Pardon me…

Aug. 21, 2017

Vancouver Sun – Azmairnin Jadavji
Court precedents should encourage Canada to act on new pardon legislation

The rules around pardon for criminal offences seriously changed in 2012 under the Conservatives, making it both harder and more expensive to get a pardon for a criminal offence.  BC and Ontario have both had lower court rulings that some of the changes were unconstitutional; the federal government has not challenged the lower courts so Jadavji is saying that the provincial rulings should guide the resolution of cases since 2012.   Related article: Toronto Star Editorial (Aug 21, 2017)  The Trudeau government should not delay on sentencing reforms

CNN (US) – Eli Watkins and Sophie Tatum
Private prison industry sees boon under Trump administration

Former US Attorney General Sally Yates has rescinded the US growing dependence on private prisons as a measure to contain the growth towards mass incarceration.  Trump appointee Jeff Sessions has again reversed the directive, suggesting a crisis would ensure if private prisons were excluded from federal incarceration.  In truth, many of those held by private prisons are immigrant detainees – the US ICE agency pays for 34,000 beds a night whether used or not.  Critics argue that private profit reduces the effectiveness of corrections and gives rise to greater expense.  Recently in the US, the use of inmates for unpaid or minimally paid contract work to other private industry has prompted legally challenges on the 13th Amendment which prohibits slavery.

Crime Report (US) – Nancy Bilyeau
Children Exposed to Crime Rarely Get Needed Services: Study

This article reports on a study from the University of Pennsylvania Law School which examined the consequences of crime when children are the innocent victims.  The study examined the question in all 50 states and concluded that only rarely do children get the help needed to cope with crime that touches them; the problem seems frequently the difficulty of access to the existing programs.  The study also found that nearly half of the children’s population are victimized or otherwise exposed to crime.  The report also raises the chilling possibility that failure to access the programs is in fact deliberate for cost saving.

 BBC (Scotland) –
Think tank calls for ban on jail terms of less than six months

Scotland’s chief inspector of prisons David Strang has called for an end to jail terms of under a year on the grounds that these sentences do nothing to rehabilitate and ignore the real help possible in community alternatives to jailing.  The proposal suggests that sentences of less than a year are not helpful and should be discouraged.  Reform Scotland is shortly anticipating a report questioning the indiscriminate use of prison sentences, particularly for women.  Government has acknowledged that “Scotland’s prison population remains unacceptably high.”   Related article: Channel 4 (UK) – Prison debate with Kate Paradine  (A four minute video interview on why community alternatives for women makes more sense that prison.)

Globe and Mail – Jordan Press, Canadian Press
Government vows to change fund for parents of murdered, missing children

Victim Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan says that funds set aside to help victims of crime have been largely unused and that the fault lies in the very narrow criteria and difficulty accessing and applying for the funds.  Government set aside $33 million but from 2013-2916 has used only $170K in support of the victims and a whopping $2.4 million is administrative costs.  The funding, even when successfully pursued, is available only within the first year after the crime.

Globe and Mail – Ryan Scrivens
How we can build resilience against hatred in Canada

Scrivens, a Ph.D candidate in criminology at Simon Fraser in BC first reviews the presence and activity of right wing groups here in Canada.  Contrary to popular preference to ban such representatives and events, Scrivens thinks the right response is to show up at protests by the extremists and voice the contrary peacefully.   Related article: Globe and Mail – Chris Hannay, Mayaz Alam and Eleanor Davidson     Politics Briefing newsletter: Canadians diverging from Americans on human rights?