Big data, big brother…

Jan 3, 2018 

 CBC News – Brett Ruskin
Canadian government to search social media using artificial intelligence to predict suicides – Feds to hire company with patented method to identify online trends and predict real-life events

This latest government announcement stirs the pot of both big data and big brother.  The federal government is apparently about to hire an Ottawa company to monitor social data and to establish parameters that would suggest a proclivity for suicide, all through artificial intelligence.  “Working with the company to develop its strategy, the federal government will define “suicide-related behaviour” on social media and “use that classifier to conduct market research on the general population of Canada,” according to a document published to Public Works website.”  At this point the project is identified as a 3 month pilot study.

National Newswatch – Jim Bronskill
Create new watchdog to review border agency, RCMP, federal report recommends

A report prepared for the Public Safety ministry is recommending a new oversight agency for the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP.  The new Commission is to be called the Canada Law Enforcement Review Commission and comes from former Privy Council member Mel Cappe.  Dated June 2017, the report was discovered through an access to information request by Canadian Press.

HuffPost (US) – Arthur Rizer
We Need to Stop Incarcerating Children for Status Offenses and Nonviolent Misdemeanors

Status offenses are nonviolent, noncriminal acts that are only considered legal violations because of a youth’s status as a minor, such as truancy and running away from home.  Truancy and running away constitute the “criminal offence” for over one half of the 1 million juvenile cases per year.  But, you can go to jail for a status offence as well as for minor crime.  Rizer says that these statutory offences need to be a warning sign for professional intervention rather than a reason for arrest and jail.   Related article:  News Tribune (US) – Adam Geller, Associated Press   Ruling but no resolution on which teen killers merit parole

Citizen Tribune (US) – Dan Carden
Felony booking process in Indiana now includes taking of DNA sample

This development was predictable.  DNA samples have become part of the booking system in 31 states in the US, this time in Indiana.  Usually the booking requires prints, mugshots and other personal data.  The DNA will be held in a state data bank, available to all law enforcement for identification or investigation, and called Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  Previously most states, including Indiana, entered the DNA only after conviction.  The state law makes it theoretically possible for the person charged to expunge the record and sample by request whenever no conviction is entered.  Critics claim the law violates the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure).

The Independent (UK) – Roy Merrick
Women hit hardest by ‘shameful’ short prison sentences, new figures reveal – ‘A few weeks in prison are enough to lose your home, children and job and cause harm to mental health’

The UK is buzzing with critique of the justice system for its blindness to the secondary punishments that accompany the conviction and sentencing to prison of women for very short periods of time.  The imprisonment causes multiple crises for the mother / caregiver of children, for housing, for welfare and income such that advocates are suggesting that the practice is so disruptive that there can be no advantage whatever for the justice system, the woman or society.  Women more than men are disproportionately impacted by short prison sentences, mostly for “petty survival crime.” (US) – James Brooks
Goodbye bail: Alaska switches to new system of criminal justice

The controversy around the practices of bail stem from both the refusal of the prosecutors to allow bail 9someytimes directly contrary to the law itself) and the inability of some charged to pay the bail, often a non-refundable portion of the total bail, and there are also often other fees that accumulate over the trial process.  The reform effort in both the US and Canada where bail is an established practice and the failure to meet bail cost is a significant contributing factor to the basic rights violation and to the 70% of prison inmates at any given moment who are not convicted of any crime.  Alaska has a new system.  “Instead, (and effective Jan. 1, 2018) the state will judge each accused criminal under a point-based system that considers how likely they are to show up to court appearances or commit a new crime. They’ll still be monitored, but they’ll be able to go to work, and the state won’t have to pay for their jail time.”

The Marshall Project (US) – Maurice Chammah and John Carlos Frey
“Cooking Them to Death”: The Lethal Toll of Hot Prisons – As the climate changes, inmates without air-conditioning have no escape from extreme heat.

The article by the well-respected Marshall Project serves to remind us that evacuation does not occur when weather related anomalies threaten prisons, as in the case of the recent hurricanes.  A Florida nursing home denied electricity and AC recently illustrated the lethal potential.  This article focuses on weather conditions in Texas jails where temperatures are often 100+ and heat indexes approaching 150 degrees; “Certain medications, health conditions, and even old age can make incarcerated people more vulnerable to heat.”  The Marshall Project is insisting that the excessive heat and age of some medicated inmates is cruel and unusual punishment.  Experts expect as many as 70 days a year of this type of heat.  (A 20 minutes video at start of article.)

Publication:  Irwin Waller, Professor of Criminology – University of Ottawa and President of the International Organization for Victim’s’ Assistance (US).
Smarter Crime Control: A Guide to a Safer Future for Citizens, Communities, and Politicians

Smarter Crime Control shows how to cut rates of murder, violence against women, traffic fatalities, and drug overdoses by 50%. It is a guide for citizens to understand the potential for safer communities at less cost to taxpayers. It explains the latest science to politicians so that they can choose to reduce violence and save taxes. In the United States, they would avoid $300 billion in harm to victims, while saving taxpayers $100 billion a year.”