March 28, 2021

Lawyer’s Daily – Ian Burns
Correctional service response to COVID-19 violates rights of incarcerated persons, lawsuit alleges

Seven prisoners, present and former, have filed a lawsuit claiming constitutional and human rights violations while they were in custody of Corrections Canada.  “Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in federal correctional facilities is facing scrutiny as seven current and former inmates have launched a court challenge arguing pandemic restrictions, such as lockdowns and a lack of access to services, have violated their constitutional rights… The case has been filed in B.C.’s Supreme Court and claims the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has breached the Charter by subjecting incarcerated persons to medical and administrative lockdowns — a form of isolation akin to solitary confinement — for indeterminate periods of time, suspending parole hearings and withholding the programs and services that they require, including visitation and spiritual counselling.”   https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/criminal/articles/25575/correctional-service-response-to-covid-19-violates-rights-of-incarcerated-persons-lawsuit-alleges?nl_pk=40ed8ea4-637a-4d76-870f-04f0eeae7de8&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=criminal   Related article: Toronto Star – Alyshaw Hasham  Most inmates at Milton’s Maplehurst jail refused offer of COVID-19 vaccine   https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/03/25/most-inmates-at-miltons-maplehurst-jail-refused-offer-of-covid-19-vaccine.html

The Marshall Project (US) – Abbott Kahler
A Bestselling Author Became Obsessed With Freeing a Man From Prison. It Nearly Ruined Her Life. After the success of her novel Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen spent years trying to prove a man’s innocence. Now she’s “absolutely broke” and “seriously ill,” and her next book is “years past deadline.”

The link invites one to consider the anger and frustration that comes from a failed effort to prove innocence in spite of overwhelming evidence and the failure to even get a hearing in a reluctant court system.  In addition there is cost, both financially and personally, but there is also inspiration at the determination of a lady whose life is forever changed from the struggle itself, if not the success.  This is a longer but worthwhile read for those who have struggle as well with a stubborn system that mostly resists change for the better.  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/03/24/a-bestselling-author-became-obsessed-with-freeing-a-man-from-prison-it-nearly-ruined-her-life

The Sacramento Bee (US) – Rosalio Ahumada
‘We don’t need police, period.’ Who should handle mental health 911 calls in Sacramento?

Defunding the police and funding directly mental health expertise on 911 calls involving mental health crisis always seems to come to the same knot: who will be the first responders and what role do police play?  The link explores the two sides of this question with community activists and police advocates.  Some think the Sacramento resolution is simply funding police another way and not at all addressing the core issue of the lack of compassionate expertise among police as first responders or even as playing a secondary role to the mental health professional.
https://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article249677048.html#storylink=cpy   Related article: PsyArXiv (US) – Monica Gerber et al Police violence as punishment: Does excessive use of force serve to punish those who threaten status and power hierarchies in society?  https://psyarxiv.com/cq87a/ (Abstract; link to download)   Related article: NY Times – Ian Manuel    I Survived 18 Years in Solitary  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/25/opinion/solitary-confinement-reform.html?smtyp=cur   Related article: Blogger Russell Webster (UK) – Poverty is driving crime and policing makes it worse   https://www.russellwebster.com/poverty-is-driving-crime-and-policing-makes-it-worse/  Related report: The Revolving Door (UK) – The Knot: The Lived experience perspectives on policing trauma, poverty and inequalities  “an accurate description of a system that is working hard to do the wrong thing better.”  (A 44 page downloadable pdf; Chapter 2 (pp 9-10 are a recommendation summary)  https://revolving-doors.org.uk/file/2575/download?token=MTdfW1EN

Ottawa City News – Douglas Boyle
North Grenville residents speak out against proposed Kemptville prison – Two new jails, including a complex in Kemptville, were announced last year by Premier Doug Ford, along with upgrades at three other correctional facilities

The Ontario government has already decided to build two more prisons and to upgrade three others.  They own the land anticipated for the prison in North Grenville.  But residents are not at all in favour of the new prison.  “Residents and opposition groups agree that it is not only a detraction from their vision for the future but say local municipalities do not have the resources to accommodate a maximum-security jail… With a strained public health system, lack of public transportation and deficient resources for people facing homelessness, residents noted that, should an inmate be released or require medical attention, North Grenville would not be able to accommodate them appropriately.”  https://ottawa.citynews.ca/valley-news/north-grenville-residents-speak-out-against-proposed-kemptville-prison-3572816   Related article: Human Rights Watch (US) Kenneth Roth, Executive Director      As Killer Robots Loom, Demands Grow to Keep Humans in Control of Use of Force   https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/global-0

Los Angeles Times (US) – Maura Dolan
California’s top court ends cash bail for some defendants who can’t afford it

The California Supreme Court has determined that “it is unconstitutional to require defendants to remain behind bars simply because they cannot afford bail.”  The issue to bail reform is at the heart of every justice reform discussion and the definitive ruling by the court puts the whole bail process, remand, fees and penalty costs, to be at a very focused issue.  “Thursday’s ruling is likely to lead to many more people being released without bail before they go to trial. Judges may keep criminal defendants locked up only when “clear and convincing” evidence shows there is no other way to protect the public and ensure the defendants’ return for court appearances.”  https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-03-25/california-supreme-court-nixes-cash-bail-some-defendants

TVO – April 7, 2021
Unascertained  (A six part series – two episodes on April 7, the remainder one weekly during April)

On December 15, 2016, Soleiman Faqiri was found dead in his cell after an altercation with a group of correctional officers. After suffering a schizophrenic episode, the 30-year-old was awaiting a pre-trial mental health assessment at a Lindsay Ontario jail. He was pepper sprayed, shackled, and was wearing a spit hood. But there was no footage of what went on inside his segregation cell that day. We piece together the timeline of Soleiman’s death and what really happened when guards entered the room. It’s a story of a family’s loss, mental health failures in the prison system, and a search for justice. Coming April 7th.  Preview clip https://omny.fm/shows/unascertained/introducing-unascertained

Catholic Mobilizing Network (US) – Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr
Confronting the Sword with Love

The link is to a site which is religious and focused on the abolition of the death penalty, a site we do not wish to endorse but one which can be universally admired for this content and the admirable expression of a sentiment closely part of any restorative justice perspective.  Sullivan’s sister was murdered and he has been leading the effort to abolish the death penalty in Ohio with enough strength and vigour to merit the 2020 Social Justice award from Republican Governor Mike De Wine.  Ohio is now advancing the termination of the death penalty, perhaps the 24th state to do after the most recent Virginia.   For those of you celebrating Easter or even those ready for some sort of refreshment of spirit in the power of the human spirit to overcome the most destructive of human relationship.  https://catholicsmobilizing.org/blog/confronting-sword-love-reflection-fifth-sunday-lent?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=0a240715-f9e6-4ffe-a20b-33c32dfa42ac