Big change!

Nov 14, 2021

Big Change – Alex Himelfarb, Monitor Magazine (CCPA)
Big change: Five readings to help us understand what’s needed and what it will take

This second set of readings from Himelfarb are intended to offer our drooping spirits some recourse from inevitable despair and forbidding future with hope.  Himelfarb may be right in suggesting that while we have been through a lot in the last couple of years, and may not yet be completely outside the impact of the experiences, these authors hold up some hope in alternate thinking.  Some may find the references a refreshing relief from the myriad of points of concerns the recent lived experience has brought. The reality may well be that we continually choose to have what we regularly renounce.

Business Insider (US) – Aria Bendix
A basic-income pilot in Florida will give formerly incarcerated people $600 per month for a year, no strings attached

$7200 per year as a boost to restarting one’s life from nothing except family perhaps is not likely enough but it is significant in that it marks a recognition that the newly released from jail need means to start over.  The basic income pilot starts in January with $1,000 initially and then $600 per month for a year and has the intent of reducing re-offending.  “…run by the local nonprofit Community Spring (the pilot) will offer monthly stipends to 115 Alachua County residents who were released from prison or jail with a felony conviction on or after June 1.” Applicants will be accepted randomly and can spent the money as they like.

Toronto Star –
N.S. court rules law allowing ‘dry celling’ of prisoners discriminates against women

The court has ruled against the practice of “dry celling,” in which “prisoners are placed in a cell without running water or toilets so their human waste can be examined for concealed drugs.”  The ruling identified the practice as more discriminatory towards women whom the prison officials think may be hiding drugs in their vagina.  “The judge said the section of the law allowing for dry celling has a disproportionate effect on women. “Female inmates reasonably suspected of carrying contraband in their vagina are forced to take on additional burdens in terms of both the risk of dry cell detention, and the length of dry cell detention.”  Related article: CBC News – Shaina Luck   N.S. judge agrees to strike down law permitting prison ‘dry cells’ – ‘We are thrilled,’ says lawyer for Lisa Adams, who spent 16 days in cell without flushing toilet

 Globe and Mail – Sean Fine
Supreme Court upholds ‘starting-point’ sentencing for fentanyl traffickers

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Alberta court which imposed 9 years as a minimum sentence for wholesalers of the drug fentanyl were within their legal authority to do so and that at the same time where circumstances may require less than the minimum, judges may impose less as well.  ““The Court of Appeal was entitled to take the lead and consider the public-health crisis in Alberta in the creation of the nine‑year starting point,” wrote Justice Russell Brown and Justice Sheilah Martin, both of whom previously sat on Alberta’s appeal court… “It is noteworthy that Alberta has one of the highest rates of opioid‑related deaths and overdoses, relative to other provinces and territories.”

Cosmopolitan (UK) – Jade Biggs
Should pregnant women really be sent to prison? How the criminal justice system is failing mums-to-be – We spoke to three women who bravely shared their stories of motherhood behind bars

The article speaks to one of the most significant differences between men and women in jail: men do not become mothers.  Biggs raises the question about the appropriateness of sending pregnant women to prison at all.  “Immediately after her baby was born, Anna was sent to stay on a Mother and Baby Unit (a space within prison, also known as an MBU, where a mother can live with her baby up until the age of 18 months).”I went there straight from the hospital, and as soon as the door shut behind me I fell apart,” the 35-year-old recalls, “I was sitting in a prison cell with a newborn baby and I had no idea what I was doing. From then on, my mental health deteriorated drastically.”  There are an estimated 600 pregnant women a year sent to prison in the UK.

The Marshall Project (US) – Lawrence Bartley
I Am Not Your ‘Inmate’ – I didn’t always detest this term. But hearing officers use it as an insult reminded me to call incarcerated people — including myself — by our names.

Bartley’s rage is another example of language that has created barriers and separation among people.  More, the names create a sort of brand and certain expectations when used, both superior status and inferior status.  Given that many ‘inmates’ (from the old English for a ‘house guest’) who are also Black or minority, the term has a racist potential as well.  “Words like “inmate,” “prisoner,” “convict,” “felon” and “offender” are like brands. They reduce human beings to their crimes and cages.”