Victim surcharge struck down…

Dec 15, 2018

Lawyer’s Daily (Canada) – LexisNexis
Top court strikes down mandatory victim surcharge for imposing cruel and unusual punishment on poor

“The Supreme Court has 7-2 struck down the mandatory victim surcharge enacted by the former Conservative government because it inflicts cruel and unusual punishment on impecunious offenders. In allowing Dec. 14 four defence appeals from Ontario and Quebec Court of Appeal judgments which upheld the mandatory surcharge’s constitutionality, Justice Sheilah Martin declared invalid s. 737 of the Criminal Code with immediate effect: R. v. Boudreault 2018 SCC 58.”  Related article: CBC News – Kathleen Harris   Supreme Court quashes mandatory victims’ surcharge for convicted criminals – Justices deem compulsory victim surcharges ‘cruel and unusual punishment’

Hill Times (Canada) – Samantha Wright Allen
RCMP forensic lab ‘drowning in work’ as it misses all response targets, internal figures show

Labs have performance targets.  The RCMP are behind on all their targets raising the spectre of more delay in the criminal courts.  The DNA service, for example, is running at 51% of its target.  The solution, says Ralph Goodale, is to add an additional service line for drugs at the agency, the National Forensic Laboratory Services (NFLS).  It will take until summer 2019 to get it up and running.  Besides drugs, the lab tests biology, firearms, toxicology, and trace evidence.

EduTopia (George Lucas Foundation) – Via CCJC –  Fania E. Davis
8 Tips for Schools Interested in Restorative Justice – Restorative justice promotes a positive, orderly school environment. Students and all members of the school community can learn and practice self-discipline, empathy, and accountability.

While this is an older post, it remains helpful and vibrant for those in an educational setting.  American in origin it seeks to be a response to the school to prison pipeline problems. In the light of the First Steps Act and prison reform in the US, the advice on instituting RJ in the schools is a better way to pre-empt the need to re-assess sentencing, especially when trying to check bullying in the schools.

 National Observer (Canada) – Fatima Syed
Ford cuts all provincial funding to Ontario College of Midwives

The Ontario government, which supported a midwives program of some 900 for 25 years, has just announced they are cutting the financial support retroactively effective April 1, 2018.  The College thinks it may be able to continue the present programs but expect s that it will need increased membership fees to make ends meet.  “In a joint statement, the College’s president, Tiffany Haidon, and its registrar and CEO, Kelly Dobbin, wrote that the loss of funding will place a heavy financial burden on the profession in future years, even though a contingency plan is in place “to ensure that the impact of these changes on members is minimal.””

The Manchester Guardian (The Long Read) – Saba Imtiaz
Forever prisoners: were a father and son wrongly ensnared by America’s war on terror?

The Guardian’s Long Read feature is intended to flesh out detail and in depth analysis.  The article is about a father and son detained by US authorities and held for considerable length of time without trails or even explanation of the allegations against them.  But the terms the prisoners use to describe themselves and their experience are chilling and find resonance in any prison. Paracha Saifullah, Guantánamo Bay’s oldest prisoner at 71, among the 40 left, once described life at Guantánamo as “being alive in your own grave”.

CNN – Jacqueline Howard
Gun deaths in US reach highest level in nearly 40 years, CDC data reveal

The US Center for Disease Control has confirmed that 39,773 people died by guns in 2017, an increase of almost 10,000 since 1999 when the number was 28,874.  23,854 people died from suicide by guns in 2017, the highest number in 18 years. That’s a difference of more than 7,000 deaths compared with 16,599 suicide deaths by guns in 1999.  !8,759 of the suicides were white male, white women second at 2981. In the homicide category, black males were highest at 7,661 with white males coming in second at 4289.

Toronto Star – Rob Ferguson
Ontario needs better training for guards to quell violence in jails, report says

A report on Ontario jails from Howard Sapers, who was commissioned by the previous Liberal government and has not yet been released by the Ford government, says that the 25 jails badly need better training for jail guards on de-escalating and defusing hostile situations.  Sapers, formerly the Correctional Investigator for Corrections Canada, makes a total of 42 recs, and stresses urgency: “… just over half of the province’s correctional officers “did not feel safe working at their institution…Furthermore, 66 per cent of frontline officers indicated that they worried about being assaulted by an inmate at least once a week.”  Minister Sylvia Jones says that the report will be released once translated into French.

Death Penalty Information Center (US)
The death penalty in 2018: End of year DPIC report

The annual report on US death penalty executions and sentences shows further declined in the use of the death penalty.  There are now 20 states without the penalty and 42 actual executions, which occur mostly in four states:  Texas, (accounting for over half), Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, (Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia – have the possibility but executed no one in 2018).   2018 was the fourth year in a row with fewer than 30 executions; the report includes the number of persons on death row currently.  The report anticipates further decline in the future.

PUBLICATION Notice:  25th Anniversary Edition – Howard Zehr
Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times, 25th Anniversary Edition  (Available on Amazon – Paperback at $26.44; Kindle at $13.90)