Sept. 21, 2013

 Restorative Works – Joshua Wachtel
Rethinking the impact of traditional justice 

Mental health counsellor and RJ advocate, Natalie DeFreitas offers some powerful and pointed reflections on crime and how we deal with crime and its aftermath.  In her opinion, prisons deal with the symptoms of crime, not the causes.  DeFreitas cites the experience of a RJ refocus in Texas and describes her own RJ encounter with a young man facing drug charges in Canada.  (Link is a 16 minute video TED style ) 

 Winnipeg Free Press – Canadian Press
Panel says Criminal Code should allow conditional sentences for people with FASD 

Former Supreme Court Judge Ian Binnie took the role of the chair of a panel looking at the implications of prison for people suffering from FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).  The panel and Judge Binnie concluded that FASD people needed conditional sentencing and house arrest to avoid a vicious cycle in prison.  Mandatory minimums appear entirely inappropriate for people suffering from FASD.–224648761.html   

 MacLean’s (Canada) – Paul Daly, Canadian Press
Why Canada’s bail system creates more crimes than it prevents 

A report from John Howard Society prompted this article, highlighting the findings of the report (cf link below) and the steady deterioration of the availability of bail while the conditions around bail are increasingly prohibitive – now on average six conditions per case, mostly punitive in themselves.    John Howard Report in pdf format (20 pages):     

Ottawa Citizen – Tyler Dawson
Op-Ed: The danger of the sex-offender database

The Harper government has announced intentions to make a searchable databank of sex offenders available to the public.  Dawson reviews the experience where other countries have done this and offers an analysis of the dangers and excesses prompted by such policies elsewhere.     Related article: Toronto Star – Robert Cribb, Jennifer Quinn, Julian Sher    Star Investigation: Ottawa to crack down on Canadian sex tourists    

Vera Justice Institute (US)
Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk:  Experiences, Self-perceptions and Public Safety

Vera Institute offers a new report in which one of the buried issues around the N.Y. practice of police arbitrarily stopping individuals for ID and a frisk for weapons.  At least half of those stopped are between 13 and 25, almost 70% Black, 88% believe that neighbours do not trust police and fewer people are willing to report crime, even when they themselves are the victim.  

 Huffington Post – Chris Kirkham
Prison Quotas Push Lawmakers To Fill Beds, Derail Reform 

Vested interest move over for a new leader.  Kirkham identifies the private prisons in the US, mostly in the southern US, where beds not filled are paid for anyway under a system of lock-up quotas.  A private study group looked at 60 contracts and found over 2/3 had a legal quota clause, most requiring 90% capacity.  

 Moyers and Company – Joshua Holland
Report: “Low-Crime Tax” Keeps For-Profit Prisons Profitable 

Private prisons are a $5.1 billion industry in the US.  How does one keep the industry profitable?  Holland starts with the Pennsylvania scandal that saw two judges taking bribes for long juvenile sentences and evolves the story to the current lobbying and campaign donations.  Full Report: In the Public Interest    Criminal: How Lock-up Quotas and “Low Crime Taxes” Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations

 Montreal Gazette – Douglas Quan, Postmedia News
Can downward dog benefit those doing hard time? Growing calls for prison yoga programs 

 Advocates say that Yoga is another tool that inmates can use to help improve their mental health and prepare for re-entry in community better than when they started a prison term.  Opponents say yoga is coddling the inmates.  John Howard Society has stepped into the shoes of Sister Elaine MacInnes, recently retired founder of Freeing the Human Spirit, to promote yoga among inmates.