Mandatory minimums…

May 8, 2017

National Newswatch – Joanna Smith, Canadian Press
Mandatory minimum changes one part of planned overhaul of justice system

Critics have been wondering about the delays involved in setting aside the mandatory minimum sentences held accountable for so much of the over-crowding problems in the prisons and the clogging in the courts.  But the Liberal government seems prone to picking and choosing among the crimes and criminals rather than reversal of the policy.  The Supreme Court has already struck down some of these provisions.  In any event, whatever is going to happen will likely happen this spring.

Globe and Mail – Ericka Dyck
We can improve mental-health care by fighting poverty

The piece marks the beginning of a promised five article series on what needs to happen to modernize medicare in mental health.  This first article draws attention to the failure of the medical model to consider the impact of poverty and to treat mental health from the hospital or the emergency room which mostly constitute the choices confronting someone in crisis.   Related article: Vancouver Sun – Amy Lubik   Poverty plan a prescription for tackling mental illness

Criminological Highlights – Anthony Doob and Rosemary Gartner

From the U of Toronto, April 2017 Edition looks at the following:

Why are girls in bail court perceived to be more likely to be in need of ‘treatment’ than boys? 2. Does wearing a hijab or niqab make it more difficult to tell whether a woman is telling the truth? 3. Can Australia reduce its imprisonment rate? 4. How are the use of foster care for children and imprisonment for adults linked? 5. How does an arrest during high school affect a youth’s educational prospects? 6. Does employment reduce offending for ‘high risk’ youths? 7. Is the disruptive impact of imprisonment on employment related to time spent in prison? 8. Does the imprisonment of a child’s father have an impact on the likelihood that the child will commit an offence?  (You can get your own direct subscription if you e-mail either editor: or ) Recently we did another collection of ‘highlights’ summaries (with a summary of the findings) for the Toronto Police Services Board with the title “Understanding the Impact of Police Stops.”  It is available on the ‘Highlights’ website (bottom right):

Globe and Mail – Tavia Grant
Canadians still pro-immigration, but souring on United States: survey   

In the light of all the nationalism sentiment in the air these days it is comforting to know that we Canadians are still a welcoming people.  The latest survey from Environics says that 8 of 10 Canadians think immigrants benefit the economy.  “Public opinion about immigration among Canadians generally has either remained stable or become even more positive” in the past half year, said Keith Neuman, executive director of the Environics.   Attitudes towards the US immigration policies and crossing the border seem to have significantly changed with one in five changing plans.

Ottawa Citizen – Justin Piché
The new Ottawa jail will just become another hellhole – don’t build it

Piché has good credentials for this opinion; he is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, is a member of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project and the No On Prison Expansion / #NOPE Initiative.  He includes in his rationale both the cost of the construction and the operational costs per year and argues that the money is better spent on alternatives to warehouse prisons. “There’s a massive body of criminological research and front-line experience that shows it isn’t just old jails that aren’t up to the task – it’s imprisonment itself.”

 Smart Justice salutes Rev. Jamie Scott

Rev. Jamie Scott, a founder and supporter of Smart Justice Canada, has been awarded a doctorate of divinity (honoris causa) by the United Theological College.  “The College recognizes in particular Rev. Scott’s profound commitment to indigenous concerns and his work with the Church in preparation for, and response to, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”  Jamie is also known for both his work on staff of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections as well as pioneering work on the application of restorative justice in alternate response to crime.  Smart Justice offers him our love and grateful appreciation for who he is!

Toronto Star – Jackie Hong
Ottawa gives $7.48M for sex offender reintegration program

Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA), largely defunded by the Conservative Government, has received a five year grant from the Liberals to re-institute a highly successful and mostly volunteer program for reducing recidivism among sex offenders by 75%.  In spite of the evidence of effectiveness, the 17 CoSA centres across Canada were sent scrambling for funding when the approximately $800,000 per year was denied.  “CoSA’s model is based on having two “circles” of support in place for newly-released — and often repeat — offenders who often find themselves ostracized due to the nature of their crimes. In the “inner circle,” several volunteers work with the person to address practical needs — housing and employment, for example — while also serving as an emotional support network that celebrates successes but also challenges problematic behaviours. The “outer circle” is made of professionals who can offer training and advice to volunteers as needed.”  Retired prison chaplain and Mennonite Minister Harry Nigh is credited with offering the vision and initial founding of CoSA.