More of the same…

Dec 20, 2021

CBC News – Darren Major
Indigenous women make up almost half the female prison population, ombudsman says – Canada’s prison ombudsman says Indigenous incarceration rates are at a ‘historic high’

This headline has to make us stop and wonder about who is at the throttle.  Government and Indigenous serving agencies have been long suggesting that the circumstances for Indigenous people in Canada is changing, yet these headlines from responsible non-Indigenous commentators leave us the same old scene getting worse, especially for Indigenous women.  When can we expect a decisive change in the justice system such that Indigenous women are cared for rather than imprisoned for their mental health trauma, their addictions and the petty crime that their poverty leads to?  “Federal corrections investigator Ivan Zinger called the situation “appalling and shameful.” “It’s just trending always, year after year, in the wrong direction. And this is regardless of what various governments have done.”

Ottawa Citizen – Andrew Duffy
Depopulate prisons before Omicron hits, Ottawa criminologist urges – “It’s not a surprise we’re facing outbreaks, and, at this stage of the pandemic, it’s unconscionable that we haven’t taken action to address the known sources of transmission.”

University of Ottawa criminologist Justin Piche is pleading for government to depopulate the federal and provincial prisons and jails before the latest variant of the Covid wreaks unimaginable harm.  The prisons and jails are lacking many medical services, the population cannot protect themselves from those bringing the virus into the prisons; the Covid rate before Omicron is already five times that of the general population. “I’d say it’s already a disaster, but it could get much worse,” warned University of Ottawa professor Justin Piché, a member of the Prison Pandemic Partnership, an academic research group dedicated to tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of Canada’s inmates.”

CBC News – Kristin Annable, Josh Hoffman and Caroline Barghout
‘He needed help’ – 61 Canadians have died in police custody since 2010 after being detained for public intoxication or similar offences

This is the sort of revelation that needs powerful advocacy, and speaks directly to the lack of medical care in the local jails, often simply through neglect.  Yet some of the circumstances leave considerable room for wondering about the lapse in humanity required to allow these deaths.  “CBC’s investigation found 17 cases where someone died after their medical condition was downplayed or ignored, and 13 where someone died after they were not properly monitored by police officers or guards.”  The majority were rural, about half RCMP, and all prove that we need to treat alcoholism as a public health rather than policing issue.

The Lawyer’s Daily – Cristin Schmidt
Prime minister hands out mandate letters to federal cabinet ministers detailing specific objectives

The commentary first reviews the Prime Minister’s introduction of the mandate letters and then highlights the various individual ministry mandates where the law plays a critical role.  Justice, Immigration, Public Safety, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance, and others.

American Civil Liberties Union (Alabama) –
Alabama Organizations Call on the U.S. House Financial Services Committee to Halt the Use of COVID-19 Funds for Constructing Prisons

This link should outrage anyone seeking prison reform and a change in the punitive approach to crime, maybe even the long abused tax payer to say nothing of the prison population.  The diversion of federal Covid-19 funds into prison construction is added proof that both the state and the state Department of Corrections are deserving of a coming federal lawsuit for unconstitutional practices within the state prisons.  Building more prisons does not address the needs of the state and the prison system for measures of protection against Covid, now evolving into the fourth surge and what the experts are this time terming “a tsunami.”

JUST MERCY – The movie version is now available on Netflix

The story of the work of Bryan Stevenson, Black lawyer, founder of Equal Justice Initiative, and activist against the death penalty and for youth justice, is available on Netflix as of December 2021.  The original book (2014) by the same name has had international acclaim for the justice principles espoused.  (Google Bryan Stevenson for a host of on-line commentary.)

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
10 Things We Learnt From the 2020/21 HMPPS Annual Report

The UK has been struggling for some time with upheaval and changes with the prison and probation system for men, women and children.  Webster offers a commentary on the latest annual report from the government on the UK penal system based on the annual report.    Full report: Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Report (A downloadable pdf – 170 pages)

  From Shannon Moroney:  Heal For Real: A Guided Journal to Forgiving Others―and Yourself

Readers may recall Moroney’s books first on domestic violence, then on trafficking young women in Canada – Out of the Shadows (2019).  Now, Moroney addresses the issue of forgiveness, especially around trauma:  “Whether what happened was Big T trauma or little t trauma, whether you were hurt or did the hurting, Heal For Real will guide you to understand and bring forgiveness into your life—in a way that’s right for you. Above all, you’ll be supported in a highly personal, individualized journey of healing…  Available for pre-order now from Amazon in paperback for $14.49.

Also from Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Messenger – Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice  (St. Martin’s Press: New York – 2021) lists at $38.50 Can (The book (244pp) raises significant evidence of the use of the justice system to further impoverish the poor persons brought to court, and then to prison, often for inability to pay fines and fees.)