Who will answer…

April 12, 2019

Office of the Auditor General (Report 5, Sept 15, 2017)
Preparing Women Offenders for Release—Correctional Service Canada

This report is somewhat dated – almost two years now, covering 2014-2017– but still very helpful in assessing the practices of Corrections Canada in preparing women for release.  The report notes an increase women inmates over the last decade (up 38%), especially among Indigenous women (up 36%).  Most were sentenced to two-four years, considered short sentences, and the characteristics of the group is described in Section 5.3.  The report examines the failed changes to the classification system (maximum, medium or minimum) a factor which often dictates parole processing – classification staff frequently overrides security classification tools.  The report also audited the programming and the process for assignment and found the programming was often inappropriate and timing sometimes did not allow completion and sometimes hindered early release (cf Section 5:39ff).  The report also delves into mental health services starting in Section 5:72; treatment plans were frequently incomplete as well.  Only one in four women were thought adequately prepared for parole, perhaps a more serious critique given the short sentences.  Each area of the report has recommendations and a response from Corrections Canada, also found in summary fashion at the end of the report.   http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_201711_05_e_42670.html   Related article: Colorlines (Oregon, US) – Shani Saxon   Q&A: How These Oregon Leaders Are Empowering Black Women in the Criminal Justice System – Colorlines talks to Abbey Stamp and O’Nesha Cochran, two women at the forefront of revolutionary change in their community  https://www.colorlines.com/articles/qa-how-these-oregon-leaders-are-empowering-black-women-criminal-justice-system  

CBC News – Karissa Donkin
2 prison guards charged in Matthew Hines’s death will not stand trial, judge rules

The guards, Dorchester Penitentiary, found Matthew Hines in his cousin’s cell and refusing to go to his own cell.  A group of the guards led by the two charged with manslaughter pepper-sprayed Hines repeatedly and then put him into a decontamination show cell to wash off the pepper sprayer.  Hines stopped breathing and after delays was transported to the Moncton Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  After hearing four days of evidence, Judge Ronald LeBlanc decided that the evidence was insufficient and concluded that the force used was reasonable and did not rise to the level of a crime.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/hines-court-decision-1.5084256?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar

The Guardian (Manchester, UK) – Deborah Coles
Failing healthcare in jails is killing female prisoners

The article raises some gender consideration beyond the death of inmates in the prison system.  Deborah Coles is the executive director of Inquest, a unique UK charity that provides assistance to families when there is an inmate death.  “Black women like Annabella Landsberg, who was left inert on her cell floor, are particularly susceptible to this neglect… Annabella was 45 when she died of complications arising from type 2 diabetes in September 2017. She came to the UK after fleeing persecution in Zimbabwe, where she was a victim of serious sexual violence.”  Coles also insists that such neglect also exists in custodial mental health facilities.  https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/05/healthcare-jails-killing-female-prisoners-black-women-annabella-landsberg?CMP=share_btn_tw&__twitter_impression=true  Website for Inquest:  https://www.inquest.org.uk/

The Nation (US) – Joshua Holland
Why Does Our Justice System Fight So Hard to Keep Innocent People Behind Bars?

Mark Godsey was a “prosecutor’s prosecutor” who one day decided to supervise his law school’s Innocence Project where he learn forcefully that the law did make mistake and inevitably strenuously resisted correcting its mistakes when discovered.  In 17 years the project has reversed convictions in 200 plus cases.  “Perhaps even more troubling is that even when clear, indisputable evidence emerges showing that someone has been imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, prosecutors, police, and judges will often fight tooth and nail to keep them incarcerated.”  https://www.thenation.com/article/why-does-our-justice-system-fight-so-hard-to-keep-innocent-people-behind-bars/   Related article: The Sentencing Project – State Advocacy News: Mid-Session Trends in Challenging Life Imprisonment  https://www.sentencingproject.org/news/state-advocacy-news-mid-session-trends-challenging-life-imprisonment/  (A summary of how 16 states are addressing excessive sentences created by mass incarceration practices.)

CBS News (US)  – 60 Minutes – Bill Whitaker
At a Connecticut maximum security prison, lifers mentor young inmates in a German-style unit

There have been a number of visits by criminal justice researchers and corrections experts to Germany, Norway, Sweden and the Scandinavian countries where the criminal justice systems functional in a manner radically unlike North American systems.  This article is about one off-shoot of those visits as applied in the state of Connecticut where lifers mentor new and younger inmates.  The Vera Institute and the warden of Chesshire Correctional Institution initiated a program called T.R.U.E. — short for truthful, respectful, understanding, and elevating — that was inspired by Germany’s prison system, which focuses on human dignity and rehabilitation.  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/german-style-true-program-at-cheshire-correctional-institution-emphasizes-rehab-for-inmates-60-minutes/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab4i&_amp=1*1qswk8j*s_vid*YW1wLVhyZXJkakFsbjlPNEZVa2NKcDJNWUE. (A 14 minute video)

Globe and Mail – Norman Doidge
In Ontario, a battle for the soul of psychiatry

The author is a psychiatrist and offers an alarming choice ahead for mental health based on recent OHIP funding proposals.  The choice is between intensive psychotherapy where needed and simply ‘diagnose and adios’ treatment calculate to remove psychiatrists from continuing care.   “The plan, which is described by its advocates as “radical,” is designed to eventually get psychiatrists out of providing continuing care to patients altogether. If it goes through, it will be the biggest change in psychiatry in the history of the discipline in Canada, and turn psychiatrists from “treaters” into “consultants” who will diagnose patients in a single session, and make recommendations for others to follow, then wave goodbye.”   Long term psychiatric care is viewed as a cost driver in the plan first disclosed in January past.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-in-ontario-a-battle-for-the-soul-of-psychiatry/

CBC News – Shanifa Nasser
Shawn Spaulding died after just 3 days in an Ontario jail. Now his family is seeking answers

In a time already reeling from a surprisingly long list of deaths of prison inmates in Canada, and inquests with seemingly countless recommendations, Shawn Spaulding, 25, becomes the latest.  Spaulding’s family was notified by a knock on the door from police who simply announced his death without any explanation about how Spaulding died after only three days at Maplehurst Correctional Institute. “Ontario’s coroner’s office is investigating to determine the cause of death, but the family says it’s been told a coroner’s report could take six to nine months.”   The failure of correctional authorities to communicate adequately and compassionately with family is an on-going reality.  https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5093230?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar&__twitter_impression=true Related article: CBC News – Chantelle Bellrichard   Advocates go to court over transfer of Sask. man from prison to psychiatric facility   https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/joey-toutsaint-court-hearing-vancouver-1.5094745   Related article: Toronto Star – Jade Chong-Smith By appealing limits on solitary confinement, Ottawa is on the wrong side of history  https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/04/12/by-appealing-limits-on-solitary-confinement-ottawa-is-on-the-wrong-side-of-history.html

CBC News – Ryan Tumilty
Legal Aid funding cut nearly 30% in Ontario budget

Already under severe stress to meet its outreach, Ontario Legal Aid saw its budget cut yesterday by 30%, about $130 million.  The cuts to other social services and education will undoubtedly increase the demand for legal services as well but the news of the cuts includes a refusal to allow legal services under refugee and immigration law with provincial funds.  The government is promising more cuts next year with a goal of cutting a total of $164 million while streamlining the services – making changes to do more with less.  Critics say that the courts may expect more self-representation and further delays in the justice system, especially in immigration and family court.  The criteria for legal aid now sits at a single person income level of $17,731, up from $16,728. “David Field, president and CEO of Legal Aid Ontario, said the cuts imposed in the Ontario budget will require a major look at their services.”  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ontario-legal-aid-funding-cut-1.5095058   Related article: CBC News – Robin Urback   Changing Canada’s asylum laws is nothing but a crass political calculation by Trudeau   https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/asylum-law-1.5093200  Related article: Toronto Star – Sara Mojtehedzadeh     Cuts to legal aid leave refugees, immigrants in the lurch  https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2019/04/11/ontario-cuts-annual-increases-to-legal-aid-eligibility.html

 CBC News – John Paul Tasker
Canadians ‘polarized’ on prospect of a handgun ban, says government-commissioned report

Bill Blair, former Toronto top cop and now Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister, commissioned a private agency to conduct a study of support among Canadians to ban handguns and assault style rifles.  The study had 134,000 respondents on an on-line survey.  The report finds a variety of perspectives on the issues and “offers few concrete conclusions or policy prescriptions for the governing Liberals, saying only that, based on the feedback it collected, “a multifaceted approach is needed to address this issue [of gun violence] — rather than implementing a ban in isolation.”  Critics say the likelihood of any legislation before the next federal election is remote at best.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tasker-report-handgun-ban-government-report-1.5094690

Global TV News – Stephanie Taylor
 La Loche school shooter facing life in prison appealing adult sentence

A high school shooter in La Loche, who was almost 18 at the time, and  who killed four people, was sentenced as an adult to life in prison and no possibility of release for 10 years, now at age 21 is seeking a youth sentence.  Defense lawyer Aaron Fox in the appeal of the sentence says his client was suffering from an IQ of 68, a variety of mental illness and fetal alcohol syndrome at the time and that the judge sentenced only on the basis of the gravity of the crime.  The youth has had several psychiatric assessments with significantly different diagnosis.  He is also expected to undergo a Gladue hearing as well.  https://globalnews.ca/news/5155307/la-loche-school-shooter-appeal-adult-sentence-2/

To commemorate World Health Day, here is a link to the Twitter Feed of Jane Philpott with a good graphic comprising the elements of good health for all of us:  https://twitter.com/janephilpott/status/1114909445312483328/photo/1