Blind spots…

July 15, 2018

Policy Options: Parents in Prison: A public policy blind spot – Sophie de Saussure
The criminal justice reform bill fails to address the social effects of a parent’s incarceration on children.

Bill C-75 is the Liberal government attempt at criminal justice reform but despite the focus, the issue of the care of children caught up in that system when parents are sent to jail does not ever come up.  The discrepancy is almost pre-planning for another generation of wounded people.  Nor do we have any numbers or any way to track those so impacted.  “In civil law, separating a child from a parent is the exception and may be done only in the best interests of the child, but a court handing down a sentence on a defendant who has been found guilty of a crime has no obligation to inquire about his or her family circumstances.”  De Saussure is offering three immediate steps to take: first count them, second include the spouses and children in the reform discussions, and third, “consider criminal justice reform in a thoughtful way, taking into account the potential repercussions of sentencing on the offenders, their loved ones and the community.”

The Guardian (UK) – Jenni Russell
Jailing damaged women is brutal and Dickensian

The headline and opinion is deriving from efforts to confront the numbers of people getting sent to prison and sensible ways to reduce the jail population.  Research has shown repeatedly that prison as a default sentence is a major contributor to both jail population and to further victimization of both primary and secondary victims.  Here’s the stark choice spelled out when a mother gets a jail sentence:  “Debbie was given almost six months for shoplifting baby milk, bottles and nappies. She couldn’t afford them. She told the researchers: “Loans got me through, but I just got deeper into debt, they stopped loaning because I couldn’t pay. I’ve pawned everything I ever owned . . . I just think, how do you survive with addictions, depression, anxiety, not knowing how you will heat the house or put electric on.”

Citizens for Public Justice (Can)
The Politics of the Safe Third Country Agreement

The recent USA-wide turmoil over the policy adopted to separate children from parents who are refugees or asylum seekers is having a direct Canada impact.  Canadians are asking whether the activity of separating children and then being unable to return children to parents for want of policy or competence is sufficient grounds to withdraw from the Safe Third Country agreement with the US.  CPJ outlines the Canadian political positions on the growing demand for rescinding the agreement.  “And there lies the very issue at hand: because refugee claimants are unable to seek asylum at official Canadian border crossings, or receive fair processing in the U.S., they are forced to arrive in Canada irregularly.”  (Further info and advocacy material at the site.)  Related article: – Luke Darby   The Trump Administration Is Making Immigrant Parents Pay $800 for DNA Tests to Get Their Kids Back   World Economic Forum (Davos):  Annelisa Merelli   What do Americans think about immigration?  (A recent Harvard University study comparing opinions with realities.)

CBC (NS) – Michael Tutton
Dad says N.S. restorative justice helped him heal after son’s jail cell death

The challenge for parents is intense; faced with the unjustified and sometimes complicit involvement of prison personnel, or perhaps negligence in the case of suicide, how does a parent recovered from the death in prison of a loved one?  “Last year, Ernie LeBlanc opted for the face-to-face encounters rather than pursuing civil action over errors made when Jason LeBlanc died of an opioid overdose at the Cape Breton Correctional Centre in the early hours of Jan. 31, 2016.”

The Guardian (UK – International Edition) – Chris McGreal
Nevada to become first state to execute inmate with fentanyl

Many may marvel that the thirst for execution goes so far as to prompt state government in Nevada to use the seriously dangerous illicit drug fentanyl.  The decision responds to the refusal of drug manufacturers to sell other traditional state execution drugs.  But the decision also raises legal questions about if Nevada broke the law to acquire the fentanyl, a synthetic opioid – involved in more than 20,000 overdose deaths in 2016 alone.

TES (UK) – Julia Belgutay
Distance learning helps prisoners into work – Offenders who took distance learning courses were more likely to find work after release from prison, research found

The source here is a distance education company who is working specifically on the provision of education to inmates via internet.  The results at this stage are somewhat marginal but given its birthing stage the issue of the use of computers by inmates becomes front and center and extends the discussion beyond simple security considerations.  Is distance education a viable form of job preparation or education for inmates?

Policy Options – Reva Seth
Four Issues to be resolved in cannabis legislation:  For cannabis legalization to succeed the most crucial issue will be for those invested in its outcome to engage in a meaningful conversation about safety.

Oct. 17, 2018, is the anticipated date for the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana.  Seth argues that there are four elements we need to address: Better manage expectations; better engage the medical community; stop the tax on medical marijuana; and have robust public conversations about safety.  “It’s time for all actors invested in the success of this bold economic, social, health and cultural evolution to help drive forward these conversations and education campaigns, and to engage with as many Canadians as possible, as soon as possible.”

Policy Options – Shiri Pasternak
Fiscal policy is a key part of Ottawa’s new Indigenous rights framework. But the policy has serious flaws, including not addressing chronic underfunding.

Critics of the government effort towards reconciliation with Indigenous people have been puzzling over why the Liberal government so readily admits its support for solution and then so miserably fails to redress the discrepancies and solutions identified as basic and historic underfunding.  Apparently, the answer why Indigenous people continue to live in poverty with considerable housing and clean water problems is that government and AFN are working on how the fiscal capacity of those to receive funds can be built up and be accountable.  Pasternak reviews the priorities and efforts to fund the changes in a new framework anticipated this fall.