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Dec. 10, 2021

Institute for Research on Public Policy (Policy Options Canada) – Navjot Kaur and Bavneet Chauhan
How can we improve our criminal justice system?

The link summarizes the long practice of hard line theory around crime and punishment, pronouncing them entirely ineffective in spite of their long life among us.  We believe that prisons, deter crime, denounce crime and prevent crime, while in fact punishment does not. “We need restorative justice and a radical transformation in the way that we conceive justice and punishment. This is important because inmates need sustainable justice and rehabilitation. Alternative methods are needed to help the marginalized, those suffering from violence, mental health issues and drug addiction achieve any of these goals.  Kaur and Chauhan are advocating for a restorative justice model.”   https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/december-2021/how-can-we-improve-our-criminal-justice-system/   Related article:  Blogger Russell Webster (UK) Breaking reoffending cycles – A systems map   https://www.russellwebster.com/breaking-reoffending-cycles/

 BC Tyee – Hiren Mansukhani
A Big Rise in Mentally Ill Prisoners with Substance Use Disorders – A new study tracked 47,000 BC inmates. The author calls for early intervention.

The study illustrates what advocates for prison reform have been saying forever.  The prison system badly needs better health services especially focused on mental health and addiction.  The numbers show the extent of the problem and the trending.  The study looked at some 47,000 people in prison and concluded that those with both mental health distress and addiction had double in the admissions in the last eight years, now at 32% over 14% eight years ago.  Primary study author Amanda Butler, a criminologist and research associate at UBC’s department of psychiatry: “Butler told The Tyee that the prison numbers point to the lack of available resources in the community for people with mental health challenges which, in many cases, directly or indirectly, leads them to end up in the criminal justice system in the first place… People who have both mental health needs and substance use disorders face further challenges in accessing treatment, Butler pointed out, because many treatment services exclude people with mental illness when providing care for a substance use disorder.”  https://thetyee.ca/News/2021/12/08/Big-Rise-Mentally-Ill-Prisoners-Substance-Use-Disorders/  Related article: Keri Blakinger (Marshall Project US) If you ever wondered why people don’t trust prison healthcare…    Keri Blakinger on Twitter: “When the top TX prison psychiatrist testified in court last month, he …   

 Hill Times (Canada) – Alice Chen
Automatic pardon bill hailed by experts as ‘most significant’ justice reform in a long time

There has been much discontent with the current approach to pardons, in fact, not a pardon at all but a record suspension at the end of a complicated and expensive convicted person application process.  Senator Kim Pate, with the support of a coalition of advocating organizations, has introduced Senate Bill S-212.  While the harshest critics say the Bill will not reduce crime, S-212 is calculated to allow people, frequently poor and racialized people, to move on with their lives post sentence.  “Independent Senator Kim Pate (Ontario) introduced Bill S-212 in the Senate on Nov. 24, offering a no-cost, no-application expiry of criminal records once a person has spent a certain period of time post-sentence with no further criminal involvement—two years for summary convictions, and five years for indictable offences, compared to the current five years and 10 years, respectively. The onus would be on the government to ensure the records expire.”  https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/12/07/automatic-pardon-bill-hailed-by-experts-as-most-significant-justice-reform-in-a-long-time/333113

Victoria University (Australia) Ph.D Thesis – Lindsey Pointer
Justice Performed: The Normative, Transformative, and Proleptic Dimensions of the Restorative Justice Ritual

The thesis had Chris Marshall as an adviser and tackles the notion that the performance of justice of type requires a public ritual.  From the thesis abstract: “This thesis proffers three dominant ritual functions related to the performance of justice: the normative, the transformative, and the proleptic. Rituals have a normative function when they provide a sense of safety and security through establishing a set way of doing things and reaffirming communal values. Transformative rituals offer a means of attaining significant and sustainable change at personal and relational levels. Proleptic rituals are capable of envisioning and temporarily creating a different possible societal future by generating social and power relationships that can challenge the status quo. Not every ritual performance is oriented to achieving these various functions, yet it will be argued that the nature of justice demands attention to all three.  This thesis applies this analytical framework of the various functions of rituals to two justice performances: the criminal trial and restorative justice.”  (The full thesis can be downloaded at the button below the title of the abstract.)  https://figshare.com/articles/thesis/Justice_Performed_The_Normative_Transformative_and_Proleptic_Dimensions_of_the_Restorative_Justice_Ritual/17142065

The Sentencing Project (US) – Nicole D. Porter
Successes in Criminal Legal Reforms, 2021

The link provides a four page briefing (as a PDF) on significant and beneficial changes in state and federal law and sentencing practices.  A major part of the Project’s thrust has been to challenge extreme sentencing, but the project also raises concerns around racial disparity and limiting denial of bail in favour of jailing accused as well as issues around youth justice.  The link also identifies direction for further advocacy around mass incarceration for the near future.  https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Successes-in-Criminal-Legal-Reforms-2021.pdf

The Crime Report  (US) –
DOJ Slammed for Failure to Publish Police Excessive Force Data

Many of the statistics around crime in the US are collected from local police departments and other sources.  The contribution of the raw data to the DOJ is sometimes spotty but now the problem seems to be that the DOJ itself has not surfaced legally required reports on excessive force by police.  The Government Accounting Office has noted that DOJ has not consistently published the data from 2016 – 2020.  There are other deficiencies noted by GAO as well.  https://thecrimereport.org/2021/12/08/doj-slammed-for-failure-to-publish-police-excessive-force-data/

 Reuters (US) – Helen Coster
Number of jailed journalists reached global high in 2021, at least 24 killed for their coverage -CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) report

293 in prison, 24 dead for their journalism, and 18 others whose deaths are very likely for their work, all adds up to a devastating year for journalists thru the world.  China is the most frequent offender with 50 journalists imprisoned, followed by Myanmar, Egypt, Vietnam and Belarus.   https://www.reuters.com/world/china/number-jailed-journalists-reached-global-high-2021-least-24-killed-their-2021-12-09/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%20Reuters%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_content=9-12-21&utm_campaign=9-12-21   Related article:  Tampa Bay Times (Florida) – Divya Kumar   UF (University of Florida) researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, faculty report says – Faculty Senate panel alleges more violations of academic freedom. Says staff was told not to contradict state on pandemic issues.   https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/2021/12/06/uf-researchers-felt-pressure-to-destroy-covid-19-data-faculty-report-says/?cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjcw%3D%3D&refsrc=email   (Full report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Senate:   https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mB6mjqdE6bqdQcXOhX_5pUpRhnSik2X8/edit )   Related article: Wired -Moustafa Ayad    An ‘Alt-Jihad’ Is Rising On Social Media – The playbook of the “alt-right” is guiding a new generation of fringe jihadists, showing just how complicated extremism is about to become online.   https://www.wired.com/story/alt-jihad-rising-social-media/