Second chance…

Sept 10, 2020

Canadian Lawyer – Michael Spratt
Ontario’s plan to build new prisons is wrongheaded – We don’t need new jails or bigger jails; we need better and smaller jails, argues Michael Spratt

Spratt’s premise is very simple: if you build new jails you will work to fill them.  The commitment of the Ontario government just serves to distract from effective rehabilitation and humane ways of dealing with crime involving the community.  $500 million for 400 new jail cells and renovations to existing jails is the price advanced by the Ontario government.  “We lock people up because they are poor, homeless, addicted, sick or marginalized. Sadly, rehabilitation programming, addiction counseling, and mental health treatment are non-existent for most inmates of Ontario’s jails. The dirty secret of the justice system is that people come out of jail in worse shape than when they went in.”  Related article: Ottawa Citizen – Shaamini Yogaretnam   Second chance delayed: Ex-convicts look for light after the pandemic

BBC (UK) – Chris Tchaikovsky
The Other Tchaikovsky

The link provides some insights into the issues around women in prison in England.  Chris Tchaikovsky, “a woman who defied definition and shook up criminal justice,” was imprisoned for five years and speaks from the experience now as an advocate against the practice of imprisoning women.  The reflection is somewhat irreverent, brazen and language possibly offensive but still defiantly courageous, the content and expression may offer novel perspectives for the crimes committed and the prison time served.  (A 40 min audio from BBC)

N.Y. Times (US) – Serge F. Kovaleski and Dan Barry
‘Or I Will Stab You Right Now’: A Family’s Prison Extortion Nightmare – While serving time, Ryan Rust was beaten, stabbed and threatened with hot oil if his relatives didn’t pay up. After disturbing calls and texts, they bought guns for protection.

This is a frightening link that adds to the consequences of crime and prison on the innocent.  The availability of cell phones in the Alabama state prison system allows fellow prisoners to call relatives of prisoners and demand extortion payments for not doing physical harm to the relative.  The father of Ryan Rust, got almost daily phone calls looking for money, at first in smaller amounts but expanding:  “The elder Mr. Rust, a 64-year-old towboat captain, said inmates would instruct him to use Western Union and other transfer services to send payments to their girlfriends, wives or other relatives, who would deposit the money into the men’s commissary accounts or keep it for themselves.”

Toronto Star – Irelyne Lavery
Toronto police officer ordered to remove ‘Punisher’ patch from uniform

The link offers the latest evidence that policing is in need of structural reform: the Punisher Badge on a Toronto police officer’s uniform, a Marvel Comics sign of a Vigilante Group thought to have been adopted by police.  The badge reads: “Make no mistake, I am the sheepdog” and displays a skull in the middle.  The public the police allegedly serve and protect are the sheep, only truly responsive to the snapping sheepdog.  Toronto police have ordered the badge removed and are subjecting the officer to internal discipline.  It is not known how many share the perspective or the badge.

Policy Options – Ratna Omidvar
Government should change outmoded fund raising rules for charities – The WE scandal has illustrated the difficulties charities have in raising money. Laws should be updated to make it easier for charities to function.

While all of us have been touched by the various charities that operate in Canada, few realize the significant legal challenges of financing the work of the charity.  “In order to stay within the law, charities like WE, which hope to generate more earned income, must set up a separate arms-length organization, usually a not-for-profit, to generate revenue and flow this through to the charity. But the rules governing this flow of funds are strict, and the costs of setting up and maintaining separate entities often act as a deterrent to charities looking for new sources of revenue.”  The charities continue to be needed but are hampered by the legal requirements of their operations.  Omidvar is a Canadian senator whose background is extensively in immigration and settlement, diversity and inclusion.   Related article: CBC News – John Paul Tasker   WE Charity winding down operations in Canada after student grants scandal – Organization says it was ‘ill-equipped’ to fight ‘political battles’

 The Atlantic (US) – Ibram X. Kendi
The Violent Defense of White Male Supremacy – Trump and his supporters are defending an America where white men can rule and brutalize without consequence.

The sentiment of the author of the New York Times best seller How to be an antiracist is powerful in its summary of the present predicament in the US.  “Trumpism is the latest—or last—chapter in the story of this America. Like its antecedents, Trumpism is the violent defense of white male supremacy. Adherents of Trumpism think they are facing a choice between white male supremacy and “anarchy.” And right now, Trump’s federal agents, Trump-supporting paramilitary domestic terrorists, and Trump-supporting police officers from Kenosha to Austin believe they are fighting against anarchy. Which is to say, they are fighting to maintain white male supremacy. Which is to say, they are defending law and order. Defending their America—where white men can rule and brutalize without consequence.”