Photos by Jhayne
The sentencing of the infamous Stanley Cup rioters has started, and trials have already taken place with varying results. Earlier this year, a young man found guilty of participating in the riots was given jail time, while another who was sentenced last week was given a fine, community service, house arrest, and was forced to write an apology letter to the city.
Both sentences have already taken much criticism. The initial jail sentence that was given out earlier this year was praised for sending a message to would-be rioters in the future: that they would be found and justly punished if they were to attempt anything disorderly. However, many argued that given the number of those who will be tried, giving all found guilty jail time would be not only incredibly costly to the government, but would also put a strain on the prison system. Predictably, the response towards the more recent punishment has been nearly the opposite, with many criticizing it for not sending a strong enough message to would-be rioters, while others praise it for providing a more productive punishment that puts less strain on the system.
The more recent sentence is more beneficial to the city. The fines from those found guilty would help pay for some of the damages done during the riot. If you want to make the punishments more severe, increase the fines. Furthermore, the community service helps the community, and ultimately helps the rioter’s rehabilitation, giving them a better sense of who their actions impact.
The claims that the most recent sentence is too light are simply irrelevant, and in no way true. This sentence is designed for exactly who received it, some middle-class twenty-something who just joined into the mob mentality. If we were actually dealing with a ringleader, or an instigator, that would be a different case. If you could prove that someone was out with those intentions, then by all means, throw the book at them. But the best way to discourage kids who thought they’d get away with it from reoffending is to send a message by finding the participants and putting them to trial. Jail time is unnecessary, especially when they’d turned themselves in. The other punishments provide more than enough deterrence.
The trials of the Vancouver rioters are important, but we must remember that we’re not dealing with any criminal masterminds here. These aren’t the people who came out looking to start a riot and give our city a bad name; these are just the fools who didn’t think for the two seconds it would have taken to realize what they were doing. Prison isn’t the only thing that can get them to think twice next time. So long as there are cheaper, more efficient ways, we must look to those before we act. If they reoffend, feel free to throw the book at them. But with the more recent punishments, and the Canucks’ recent playoff performance, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to deal with that for some time.