Vengeance and the law

    Jan 27, 2015

 Globe and Mail – Sean Fine
Tories to table life in prison without parole, shifting legal landscape

The federal conservatives are planning a bill which would eliminate parole at all for certain circumstances involving first degree murder:  murder of police or prison guards, killing following sexual assault, killing for terrorist purposes.  The proposal does not yet have cabinet approval and may be a trial balloon.  “It is so patently a sentence that reeks of vengeance that it’s hard to have a sensible political debate,” Archie Kaiser, a specialist in criminal law at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law in Halifax, said of life without parole. Vengeance is “really something we have cast aside in Canada, at least since we removed the death penalty.”

CBC News – Kady O’Malley
Human rights commission lawyer Philippe Dufresne to serve as House law clerk 

Dufresne comes from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where he has worked since 2000 — most recently as senior counsel and director general at the Protection Branch.  The position, law clerk for the house, makes Dufresne legal counsel to the House of Commons charged with safeguarding parliamentary privilege.  His predecessor, Richard Fujarczuk, stepped down after nine months on the job.

Toronto Star – Vincent Donovan
Revised policy will determine where transgender inmates housed in Ontario 

The new policy says that transgendered inmates will be housed according to how they self-identify rather than on the basis of physical sexual characteristics.  The new policy comes after a number of complains to human rights and will also apply to frisk and body searches, and the policy requires preferred names and gender preferences in both speech and documents.  Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall says that transgendered inmates face greater harassment and violence.

 Toronto Star – Andy Blatchford, Canadian Press
Ottawa’s family benefits raises the question – what is ‘middle-class’ in Canada?

Joe Oliver, Canada’s Finance Minister, seems bent on redefining the middle class in Canada,  Fully 2/3 of the benefits from the government’s contentious multibillion-dollar tableau of family-friendly measures will go to people with incomes as high as $120,000 in 2015.  Oliver says the benefits will go to middle and low income but critics, including the Canadian Press, who obtained the numbers from a freedom of information access used the department’s own number to suggest another perk for wealthier Canadians.   Related article:  Toronto Star – Carol Goar    Tax system needs a good cleanup

 Globe and Mail – Canadian Press
Ottawa faces new challenge on solitary confinement 

Last week, the BC Civil Liberties and John Howard began a lawsuit to limit the use of solitary confinement.  This week, a second lawsuit has raised its head, this one from the Canadian Civil Liberties Society and the Elizabeth Fry Societies.  “The petition seeks to challenge the constitutionality of isolation, which the groups call cruel and inhumane.  They say the practice is “fatally flawed.””

 Prison Reform International (PRI) (UK)
Chris Grayling’s speech on Conservative justice policy 

PRI works with all three political parties in a focused effort to reform the prison system.  With links to the other two, this report from Justice Minister Greyling presents the ruling Conservative government’s approach and how it sees the reform continuing.  Greyling favours “secure colleges” for young offenders, longer sentences not shorter, reshaping the system to create opportunities within prisons.,34VQL,6JSCMH,B8JC0,1

 Huffington Post (US) – Steve Zeidmanpolicing
A Response to Bratton and Kelling 

Zeidman examines the broken window theory of policing embraced by NY Police Commissioner Bratton.  The theory says that if police ignore minor crime then they give license of more serious crime and ultimately lawlessness.  So the solution is to prosecute every crime.  Zeidman says that the theory ignores cost, both financial costs and the cost of ruptured community relations as seen in the response to the police killings of Brown and Garner.  A major financial cost is the administrative cost of processing so many minor events, mostly involving people of colour, through an expensive legal system.