Law Times: Do harms of criminalization outweigh the benefits?

Aug 18, 2014
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An excellent piece at Law Times by Matthew Gourlay asks “Is criminal law the best response to prostitution?” –– 

Law Times: Do harms of criminalization outweigh the benefits?

“Incredibly, Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced the law’s objective is to eliminate prostitution in Canada. If a single criminal law has ever eliminated a particular activity, I’m unaware of it.”


In my experience, criminal lawyers tend to have an ambivalent attitude to the criminal law. This probably distinguishes us from how architects feel about architecture and how dentists feel about teeth. We find the legal doctrine intellectually engaging, the human drama compelling, and the rights of the accused worth protecting. 

But most of us still think that, as a society, we should have less of it with fewer crimes, charges, arrests, people populating our jails, and prisons.

Why is that? Simply put, people involved in the system tend to recognize that criminal law isn’t very good at many of the things society calls on it to do. Sure, it’s passably good at its core mission: marking off the very worst behaviour, deterring people from committing those acts, stigmatizing those who do so anyway, and locking up the relatively few criminals society really needs protection from.

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Law Times: Do harms of criminalization outweigh the benefits? | Adult WIkiMedia
7 years ago

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