Fighting giants…

Nov. 30, 2020

 On fighting giants and other evils…

Churchill was once attributed with the remark that one can judge the quality of the civilization you have by the way you treat the country’s prisoners.  The present struggle between the Chaplains who work in the federal correctional system and their employer illustrates part of Churchill’s argument in that the chaplains care spiritually for some of the most rejected of this earth – people often without means or hope.  These institutional and community chaplains are ordinary citizens whose wish to be of service is now bent back upon them by the unscrupulous in the practice of a gamesmanship more common in the retail business exploitation of the defenceless:  part time work, squeezed for time contribution, squeezed to produce volunteers from the community.  Laid off in March due to Covid-19 they now scramble for food on the table.  They have resorted to union representation – the Steel Workers – against a US owned management firm – Bridges – with a Canadian presence doing the bidding of Correctional Service of Canada which stays at a distance.  The chaplains, about 180 strong, are looking for your support in a letter writing campaign.  For directions, suggested recipients and a template to be adapted as you see fit, contact

Press Release by United Steele Workers:

APTN Investigates – Holly Moore and John Murray
Innocence Canada petitioning Canada to free Keeseekoose women from prison – Two sisters were imprisoned for the murder of Anthony Joe Dolff

This longstanding case is raising hackles among an increasingly larger audience of advocates who see a real miscarriage of justice.  The case involves non-Indigenous men killed allegedly by Indigenous people.  Two sisters, Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance  were charged in 1994 and convicted of second degree murder in spite of a confession from a 14 year old relative, and sentenced to life in prison.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court without relief.  David Milgaard and famed Innocent Project James Lockyer have taken the case and are seeking a review of the conviction from AG David Lametti.

Toronto Star – Colin Perkel, Canadian Press
Few federal inmates moved from solitary after external reviews, new data show

The data just released by Corrections Canada is raising a lot of skepticism among critics who have been frozen out of this data for some time.  The CSC generated report allegedly from external reviewers of the practice of solitary found only 2% of the cases warranted change out of  solitary.  Dr. Adelina Iftene of Dalhousie:  “Either there is a lack of clarity on what exactly are the role and powers of the IEDMs, or the IEDMs are tigers without teeth, or the IEDMs are not fulfilling their role…The implication remains that there may still be no effective oversight of placements in the SIUs.”

The Marshall Project (US)
What Could Have Kept Me Out of Prison – We asked people behind bars what services and programs could have changed the course of their lives. Therapy, affordable housing and a living wage topped the list.

The Project staff asked prisoners what they thought would have kept them out of prison.  There are few surprises in the answers which came from all over the United States. “Nearly 2,400 respondents told us about their struggles with drug addiction, mental health and domestic violence. They shared stories of the difficulties finding well-paying work and stable housing. Others took sole responsibility for their mistakes. Here are some of their answers, edited for length and clarity.”  Related article: The Intercept – Jordan Smith   How the Criminal Justice System Fails People With Mental Illness – “I found your baby,” Michelle Durden recalls the police officer saying after her son went missing. “He’s alive. And he’s in jail.”

Armine Yalnizyan Tweet

Who gets paid sick leave in Canada:  One of the elements playing havoc with the virus and homecare for children is whether a worker can have a sick leave without jeopardizing the job.

The Sentencing Project (US) –
Incarcerated Women and Girls – Over the past quarter century, there has been a profound change in the involvement of women within the criminal justice system. This is the result of more expansive law enforcement efforts, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and post-conviction barriers to re-entry that uniquely affect women.

The report says that in the last 30 years in the US the number of women in prison has increased by 700%.  It also suggests why: “more expansive law enforcement efforts, stiffer drug sentencing laws, and post-conviction barriers to re-entry that uniquely affect women.”  Equally appalling, 60% of those in state prison have a child under 18.  There are more Black and Latinx in prison but curiously the rate for white women from 2000-2018 went up by 41%.

N.Y. Times (US) – Hailey Fuchs
New Rule Would Allow U.S. to Use More Methods for Executions

Terre Haute, Indiana, is the capital for US federal executions.  In a last meaningless defiance Trump and AG Barr have decided to execute as many as possible before the Jan 20 inauguration of Joe Biden and there are five scheduled to be executed before the expiry date of Trump’s reign.  Biden has announced opposition to the death penalty and can rescind the order after Jan. 20.   Just to be sure that the federal justice department has enough tools to do the executions – they are running out of the lethal drugs – they have already published a rule allowing them to diversify the means of execution after 30 days’ notice.  Is there no indignity left?  If need be, the feds can now also use poison gas, electrocution or a firing squad. Related article:  CTV News –  Christina Carrega   U.S. rushing to expand execution methods like firing squads for federal death row inmates