Solving the Century-Old Mafia Murder of a New York Cop

American Mafia

By Nate Hendley

Police in Italy claimed to have solved the decades-old murder of New York City police officer Joseph Petrosino in Sicily.

Petrosino was one of the bravest law officers ever to walk a beat. He’s also the man I dedicated my book, The Mafia: A Guide to an American Subculture, to.

Here’s what I wrote about Petrosino:

“At the turn of the twentieth century, Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino headed up an “Italian squad” that dealt with issues in that community. One of the biggest issues facing Sicilian and Italian American immigrants was the presence of “The Black Hand.” A forerunner of the Mafia, the latter was a loose band of Italian Americans who used the (largely fictitious) specter of an underworld gang called “The Black Hand” to extort money from their countrymen. The fearless Petrosino made hundreds of Black Hand arrests and wasn’t above beating up suspects in the street for added humiliation.

In March, 1909, Petrosino traveled to Palermo, Sicily, to investigate Black Hand links with the Sicilian Mafia. On March 12, 1909, he was murdered, almost certainly by Mafia assassins. He remains the only New York City police officer killed while on assignment in another country. When his body was returned to the United States, an estimated 250,000 people viewed his coffin as it passed by on the streets of New York, mourning a brave cop.”

And now, over a century later, Italian police claimed that the long-standing mystery of who killed Joseph Petrosino has been resolved at last.

For further reading, my book The Mafia: A Guide to an American Subculture, is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon or directly from the publisher, ABC-CLIO.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based freelance writer and true-crime author. His website is located at www.natehendley.com)

Gangster Boss Profile: Dutch Schultz, Beer Baron and Numbers King

Dutch Schultz shot

By Nate Hendley

Dutch Schultz (real-name Arthur Flegenheimer) was a highly eccentric, highly successful Jewish-American gangster. He rose to prominence peddling awful bootleg beer during Prohibition in the 1920s. His product was lousy but his sales methods were persuasive (when faced with a stubborn speakeasy manager, Schultz had the man kidnapped, hung by his thumbs from a meat-hook and tortured).

If beer made Schultz rich and powerful, it was ‘numbers’ that pushed him into the criminal stratosphere. The numbers racket was simply an illegal lottery. People bet on a three-digit combination, from 000 to 999. The gangsters who ran the racket selected winning digits on the basis of objective statistics, such as sports scores. Anyone who had bet on the winning numbers received a small cash payment.

The numbers racket was hugely popular in New York City, particularly with African-Americans. It was cheap (most bets were for pennies), easy to play and offered a low-risk way to gamble.

In the early 1930s, the highly profitable Harlem numbers racket was controlled by African-American mobsters. Established Italian and Jewish gangs of the era turned their noses up at numbers, treating the racket with racist contempt.

Schultz had better business sense. Through intimidation and violence, he soon took control of the Harlem numbers scene. To the astonishment of his peers, Schultz was soon pulling down millions of dollars in profit on numbers.

Schultz was not popular with his fellow gangsters. He dressed like a slob (which offended more sartorial-minded mobsters) and wasn’t much of a team-player.

Despite this, Schultz maintained an incredible winning streak—for a while. He managed to beat two income tax raps, of the variety that had brought down mighty Al Capone in Chicago. His luck ran out, however, when Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey set his sights on the Dutchman (as he was called, colloquially).

Unnerved by Dewey’s aggressive investigation into his business affairs, Schultz announced that the Special Prosecutor had to be killed. This alarmed his gangster peers, who had no compunctions about murder but avoided killing cops, judges and prosecutors for fear of massive retaliation.

A “hit” was ordered on Schultz, to stop him from assassinating Dewey. On October 23, 1935, a pair of professional killers burst into a New Jersey restaurant where Schultz was meeting with some cronies. The killers shot each man in Schultz’s party, including the Dutchman. A photographer who arrived on the scene captured the classic picture shown above, of Schultz splayed over a table.

Schultz survived the shooting–for a time. He lingered in hospital in a high-fever delirium, babbling insanely.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York, available at Amazon.ca (for Canadians) Amazon.com (for Americans), Chapter’s and Barnes and Noble:

October 24, 1935 The Dutchman was dying. The bullet in his gut had caused massive internal injuries and sent his temperature soaring. Staring fixedly at the ceiling from his hospital bed, Arthur Flegenheimer – aka Dutch Schultz – cried and babbled. In his delirium, he began weaving a weird tapestry of unconnected phrases, names, and oaths. A police stenographer sat by the gangster’s side, taking down every word. The authorities hoped Schultz might reveal Mob secrets in his final monologue. But Dutch proved as elusive in his dying hours as he had been in life. “No, no. There are only 10 of us and there are 10 million fighting somewhere in front of you, so get your onions up and we will throw up the truce flag,” he raved. “Oh, please let me up. Please shift me. Police are here. Communistic … strike … baloney … honestly, this is a habit I get; sometimes I give it and sometimes I don’t. Oh, I am all in. That settles it. Are you sure? Please let me get in and eat. Let him harass himself to you and then bother you.” None of it made any sense to the police. They kept listening, however, as Schultz rambled on, his mind journeying back and forth over the course of his brief, but spectacular, criminal life.

Dutch Schultz new

(Nate Hendley is a crime writer based in Toronto, Ontario. You can find out more about his books and background at www.natehendley.com)

 

 

Why I Write About Crime

By Nate Hendley

Al Capone book

I always wanted to write a book. About ten years ago, I noticed a bulletin from the Professional Writers Association of Canada, a group I belong to. According to the bulletin, an Alberta-based publishing house called Altitude Publishing was looking to expand east. The company specialized in short, punchy Canadian non-fiction, primarily of a historical nature. Altitude was looking for Ontario stories and Ontario authors.

It so happened that a well-known Toronto bank robber named Edwin Alonzo Boyd had just died.

Boyd led a group of bank robbing bandits that the press dubbed “The Boyd Gang”. The Boyd Gang held up a number of banks in Toronto in the early 1950s. Toronto was a pretty boring place at the time, so the gang made for sensational headlines. It helped that Boyd had movie-star good looks and liked to leap flamboyantly on top of bank counters, gun in each hand.

I cobbled together a book query based on Boyd’s life and emailed it off to Altitude. They liked the query and asked me to write a chapter outline. This was done, and the next thing I knew I had a contract to write a book. The end-result was a title called Edwin Alonzo Boyd: The Life and Crimes of Canada’s Master Bank Robber.

I will always remember the wonderful day when a box arrived via courier containing advance copies of my book—proof positive that I was now a published author.

My Boyd book made decent sales and Altitude asked if I felt like writing another book. They sent me a long list of topics they were considering and wanted to see if any of them captured my interest. One of the topics was on the Black Donnellys—an ill-fated family of brawling Irish-Canadian farmers who lived near London, Ontario in the 19th Century. The Donnellys became the subject of my second book.

For those who don’t know, the Donnellys were involved in endless feuds with their neighbours. Barns were burned down, cattle murdered, people beaten. The neighbours eventually got fed up and formed a vigilante group. One cold evening in February, 1880, these vigilantes paid a visit to the Donnelly homestead. Bad things resulted, the details of which you will have to find out for yourself, perhaps by reading my book.

I became Altitude’s go-to guy for crime books. They kept asking me to do new crime titles and I kept obliging. Within a couple of years, I had biographies on Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz and Chicago crime czar Al Capone to my name.

Tragically, Altitude Publishing went out of business in 2007.

By that point, however, I had already moved on.

An American company named Greenwood that specialized in text books for high-schools and junior colleges, spotted my book on Schultz and got in touch. Greenwood asked if I would write a book about the murderous bandits, Bonnie and Clyde. This was done. Greenwood got swallowed up by another U.S. publisher called ABC-CLIO. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO has published three of my books: the aforementioned Bonnie and Clyde, and tomes on American Gangsters and the American Mafia.

I like writing about crime because it lends itself to colourful description and fast-paced writing. Crime, like sex, love and war, will never disappear so there’s always a fresh stock of stories to write about. True-crime is a wide reaching genre that allows writers to insert social or political commentary when appropriate. My book on Bonnie and Clyde for example, discusses the impact of the Great Depression on the United States and fast cars and machine guns on the criminal demimonde of the time.

I am currently working on a title about American scams, cons, frauds and hoaxes and keeping an eye out for stories of new crimes that might warrant a new book.

For more info on my books, please visit my website at www.natehendley.com.

Originally posted on:  http://rosemarymccracken.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/nate-hendley-on-true-crime/

Excerpt from Steven Truscott: Decades of Injustice

By Nate Hendley

My new book, Steven Truscott: Decades of Injustice, will be released this November.

Steven Truscott was an ordinary, 14 year-old boy living with his parents on a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) base near small-town Clinton, Ontario. When a classmate, Lynne Harper, was found dead and raped in June, 1959, Truscott (the last person seen with her) became the prime suspect. Virtually no physical evidence tied him to the crime, but police were convinced they had their man, or boy as the case was.

From the book:

“The policemen worked Truscott over in turns. One man would question the boy while the other left the room. Then the second man would come in and take over the interrogation. Police wanted Truscott to admit to raping and murdering Harper. The boy refused to oblige and stuck to his story about biking Harper to the highway. Throughout the ordeal, Truscott didn’t cry or break down, remaining true to his family’s stoic code.

After unsuccessfully attempting to get the boy to confess, Inspector Graham and Constable Trumbley drove Truscott back to the guardhouse at the RCAF base. It was around 9:30 pm at night.

In Clinton, Daniel and Doris Truscott were extremely worried. Steven hadn’t come home for dinner and now he was missing. Did the same killer who abducted and murdered Lynne Harper strike again?

Inspector Graham related what happened next in his official report: “We took Steven back to the guardhouse on the RCAF base and at 9:30, Sgt. (Charles) Anderson left the guardhouse to make arrangements for the boy’s father to come to the guardhouse.”

Truscott would later deny this was the case, and said his father had to find out on his own where his son was being held. Regardless, once Daniel Truscott got word his son was at the RCAF guardhouse, he raced to the scene.

When later questioned about the guardhouse faux pas, Inspector Graham stated, “About 9:40 pm, Warrant Officer Truscott met me in the passage way outside the office in which Steven was seated with Trumbley. The father asked me in a belligerent manner how and where Steve had been picked up.”

It’s unclear if Daniel Truscott was indeed in a fighting mood or just simply deeply concerned with what was happening to his son. He fruitlessly tried to get the police to release Steven. Warrant Officer Truscott wanted to take the tired boy home and let the police resume their interrogation in the morning. The police refused to consider this request.

Their interrogation of Truscott in the guardhouse resumed.

Legally, Daniel Truscott could have removed his son from the guardhouse at any time. His son still wasn’t under arrest which meant police couldn’t hold him against his will. Only no one explained this to either father or son.”

Steve Truscott: Decades of Injustice, is available at Amazon in paperback and on Kindle and at Chapters on Kobo.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)

Steven Truscott: Decades of Injustice

My book, Steven Truscott: Decades of Injustice, was released in fall, 2012.

Imagine being a 14 year-old boy who takes a classmate on a bike ride one spring evening. In the days to follow, the classmate is found dead and you stand accused of rape and murder. There’s no direct physical evidence tying you to the crime, but that doesn’t matter. In a lightning fast trial you are convicted and sentenced to death. As far as the press and public are concerned, you are guilty and deserve to die. Such was the fate of Steven Truscott, living with his family on an army base in small-town Ontario in 1959. Read the shocking true story of a terrible case of injustice and the decades long fight to clear Truscott’s name.

Steve Truscott: Decades of Injustice, is available at Amazon in paperback and on Kindle and at Chapters on Kobo.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)

Karla

By Nate Hendley

The most despised woman in Canada has been found.

“Tanned, slimmer but still wary of strangers, Karla Homolka now has three children and lives in Guadeloupe under the name Leanne Bordelais, says a new book by journalist Paula Todd, who met the notorious former convict at her new home.”

“The book is the first confirmation of previous, sketchier news reports that Ms. Homolka married her lawyer’s brother, gave birth and moved to the French Caribbean island to escape public scrutiny,” reads an article in the June 21, 2012 Globe and Mail.

Homolka is the former wife of Paul Bernardo, convicted Canadian rapist, torturer and killer. While living in St. Catharines, Ontario in the early 1990s, the two of them drugged, assaulted and killed three teenage girls—including Karla’s own sister, Tammy. This on top of a string of rapes Bernardo committed in the Toronto area back in the late 1980s.

When the pair were caught, Homolka claimed she was a battered spouse. Her husband, she said, forced her into depravity. Homolka cut a deal, testified against her husband (who received a life sentence) and served but a few years in jail. Videotape evidence that later came to light revealed Homolka was actually an equal partner in Bernardo’s murderous sexual mayhem. Homolka even provided the anaesthetic drugs (from a veterinary clinic she worked at) that Bernardo used to dope up her younger sister in preparation for a videotaped assault and rape. Tammy died in the process and Homolka assisted with the cover-up.

Homolka was released from prison in 2005 and headed to Quebec, in the hope that the francophone community wouldn’t know who she was. Needless to say, this plan failed miserably. People hated her where ever she went. Homolka tacitly acknowledged the public’s loathing of her by leaving the country.

And now, she’s been found, living a quiet life in the Caribbean, with three young kids.

The Globe article doesn’t offer many details about the new man in her life, Thierry Bordelais, but he’s evidently a forgiving sort. The type of man willing to create three lives with a woman best known for helping her first husband end three.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)

Edwin Boyd Hits the Big Screen

By Nate Hendley

Dashing criminal Edwin Alonzo Boyd, who headed up the bank-robbing Boyd Gang in Toronto in the early 1950s, was the subject of my first book.

The same man is now the subject of a great Canadian flick soon to enter wide release called Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster.  The film features handsome Scott Speedman (he of Felicity and Underworld fame) as the titular character.

Good-looking Boyd (who closely resembled matinee idol Errol Flynn) was a flamboyant character who enjoyed jumping on bank counters, guns in hand, announcing a hold-up was in progress. Given that Toronto was an uptight backwater at the time, the Boyd Gang made for sensational headlines. The fact the gang twice broke out of the notorious Don Jail also added to their allure.

Boyd earned a reputation as a “gentleman bandit” who never harmed anyone during his robberies. The same can’t be said for two members of his crew, Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson, who were hanged for gunning down Toronto police detective Eddie Tong.

Interestingly enough, Boyd himself was the son of a Toronto policeman and worked at several legitimate jobs, including bus driver, before turning into a gangster. He also served in the army in World War Two.

Boyd spent part of the 1950s and 60s in prison then was released. He lived in anonymity in British Columbia, dying peacefully at age 88 in 2002.

Around the time Boyd expired, CBC-TV aired a documentary about his life. Said doc strongly suggested that gentlemanly Boyd actually committed a couple murders for which he was never caught or convicted.

Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster doesn’t touch on such controversies, but it is a terrific movie. I saw last year where it played at the Toronto Film Festival before a packed house. While not a big-budget production, the film does accurately capture Boyd’s strange charisma and short existence as Canada’s number one criminal.

To watch a trailer for Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster on Youtube, click here: http://tinyurl.com/75rlap7

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)

Bonnie and Clyde: On the Cutting Edge of Crime

(Excerpt from Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography by Nate Hendley)

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were cutting-edge criminals operating in a rural environment that had barely advanced from the 19th Century. Few American farms had electricity in the early 1930s and horses were still used to transport people and crops. Telephones weren’t common in country residences. Police departments in rural and small-town communities were understaffed and under-funded, if not downright incompetent.  Archaic laws made it difficult for police officers to chase criminals across state or county lines. Local cops couldn’t rely on a powerful federal presence to help them out either. As late as 1933, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation weren’t allowed to carry guns or make arrests.

Bonnie and Clyde thrived in this milieu. Using fast Ford V-8s, they could zip from community to community and make speedy getaways. Clyde’s preference for Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs), which could spit out 20 bullets in under three seconds, meant that the Barrow gang was usually better-equipped then most small-town police departments.

The presence of Bonnie added a curious, contemporary twist to the Barrow gang’s exploits.

Unlike Clyde, Bonnie was not a young offender who fell into crime almost as a habit. By all accounts, she was an intelligent, high-spirited girl brought up by a normal, loving family. Bonnie always remained close to her family, risking arrest or capture to visit her kin. All sources agree that Bonnie was deeply in love with Clyde. It’s unclear how smitten Clyde was in return.

If Bonnie was loving and loyal to Clyde, the exact nature of her role in the Barrow gang is open to dispute. Some movies and books have portrayed Bonnie as the real boss of the Barrow crew, ordering around a meek and mild Clyde. As intriguing as they are, such depictions aren’t accurate. Captured members of the Barrow gang always insisted that Clyde led and Bonnie followed. Clyde Barrow was the undisputed leader of the gang that bore his name.

Some of Bonnie’s criminal cohorts say she never even fired a gun, much less killed anyone. Other witnesses depict her as a gun-loving shrew, who laughed as she killed two badly wounded motorcycle policemen lying helplessly by a Texas highway.

The extent of Bonnie’s private relationship with Clyde has also been grounds for much speculation. It’s not even clear if they were lovers, as well as partners in crime. Some historical accounts offer lurid portraits of a nymphomaniac Bonnie, seducing the male members of the Barrow gang when Clyde couldn’t please her. Other accounts depict Clyde as gay or impotent—more interested in guns than sex.

Regardless of her private relations with Clyde, it was clear that Bonnie was no ordinary moll. While she deferred to Clyde’s leadership, she wasn’t submissive or subservient. Unlike Blanche, the wife of Clyde’s older brother, Buck, Bonnie wasn’t prone to hysterics. She didn’t lose her cool, even when caught in a police ambush. She was willing to risk death and jail to stay with Clyde. She was always by his side, even during shootouts.

It was this “stand-by-your-man” quality that separated Bonnie from other female felons of the Depression.

“Most so-called ‘gun molls’ were never more than mistresses or wives, and rarely took part in the action,” notes crime writer and historian Rick Mattix.

Without Bonnie, Clyde would have been regarded as a two-bit cop-killer with a grudge against society.

Bonnie was arguably the smartest member of the Barrow gang. She certainly was the most artistically inclined. Two poems she wrote helped cement Bonnie and Clyde’s legend. These works make good use of rhyming verse and criminal lingo to glorify the Barrow crew. One poem, entitled, “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde”, became widely published following the death of its subjects.

“The Story of Bonnie Clyde” rather falsely glorifies its subjects, portraying them as poor, put-upon folks striking back against oppressive police. Clyde comes across as downright noble in this work, an admirable person not a low-life criminal. No matter. Bonnie’s verses firmly became entrenched in the popular consciousness, even if they were nothing more than fantasy.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)

Meth on Stage

(Excerpt from the book, Crystal Death by Nate Hendley)

“Meth” was the name of a combined play and interactive event put on by Headlines Theatre, an edgy but professional company based in Vancouver, BC.

“The company’s work has always been issue-based,” explains artistic and managing director David Diamond, over the phone.

Diamond helped found the group back in 1981. Previous works put on by Headlines include plays on racism, violence, homelessness, safe sex, affordable housing, Palestine and Israel, poverty, etc.

“We got a call from the Sto:Lo nation here in Fraser Valley … they wanted to know if we would come and talk about a project,” recalls Diamond, citing the genesis of the “Meth”.

On January 6, 2006, staff from Headlines met with the Sto:Lo First Nations band in Chilliwack, BC. One of the elders praised Headlines for a 1992 performance called “Out of the Silence” that explored the previously taboo topic of family violence in Indian communities.

“She said, ‘We were wondering if you could do something like ‘The Silence’ on methamphetamine—because it’s killing our communities’,” recalls Diamond.

A decision was made and Headlines Theatre committed itself to putting on a production about methamphetamine addiction. Staff set about fundraising (while Headlines gets some cash from the Canada Council and other government bodies, they also rely on donations and sponsorships to cover the cost of productions. “Meth” was initially budgeted at about $150 – 180,000), casting and generating ideas.

The word went out that Headlines was interested in contacting former meth users or friends and family of users.

“We were looking for people who had issues with meth, either ex-addicts—they couldn’t be current addicts—or people who had loved ones who had been addicted,” explains Diamond.

Headlines received applications for 59 people with some association with meth. This was whittled down to a core group of 21. Out of this smaller group, Diamond selected six actors to perform in the play. The cast consisted of native and non-natives alike, most of whom were not professional thespians. Three of the actors were former meth addicts while the other three had meth-addicted family members.

A workshop was held, with actors, contributors and Headlines staff to determine the play’s content.  The idea was to depict the lives of methamphetamine users in a brutally honest fashion. Through intense discussion and improvisation the structure, dialogue and plot of the play was worked out. Among other things, the play would depict the violent, sordid existence of meth addicts inside a “crank house”.

“Meth” debuted November 30, 2006 in Vancouver and proved an instant hit. Headlines Theatre took to the road, performing the play in over two-dozen BC communities. This was no small feat: “we travelled with a 15-passenger van and five-ton truck,” says Diamond.

The sets and lighting were handled by professionals and everyone involved in the production was paid union wages—“it’s not a little skit,” notes Diamond, about the show.

While professionally presented, the performance was anything but traditional. A typical performance consisted of the play itself—which lasted about 25 minutes—followed by what Diamond refers to as “an event”. The actors returned to the stage to start the play all over again, this time with audience participation. Audience members could yell “Stop!” and take to the stage themselves, to interact with the performers or add their own insights about methamphetamine addiction. Diamond’s role was to play “The Joker”—a facilitator who introduced the play, encouraged audience participation and put forward questions to provoke discussion.

This highly interactive theatrical experience hit a nerve and was well-received, with over 5,600 people taking in the show at 28 BC performances. An anonymous donation of around $170,000 from a foundation allowed Headlines to host a western Canada tour in 2008. The play underwent a name-change, to “Shattering” but otherwise was still focused on meth in specific and addiction in general.

“I don’t think this play could have been written by a writer or performed by actors that didn’t have lived experiences [with meth],” states Diamond.

He makes it clear, however, that this was a theatrical, not a therapeutic, forum. Performing the play was hard work—“it’s not therapy for them,” says Diamond, about the actors involved.

“We weren’t touring to save anyone’s life—how presumptuous of us to do that … we were touring to stimulate and be part of as deep a conversation about addiction as possible in every community we were in, period,” he continues.

The play “managed to be very authentic. It had a profound effect on people all over western Canada. It was a really successful piece … audience members, regardless of where they were coming from, could sit there and recognize themselves and how they fit into the addiction puzzle in their own communities,” Diamond adds.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)

Tough on Crime, Low on Smarts?

By Nate Hendley

Canada’s majority Conservative government is set to pass Bill C-10, the controversial Safe Streets and Communities Act.

Said act introduces mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of crimes, including small-time drug trafficking and child exploitation.

The Act was introduced despite declining crime rates. When asked about this discrepancy, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he wasn’t interested in statistics.

Nor are the Tories interested in listening to concerns from Canadian pundits and American criminologists who warn that the U.S. experience with tough mandatory minimums has been a disaster.

With C-10 set to become law, perhaps within days, it’s worth looking back on what the Canadian Bar Association had to say about the Act.

Here’s a CBA press release from last fall:

November 17, 2011

10 Reasons to Oppose Bill C-10

Bill C-10 is titled the Safe Streets and Communities Act — an ironic name, considering that Canada already has some of the safest streets and communities in the world and a declining crime rate. This bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs, but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse. It could eventually create the very problems it’s supposed to solve.

Bill C-10 will require new prisons; mandate incarceration for minor, non-violent offences; justify poor treatment of inmates and make their reintegration into society more difficult. Texas and California, among other jurisdictions, have already started down this road before changing course, realizing it cost too much and made their justice system worse. Canada is poised to repeat their mistake.

The Canadian Bar Association, representing over 37,000 lawyers across the country, has identified 10 reasons why the passage of Bill C-10 will be a mistake and a setback for Canada.

1. Ignoring reality. Decades of research and experience have shown what actually reduces crime: (a) addressing child poverty, (b) providing services for the mentally ill and those afflicted with FASD, (c) diverting young offenders from the adult justice system, and (d) rehabilitating prisoners, and helping them to reintegrate into society. Bill C-10 ignores these proven facts.

2. Rush job. Instead of receiving a thorough review, Bill C-10 is being rushed through Parliament purely to meet the “100-day passage” promise from the last election. Expert witnesses attempting to comment on over 150 pages of legislation in committee hearings are cut off mid-sentence after just five minutes.

3. Spin triumphs over substance. The federal government has chosen to take a “marketing” approach to Bill C-10, rather than explaining the facts to Canadians. This campaign misrepresents the bill’s actual content and ensures that its public support is based heavily on inaccuracies.

4. No proper inspection. Contrary to government claims, some parts of Bill C-10 have received no previous study by Parliamentary committee. Other sections have been studied before and were changed — but, in Bill C-10, they’re back in their original form.

5. Wasted youth. More young Canadians will spend months in custodial centres before trial, thanks to Bill C-10. Experience has shown that at-risk youth learn or reinforce criminal behaviour in custodial centres; only when diverted to community options are they more likely to be reformed.

6. Punishments eclipse the crime. The slogan for one proposal was Ending House Arrest for Serious and Violent Criminals Act, but Bill C-10 will actually also eliminate conditional sentences for minor and property offenders and instead send those people to jail. Is roughly $100,000 per year to incarcerate someone unnecessarily a good use of taxpayers’ money?

7. Training predators. Bill C-10 would force judges to incarcerate people whose offences and circumstances clearly do not warrant time in custody. Prison officials will have more latitude to disregard prisoners’ human rights, bypassing the least restrictive means to discipline and control inmates. Almost every inmate will re-enter society someday. Do we want them to come out as neighbours, or as predators hardened by their prison experience?

8. Justice system overload. Longer and harsher sentences will increase the strains on a justice system already at the breaking point. Courts and Crown prosecutors’ offices are overwhelmed as is, legal aid plans are at the breaking point, and police forces don’t have the resources to do their jobs properly. Bill C-10 addresses none of these problems and will make them much worse.

9. Victimizing the most vulnerable. With mandatory minimums replacing conditional sentences, people in remote, rural and northern communities will be shipped far from their families to serve time. Canada’s Aboriginal people already represent up to 80% of inmates in institutions in the prairies, a national embarrassment that Bill C-10 will make worse.

10. How much money? With no reliable price tag for its recommendations, there is no way to responsibly decide the bill’s financial implications. What will Canadians sacrifice to pay for these initiatives? Will they be worth the cost?

Canadians deserve accurate information about Bill C-10, its costs and its effects. This bill will change our country’s entire approach to crime at every stage of the justice system. It represents a huge step backwards; rather than prioritizing public safety, it emphasizes retribution above all else. It’s an approach that will make us less safe, less secure, and ultimately, less Canadian.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author and writer. Click on this link for information on his books)