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The public does not understand criminal justice

Yesterday, December 5th 2008, Sasan Ansari was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter. Ansari admitted to stabbing the deceased, Joshua Goos, 33 times. The details of the crime are horrific. Ansari first stabbed Goos while they were both sitting in a parked SUV. Goos then tried to flee. He was chased down and stabbed repeatedly. It is a horrible and ghastly crime. Ansari raised a defence that he was in a dissociative state at the time, he could not remember anything that happened, it was as if his mind had shut off and his body was acting completely of its own accord. Clearly the jury accepted Ansari’s defence, at least in part.

There is now outrage about the 5 year sentence given to Ansari. The outrage stems largely from an ignorance of the criminal justice system, and the fact that Crown inflamed public sentiment by calling this a “near murder” during submissions on sentencing. There is no such thing as a “near murder” in Canada.

People usually fail to understand that our criminal justice system is one designed to serve society, not the accused/convicted and the victims. The state prosecutes crimes, the state houses criminals, and the state even compensates victims in many cases. There is a strong society interest in the criminal justice system. The point of jail sentences is not simply to punish people. It is also to protect society, but more importantly, to attempt to reform the convicted. Ansari is a prime example of a person who can truly change, truly learn from his horrible mistake, and once he has served time in prison, will hopefully dedicate at least part of his life to making amends for what he has done.

I have never been able to understand why people think the only appropriate response to a loss of life is to go out and completely ruin another life. Joshua Goos is gone from this world. I cannot imagine the pain that his family has gone through, and will continue to have to cope with for the res of their lives. I have always tried to avoid vengeance as my primary motive for anything. I would hope that if a loved one of mine were killed, that something positive could come out of their death. I would hope that their killer would come to see just how destructive their actions were and would work to make amends for their actions.

Sasan Ansari may have gotten off a little light for what he has done. A five year sentence is not out of the ordinary for the crime of manslaughter, and a convicted like Ansari. He has no criminal record. He has a strong background of community service. Though five years seems light for taking a life, Ansari’s life has been changed forever. Ansari had been a law student up until recently, it is now highly unlikely that he could ever become a lawyer. He will have to live with the shame and grief of what he has done for the rest of his life. It will be a tough road ahead for Ansari, but I think that he has a good chance of not only accepting responsibility for what he has done, but also working hard to make amends for what he has done.

The focus of our criminal justice system should not be to punish, but rather, to rehabilitate. We need to focus on rehabilitating those who are convicted, those who are victims, and society as a whole. Whenever a crime is committed there is damage to the victim, the criminal, and to society. The criminal justice system tries to address the grievances of all three parties. The public, however, usually seems bent on a lust for vengeance, which leads to nothing but more destruction and heart ache.


December 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 12 Comments