Childhood trauma and prison…

Oct 18, 2017

PBS / N.Y. Times (US) – Audra D.S. Burch
A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult.

Increasingly researchers are insisting that childhood trauma is not only concomitant with adult imprisonment but is more pointedly the cause of adult imprisonment.  The link tells one such story – Rob Sullivan who experienced a gun at his head as a six year old child and later scored a 9 on a childhood trauma scale with 10 as maximum.  “Childhood trauma is a huge factor within the criminal justice system,” said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at Cornell University and co-director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. “It is among the most important things that shapes addictive and criminal behavior in adulthood.”  Related article: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (US) – Simon Singer   Parole Boards Treat Adolescents Who Grow Up in Prison Like Adults — and That’s Wrong   Related article:  Ted Talks – Daniel Reisel  The Neuroscience of Restorative Justice  (A 15 minute video on research involving convicted murders from Feb. 2013)   (There are a number of related videos at the TED site, including one with Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.)

CBC News – Walter Strong
Inmates at Yellowknife jail undertake ‘unprecedented’ letter-writing campaign pleading for more resources – ‘Correctional facilities are designed to limit and restrict liberties,’ says Justice Department official

This article offers a striking look at what happens in jail in Yellowknife. Inmates at the North Slave Correctional Complex in Yellowknife know what it is to be without even the simplest resources.  They have begun to let legislators know about the dire conditions in the hope that some resolution can be found. “…Time in the facility (is) more akin to being warehoused than rehabilitated or prepared for reintegration with society outside jail walls,”  goes the plaintive cry.  “Im in NSCC [North Slave Correctional Complex] rite now, we have no program’s, no recreation officer, all we do is sit in the Pod and do nothing,” one prisoner wrote.  “We got a big yard there for nothing, they won’t let us out of this building.”

Globe and Mail – William Pang
Peace of mind: universities see spike in students seeking mental-health help

Requests for mental health help by university and college students in Canada have led to a jump of 35% in budgeted amounts in just 15 such institutions.  The sizeable increase is still bringing questions about the adequacy of the amount in the face of these requests. “A fifth of Canadian postsecondary students are depressed and anxious or battling other mental health issues, up about 3 to 4 per cent from 2013, The Globe and Mail reported. Another troubling finding is the percentage of Canadian students who indicated seriously contemplating suicide – 13 per cent – which increased by about 3.5 per cent from 2013.”

Canada Housing and Renewal Association executive director Jeff Morrison is advocating that the money from the federal government for housing and homelessness in Canada should be directed to Indigenous and poor people. “You are never going to lift people out of poverty, you’re never going to create jobs, you’re never going to create educational and health opportunities unless safe affordable housing is provided for all Canadians.” The opinion reflects the insistence that housing first is needed to resolve most other social problems.   Related article: NationTalk   Thousands across Canada Call for an End to Poverty

CNN (US) – Jake Tapper
NFL players: Behind ‘take a knee’ lies this racial injustice

Tapper is interviewing several US legislators on the question of bail, a legal issue with a Black and poor person’s flavour.  The focus here is the use of large amounts of bail for relatively minor offences.  Incidents that are blatantly unreasonable are prompting questions around whether cash bail should even be a part of the justice system.  A case in point:  “In Dallas, a 49-year-old grandmother spent two months in jail on $150,000 bail after being accused of shoplifting $105 worth of school uniforms for her grandkids. She was not jailed because she posed a threat, but because she was too poor to purchase her freedom.”

Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project (US) The effort towards reform of the justice system and the consequences for mass incarceration and growing need for prisons is highlighted by the direct quotes from the Fair Punishment Project newsletter.  (Red tabs are live – use control / click)

These Three Recent Reports Illustrate The Folly of Cash Bail.

  • The Philadelphia Controller published a report this month estimating that the elimination of cash bail could save the city $75 million. This figure comes from the fact that ending cash bail could result in approximately 1,800 fewer inmates, and that reduction would force Philadelphia to shutter some existing correctional facilities. [Alan Butkovitz / Office of The Controller]
  • Earlier this week, the co-founder of Citizens for Justice Reform in Jacksonville, Florida wrote an op-ed describing preliminary results from a review of jail records, which “show that thousands of misdemeanors arrestees per year spend several days in jail—sometimes much longer—due to delays in posting bail or inability to post bail.” The group is studying these records as part of their push for local reform. [Doreszell Cohen / Florida Times-Union]
  • In New Orleans, Court Watch NOLA issued a report making seven recommendations for bail reform in Orleans Parish. In total, 166 volunteers watched first appearances and collected data during a one-year time span. The group criticized many judges’ refusal to take into consideration an individual’s ability to pay when setting bail, and encouraged the funding of the PreTrial Services Agency in New Orleans. It strongly recommended eliminating pre-trial supervision for those classified as lower-risk, while offering pretrial services supervision for those classified as higher risk. [The State of Magistrate Court / Court Watch NOLA]

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