Jan 9, 2019

CBC News – Sidney Cohen
New jail for women in Fort Smith to have higher security rating, segregation

The decision to change from two minimum security houses without locks to a new wing with locks and fences at the Ft. Smith Correctional Unit in the Northwest Territories is already taken.  But the decision still reverberates the philosophical issues about the best environment for helping incarcerated women with the trauma, mental issues and substance abuse.  Part of the debate includes the notion that women sentences, given the nature of most of crimes for which women are convicted, are of shorter duration.  The closed facility with higher security classification versus a model in which women look after themselves in an open facility is already decided in the new wing.  At $23.6 million in construction costs, is there also an issue around best use of money in corrections?   https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/jail-fort-smith-security-1.4961252

Toronto Star – Betsy Powell
Secret review finds several ‘issues’ with aborted prosecution of defence lawyer who alleged cover up

A drug case in Brampton that led to charges against a defence lawyer is back in the headlines.  Lawyer Leora Shemesh was charged by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) with perjury and obstructing justice.  The PPSC has now reviewed the case and concluded that there were problems with their conclusion and that Shemesh alleged cover-up by prosecutors to protect the misconduct of police may have some merit.  The charges were dismissed but the actual events are now covered in secrecy.  Shemesh’s lawyer, Marie Henein, wants the review released for public scrutiny.   https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/01/03/secret-review-finds-several-issues-with-aborted-prosecution-of-defence-lawyer-who-alleged-cover-up.html

Toronto Star – Sandra Contenta
She was handcuffed for not holding an escalator’s handrail. Ten years later, she’s headed to Canada’s Supreme Court

This story is 10 years old and one may hope that the circumstances around it have long since passed and would not again occur.  But it is significant to note that the case is still making its way to the Supreme Court.   There are other factors to consider as well.  The case may provide some fodder for the notion that we are over-policed; it may likewise provide some fodder for the obvious escalation between police and citizen and the failure of police response to de-escalate the emotion of the exchange.  Quo vadis?  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/01/03/its-not-just-about-me-escalator-rider-whose-ticket-dispute-is-going-to-the-supreme-court-is-still-traumatized-by-arrest-legal-battles.html

Toronto Star – Laura Booth
Ontario’s chief coroner launching panel to review suicides of nine police officers

Some would be surprised to learn that nine police officers in Ontario committed suicide in 2018 even though suicide has been known as a frequent event.  The purpose is to identify factors that could reduce the frequency using a panel of experts, yet to be appointed.  The mental health structures in the various police forces will be a focus and the lack of the services or the failure to use those services will be included in the panel’s work.  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/01/03/ontarios-chief-coroner-launching-panel-to-review-suicides-of-nine-police-officers.html

The Tyee (BC) – Paul Willcocks, Today
The Great Fentanyl Myth, and How We’re Killing Drug Users – We know attacking supply has failed. But we let it continue.

Willcocks offers the recent BC history of prosecutions for drugs and money laundering to ask why we continue to pursue the supply of drugs as a primary defense against the drug trade and the growing number of opioid deaths.  Willcocks offers the solution as per the Vancouver police which seems to agree with the stance of the public health authorities:  “The Vancouver Police Department set out a pragmatic response in May 2017. Provide treatment on demand. Expand programs that prescribe opioids so people have a safe source of drugs, instead of sending them to risk buying poisoned supplies. Create programs that recognize the links between drug misuse and mental illness. Base the entire response on evidence about what works, not prejudices against drug users.”  https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2019/01/04/Great-Fentanyl-Myth/

World Economic Forum (Davos) – Baillie Aaron
We have solutions to crime. We just need to scale them

The article is part of the preparation for the 2019 Forum.  The contrast is between those criminal justice responses that do not work as judged by recidivism rates and those which reduce the recidivism.  Then the question becomes how to ramp up the scale of the practice for those more successful methods.  Despite the credible and documented success, many of the proved methods are still very small scaled.  Aaron uses the stats from Brazil, Scotland and the US to entice our consideration for change.  State governments in the US have developed a policy of re-investment of saved criminal justice money into social services like health and education.   https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/we-have-solutions-to-crime-we-just-need-to-scale-them/   Related article: The Council of State Governments (US) –   Justice Re-investment: Re-invest in what works…   https://csgjusticecenter.org/jr/about/

The Marshall Project (US) – Eli Hager
What the Government Shutdown Looks Like Inside Federal Prisons – Family visits canceled, guards driving for Uber, rising tensions and more.

In the US, prison guards are among the workers going payless but expected to serve nonetheless; approximately 36,000 have been furloughed to date, many involved with the therapeutic programs inside the jails.  Though many of the consequences are not yet clear, critics suspect that the First Steps Act confronting mass incarceration will be on hold for as long as the shutdown lasts.  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/01/07/what-the-government-shutdown-looks-like-inside-federal-prisons?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=opening-statement&utm_term=newsletter-20190108-1217

Globe and Mail – Jim Bronskill
MPs suggest making some criminal pardons automatic

The House of Commons Public Safety Committee wants to make pardons for first offenders who have served their sentences automatic and wants reduction in the current $631 fee for a pardon application.  Criminal records, even under summary convictions, are an immediate and inevitable obstacle to employment, likely the most powerful reason for rejected employment among ex-offenders.  The committee is challenging changes brought by the Harper government that made pardons more elusive, more difficult and more expensive.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/politics/article-mps-suggest-making-some-criminal-pardons-automatic/?__twitter_impression=true

Citizens for Public Justice – Dignity for All
Living in the Gap: Mila Frei

Sometimes it is hard to imagine what precarity means to a person, especially when on a fixed and severely limited income and some circumstance intervenes.  Here is a very well documented explanation of Mila Frei’s circumstances.  She is a 71 year old single person, living with a disability in Cape Breton, NS.  Her income is just about $4,000 below the poverty level.  Her income monthly is $1516.80.  Her already spoken for expenses for a meager lifestyle at best is $1446.03.  If she goes without a pair of winter boots, she can take the grandchildren to lunch.  Mila has no drug costs but other provinces – like NF – would claw back the drug costs for seniors if the earned income of one spouse, even when both are seniors – is over $23,000.  https://dignityforall.ca/frei/?platform=hootsuite   Related article:  CTV News – Jordan Press  Liberals say they are looking at ways to provide minimum income to all Canadians   https://beta.ctvnews.ca/national/politics/2018/12/19/1_4224991.html?__twitter_impression=true