Beyond prisons…

May 9, 2018

CBC Radio – Sunday Edition
Canada’s prison system should be radically reduced

A 21 minute interview with Paula Mallea, a criminal lawyer, who proposes a change so that prison is no longer the default for wrong doing.  “Prison is what we know. We cling to punishment and retribution as if they were positive and enlightened outcomes, when in fact they are regressive, medieval, and harmful,” she argues.   She protests warehousing and lack of programming, and rejects the notion that tough on crime is good for reducing crime and for public safety, neither of which, she says, can be demonstrated.   Mandatory minimum sentences, long periods in segregation and poor delivery of mental health services put everyone – inmates, guards and the community – at risk, she believes.    Related article: N.Y. Times – Charles McGrath  Rachel Kushner’s ‘The Mars Room’ Offers a Blackly Comic Take on Prison Life     Related article: CBC News – Kathleen Harris   Hundreds of Canadian convicts repatriated from foreign prisons over past 5 years

Ottawa Citizen – Shaamini Yogaretnam
Inmate dies after jailhouse beating, murder charges to be laid

The Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) is back in the news after an inmate beaten on April 11 by several other inmates has died from the injuries.  “Marco Michaud, 36, was pronounced dead Friday morning after he was taken off life support this week. Michaud suffered extensive head injuries in the April 11 beating, which left him brain-dead. Michaud, who was put into an induced coma, underwent multiple surgeries after the attack.”  The incident was caught on OCDC’s security camera after the accused got Michaud alone in the jail.   Related article: FindLaw.Canada – Miriam Yosowich   Do prison inmates have the right to conduct legal research online?

Canadian Legal Newswire – Jean Sorensen
‘ICBC dumpster fire’ draws heat from CBA, trial lawyers of B.C.

The BC Attorney General David Eby wants to set a $50,000 claim limit on injuries under ICBC, the provincial government auto insurer, and to arbitrate those claims under the jurisdiction of the province’s new Civil Resolutions Tribunal (CRT).  The Canadian Bar and the trail lawyers are opposed.  The CRT was previously limited to a maximum of $5,000 and was used to expedite small claims.  Legislation enabling the change is expected by April 2019.

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Voluntary sector subsidising probation service

The probation system in the UK has been writhing with controversy, mostly around the effectiveness of who is doing the work and how it should be done.  Now there is a new wrinkle: who is really paying for the probationary services.  The answer increasingly seems to be the voluntary sector who while promised funding are still not funded – The voluntary sector is, according to this report, underrepresented, under pressure and under resourced.   Related article: Blogger Russell Webster – Still dying on the Inside:  Examining Deaths in Women’s Prisons  2018  (Includes seven recommendations for confronting the problem.)

VERA Institute of Justice (US) –Elizabeth Kai Hinton, LeShae Henderson, and Cindy Reed
An Unjust Burden: The Disparate Treatment of Black Americans in the Criminal Justice System

Here is a powerful perspective on what this commentary offers: “Racial disparities in the criminal justice system are no accident, but rather are rooted in a history of oppression and discriminatory decision making that have deliberately targeted black people and helped create an inaccurate picture of crime that deceptively links them with criminality.”   Full commentary in PDF:

Friends of Crime Prevention (K-W)

For a breath of fresh, spring air have a look at the latest newsletter out of the Kitchener-Waterloo Friends of Crime Prevention.  The enthusiasm shines through enough to get some juices flowing, the events and programs widely responsive to community needs.  Well done KW Friends!   Delighted, and inspired to be numbered among you!   Web site:


Davos, World Economic Forum, Switzerland – Steven Pinker
The world has made spectacular progress in every measure of well-being. So why does almost no one know about it?

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker published a book six years ago on why violence has declined (The Better Angels of Our Nature, Penguin, 2011).  The same acclaim from people like Bill Gates is now extended for Pinker’s most recent publication – Enlightenment Now:  The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress  (Amazon, $27)  just selected to initiate a Book Club Selection of the month by the Davos World Economic Forum Book Club.  For an excerpt from the new book:

CBC News – Catharine Tunney
New RCMP commissioner is asked how ‘a lady’ can ‘tell the guys to behave’

The question, from Liberal Montarville MP Michel Picard, left RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki non-phased but did insert an awkward gender moment in the encounter.  Picard later acknowledged the awkwardness and apologized for the question.  “We do it all the time. It’s part of our makeup. Ask my husband,” Lucki responded.  The encounter also drew attention to the primary task of reforming the RCMP culture.  Related:  Mandate letter for Commissioner Lucki (from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale)