Mar 14, 2013 / 3:58 pm
Alberta's justice minister is demanding an apology from the Opposition Wildrose for distributing tongue-in-cheek coupons informing wannabe scofflaws that their first crime is on the house.
"It's childish and I think that whoever did them needs to apologize," Jonathan Denis said Thursday. "It's a patent abuse of taxpayer dollars."
The full-colour coupons feature a faux bar code beside pictures of a dour-faced Premier Alison Redford and a smiling Denis.
"Enjoy One Free Crime!" shouts the headline. "Vandalize! Shoplift! This one's on us!
"The holder of this coupon is entitled to one free minor crime without prosecution!"
The cheekiness continues in the fine print at the bottom. Coupon holders are told they must present the paper when they are arrested to be valid. And it expires if Redford's government falls.
Wildrose critic Shayne Saskiw said the coupons are a light-hearted attempt to draw attention to a serious policy change in the Justice Department that was announced in last week's budget.
First-time petty crime offenders, such as vandals and shoplifters, are to be redirected to alternative measures programs as a way to rehabilitate them and free up court resources to pursue more serious offenders.
Saskiw has labelled it the Tory "hug-a-thug" program.
He said petty crime never feels petty to the person victimized. He said shop-owners and business people will pay the price if would-be thieves and vandals know there are no consequences for a first or second crime.
"Those people have to see some consequences. There has to be deterrence and that means punishment," said Saskiw.
"And with the justice minister sending the message that first- and second-time offenders get off scot-free, we don't think that's the right message to send."
The policy change is one of many in the justice system stemming from the budget.
Denis also announced that the government plans to save $1 million a year by ending electronic monitoring for anyone under house arrest. Offenders used to wear electronic ankle bracelets allowing justice workers to monitor their whereabouts and ensure they didn't wander away. The cost was $20,000 a year per offender.
The government is saving another $1 million by ending a program that allowed some offenders to serve their time on weekends so they could keep their week-day jobs. That program cost taxpayers extra dollars in staffing and logistics because weekend offenders had to be kept separate from the general prison population.
Denis also said that while the government wants to see more first-time vandals and shoplifters directed to alternative measures, prosecutors can still charge them and pursue a court case if they feel it's merited.
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