New solitary rules…

May 24, 2017

Globe and Mail – Patrick White
Canada’s prison agency closes in on new solitary confinement rules

After repeated studies and recommendations, Corrections Canada appears ready to make some significant changes to the way solitary is practiced in prisons. The changes are not yet completely in the public eye but a lot appear responsive to what the international community calls the Mandela Rules, a set of standards used internationally and monitored by the United Nations.  The proposed document calls for the UN definition of solitary and at least 2 hours a day out one’s cell.  Critics privy to the changes say that the changes still leave a lot to be desired.  Says Jennifer Metcalfe, a lawyer and executive director of Vancouver-based Prisoners’ Legal Services:  “Rules protecting fundamental human rights should be set by Parliament, rather than delegated to the prison service.”  (Cf PRI Report below as well)

Penal Reform International
Global Prison Trends 2017

Called its flagship publication, Penal Reform International is offering its third report on the global state of affairs around prisons and the use of imprisonment.  The report addresses most contemporary issues and offers a series of recommendations for states and a special focus section on the impact of the UN sustainable development goals (SDG) on criminal justice and prisons.    Full report:  (A 64 page downloadable pdf; pages 1-38 the report itself and the rest of the 64 pages on SDG)  (Recs found on page 53; includes a section on solitary, p. 39;)    Related link: UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice   (A wealth of documents for the annual conference currently happening in Vienna – May 23-26, 2017)

University of Chicago Magazine – Asher Klein
The prison reformer’s dilemma

Klein is writing about a recent book by John F. Pfaff of Fordham entitled: Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform.  Pfaff insists that the focus on drugs has allowed us to ignore the crimes of violence and offers three reasons for the mass incarceration: first, harsher sentences, second, prosecutors’ power, and third, vested interest of guards and politicians.  Pfaff advocates prevention.

MSNBC (US) – Mary Emily O’Hara
For LGBT prisoners, unique problems demand new solutions

Following the release of Chelsea Manning, and her re-activation in the military, O’Hara discusses in a 2 min plus video the treatment of the LGBTQ prison population with stats on specific LGBTQ convictions rates in the US and a projection of her future.

Denver Post (US) – Kevin Simpson
Gov. John Hickenlooper pardons Rene Lima-Marin in hopes of avoiding deportation to Cuba – Though released from Colorado sentence, his future has remained uncertain

Here’s a twist on the issue of sanctuary cities and churches.  The Colorado governor has pardon a man who exited prison in 2008 by mistake and then reformed himself and had a family.  When the error was discovered six years later he was jailed again to complete the 98 year sentence for armed robbery.  He still has a deportation order against him and he is now in the custody of the ICE agents while family and supporters, including the governor and the judge, want him released.

Globe and Mail – Rosalie Abella
Never forget the lessons of Europe’s concentration camps

From Canada’s Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella, an internationally respect jurist. “My life started in a country where there had been no democracy, no rights, no justice and all because we were Jewish. No one with this history does not feel lucky to be alive and free. No one with this history takes anything for granted, and no one with this history does not feel that we have a particular duty to wear our identities with pride and to promise our children that we will do everything humanly possible to keep the world safer for them than it was for their grandparents, a world where all children – regardless of race, colour, religion, or gender – can wear their identities with dignity, with pride and in peace.”

Globe and Mail – Gloria Galloway
 First Nations leaders question safety of youth in Thunder Bay

There have been seven deaths of Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay, the latest two – drownings – coming his month and causing Indigenous leaders to question if the youth are safe on the streets.  First Nations of skeptical of the Thunder Bay police who say there is no indication of any foul play in the two latest deaths.  Some think that when the victim is Indigenous, the police response is “less than adequate.”