Say it ain’t so…

Dec 20, 2020

Toronto Star – Alyshah Hasham
Legal groups say Ontario misled public with claim it reduced inmate population by 30 per cent early in pandemic

There’s a lot, to rely on an old jail joke, depends on the way you tell the story.  Two advocate groups are suggesting that the release of potential victims of Covid-19 from Ontario’s prisons is at best narrative lustre.  The Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto and the Black Legal Action Centre in Toronto filed an access to information request and got a detailed report from the Solicitor General whose data suggested that 645 people were released from jail between March 16, 2020, and July 22, 2020.  Not so say the advocates.  “The vast majority of that number came through the suspension of weekend sentences. Only 40 people close to the end of their sentences were granted early release and 137 people granted parole during this time. Between March and December, a total of 120 people were granted early release, the ministry told the Star.”  Now the focus is on a further claim that 1500 people were released in November while outbreaks continue.  There is an added concern that those actually released tend to by-pass Indigenous and Black prisoners.  Related article: Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat – Justice and Public Safety Ministers work together on shared priorities  Related article: Toronto Star – Kevin Jiang and Jim Rankin  80-case COVID-19 outbreak at Kingston prison has spread to two other Ontario institutions, CSC says  Already reported: CTV News (Saskatoon) – Lisa Risom   24 inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Saskatchewan Penitentiary

 Petition to the House of Commons on Solitary Confinement as treatment and prevention for Covid-19
Covid-19 in the prisons…
Toronto Star – Muriel Draaisma
Toronto jail tries to bring COVID-19 outbreak under control after 54 inmates test positive
Saskatchewan Star-Phoenix – Thia James
Sask. Pen outbreak grows: Correctional Service of Canada says 63 inmates have active COVID-19 cases – The Correctional Service of Canada says as of Friday, there are 63 inmates with active cases of COVID-19.
From Canadian Families and Corrections Networks (CFCN) and the Milhaven Lifers Group:
Latest Covid-19 federal prison facts…(as of Dec 20, 2020)

Covid outbreak in the Ontario region – All in-person visiting suspended as Corrections Canada does contract tracing.  Private family visiting still on-going except in Joyceville, Collins Bay and Wentworth Institutions

Huffington Post (Canada) Zi-Ann Lum
Canadian Inmates Have Made 821,703 Face Masks During The Pandemic – Federal departments can now acquire prisoner-made PPE.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Emma Accorsi
Perspectives: Why incarcerated people should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination

This conclusion by a significant authority on the matter of public health bears some considerable warning for us.  Recently, the state of Massachusetts announced it its intent to vaccinate the prisons on a priority basis.

CBC Marketplace – Melissa Mancini, Katie Pedersen, David Common
These nursing home chains have the highest COVID-19 death rates in Ontario, data analysis finds – Companies say higher prevalence of shared rooms in for-profit homes influenced death rates

In the aftermath of the damages to date to the elderly in long term care facilities this report ought to influence all government decisions around the standards of care.  The report measures the number of deaths to date per 100 beds between the private for profit, the non-profit and the municipal LTC homes.  Some with the worst record in this simple stat are now looking to expand the beds in their homes, taking over other licensed operations.

CBC News – Murray Fallis, Opinion
Disrupting volunteer-led prison programs cuts a fundamental lifeline for everyone in the system

What happens when Covid-19 is threatening a prison population, prisoners and staff?  The most common answer is lockdown in which the prisoners spend most of their days in the cells since the programs and visitors are all cancelled in the interests of quarantine.  The volunteers, like chaplains who organize many of these visits, are a lifeline for prisoners since they are the backbone of the more trust-worthy in the prisons.  “It is in this context that more connection is needed between those inside and outside prison during the pandemic, whether remotely or in person. The prison system would benefit from a more creative approach to volunteer engagement, as well as actively reaching out to volunteers for their ideas on how to ensure ongoing involvement with federal prisoners.”    Related article: The Marshall Project – Beth Schwartzapfel, Katie Park and Andrew Demillo   1 in 5 Prisoners in the U.S. Has Had COVID-19

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Electronic monitoring in probation practice

The article is a discussion of the pro’s and con’s of using electronic monitoring in the probation services of the UK.  “…authored by Professor Anthea Hucklesby and Dr Ella Holdsworth, the briefing investigates the historically uneasy relationship between probation and electronic monitoring.”  Then the authors offer their understanding of the advantages and disadvantages.  The discussion probably needs to review the setting of conditions on bail and probation and the role of electronic monitoring.

 Ottawa Life – Dan Donovan
A learning moment for Erin O’Toole and Rex Murphy on racism in Canada

This is an unusual article in that it contextualizes commentaries from two well-known Canadians – Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and journalist Rex Murphy – about racism in Canada.  Then it offers a rebuttal of the ‘Canada is not racist’ view from a Deputy Minister of Indigenous Affairs – Daniel Quan-Watson.  Quan-Watson has a most unusual family background:  Chinese Canadian and Polish Irish.  He says:  “Racism, though, is like an iceberg to a ship traveling at night. You may or may not see it as you travel, but if you do, the visible part is only the smallest percentage of the danger you face. Because of this, sometimes you don’t notice it at the time. You just realize later that a gash has been torn below the waterline that you need to deal with. The easy instances to spot are when you hit racism head-on and it’s spectacular and everyone around can see it. As a result, there will never be a perfect count of the instances of racism.”  What follows is a distressing list of personal incidents of racism experienced growing up in Canada.