Bastille Day

  July 14, 2014 

Ed note: The National Holiday of France celebrates the angry storming of a well known prison, not for the sake of freeing prisoners – only seven were locked up there – but to get at gunpowder stored there to supply 28,000 rifles previously seized at Les Invalides.  The warden at the Bastille, itself long a symbol of repression and tyranny was beheaded and the few guards killed.  In Canada today we are talking of prostitution as the world’s oldest profession but surely jailers and prisons come a close second.  Here’s a link to the history.

Toronto Star – Editorial
Canada’s prison service failed Edward Snowshoe as it did Ashley Smith  

Calling Snowshoe’s death “official neglect” and likening his death in custody to the death of Ashley Smith, the Star thinks the death of Snowshoe a testimony to “appalling inertia” when the conclusion of the inquest says that Snowshoe fell through the cracks of the system.  Conclusion:  “Her case and that of Snowshoe share tragic features: both involve prisoners rendered highly vulnerable by mental health problems — both were allowed to kill themselves through a series of bureaucratic foul-ups, mixed messages and fundamental uncaring.”

 Toronto Star – Richard J. Brennan
Mental health issues a priority for OPP, new commissioner says

Ontario has a new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.  Vince Hawkes says that the first priority of the force is to get training for his officers in dealing with people in mental health crisis.   In 2012, the OPP, with its 6500 officers, responded to 27,000 calls, of which 7,192 were identified as people with mental health issues.   The OPP is aiming at a 40 hour course for enough officers such that every detachment has at least one on duty at all times.

 CBC News
Navigation Protection Act: Government braces for court battles over waterways  

What’s all the fuss about?  The concern was buried in the omnibus Budget bill and the piece involved, called the Navigable Protection Act, effectively reduces the number of waterways protected from development and places the onus on people to object rather than on developers to show that the development is harmless to the environment.  The new law, which replaced the Navigable Waters Protection Act, drastically reduced the number of waterways where development would be considered to represent “a substantial interference with navigation.”

 Latin Post (CA) – Robert Abel
‘Three Strikes’ Law: California High Court Eases Implementation of Doubling Criminal Sentences 

California’s three strikes law is starting to crack without any legislative changes.  California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye made a ruling that a strike was a separate  incident and two strikes did not mean two charges stemming from the same incident.  The draconian sentencing law says a judge must double the sentence if there is a previous felony and impose a life sentence if there are two previous.  Rulings like this may indicate how desperate authorities are to find a basis to escape the three strikes.  Initiated in 1994, the law was amended in 2012 and requires the third strike to be a violent felony.   Related article:  Huffington Post (US) –  Bernard B. Kerik     A Time for Criminal Justice Reform   Related article:  IVN – Debbie Sharnak    An Unlikely Alliance: Cory Booker and Rand Paul Push Criminal Justice Reform   (about the US Redeem Act)

 Sioux City Journal (US) – Nick Hytrek
Judge hopes veterans’ court will keep ex-soldiers out of jail 

Veteran courts are already operating in many of the US states (over 150 now and another 100 in the planning)  but Iowa is hoping that the additional choice for a mentor opportunity for any accused veteran will create alternate choice, especially in those cases where abuse of drugs and alcohol play a role.   Justice for Vets is a national group that trains people involved with the vets’ courts, both professionals and volunteers.

Prison Reform International (PRI) (UK)
Promoting fair and effective criminal justice

PRI is shortly celebrating its 25th Anniversary (in April 2015) as a monitor of international penal developments and a policy advocate for penal practices.  Anticipating the main celebration, PRI has invited a number of well known experts to offer provocative commentary on a variety of topics around penology and criminal justice.  Here are the first two such monthly blogs:  Prisons: state duty or market opportunity?  Rob Allen   Radicalisation and de-radicalisation in prison – what should we do with violent extremist offenders?  Shane Bryans