Dec 26, 2017

From Prison Reform Movement (US):

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Globe and Mail – Erin Anderssen
The compassion deficit

Christmas always raises the Dickens question: Why can’t we have Christmas all year round?  Anderssen offers us a reflection on what he calls the compassion deficit.  Says Professor Paul Pitt, a social psychologist at the University of California: “Even though it might not seem like this nowadays, I think of our capacity for compassion as a defining feature of what it means to be human.”

 CBC News – Kayla Rosen
Advocates say N.W.T. justice system needs to rehabilitate, not incarcerate, vulnerable offenders

The federal government is looking to hear before Jan 15, 2018 how to transform the justice system to be less punitive and more rehabilitative, particularly for vulnerable people.  Peter Harte, a criminal lawyer in the NWT has some advice:  “The justice system needs to focus on fixing underlying issues for vulnerable people, not punishing them after the fact… if a child saw his mother murdered [and ended up committing a crime] how on earth would you expect putting somebody in jail is going to have a therapeutic effect?” said Harte. “It just is inconceivable that jail is going to be a response for that kind of horror for that individual.”   Community advocate Lydia Bardak offers another view.   “[The justice system uses] the after-the-harm-is-done response. This is back end responding, rather than front end responding.”

 Toronto Star – Tom Jackman
A Virginia jury convicted a 19-year-old maid for stealing. Then they paid her fine

Here’s a story that reminds us about the potential of the criminal justice system to criminalize the poor, a common place occurrence when women in particular are driven to shoplifting to cope with feeding their children.  The story is Christmasy but the messy reality is year around.  So is the mixed reaction to the first ever recorded case of a jury paying the minimum fine.  The case is an illustration of the potential for an exercise in RJ and a re-visit to what “justice” is about.

Toronto Star – Brendan Kennedy
Held in maximum security without charge, she begged her husband to get her out. A week later, Teresa Gratton was dead

The past little while there has been a fair amount of concern around both deaths in jail, jailing without conviction, and the Canadian Border Services Agency capacity for indefinite detention.  Teresa Gratton is the latest coalescence of these circumstances, leaving greater concern since the death, by law, requires no accountability.  The 50 year old Gratton is likely the 16th person to die in immigration custody since 2000.  She had been locked up in maximum security for over a month.    Related article: Edmonton Journal – Jonny Wakefield   More than 120 overdoses in Alberta jails since 2016, dozens more in federal facilities    Related article: CBC News – Karissa Donkin, Shane Fowler   Government to release previously-secret details on child deaths – Overhaul of child death review system follows a CBC News investigation called The Lost Children   Related article: Globe and Mail – Patrick White   Canada’s solitary-confinement laws are unconstitutional, Ontario judge rules

Toronto Star – Amnesty International – Alex Neve and Béatrice Vaugrante

A tough year for human rights must give way to a brighter 2018

The authors observe that the year has been noteworthy for conflict and the human rights violations that flow from the conflict.  Particularly troublesome, they suggest, is the rise of hate.  On the positive side, Canada has embraced United Nations rights of |\indigenous people and a wider acceptance of feminism.  Inconsistencies in the pursuits of the ideals and in the practice of human rights in Canada remain worthy goals.

Citizens for Public Justice – Courtney Reeve and Becca Sawyer 
The Poverty of Loneliness

This reflection piece brings poverty and human relations into perspective suggesting that following conversations with 29 front line workers; the authors found that  “At the heart of these conversations we met a recurring theme: injustice is always at a place of deep disconnection between people.  At the heart of all injustice and poverty is a poverty of relationships. And, where we saw a living and embodied justice in people’s lives, we saw a flourishing of human connection and the renewal of relationships amongst neighbours.”

Youth First – No kids in prison (US)

The web site and twitter feed has an avowed purpose to close down all youth prisons and the practice of sentencing youth to prison at all.  More than 50,000 kids are detained in youth prisons in the US.  The site notes a recent increase in the pursuit of alternate responses to youth crime.

Globe and Mail – Mike Hager

Street cost for cannabis lower than legal price point, Statscan finds

Stats Canada has let the air out of all the plans for the sale of recreation and medicinal marijuana:  marijuana on the street will likely cost about 13% less than the approval and legal version.  Stats Can says that in 2015 street marijuana was selling an average for $8.84 vs the $10 / gram that the feds have announced.