Wake-up, step up…

March 25, 2019

 CBC News –
‘Wake up, step up’: Protesters outside Hamilton prison demand change

This is an entirely sensible question: If Canada does not have the death penalty, why does our jail system?  The question was part of pointed protest in front of the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre and posed by Judy Struthers whose son Justin died there in 2017.  The death of inmates seems to be a growing problem but what is equally concerning is the failure to act on countless recommendations coming from the inquests into the deaths.  The public does not know even how many or what the cause of death has been and the manner of a notifying loved ones of an inmate death is frightfully insensitive at best.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/wake-up-step-up-protesters-outside-hamilton-prison-demand-change-1.5060138?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar&fbclid=IwAR0FuPlDyfrVn-mDQWDvHONRSaGpcwfjy7tJJU3nTKYUUMPWSy5uit-ckZU

The Geddes’ Coroner’s Report offers a sample of the process involved in the aftermath of the death of an inmate in Canada.  The inquest itself is probably a little better than usual because there were a number of groups and special advisors involved.  The process is clear enough from this example.  It is important to note that there is no legal obligation for any of those involved to implement the recommendations and that, in fact, often they simply gather dust on a shelf.  In the Geddes case there were 48 recommendations.  Verdict of Coroner’s Jury Office of the Chief Coroner The Coroners Act – Province of Ontario: Inquest into the death of Cleve Gordon Geddes   https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/Deathinvestigations/Inquests/Verdictsandrecommendations/OCCInquestGeddes2018.html

 Globe and Mail – Patrick White
Canada’s correctional service ordered to pay tens of millions for placing mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement

Three different courts have ruled that the use of solitary confinement by the federal  Correctional Services of Canada against the mentally ill is unconstitutional.  This latest ruling by the Ontario includes compensation for those victimized by the practice. “All the cases found time in solitary confinement can cause an array of mental-health conditions, including hallucinations, paranoia, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.”   Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell has ruled that the Charter of Rights (Section 7 and 9: protection against arbitrary state actions and cruel and unusual punishment) of over 2,000 federal inmates have been repeatedly violated and that they should be compensated for the CSC failure to correct.  The amounts of the compensation ($20 million total) will be determined when the court hears the individual petitioners who have served 30 days or more in solitary and reviews their statements for damage.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-csc-ordered-to-pay-tens-of-millions-for-placing-mentally-ill-inmates/

CBC News – Stephen Hoff
OPP union launching its own suicide prevention program

The Ontario Provincial Police witnessed another suicide from within their ranks this past weekend and the police union is launching a mental health and wellness response.  Upset the union was left out of the internal review of the 13th suicide since 2012, the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) notes that in 2012 the Ontario ombudsman made recommendations to support and prevent suicide but few were ever implemented.  There is current a special coroner’s inquest in the police deaths anticipated for the spring. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/oppa-not-consulted-suicide-review-1.5067992

CBC News – Adam Carter
Barton jail has more overdose deaths than any other Ontario detention centre

The Barton Street Jail is the most notorious place in Ontario for the overdose death of inmates.  From 2010 – 2017 the Coroner has acknowledged 11 deaths from overdose; some are not just an incident but the overdose has repeated occurrence, one as often as seven times before the final deadly dose.  In 2018 there were two more and already in 2019 there has been another.  Advocates say there are conditions and circumstances within the jail itself that allows these incidents.  A major contributing factor to these deaths is inevitably the absence of necessary mental health treatment within the jails.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/barton-jail-deaths-1.4998013    Related article: Ottawa Citizen – Blair Crawford   Mentally ill Geddes ‘thrown in with the wolves’ at Ottawa jail, inmate tells inquest  https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/geddes-thrown-into-the-wolves-at-ottawa-jail-inmate-tells-inquest  Related article: CBC News – Krystalle Ramlakhan   ‘Complete torture’: Mentally ill man shouldn’t have been in solitary, inquest told  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/inquest-death-cleve-cas-geddes-mentally-ill-1.4921181

CBC News – Murray Brewster
Supreme Court tests the limits of military justice in rare appeal case

“The Supreme Court of Canada debates today whether the Canadian military has the constitutional authority to try its own members for serious crimes like sexual assault and murder — a case that some legal observers are calling a once-in-a-generation event.”  The challenge stems from a conviction for rape – the argument centers on any criminal case in which a penalty of five years or more applies and on the issue of the availability of a trial by jury vs a military tribunal.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-military-justice-court-martial-1.5071218

Prison Policy Initiative (US) – Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner
Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019

The link provides comprehensive and graphically superior statistics on what makes up what is commonly called mass incarceration.  The information analyzes the breakdown by the type of prison and offers a detailed analysis of the five myths of mass incarceration, youth and the incarceration control system – probation and parole.  This is useful breather while matters of prison reform are still alive in the US.    https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2019.html  Related article: The Sentencing Report – Marc Mauer    Annual Report 2018   https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Annual-Report-2018.pdf?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=3c52607d-63f7-47e6-b14c-7e3ac7965612   (Includes extensive commentary on the state of criminal justice reform.)

Globe and Mail – Lisa Kerr
Did the truck driver in the Humboldt crash deserve his sentence?

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was the truck driver in the Humbolt crash that killed 16 and injured 13 more.  After he plead guilty to all counts against him, a Saskatchewan court just sentence him to 8 years in prison.  The sentence is raising a conversation about appropriate sentencing even and perhaps, because of, the enormous pain and suffering the incident still provokes for the families.  The author is an assistant law professor at Queen’s University where she teaches criminal law, sentencing and prison law.  Kerr raises the issue of intention and points out that subsequent to prison Sidhu will be deported.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-did-the-truck-driver-in-the-humboldt-crash-deserve-his-sentence/   Related article: National Post – Matt Gurney  Locking the Humboldt driver up is a costly waste — we need better options   https://nationalpost.com/opinion/matt-gurney-locking-the-humboldt-driver-up-is-a-costly-waste-we-need-better-options   Related article:  CBC News – Bonnie Allen  The ‘life sentence’ of remorse for drivers who cause deadly crashes   https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/humboldt-broncos-crash-sidhu-sentencing-1.5061526     Related article: CBC News – Doug Cuthand   1 year after the Gerald Stanley verdict, fear continues to divide us   https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/opinion-stanley-verdict-1-year-later-1.5012141   Related article:  CBC News – Lara Schroder  Jailed for his faith – In the Second World War, some pacifists were jailed for refusing to fight. Frank Peters was never the same again   https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/jailed-for-his-faith  (The story of a Canadian peace hero)

HuffPost (US) – Lauren Wellbank
I Went Back To My Abuser After A Week. This Is Why It’s So Hard For Women To Get Out For Good.  On average, a woman tries to leave her partner seven times before she succeeds.

This article is a first person account of the progression of events leading to the decision to separate from a physically abusive person. Wellbank goes through the delaying rationales and the excuses for the typical failure to protect oneself from the start of the abuse.  Rather than an incident of abuse, the pattern is for decision making involves repeated abuse on a continuum.  One in four women are abused, approximately half the women murdered in the US are slain by a partner, and 75% of the murders occur after the break-up.  https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/domestic-abuse-getting-out-of-the-relationship_n_5c880619e4b0450ddae50077?ncid=newsletter-Canada%20Lifestyle%200325%20Alisha&utm_campaign=canada_newsletter_Canada%20Lifestyle%200325%20Alisha

The Appeal (US – California) – Jessica Pishko
Hundreds Stuck in Prison in California as Prosecutors Seek to Block New Law

The California governor recently dismantled the death chamber and suspended all executions.  Besides the question of commutations of death cases, California is now fighting over another issue: people convicted of being accomplices to murder.  The prison reform element is looking to respond more moderately to limited involvement while the district attorneys are looking for the same severity as for the actual perpetrator.  At the time of the crime (1994), 18-year-old Michael Tirpak, an unknowing accomplice, was on the phone while a companion high on PCP shot a liquor store customer.  Tirpak was one of four teens involved is the only one still under sentence and was sentenced to life without parole at first, since re-sentenced to twenty five years after the intervention of the Loyola Project for the Innocent.  The California Senate Bill (#1437) passed last year seeks to end what is called ‘felony murder.’   https://theappeal.org/hundreds-stuck-in-prison-in-california-as-prosecutors-seek-to-block-new-law/#.XJjnAXqAtGJ.twitter