Holiday hunger…

May 27, 2019

 Human Rights Watch (UK)

Interview: Scraping Together Pennies for a Loaf of Bread – Human Rights Watch Stephanie Hancock speaks to Western Europe researcher Kartik Raj to find out.

UK Welfare Policy is Pushing Families into Hunger Crisis

The fundamental question seems entirely fair:  Why is a country with the world’s fifth largest economy experiencing widespread food insecurity?  Now, the decade old number of people seeking food has grown by a factor of fifty times the previous need. Now, as well, the working poor are swelling the numbers and whole families are going without individual meals and sometimes a whole day without food.  The absence of food is offering a new term – ‘holiday hunger’ or child meals that are missed when the schools have a holiday.  The authors see welfare cuts as the most important cause of the crisis.    Related article: CTV News – Jackie Dunham   Food insecurity in Nunavut increased after federal subsidy program: study   Related article: CBC News – Food insecurity in Nunavut ‘should be considered a national crisis,’ expert says – Conference Board of Canada releases food report card, gives Nunavut a D for food security   Related article: Toronto Star – Laurie Monsebraaten   Province to axe child benefit for refugee claimants and others waiting for support    Related article: CNN – Harmeet Kaur    It looks like any other graduation — except these graduates earned their degrees in prison

  CBC News
‘It’s a heavy load’: Former prison babies demand apology, recognition

It’s an age in which apologies are flying for many “sins of our fathers.”  If there is one that is truly worthy, the practice of imprisoning girls for pregnancies outside of wedlock ought to be high on the list.  The babies born were part of the stories such as this one about Robert Burke, now 68, whose mother – would be ballerina Muriel Joan Walker – and he suffered “inside the notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory, the first penitentiary for women in Canada, after his mother was jailed for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.”  The reformatory opened its doors in 1872, operating until 1969.  The article, and our awareness of how we historically treated gays and lesbians, may serve to remind us that, in prison practices, we are capable of some gross nastiness instead of compassionate support.   Related article: BC Tyee –  Emma Renaerts     Oh No, My Street’s Named after a Racist!  From Trutch to Robson and Smithe, the dark history behind Vancouver’s tainted names.

CNN (US) – Catherine E. Shoichet and Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez
These doctors risked their careers to expose the dangers children face in immigrant family detention

Doctors under contract to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seen enough to question if the buried reports they file with their employer agency and their further silence is complicity in the harm suffered by immigrant families and especially children in ICE custody.  “The doctors became whistleblowers, speaking out with a dire warning. Family detention isn’t safe, they said, and children’s lives are at stake.”    Related article: The Appeal (US) – Sarah Lustbader   ‘If you build it, they will come’: How jail beds drive incarceration  Related article: Talk Poverty – Elizabeth Brico   2.2 Million Americans Are Behind Bars. That’s More Than the Prison System Can Handle.

The Appeal (US) – Vaidya Gullapalli
Will New York’s parole system give Jerome Wright’s decade of community contributions and family support the weight they deserve?

The article is about parole and notes that 65% of the broken paroles are from what are called ‘technical violations’ of the parole; they do not represent danger to the community and the reason is not about another crime.  People go back to jail for what appears in the larger picture to be relatively minor reasons and in so doing generate a whole set of secondary consequences that howl for recourse.  That is the story of Jerome in the N.Y. State Parole system where about 7,000 people a year are remanded in custody to complete their sentences.    Related article: The Marshall Project – Joseph Neff   Behind Bars for 66 Years -The story of North Carolina’s longest-serving inmate highlights the situation of people with intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system.

 Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (US) – Marie N. Williams, Stoneleigh Foundation
 Measuring the Wrong Things: Incarcerated Girls Are Not ‘Statistically Insignificant’

The article raises the issue of the impact of prison policies designed for males but applied to females under the rationale that the numbers are insignificant to invite tinkering with the provisions because of the smaller population involved.  For example, the calories in the food served may be determined for males but too many for women, resulting in weight gain.  But the prison policy makers argue that the renegotiation of the food services contracts is too much and too costly to be justified by the small number of women inmates.  “Rather than count numbers of women and girls in custody, perhaps we ought to measure the relative efficacy of programming that will support them, while having potential collateral benefits for men and boys.”   Related article:  Equal Justice Initiatives   Oregon Abolishes Death-in-Prison Sentences for Children   Related article: The Big Issue – Changemakers: Sarah Burrows ensures prisoners’ kids are heard and seen – Stigma and shame are often attached to a family when a parent is locked up  

John Howard Society of Canada – Catherine Latimer, Executive Director
The Killing of Matthew Hines

In the light of the multiple deaths of inmates in Canada’s federal correctional system, it is fair to ask about the process for deliberation around the use of deadly force and the process of accountability consequent to deadly incidents or incidents involving serious physical or mental illness.  At the very least delay in investigation and transparency of the process is at issue.  Latimer says:  “When use of force is used resulting in death or serious bodily harm to a prisoner, it can’t be hidden behind prison walls where misinformation, destruction of evidence, and silence shrouds truth and accountability.  It is in the public interest to know if state-authorized force is being used inappropriately…  One is left to question the adequacy of the current review process for identifying and acting on excessive use of force incidents.  Effectiveness, objectivity and transparency might be better served through an independent review process.”  She wants an independent body to assess and hold accountable those who use force behind bars.   Related article: CTV News – Kristy Kirkup, Canadian Press     Corrections service waited three months to report sex-assault claim to police

National Post – Tom Blackwell
Shunned by hospitals and given sub-standard treatment, prisoners need better health care: government report

Any number of headlines around the health care for inmates of Ontario’s jails and prisons would support the claim of the need for better such health care.  The starting problem seems to lie in the responsibility for care in the hands of the Correctional Services rather than the health ministry but inmates surely have a higher than average need for these services, especially in the mental health care.  “Inmates are up to five times more likely than the general population to have serious psychiatric problems, have 20 times the rate of HIV, and close to 100 times the incidence of Hepatitis C.”  The Solicitor General of Ontario, Sylvie Jones, has just announced a $36 million cut to the province’s 25 jails, without any deference to the repeated acknowledgements that personnel / staff shortages are also plaguing the system.  The issue was raised by a federal report redacted before release to John Howard Society.  The report is also calling for at least $40 million more beyond the present $62 million to properly address the issues, not cuts.  “The (report) committee says it’s “not unusual” for hospitals to refuse to admit or to quickly discharge those mentally ill inmates who show up with their guards, partly because they’re convinced the jail will look after them.”   Related article: Ministry of Correctional Services   Institutional Violence in Ontario   (Feb 2019 Report directed by Howard Sapers, former federal Correctional Investigator)   Related article: Sarina Observer / London Free Press – Jennifer Bieman   Jail guards sickened by opioids while saving inmates from overdoses: Union

Law Times – Anita Balakrishnan
LSO balks at federation’s standards on disciplinary investigations

The Law Society has been preparing a series of recommendations for national standards for its members.  Some of the recommendations are drawing some push back, some of it long standing.  The Professional Regulation Committee concedes that the society did not meet its obligation for update the complaints brought against its members every three months.  Lawyers with complaints against them are insisting on these updates to avoid perhaps unwarranted and unnecessary damage to reputations.  The critical issue seems to be the numbers involved in Ontario.   “The LSO received 6,442 complaints on 60,600 licensees in 2018, compared with the next-biggest law society, Quebec, which received 2,049 complaints about 26,799 licensees, the report said.”  Other thinks there may be a better technological assist other thinks doubling the staff or simply extending the time limit (150 days) is the solution.

The Intercept (US) – Liliana Segura
One Night, Two Executions, and More Questions about Torture

The frequency of executions in the US has decreased but the questions around how to kill those sentenced to death, even after protracted stays on death row, continue to be controversial, even among those who accept the legitimacy of executions.  In Tennessee Don Johnson and in Alabama Michael Brandon Samra died of lethal injections; both executions have again raised questions about the medical evidence for torture in the executions.   Related article: DigBoston – Jean Trounstine    Special Feature: The Fight for Life in  Massachusetts  The Bay State has a fraught history of sentencing people to serve life without parole. Now lawmakers have a chance to end the bad deal Beacon Hill made to trade the death penalty for natural life sentences.

 Solitary Watch / Psychiatric Times (US) – Alan Frances, M.D.
Dungeons and Back Alleys: The Fate of the Mentally Ill in America

600,000 people who should be patients of the psychiatrists are languishing away in American jails and prisons.  Frances reviews the recent history that led to the substitution of prisons for mental health care. Says Frances:  “Disaster followed upon the double blows of deinstitutionalization and the closure or privatization of most CMHCs. Before deinstitutionalization, there had been about 650,000 state hospital beds in the United States—now, with more than twice the population, we have only about 35,000.  Whereas before we had far too many patients staying far too long in “snake pit” warehouses, now it is usually impossible to find a bed even for people in desperate need, and stays are far too short.”    The solution is already known, he says: “We need a moon-shot mentality—and it doesn’t require rocket science or new research. We have known for 50 years how to provide good care for severe mental illness. There is nothing mysterious or complicated about it. Decent housing. Easily accessible treatment. Social clubs. Vocational rehab. Positive regard, respect, and empathy. Family support. The only thing new is applying the Internet as a powerful tool for education, for social networking, and monitoring symptoms… Priority #1 is to get patients out of prison and off the streets.”