No jury needed…

July 30, 2019

CBC News – Salimah Shivji
Military justice system doesn’t breach charter rights, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court of Canada has decided, ruling 5-2, that the Canadian military system of justice – the usual court martial – does not contravene the Charter, even in those cases where the sentence is possibly five years or more and the accused does not have a jury trial option available.  “The court’s decision restores clarity to a military justice system that had been thrown into chaos while the Supreme Court ruling was pending, with dozens of cases postponed, abandoned or transferred to the civilian justice system.”

CBC News – Matthew Pearson
Ottawa lawyer seeks redress for ‘cruel’ victim surcharge

Increasingly there is a realization of the potential for conflict with the law to create poverty and to sustain poverty when the bails, fees and fines are excessive to the means of the persons, and therefore the families of those charged. The Supreme Court of Canada last December described as “cruel and unusual punishment,” and one judge called it “a tax on broken souls.  Lawyer Michael Spratt wants Ontario to refund the money paid and the cancel the debts incurred.  Related article: Toronto Star Editorial (July 29, 2019)   Ontario must not leave accused people high and dry – Ryan Gallagher, Ludovica Jona
We Tested Europe’s New Lie Detector for Travelers — and Immediately Triggered a False Positive

The technological sometimes invites complete acceptance of the accuracy.  This technology, used in Europe at border crossings, is intended to judge electronically whether the traveller is lying.  Travellers log on to a virtual policeman who asks the usual customs and immigration questions while a scanner visually analyses for dishonesty.  “Our reporter — the first journalist to test the system before crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border earlier this year — provided honest responses to all questions but was deemed to be a liar by the machine, with four false answers out of 16 and a score of 48 (out of 100).”

Solitary (US) – – Josh Manson
Layleen Polanco’s Death Proves the Cruelty of Solitary Confinement

This link touches on several issues around the justice system:  there is the issue how cash bail is discriminatory and part of mass incarceration; there is the discriminatory prejudice towards the transgender and the issue of solitary, capped by the death of an inmate jailed without conviction and found dead in solitary on Rikers Island. More evidence of broken justice?

American Bar Association Journal (US) – Lorelei Laird
Students of color with disabilities are being pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline, study finds

While we have heard much about the school to prison pipeline, we have not heard much about any accompanying characteristics, except the conflict with school authorities that eventually leads to expulsion and drop-outs.  Now a new report (2016 data) from the US Commission on Civil Rights has published an analysis that concludes that the most vulnerable among these students are the ones with disabilities.  “The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights collected data in 2015 showing that black students with disabilities are almost four times as likely to have multiple suspensions, and almost twice as likely to be expelled, as white students with disabilities… Native American students with disabilities were also disproportionately suspended and expelled, at 3.5 times and 3 times, respectively, the rate of white students with disabilities.”  The report also takes issue with the practice of ‘exclusionary discipline.’    Full Report: US Commission on Civil Rights – Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities  (A downloadable pdf of 224 pages; Executive Summary on p. 3)

Millhaven Lifers Liaison Group
Aug. 10 – Prisoners Justice Day (Canada) – Karim Martin
Prisoners’ Justice Day: The Unwritten Holiday of Canadian Inmates

Nobody in jail eats on Aug. 10.  “In jails across Canada, August 10 is as solemn as November 11 is on the outside. It’s a reminder of those men and women who died while in custody, and just how far we’ve come since the 70s… On August 10, 1975, inmates from Millhaven organized a 24-hour hunger strike on the one-year anniversary of the suicide of Edward Nalon, who bled to death in segregation. At the time peaceful protests were a punishable offense in prison, and some inmates were left in the hole for a year after the hunger strike. This day is known as the first official Prisoners’ Justice Day, although some inmates argue that the first PJD happened in 1972 (the same year corporal punishment was abolished.) ”

 Toronto Star – Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard
Do prisons perpetuate problems they are supposed to solve?

Bernard – the chair of the Senate’s Human Rights Committee – invites us to assess the rational for the federal prisons, suggests rehabilitation as the purpose of prisons, and asks some pointed questions about the likelihood of rehabilitation when the inmates are released, as most will eventually be.  The Senate Human Rights Committee has also been active since 2017 with many of the same questions, especially issues around solitary confinement or administrative segregation.  As she points out, supervisory bodies are only able to identify harm already done while respect for human rights is a preventative strategy for any institution, including Corrections Canada.

London Times (UK) – Kristy Lang
What can London learn from Glasgow’s approach to beating knife crime?

London has seen an alarming increase in knife crime.  The Times draws attention to Glasgow, Scotland where a similar problem was confronted with a public health approach, rather than the usual more police, more money, more jail time.

The Marshall Project (US) – Jack Brook
Shock Treatment in Court – Stun belts are intended to keep control in the courtroom, but some judges use them to inflict punishment.

The evidence is saying that we are not far removed from the use of cattle prods on prisoners.  “First introduced in the early 90s, electronic restraints — vests, belts, wrist and ankle cuffs — have been employed in at least 30 states, according to an Amnesty International report.  (The report is from ten years ago).  The idea is that a prisoner who refuses control in the court can be electrically shocked by a deputy pushing a button to activate a device around the body or a part of the body.  Brock is suggesting that some may use the device simply to punish the prisoner.  “The European Trade Commission, the United Nations and Amnesty International have all called for the ban of electronic restraints.”

Next (US) – Emily Nonko
The Study Group Bringing bell hooks to Prisons

Soledad Prison former inmate Richie ‘Reseda’ Edmond-Vargas teaches other inmates about “patriarchy and toxic masculinity” as elements of their criminal history and conditional to their personal growth.  Participation now offers reduction of sentences and the work, as inmates pass through the program and become involved while paroled in the successor to the prison version called Success Stories, now operating in several more California prisons.  “The curriculum is brilliant and our model is that it is all developed and run by incarcerated folks, with trainings led by formerly incarcerated folks,” says Chantal Coudoux, an early volunteer with Success Stories who is now the organization’s executive director.”  The workshops are derived by content from bell hooks, the pen name for feminist author Gloria Jean Watkins.

Sister Helen Prejean –

On the federal decision to resume executions…

Prejean is a Catholic nun and author of the book / movie Dead Man Walking.  Her collected tweets, found here in a tweeter thread, allow an overview of the present circumstances of death penalty concerns in the US, both federally and by state.