Mama Rita…

June 2, 2018

National Catholic Reporter – Dan Morris-Young
Restorative justice has a name, face and heart in East LA – Mama Rita: Inmates ‘are not the crimes they did’

Long-time Dolores Mission parishioner Rita Chairez works in restorative justice in East Los Angeles, an area well known for gangs and violence.  Chairez lost two brothers to the violence but still, she is the co-ordinator of a program called Healing Hearts and Restoring Hope, a victim-offender dialogue directed to the 5,000 inmates in Chimo State Prison.  “It has been life transforming for me, because I didn’t know that offenders were capable of changing,” said Chairez.

Senate of Canada – Sen Kim Pate
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

The link is to the senate debate around Bill S-251, a bill to authorize judges in sentencing to disregard the mandatory minimums.  Pate offers ten reasons why the mandatory minimums – which the Liberal government promised to abolish – should be abandoned. S-251 also facilitates the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Pate also decries the indigenous inmate population in federal prisons: 26% male and 39% female inmates against a 4% population in Canada.

Chronicle Herald (NS) – Allison Lawlor
Nurse steps up for incarcerated pregnant women

Paynter is a nurse and a Ph.d. candidate at Dalhousie and is outspoken about a violation of human rights within the criminal justice prison system:  “Imprisonment of women is a huge violation of human rights,” she said in a recent interview at her home. “They have their children taken from them. It’s brutality.”  In 2012 she founded Women’s Wellness Within, a non-profit advocating for and educating criminalized and pregnant women in jail.  “Compassion is the first step to providing adequate care,” she said.  Her doctoral work will look “to better understand pre-natal and post-partum health outcomes of women and transgender people incarcerated in Canada.”

CTV News – Montreal
Police unions in Quebec call for end to mandatory minimum sentencing

The three largest police unions in Quebec are concerned about mandatory minimums and the impact on police officers convicted of crime.  The position follows the conviction of Sureté de Québec officer Eric Deslauriers who was sentenced to four years in prison for the manslaughter of 17 year old David Lacour.

The Marshall Project (US)
The $580 Co-pay – In prison, seeing the doctor can cost up to a month’s salary.

The Marshall Project attempts to describe the medical services, their availability and cost when incarcerated.  The cost of services vary according to the state and the story is prompted by a bill now on the desk of the Governor of Illinois to banish co-pays.  The rational for the co-pay is to reduce needless visits with the doctor but the amount of the co-pay can effectively stall treatment until the problem calls for more serious and more costly hospitalization.  Nevada has the highest co-pay at $8 a visit.  42 states and the federal prison system charge a co-pay while some states pay inmates as little as 5 cents per hour.   Related article: Pew Trust Foundation – Matt McKillop   Prison Health Care Quality Monitoring Systems Vary by State – How jurisdictions can select the best way to measure performance  Related article: The Marshall Project – Robert Wright    Getting Out of Prison Meant Leaving Dear Friends Behind – “We leaned on each other. We found reasons to laugh while in agony.”   Related article: The Marshall Project – Christie Thompson   Old, Sick and Dying in Shackles – “Compassionate release” has bipartisan support as a way to reduce the federal prison population and save taxpayer money. New data shows that it’s rarely used.

The Intercept (US) – Debbie Nathan
Hidden Horrors of “Zero Tolerance” — Mass Trials and Children Taken From Their Parents

The recent news that over 1500 children who were separated from their parents at the US border   (US lost track of 1,500 immigrant children, but says it’s not ‘legally responsible’ ) and have been placed in unknown locations by the ICE administration has stirred anew the debate around the criminal consequences for illegal or even legal border crossings.  Under a zero tolerance policy all attempts to cross the southern border are now criminal and children are separated from parents.  The link focuses on happenings in Brownville, Texas, offers further distressing witness to the resulting failure of all legality by the mass processing of defendants in these criminal charges. “…not only are parents finding themselves charged with the crime of “illegal entry,” but the government is breaking up families, sending children to detention centers, often hundreds of miles from their mothers and fathers, or to distant foster homes.”

Princeton University (US) – Jon Wallace and Sarah Binder
Task force students seek solutions to mass incarceration

Ten students at Princeton spent the spring studying the various issues around mass incarceration and policy responses; they presented their findings to Senator Cory Booker.  The task force of the ten students led by Udi Ofer, who is also a ACLU deputy national political director said: “Mass incarceration is the result of deliberate choices made by policymakers over the past 40 years to implement policies and practices that have led to more people being incarcerated for longer periods of time and with fewer options for release.”  Though each of ten studied a different aspect, there is a common theme to their findings:  “There is a pressing need for the U.S. criminal justice system to be less punitive and instead to rehabilitate the people who interact with it.”

VERA Institute of Justice (US) – Jack Norton
No One Is Watching: Jail in Upstate New York

Here’s a commentary on the geographic differences in mass incarceration, told in a comparison of New York City incarceration rates with Amsterdam, N.Y., a small city in the northeast of Montgomery County in the state.  Amsterdam actually had increases in the rate of incarceration while everyone was experiencing fewer people sent to jail.  The small town had one judge only, Howard Aison, who believed in raising revenue for the city by always imposing the maximum fines and following up relentlessly on failure to pay with a jail term.  The judge had a 26% Latino population in a failed downtown to draw on. “I made a lot of money for the city….And how did I make that money? Fines.” During his time as city judge, Aison had a policy of imposing maximum fines in every case. And when people didn’t pay? “I always chased people down,” he said. “A lot of people went to jail for not paying fines.”   The article includes changes and further comparisons with neighbouring places.

The – Bernard B. Kerik
Don’t kick the can down the road on prison reform — now is the time for change

Remember retired U.S. Army Major General Mark Inch?  He was appointed director of the federal Bureau of Prisons.  He resigned after nine months because he was excluded from all policy and budget discussions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and he quietly resigned.  This Kerik article perspective comes from both sides.  Kerik spent time as a federal inmate and was first a commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, and a commissioner of NYPD; in fact, he oversaw the city’s response to the 9/11 attack..  The article supports The First Step Act which has passed the US Congress and is en route to the Senate surrounding by great controversy about the potential for effectiveness.  Kerik sees some very positive gains from a successful passage of the First Step Act.

Looking for an excellent review of the current Canadian criminal justice scene? Or better perhaps, impasse?  Try recently published (2017) Beyond Incarceration: Safety and True Criminal Justice by Paula Mallea.  Mallea is a Canadian lawyer who has been a long-time advocate for justice and prison reform.  With compelling critique of the current failed incarceration model, she is advocating, after a review of both the Canadian model and some of leading improvements through international models, a new approach based on RJ and other alternatives.  A Point of View Book, Dundurn is the publisher and the book is available on Amazon for $17.99.