Feet in prison…

April 20, 2019

Vatican News – Dennis Watkins
Pope washes inmates’ feet at Mass of Lord’s Supper

In a tradition Holy Week gesture of solidarity and reconciliation, Pope Francis this week visited Velletri Prison, just outside Rome to celebrate the Holy Thursday Eucharist – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – and the liturgical washing of the feet of 12 inmates, representing the disciples of Jesus and made up of four different nationalities.  Velletri is a medium-security facility that houses 577 inmates, 60% of whom are foreigners.  https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-04/pope-francis-lords-supper-prison-washing-feet.html#.XLirwRSdeMs.twitter

Ottawa Citizen – Blair Crawford
Justin St. Amour’s death a suicide, coroner’s inquest jury rules

Justin St. Amour’s mother, Laureen, and her family lawyer Paul Champ urged the coroner’s jury to return a verdict of homicide.  The jury drew the line while issuing two dozen recommendations.  If the jury had declared a homicide, no blame would be attached to what is called a factual finding.  A verdict of homicide would have served to highlight the failure in care that led to the suicide.  Ontario has a history of mentally ill people whose suicide results in recommendations that have no binding power.  The effort to get a homicide ruling was guided by the number of points in the event that displayed  imminent dangers signs abundantly present but ignored. What is equally disturbing is the frequency of suicides across Canada in facilities where the protection of the inmate’s life is the first obligation of any body with what amounts to total legal control of a person.  https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/justin-st-amours-death-a-suicide-coroners-inquest-jury-rules   Related article:  CBC News   Mentally ill man’s death at OCDC not a homicide, jury finds       https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/mentally-ill-man-s-death-at-ocdc-not-a-homicide-jury-finds-1.5103903   Related article:  Ottawa Citizen – Blair Crawford   ‘There was chaos everywhere Justin went,’ inquest told    https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/jail-no-place-for-mentally-ill-inquest-heard   Ed Note:  The inquest into the death of Justin St. Amour ended but the inquest report is not yet available on the Coroner’s site.  It should be there shortly.  Here is the link to the site once available:  https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/DeathInvestigations/NewsReleases/death_invest_NR.html

Vox.com (US) – Stephanie Wykstra
The case against solitary confinement: On any given day, some 61,000 people are in solitary confinement in US prisons. It’s time to abolish the practice.

While we celebrate the decision to recompense the inmates for suffering solitary confinement in the wake of the failure of Corrections Canada to correct the practice – and while the federal government appeals the decision – the US is just beginning the struggle to ban solitary for a second time.  The link offers a history of solitary in the US, its practice and its consequences on inmates.  https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/4/17/18305109/solitary-confinement-prison-criminal-justice-reform

CBC News – Kathleen Harris
Supreme Court rules that police don’t need warrant to carry out child luring sting operations

Police in Newfoundland were challenged for setting up a Facebook sting to attract people trying to lure kids.  The court ruled that sexually explicit messages used to lure children are not private and may be used in child exploitation investigations.  The conviction of Sean Mills for child luring was based on a screen grab by police between Mills and a 14 year old – police intercepted the message without a warrant.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-online-luring-privacy-1.5102243

CBC News – Jorge Barrera
Ottawa fighting First Nations groups over compensation for child welfare discrimination

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 that the Canadian government discriminated against Indigenous children in the payment of on-reserve welfare system.  First Nations argue that the federal government owes compensation to every child deprived by the underfunding.  The Tribunal can award up to $20,000 for the discrimination, $20,000 more if the discrimination is deliberate or intentional.  The federal lawyers are arguing that such a settlement is outside the scope of the previous Tribunal ruling.  The lawsuit for $3 billion was filed against the government March past but there is no indication when to expect a decision.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/fn-children-ottawa-1.5102627

Toronto Star – Alyshah Hasham
Ontario budget cuts millions in compensation to victims of violent crime, advocates say

The cuts in various social programs are just beginning to be realized by the groups who support marginalized people in Ontario.  Legal aid has already registered shock and now the various victim support groups are taking a turn, both compensation for victims of violent crimes and victim support services themselves.  In 2017-18, the compensation along amounted to $33 million for 3,569 cases says the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.  The Tory government wants to abolish the board and move to an administrative model in the Ministry of the Attorney General, already where most of the current delays are experienced.  The changes anticipated will disproportionately impact women who are two thirds of the claimants.   https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/04/18/ontario-budget-cuts-millions-in-compensation-to-victims-of-violent-crime-advocates-say.html

Toronto Star – Amy Smart, Canadian Press
Use of roadside saliva tests for cannabis impairment remain in question

Besides all the controversy around shops and prices around the new legal marijuana trade, another is surfacing about how police are to determine if there is driving while impaired by marijuana.  Michelle Gray of Nova Scotia, who has been using medical marijuana for almost eight years, failed a saliva test to determine her sobriety for driving and had her license suspended.  Later that same night she passed a police administered sobriety test but the experience leaves her and many others wondering about the use of the Drager DrugTest 5000 which allegedly measures the THC in saliva.  Police claimed the test does not measure impairment but only presence of the THC, justifying further investigation.  https://www.thestar.com/news/cannabis/2019/04/16/use-of-roadside-saliva-tests-for-cannabis-impairment-remain-in-question.html

N.Y. Times – Rachel Kushner
Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind – In three decades of advocating for prison abolition, the activist and scholar has helped transform how people think about criminal justice.

Gilmore is in favour of abolishing prisons all together and can marshal good arguments about the failure of prisons.  While she knows abolition won’t happened quickly, her perspective allows a rigorous critique of the current efforts at prison reform and the multitude of opinions and goals from justice advocates themselves that are simply fall-back positions, meant not to correct terrible but pointless treatment of citizens but to mitigate the treatment into a measure more acceptable to conscience.  “Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html#click=https://t.co/jrmfugeDEi   Related article: Milwaukee Independent – ACLU’s “Smart Justice” proposal outlines cost benefits for cutting Wisconsin’s prison population    http://www.milwaukeeindependent.com/curated/aclus-smart-justice-proposal-outlines-cost-benefits-cutting-wisconsins-prison-population/   Related article: Detroit News – Noah Finley – GOP, Dems join to empty jail cells  https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/nolan-finley/2019/04/18/finley-gop-dems-join-empty-jail-cells/3498777002/

Toronto Star – Robert Cribb and Jim Rankin
Ontario abandons property ownership as source of jurors

A Ryerson study of jury pools in Ontario has determined that because the base for the selection pool is property ownership, our juries are whiter, wealthier, and less diverse than the population itself.  The plan is now to draw juries from the list of people part of OHip, which is a fairer measure of the diversity of the population than property ownership.  Ryerson looked at 52 criminal trials and found as many of 11 of the 12 jurors were exclusively white.  Brampton, for example, has a 73% minority population.  https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2019/04/18/ontario-abandons-property-ownership-as-source-of-jurors.html  Toronto Star Ryerson Investigative Report on Jury Selection:  How a broken jury list makes Ontario justice whiter, richer and less like your community  https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2018/02/16/how-a-broken-jury-list-makes-ontario-justice-whiter-richer-and-less-like-your-community.html    Related article:  Toronto Star: Meriam Katawazi   Can you afford jury duty? Here’s how each province compensates you for your service   https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2018/02/16/can-you-afford-jury-duty-heres-how-each-province-compensates-you-for-your-service.html