Second chances…

Sept 30, 2022

Toronto Star – Emilie Coyle, Pamela Cross, Pam Hrick
Sealing criminal records of marginalized people will improve many lives – When we use criminal records to determine suitability for jobs, housing and volunteering, we recreate cycles of poverty and exclusion

Most of Canada realizes that there are no longer pardons available to persons convicted of a crime but only a record suspension.  Even efforts to wipe out the record of those convicted of possession of marijuana have met with limited application and response. Most of the issue is male focused. This is a startling assessment:  “It can take years for women and gender-diverse people who have left violent relationships to regain a measure of stability in their day-to-day lives. One of the main obstacles? Criminal records… Changing how Canada deals with old criminal records would be a simple legal solution and the impact would be transformative for thousands of survivors of intimate partner violence.”

Scientific American – Elizabeth Svoboda
Moral Injury Is an Invisible Epidemic That Affects Millions – A specific kind of trauma results when a person’s core principles are violated during wartime or a pandemic

The area of trauma as a developmental influence is bringing greater realization of the disruptors of personal and collective lives.  The link invites consideration of the role of moral injury at any stage of life but particularly in professional life:  “Moral injury is a specific trauma that arises when people face situations that deeply violate their conscience or threaten their core values. Those who grapple with it, such as McGowan, can struggle with guilt, anger and a consuming sense that they can’t forgive themselves or others… When COVID swept the planet, the moral injury crisis became more pressing as ethically wrenching dilemmas became the new normal—not just for health care workers but for others in frontline roles.”

Hill Times (Canada) – NDP MP Leah Gazan
No reconciliation without justice for MMIWG – We have the resources to end this genocide and ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals can be safe in their communities. What we lack is the political will.

Guest NDP Member of Parliament Leah Gazan is voicing discontent with the lack of the political will to move on the recs from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the questions around assuring the safety of women.  The betrayal, says Gazan, is in the most recent budget allowances:  “While we hear a lot of talk from this government about the importance of addressing violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, its spending priorities tell a different story. Budget 2022 contained zero dollars of new funding to stop the violence, and even funding that was previously committed has not yet been spent.”

Lawyer’s Daily – Cristin Schmitz
Moldaver led SCC on criminal law for 11 years but spent first three years looking for the exit

Michael Moldaver’s retirement from the Supreme Court is also bringing some reflection on essential aspects of the criminal legal system.  “Ascertaining when judges are constitutionally required to throw out evidence tainted by illegality, including confessions and real evidence, continues to spark disagreement at the highest court — where Justice Moldaver warned, in a recent dissenting opinion, that “it is the exclusion of reliable and crucial evidence implicating [the accused] in very serious gun and drug offences that is far more likely to cause the public to lose faith and confidence in our criminal justice system.” When assessing what could bring the administration of justice into disrepute, Moldaver thinks it’s important to realistically assess what reasonable and well-informed Canadians think.”  (Ed note: The latest Walrus Magazine ( ) has an article entitled “False convictions: Why some Canadians are languishing behind bars for crimes they did not commit” by Justin Ling.  It is not yet available on line but well worth adding to this discussion.)

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Keeping young people in contact with the justice system safe

In this blog, Webster is concerned with the latest publication from the Government probation Services on ways to keep youth safe, specifically while in contact with the legal system.  The focus is the assessment stages while putting other supports are in place.  The identification of all potential harms – the report identifies 10 – and then provides an example of both a good and a poor assessment of the dangers.

Axios (Denver, CO) – John Frank and Alayna Alvarez
American Rescue Plan is rescuing police agencies in Colorado  

Axios and the Marshall Project have teamed up on this investigation of the use of funds intended for economic recovery but directed instead to other causes, notably police and jails.  The redirected funds were even used to allow CoreCivic, a private prison operator, to give employees a retention bonus.  Funds were also used to fund an entire Sheriff’s department for two years.  Approximately one half the total funding that went to revenue replacement for municipalities in fact went to sustaining the criminal legal system. (US) – Nigel Duara
‘Mandela’ bill would limit solitary confinement in California prisons and jails

The Mandela Bill would limit solitary confinement in California’s prisons to 15 consecutive days, no more than 45 days in 180, and eliminate it entirely for immigrants.  What follows are the pro’s and con’s of solitary, surprisingly sometimes spoken of favourably by the incarcerated.  Advocates for prison justice say that the issue of solitary is larger in smaller county jails and the concern with the bill is that solitary would continue in practice under a different name.

Lawyer’s Daily (Canada) – David Dorson
Food, generosity in prison

This article is from the author Dorson, a pseudonym for a formerly incarcerated person, who turns his attention to the exchange of both food and possession, the possibility of generosity and the prison atmosphere of suspicion, distrust in prison rules and regulations.  “Why would the prison prohibit sharing among prisoners? In prison everything is seen through the lens of the worst possible outcome. If I do something for you, the thinking goes, then you owe me — and to repay that, I might ask you to do something, like have a visitor smuggle in drugs… Prisoners often ignored the rules against sharing. Many prisoners strive to create some humanity in an inhumane setting; sharing is one important way to do that.”  (Cf end of the link for other Dorson articles on prison life.)

 US Prison Labour:  (The legitimization for the use of incarcerated persons for public or private labour is the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution which makes slavery illegal except by convicted prisoners.)

Tweet from Keri Blakinger:  “Alabama prison officials just confirmed to me that prisoners at all major facilities are striking by refusing to work. Prisoners offered several reasons including the “humanitarian crisis” inside. And in case you forget: DOJ is already investigating AL’s prisons…  Related article: TruthOut (US) – Abby Cunniff  California Is Dependent on Prison Labor for Fighting Fires. This Must End.   “The California Correctional Center in Susanville is set to be closed by June 2023. It is one of two remaining training hubs for the California Conservation Camp Program, which, before 2019, made up 192 of 208 hand crews working for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (also known as CAL FIRE).”  

Indeterminate sentences:

Blogger Russell Webster (UK):  MPs find IPP sentences “irredeemably flawed”  The IPP are people Imprisoned for Public Protection, the UK version of an indeterminate sentence.  Resistance has grown to the point that the Justice Committee report is calling immediately for re-sentencing for all IPP persons.  “The Committee finds that IPP sentences cause acute harm to those subject to them, with the prospect of serving a sentence without an end date causing higher levels of self-harm as well as a lack of trust in the system that is meant to rehabilitate them.”

September 30 is Second Truth and Reconciliation Day

Truth and Reconciliation Report

There are a total of six volumes of the report but generally we get abridged versions or summaries of certain parts.  Here is a link to the full electronic report.  The link includes a summary report as well as the other volumes.  There are also several other worthy reads:  A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools – The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Edited and Abridged) (University of Manitoba Press, 2016);  also more recently, already a best seller,  Our Voice of Fire: A Memoir of a Warrior Rising – Brandi Morin (House of Anansi Press, 2022).  Tweeter from Brando Morin:  “Ahead of the National Day of Truth & Reconciliation, Sept 30. I made a film compilation of some of my work from residential schools, MMIWG, police/state violence & more. Watch FULL 18 min HERE: The state of Truth & Reckoning is not 4 the faint of heart  (Instagram account needed)


Law Society of Ontario: Save the date…
Ontario’s seventh annual Access to Justice (A2J) Week takes place October 24 – 28.

This year’s A2J Week features a series of free virtual programming for legal professionals, the broader justice sector, and the general public on the theme “Access to Justice Counts: Using data to address the legal needs of Canadians.” Programs hosted by numerous justice sector organizations both in Ontario and across Canada will explore the qualitative and quantitative data currently available to the justice sector, what data should be collected, and how data can be effectively used to understand and address the legal needs of Canadians.

Details on A2J Week 2022, including the full schedule and registration information are now available on the TAG website.