plans to crack down on miscreant youth, it’ll be one of the few jurisdictions in the world heading in that direction.

And the tough-on-crime approach in the face of contrary evidence is bemusing international observers.

Judges, criminologists and policy-makers in the United States, Britain and Australia – countries whose systems, for the most part, closely resemble Canada’s – can’t figure out why this country is planning to shift toward a jail-intensive approach. Everyone else seems to be doing the opposite, not for ideological reasons, but because evidence shows it works.

“It’s somewhat ironic, actually,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, which studies jail policy across the United States.

“After nearly four decades of the so-called ‘get tough’ movement in the U.S., which has meant sending more people to prisons [and] keeping them there for longer periods of time, there’s beginning to be a shift away from that.”

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Tory ‘tough on crime’ bill has youth advocates worried

Frontenac Youth Diversion Program Executive Director Daren Dougall, in Kingston, Ont.
(Photo by Harrison Smith/The Globe and Mail)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

The idea behind Canada’s current strategy to fight youth crime was deceptively simple: Put teens in jail if you have to, but only if you have to.

It was supposed to strike a balance between two competing anxieties: that young people were committing heinous crimes and not being punished appropriately; and that locking up impressionable teens created criminals who would spend the rest of their lives bouncing in and out of the penal system.

“There was considerable concern around whether the balance was quite right in terms of protection of the public and rehabilitation,” says Anne McLellan, the Liberal justice minister who brought in the Youth Criminal Justice Act in the late 1990s.

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