A troubling scene

 January 19, 2013

 Catherine Latimer of John Howard: A Reflection on a troubling scene between CSC and NPB

(Ed Note:  These comments are based on the report in January 17 communiqué that there is some tension between CSC and the NPB over a recent decision around a temporary absence(TA). Cf article http://www.canada.com/Warden+goes+against+parole+board+grants+temporary+absence+convicted+murderer/7830326/story.html  )

I find the story (link above) troubling.  It pits the NPB against CSC in a way that will only increase risk intolerance in the corrections system leading to fewer people benefiting from graduated release and supported reintegration. Community safety is the ultimate loser in a system where authorities guard against being blamed if there is a problem on their watch.

I think we need to take a serious look at the current operation of the  National Parole Board.  Release rates are at a 10-year low. Ostensibly, Board members should be basing their decisions on progress made against the corrections plan and the level of risk posed to community if the sentence were to be managed with appropriate conditions in the community.  Bill C-10 added “the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender”, which invites a re-punishing for the initial offence, a function that some of us argue is the appropriate role of the courts imposing sentences. The newly enhanced role of victims at the Parole Board hearings is bound to influence release decisions.

We hear that many federal inmates are simply not applying for parole. Many people are dying behind bars because parole by exception and other compassion-based tools allowing them to die with their families are not being used.  Many people are being released from prison at the statutory release date or at warrant expiry when there is little chance for the corrections system to support and supervise the return to the community. The risk of unprepared prisoners being released is then born by the community, police through S. 810 (Peace Bond) orders, and organizations like ours and not by corrections and release authorities.

My experience has been that CSC is very judicious in its use of ETAs, work releases, etc.  If anything, more such releases would be useful in preparing prisoners for crime-free lives on the outside.  I worry that this will have a chilling effect on programs with a proven track record of benefiting public safety.

All those who have authority to exercise discretion should be accountable for how they use or do not use that discretion.  What are the short and longer term public safety, economic, and social costs of detaining people in custody past and what are the short and longer terms public safety, economic, and social costs of supported and supervised graduated release of prisoners back into the community? Surely we do not want a system where short term safety for decision makers in the corrections and release system leads to enhanced public risk over the longer term when unprepared, unsupported, unsupervised offenders return to our communities.-30


Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) – Nathan Stall, MD
Agony behind bars

Author Stall reviews with Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers the 2007 Mental Health Strategy and offers a mixed report card at best .  Lacking expertise, capacity, struggling over consent to treatment and security provisions, treatment in isolation of support and family, have all made the problems worse.  http://www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/18jan13_agony_behind_bars.xhtml

 Victoria Times Colonist – Lise Broadley
‘No justice’ in sentence, says father of slain Comox Valley teen

A 16 year old convicted of the knife slaying of another teen at a concert will be released at age 25, a consequence the victim’s father thinks a slap in the face. http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/no-justice-in-sentence-says-father-of-slain-comox-valley-teen-1.51301

 IIRP Forum –
Psychologists for Social Responsibility recommend restorative justice for reducing gun violence

Supporting a ban on assault weapons in a letter to Vice-President Joe Biden, the group also recommends integrating RJ in both the school and the youth criminal justice systems. http://blog.iirp.edu/2013/01/psychologists-for-social-responsibility-recommend-restorative-justice-for-reducing-gun-violence


The Unofficial Apple Weblog (NY) – Michael Grosthaus
NYPD launches crime-reporting app for citizens

For a fee, you can get an Apple app to give you New York City’s  latest crimes information and the city’s most wanted list. Besides, the app allows you to pass along tips about crimes witnessed.  What a deal!  http://www.tuaw.com/2013/01/18/nypd-launches-crime-reporting-app-for-citizens