Mar 12, 2021

 Liberals, Bloc Quebecois join forces to pass revised assisted dying bill – MPs pass bill 180 to 149 with most Bloc, Liberal MPs in support

The struggle in the House over the medical assist in dying has been focused recently on whether to include the mentally ill.  When Bill 7 arrived from the Senate the bill precluded the mentally ill but Quebec Superior Court has already  “struck down a provision that allows assisted dying only for intolerably suffering individuals whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”  Now, the Bill goes back to the Senate for approval.  “The bill would expand assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives… It would also relax eligibility rules for people who are near death but set out more restrictive rules for those who are not.”  Related article: CBC News – Joan Bryden, Canadian Press   Government agrees mentally ill should have access to assisted dying — in 2 years  MPs to debate motion responding to five amendments Senate proposed to Bill C-7

 Phy.0rg (US) – Crime and Justice Research Alliance
Study: Prisoners with mental illness much more likely to be placed in solitary confinement

This Florida study confirms the real harm of extended solitary confinement in that we know those who are mentally ill suffer more extensively from deprivation of human contact.  Yet the study confirms that the mentally ill are more frequently confined to solitary for long periods.  Researchers studied 155,018 men entering prison:  “The study found that one percent of all of the men were placed in extended solitary confinement after 60 days. It also found that prisoners with mental illness were up to 170 percent more likely to be placed for extended periods of time in solitary, depending on their diagnosis. This increased risk is higher than identified by previous research. The higher risk was present for a variety of mental health disorders (including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, psychotic antisocial personality disorder, and other personality disorders, but not disorders related to anxiety, impulse control, and post-traumatic stress), and only partially explained by prison misconduct, the authors note.”  Related article:  The Conversation – Linda Mussell and Marsha Rampersaud   Solitary confinement replaced by new system where 1 in 10 prisoners experience torture  

Strategies for Policing Innovation (US)
Responding to People in Crisis: Alternative Models of Police Service Webinar

March 25, 2021 at 2:00PM Eastern

“This webinar will focus on alternatives to traditional enforcement approaches when police respond to people in mental health and/or substance use crisis. Increasingly, the police have come to represent the last resort for support for individuals and families who are homeless, or in crisis as a result of mental health or substance use disorders… This webinar will explore how three different law enforcement agencies, through the SPI initiative, developed new approaches for responding to people in crisis and the impact and outcomes of these new models. All three models adopt a service approach based on collaboration as well as co-responses with community service providers.”   To register:

CTV News – Michael Franklin
Red Cross deployed to help contain COVID-19 outbreak at Alberta prison

The Drumheller Federal Prison in Alberta has an out of control virus incident with 83 people infected.  The Red Cross has been involved since March 8 in an effort to control the spread.  About 20 of the 83 are staff and the remainder prisoners.  The Red Cross serves the institution at the request of CSC while offering its expertise in disease control.  New arrivals are tested for Covid-19 and held in medical isolation but the infections are more likely transmitted by staff.   Related article: Desmond Brown   CBC News  Prisoners refuse meals amid COVID-19 outbreak at Hamilton jail, 72 people infected

HuffPost (US) – Sarah Ruiz Grossman
Oklahoma House Passes Bill To Give Immunity To Drivers Who Hit Protesters – The legislation approved by the Republican-led House comes after Black Lives Matter protests last summer against racist police violence.

How far can partisan politics drive the divide between people?  Here’s an answer for some.  The issue is dealing with crowds who may surround your car while demonstrating.  What to do?  Rely on police?  No, here’s license to run over the demonstrators.  “In an early morning vote along party lines, with 79 votes in favor and 18 against, state lawmakers approved legislation that would remove criminal or civil liability for any driver who “unintentionally” injures or kills someone while “fleeing from a riot,” as long as they have a “reasonable belief” that fleeing would protect themselves from harm… The bill would also allow protesters to be charged with a misdemeanor if they “unlawfully obstruct” traffic, punishable by up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines.”   Oklahoma Bill 1674

CBC News – Blair Rhodes
N.S. lawsuit targets federal attorney general over sex crimes in prisons – ‘I’ve witnessed first hand … the lack of accountability,’ says former inmate

The accountability for the abuse of women in Canada’s six women’s prisons took a turn for the worse when Corrections Canada conceded that while they tracked disciplinary matters for staff they did not make an effort to track abuse by staff.  Now, the accountability has stepped a little further in a lawsuit initiated by a former prisoner who is suing for the negligence that lead to her sexual abuse while a prisoner.  Sara Tessier is hoping her willingness to lead the lawsuit will allow the suit to become a class action lawsuit:  “The reason why I put my name to this as the lead representative in the case is because I’ve witnessed first hand and through my experience the violations of the charter of freedom and rights and the lack of accountability on CSC’s [Correctional Service of Canada] part to first take these allegations serious, act upon them and rectify the situation,” Tessier said Thursday.”   Related article: Globe and Mail – Kristy Kirkup   Former prisoner launches class action on sexual abuse at federal correctional institutions   Related article: CBC News – Murray Brewster   Parts of Canada’s military culture permit ‘racism, discrimination, harassment,’ says acting chief   Related article: CBC News – Rachel Ward   Commanding officers interfered in sexual assault investigations, retired military police officer says

 Toronto Star – Jacques Gallant
Ontario government’s changes to how judges are named opens the door to patronage appointments, legal organizations argue

Ontario’s “Accelerating Access to Justice Act,” tabled last month may not be what it claims: in fact, it may re-usher in the potential for patronage appointments to judges.  “Yet many of the province’s legal organizations — including those representing Black, Muslim, Asian, and South Asian lawyers — say they did not ask for these changes, and argue most of them are unnecessary and risk harming the independence of the judicial appointments process in Ontario.”  Currently, appointments come from a special committee known as the independent judicial appointments advisory committee (JAAC) which draws membership from lawyers, judges and the public.

Washington Post – Ashley Nellis
Opinion: Virginia’s move to end capital punishment has a major flaw

Nellis is a senior researcher with the Sentencing Project and is bringing forth the most serious element of resistance to mass incarceration:  people who feel that Life without Parole is an adequate exchange for by-passing the death penalty.  She thinks, there is a limited gain when the substitute sentence for death is LWOP.  “But the movement to end capital punishment also has a major flaw. It pushes for another form of in-prison death: life without the possibility of parole. Commonly referred to as LWOP, this sentence is frequently touted as a humane alternative to the death penalty. But LWOP is also deeply problematic and riddled with many of the exact same problems as the death penalty. In the end, sentenced people are still condemned to die in prison, but LWOP sentences receive far less scrutiny by our justice system than death sentences.”  At last count, over 200,000 prisoners are serving LWOP and the sentiment is clearly adding to proclivity to longer sentences in general.  In the meantime, we can be happy for the growing decline in capital punishment.   Related article: The Marshall Project – Keri Blakinger  How Biden Can Reverse Trump’s Death Penalty Expansion – Biden vowed to end the death penalty. A recent court filing suggests where he might start.  Related article: FiberOne (Washington State) – Joe Utter, Associated Press    WA Supreme Court overturns automatic life sentences for young killers