Criminalizing mental illness…

May 1, 2017

Toronto Star – Michael Bryant and Graham Brown
Judge exposes how we criminalize mental illness

The authors, Bryant, a former Ontario Attorney General, and Brown a policy analyst from John Howard, are insistent that the justice system itself criminalizes the mentally ill and they join with Justice David Paciocco of the Ontario Court of Justice to illustrate the development of the current frequency of confrontation between police and the mentally ill.  They also suggest a prescription for better resolve of the current impasse.

Toronto Star – Betsy Powell
City council wants province to let them ban TCH tenants evicted for committing crimes

Toronto City Council wants the province to allow the city to ban individuals from city housing if they engage in criminal activity and not to be able to re-apply.  The request both flies in the face of a commitment to resolve homelessness by 2025 and ignores the question of what happens to those evicted and denied re-entry, about 260 cases since 2015.

 Toronto Star – Sandro Contenta
He saved 17 people who OD’d — but police want to jail him

Here’s an article that draws out both the struggle with a cure for opioid overdoes and the conflict between the crisis and the criminal justice system.  The latest numbers, for 2015, say that 714 people died from opioid overdoses but those in the front lines say that the crisis is actually far more severe because of people like Mark Baratta, a user but one responsible for saving a considerable number of other users.  The tensions with the police seem somewhat contrived.     Related article: Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis    Professional body could be key to modernizing police   Related article: Toronto Star – Editorial (April 24, 2017)  If Peel police can’t clean up their own mess, province should  

Toronto Star – Brendan Kennedy
Jailed seven years by Canada, Kashif Ali now walks free

Ali, now free, was jailed in a maximum security prison for seven years because Canada was unable to deport him.   Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer finally called the determination a violation of charter human rights.  In what amounted to a major victory for human rights advocates, Nordheimer said:   “One thing is clear, and that is that Canada cannot purport to hold someone in detention forever.”   Ali was the longest serving detainee still jailed.

Prince Albert Daily Herald (BC) – Arthur White Crummey
Justice on the stage

Want to educate people around the justice system?  Take it to the stage!  As did this Vancouver based theatre group called, aptly, the Justice Group who are in Prince Albert and focused on restorative justice.  Act I is a typical court scene played out over a cybercrime incident and Act II is the same scene played out according to RJ principles.

Cancrime via National Justice Network
The Mother and the Murderer: Woman confronts son’s killer in prison

The average person will likely wonder what prompted Carolyn Solomon, mother of murdered 29 year old son, Kevin, to go all the way from Thunder Bay to a Nova Scotia prison to confront the triple murderer Michael Hector.  She says it was to assure herself firsthand that a career criminal was safely locked behind bars.  Hector was on parole at the time of the murders.  In fact, Hector had been paroled twice.  The mother, Carolyn, sued Corrections Canada and the John Howard Society, and after what she describes as a paltry settlement, she became an advocate for other victims.

Ottawa Citizen – Andrew Seymour
Weekend, segregation inmates get mattresses on floor in Ottawa jail

Going to jail on the week-ends has been one of the ways to cope with overcrowded jails but again the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre is proving that nothing works as those checking in are given mattresses and assigned to floor spots in the common areas of the jail, some to areas for those with mental illness.  Even though the most recent budget has given money for renovation of the jail, we may be better off trying to understand why these circumstances persist for so long.