Oct 20, 2022

University of Toronto / Criminological Highlights – Anthony Doob, Rosemary Gartner, Maria Jung, Tyler King, Jane Sprott, and Audrey Macklin.

This issue of Criminological Highlights addresses the following questions, all very much in the current news: 1. What is important in understanding the propensity of a person to commit crimes? 2. What do we know about the impact of imprisonment on the likelihood a person will reoffend? 3. Are standard risk assessment instruments equally useful for Indigenous people?  4. How can racialized groups be disadvantaged by automatic criminal record suppression systems? 5. Are mentally ill prisoners more likely than others to experience solitary confinement in prison? 6. What are the dangers in relying on “professional assessments” for parole decisions? 7. How does the criminal justice system punish the friends and family of accused people?  8. How can courts easily reduce the number of failures to appear in court?  (Sometimes posting delay…)

APTN News – Kenneth Jackson, Cullen Crozier (ON)
The dark history of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services

The news story is current not historic sexual abuse of Indigenous children and the abuse is within Indigenous child services.  “A First Nations child welfare agency paid to protect vulnerable children has been directly involved in the sexual abuse of children in its care, APTN has learned… From workers sexually abusing children to caregivers being charged for doing it, the history of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services is steeped in stories of abuse going back at least 27 years… An APTN investigation has revealed the agency in Fort Frances, Ont. has hired at least two workers and one caregiver who were previously convicted of sex crimes.”

Lawyer’s Daily – David Dorson
Pine Box Parole

This is a review of a book of the same title by the Daily’s John Hill offering a commentary on the complexity of both the law and the cases that Hill has worked on over his career as a defence attorney.  Included there are some summary comments worth remembering around the stereotypical assessment of tough-on-crime and punishment above all, some contextually from horrendous crime stories.  “Because of my work, I realize that there are inequities in not only our laws but more so in the way they are applied that can result in our society being less safe.”   Says author Dorson, a pen name for a formerly incarcerated person: “Each of Hill’s cases is a fascinating story in its own right. The stories are full of human frailty, not only of those who committed the crimes but of others around them as well, including family members, police, prosecutors, defence lawyers, the media and others involved in the cases. Taken together they show a system that can regularly fail to consider the full story, or the welfare of all the people involved. The result is far from the ideal of “justice.”

Blogger Russell Webster – Guest blogger Alex Wilson,
A day in the life of an independent prison monitor

Wilson, an area manager for a wholesale food distributor, has a rather startling volunteer occupation: he is part of a group of independent monitors at a women’s prison who goes behind the prison ways to assess the way the incarcerated are treated.  When he arrives at the prison, he shows ID and gets keys giving access to all parts of the prison.  His first stop is generally the segregation unit and then the prison wings.

Time – Ruah Benjamin
To Dismantle the Prison System, We Need Viral Justice

Benjamin is an internationally recognized writer, speaker, and professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.  After a disturbing recital of her brother’s treatment for mental illness by a corrupt Los Angeles jail, and a distinction between structural change and little changes brought about by persistence, Benjamin says:  “Viral justice is also about creating communities of care—articulating the kind of world we want out there in our relationships and interactions with strangers and friends right here. It requires that we answer educator and abolitionist Mariame Kaba’s vital question: “What else can we grow instead of punishment and suffering?”   Related article: The Marshall Project (US) – Maurice Chammah   We Surveyed U.S. Sheriffs. See Their Views on Power, Race and Immigration – In an exclusive new survey, The Marshall Project found that sheriffs are key to our debates on policing, immigration and much more.  

Tweet from Senator Marilou McPhedran:  On Non-disclosure agreements   “My q(uestion) to Gov’t: Why does Canada lack legislation to prohibit the misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements that aim to hide workplace violence & sexual harassment?

Tweet from Prison Policy Initiative:  Fallout from Roe vs Wade   “People on parole and probation often can’t leave the state they live in for any reason. In the 13 states with abortion ban “trigger laws” on the way or in effect, more than 200,000 women are under probation and parole.”

Tweet from CEO’s for Basic Income: UBI Works   “Carol Schulte Founder of The BRĀV Institute is part of our coalition of 100+ members, supporting #basicincome as a way to address the economic vulnerabilities of today and prepare for those of tomorrow.”

 Pew Foundation (US) – Public Safety Lab   Get the latest in Jail data – “This free and user-friendly interactive presents the most up-to-date data on who is in U.S. jails, for how long, and why—enabling unprecedented insights.”

 International Flavour…

International Centre for Criminal Law Reform:  A United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme Network Institute   The Centre offers commentary on the Rights of the Child, wrongful conviction, and other current agenda.

International Society for Reform of Criminal Law:  ISRCL 2022 Conference | Thinking beyond the Bars: New Approaches in Sentencing, Corrections, and Restorative Justice

The Nexus Conference on the Wrongfully Convicted and Hosted by University of British Columbia Innocence Project (Held the end of September 1922) also brings an international flavour to the issue and to eleven cases of prominent Canadian exonerees. Cf