RJ coming of age?

Mar 26, 2018

Department of Justice: (March 2018)   A Report on Provincial and Territorial Stakeholder Consultations
What we heard – Transforming Canada’s criminal justice system

While not yet the policy of the federal government, this report represents the findings of a group of researchers who surveyed a broad field of active participants around the criminal justice system.  The 29 page report follows the mandate to infuse more restorative justice in the system, a mandate given Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould by the Prime Minister top review the system.  http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/tcjs-tsjp/  Mandate Letter to Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould:  https://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-public-safety-and-emergency-preparedness-mandate-letter

CBC News – Elisha Dacey
Barrier to restorative justice is mostly mindset, says Indigenous law scholar – John Borrows is at the CMHR Monday to talk about Indigenous traditional law

“Mindset is the biggest thing stopping the concept of restorative justice, so essential to traditional Indigenous law, from being fully embraced in the Canadian justice system, says an Indigenous lawyer and scholar…

“There’s this sense that we have to always be punishing people. And I’m not saying for a second that shouldn’t be a part of our system … but it shouldn’t be the only part of our system,” said John Borrows.

“And it seems like we fetishize that and focus on that to the exclusion to the other possibilities.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/barrier-restorative-justice-mindset-indigenous-law-1.4593147

CBC News – Erik Pindera
Nuns and the Next Step: Weekly support meetings for inmates changing lives, leaders say – Peer support group for inmates provides someone to talk to, lowers recidivism

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that small but dedicated groups focused on the needs of inmates just released have a powerful impact on recidivism.  This illustration comes from Manitoba where a couple of nuns, one a retired Chaplain to Stony Mountain, have drawn a group of volunteers together to simply provide welcome and conversation to just released inmates.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/nuns-and-the-next-step-weekly-support-meetings-for-inmates-changing-lives-leaders-say-1.4591666

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Reducing the use of short prison sentences

Webster and the reform movement in the UK have the stats and the evidence to suggest that approximately 30,000 people per year go to jail for sentences of six months or less.  The number represents one half those who get jail sentences.  Webster is quick to point out that the disruption to family and community alone makes this practice pointless and costly.  The research includes the finding that four of five people in the UK think that jail sentences for theft of the necessities of life is short-sighted in the extreme.  Three of four people think that alcohol and drug addicted people belong in a treatment centre not a prison.  https://mailchi.mp/russellwebster/rdashortsighted?e=10ab936adc

City Limits (N.Y.) – Steven Zeidman
CityViews: New York City’s ‘Serious’ Crime Problem

Zeidman has a dual definition of “serious crime problem.”  First there are the legal cases where the offense is serious and may involve personal injury to victims.  But he concentrates on the second – consequences of arrest and what to do with people between first court appearance and the legal resolution of the charge: the bail practices and the efforts to reform the bail issues.  https://citylimits.org/2018/03/26/cityviews-new-york-citys-serious-crime-problem/

University of Alabama (The Crimson White) – Nathan Campbell
The death penalty itself is cruel and unusual

In the light of the Oklahoma decision to revert to noxious gas, the University’s newspaper offers an editorial on both the death penalty and the means used to kill those convicted.  The editorial offers an opinion on both the death penalty itself and the controversy around the means since most drug manufacturers will not sell to states using lethal injection.  (Missouri and several other states have acquired the usual lethal drugs illegally but federal authorities have raided the prisons and confiscated the drugs.)  Beyond the moral issues, the editorial remarks on erroneous convictions:  “Since 1973, 144 defendants sentenced to death have been exonerated. Yet, a statistical analysis of death penalty cases has estimated the rate of erroneous convictions is much higher, around 4 percent.  To put that into perspective, approximately 120 of the 3,000 inmates currently on death row could be innocent.”  http://www.cw.ua.edu/article/2018/03/op-death-penalty

Criminological Highlights (U of T) – Anthony N. Doob and Rosemary Gartner – Professors of Criminology Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies

The eight papers that are summarized in this March 2018 issue address the following questions:  1.    Are complex algorithms for predicting recidivism helpful?  2.    Is the presence of substance abuse treatment programs in a community associated with changes in crime rates?  3.    How does contact with the criminal justice system affect the mental health of an accused person?  4.    What do the police need to do to encourage Muslim communities to report suspected terrorism activities?  5.    What can we learn from the failure to replicate an experiment involving the police?  6.    What can be done to help people with criminal convictions find housing?  7.    How does pretrial detention affect crime?  8.    What should we do to reduce police shootings of civilians?   The full issue is available by direct subscription or at the link:  http://criminology.utoronto.ca/   To subscribe, request from anthony.doob@utoronto.ca .

Globe and Mail – Sean Fine
Lawyers ask judge to declare African-Canadians deserve special consideration in sentencing, like Indigenous people   

For some time now (since 1996), judges have been obliged to consider the life circumstances of Indigenous people at sentencing once convicted of crime.  Now, lawyers are asking for the benefits of the Gladue decision to be extended to Black Canadians.   The cases are similar in that there is considerable discrimination and over-representation of Black people in jail, but equally so there are, and have been, discrepancies in true justice for people of Asian origins as well.  “Justice Nakatsuru, whose Japanese-Canadian father was interned during the Second World War, told Mr. Mirza (a defense lawyer) he is “struggling” with the idea.”  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-lawyers-ask-judge-to-declare-african-canadians-deserve-special/?cmpid=rss&click=sf_globe