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Dangerous Offender Provisions: Are They Targeting the Right Offenders?

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology Volume: 40 Issue: 4 Dated: October 1998 Pages: 377-400
J Bonta; I Zinger; A Harris; D Carriere
Date Published
24 pages
Sixty-four offenders in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada, who were designated dangerous offenders (DO) under the country's Criminal Code, were compared to a group of violent offenders from Ontario on a range of variables.
The study was prompted by awareness that the courts have declared only 204 offenders as DOs since the dangerous offender provisions of Canada's Criminal Code took effect in 1977 to provide for the indeterminate incapacitation of very- high-risk violent offenders. The DO legislation targets offenders who have committed a serious personal injury offense other than murder and treason, which already require life imprisonment, and who meet at least one of four other criteria. The DO legislation aims to target non-sex offenders as well as sex offenders and thus to overcome a criticism of the earlier legislation on dangerous sex offenders. Another criticism has been that the DO legislation may not target the truly dangerous offender. The DO offenders in this study were selected consecutively going backward in time from the cases for 1995; the comparison group was randomly drawn from an earlier study on detention and release. Results revealed that the DOs had many similarities to the comparison group of violent offenders; this finding suggested that the DOs represent a potentially violent group. However, the majority of DOs are sex offenders. Findings also indicated that objective risk scales may have limited use with the current DO population, because the scales were not developed with sex offenders in mind. Tables, notes, and 31 references (Author abstract modified)