Creating a prison crisis…

    Oct. 5, 2015

 Toronto Star – Catherine Latimer
How we created a Canadian prison crisis – A decade of ‘tough on crime’ policies has left our prisons in chaos and our international reputation as a just nation in tatters 

Latimer thinks that the tough-on-crime comes from an obsession with punishment that disallows fairness and an insistence that punishment must be severe to be effective.  In turn such pre-occupations eclipse any and every possibility of rehab or re-integration and, says Latimer, “erode principles of justice, fail to help those who have committed crimes to change their ways, and have been repeatedly proven not to deter others from committing crimes.”

Innocence Project / (US) – Lara Bazelon
Justice after Injustice: What happens after a wrongfully convicted person is exonerated—and the witness finds out she identified the wrong man 

The article draws attention to two forgotten elements in the justice system when convictions are set aside because of proven error in the process:  the convicted person and the witness or witnesses who identified the wrong convicted as the perpetrator.  In this case cited, from 1984, Janet Burke, who was 20 years old at the time of the rape incident, testified that the rapist had a face she could never forget and wrongly identified Thomas Haynesworth, 19 years old, who spent 27 years in prison until DNA evidence cleared him of guilt.

CBC News
Conservatives pledge to create official list of criminal gangs – Former public safety minister Stockwell Day also announces more funding for anti-gang initiatives

Former Conservative Public Safety Minister was trooped out in Surrey, BC to be the spokesperson for the Conservative government promise to enact an official list of gangs across Canada, much like the current list of terrorist groups.  The idea is that if accused and then identified as a gang member, the presence of the gang on the list would be proof that the accused was a gang member.  Precariously close to automatic justice?   The new list would see $2.5 million added to the anti-gang funding as well.   Related article: Vancouver Sun  Tories would draw up national list of gangs and criminal groups  (Includes comments on mandatory minimums for fraud against seniors.)  Related article: Globe and Mail – Joe Oliver makes pledge for harsher fraud penalties (A one minute video)

Wall Street Journal (US) – Leslie Brody
Prison vs. Harvard in an Unlikely Debate – Inmate debate team is part of Bard College program helping give prisoners a chance for a better life

Napanoch, N.Y. is known as the site of a maximum security prison but now it has another claim to fame – the place where an undergrad debate team from Harvard University lost a debate to three inmates.  The proposition for the debate was: “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”  The inmates argued in favour, Harvard opposed.  The debate also highlighted an effort to create an opportunity for inmates to pursue university level studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.  The Bard outreach started in 2001has graduated over 300 – with less than 2% recidivism rate – and enjoys a ten to one application to places ratio.

National Newswatch – Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press
Citizenship and Immigration Canada probes terror revocation disclosure 

After the fact, CIC wants to know how the information about convicted Toronto 18 terrorist Zakaria Amara was released.  The proper procedure would involve written notice from the head of any institution – in this case a Quebec penitentiary – to the privacy commission’s office.  In this case, Amara was told of the intention in June and then given a letter on Sept 25.  On Sept 26, Jason Kenny tweeted about the revocation of Amara’s citizenship.    Related article: CTV News –  ‘Punished twice’: Citizenship revocation law inherently unfair, lawyer argues

Globe and Mail – Chris Purdy
Canadian inmates to vote this week in federal election  

In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled that blanket disenfranchisement of inmates in Canada’s provincial and federal prisons was not conducive to democracy.  The ruling was prompted by a legal challenge from Rick Sauvé, a convicted murderer and a former member of Satan’s Choice motorcycle gang.  The number who actually vote has been growing – 45% in the 2011 election.   The polling stations are set up within the various institutions and inmates vote for the home riding candidates.

Ted Talks (US) – Anand Giridharadas
A tale of two Americas. And the mini-mart where they collided

This link is a 20 minute Ted Talk by a survivor of a post 9/11 related incident in a Dallas mini-mark.  A man with a shotgun entered the shop and inquired of the clerk where he came from.  Then, he shot the clerk in the face.  The clerk lived, though left with $60,000 in medical bills, no job and homeless, and tells the personal impact of the crime and exposing  “two distinct societies: a republic of dreams and a republic of fears.” (Transcript included)   Anand Giridharadas: A tale of two Americas. And the mini-mart where they collided | TED Talk |

Vice Magazine (US) – October Issue

This link is to a specific prison edition of VICE magazine and is filled with articles of topical interest around justice and justice reform.  There is an interview with President Obama, articles from inmates themselves, photos, etc.

Insight – Dr. Artika R. Tyner
Leadership for Social Justice: 10 leadership quotes on promoting restorative justice and building strong communities

People who would like to see principles of RJ apply across a variety of relationships and activities may like to have some of these assembled ten quotes that booster RJ in all contexts.  The quotes may serve to spice up presentations as well.

Deseret News (US) – Herb Scribner
When fathers leave, more children fall into poverty 

In the US, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, about one in three children (about 24 million) live in father absent homes.  Further, one in two children in father absent homes live in impoverishment.  And children in father absent homes are four times more likely to live in poverty compared to homes where both parents are present.