Our better angels…

Aug 31, 2019 

ABC News (US) – Meghan Keneally
Man who spent 36 years in prison for stealing $50 from a bakery is now set to be freed 

History is not a kind teacher nor do lessons from history prompt us strongly enough to recognize and fix blatant injustice.  One may even say that 36 years in a hell hole in Alabama, or any place else is not fixable.  What is obvious from this account is that we are all capable of enormous moral as well as legal discrimination and extremism, all the while submitting our best human judgment to the cruel insistencies of a sentencing regime.  Alvin Kennard, 18 years old when the three strikes law was applied, now 58 years old and after 36 years in prison, had his sentence changed to time served but is still in prison waiting for the bureaucracy of prison before release.  https://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/man-spent-36-years-prison-stealing-50-bakery/story?id=65264675&__twitter_impression=true   (Follow the print rather than the video…)

The Atlantic (US) – Lucy Lang
Prosecutors Need to Take the Lead in Reforming Prisons – Attorneys on the front lines of the criminal-justice system should be pressing for a drastically different model of incarceration.

Here is a compassionate account of a NY prosecutor who learned through her work and the victims of crime about the impact of sentencing and imprisonment.  Her response was a new kind of educational thrust combining personnel from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Department of Corrections, and the Columbia University Center for Justice.  The article suggests that prosecutors are in a good position to influence the drive to imprisonment as the only response.  Judged the worst prison system in the entire country, the Alabama prisons are prominent in the review.   https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/urgency-prison-reform-and-what-prosecutors-can-do-about-it/596884/

CBC News – Ashley Burke
Far-right group accused of white nationalism closer to party status — and increased scrutiny

The group, the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP), had the required 250 signatures of members to qualify as a registered political party in Canada.  The concession by Elections Canada by law requires the release of the names of the members who supported the application to anyone asking.   Some fear that a name-and-shame may lead to violence but human rights advocates insist on the right to know who these supporters are.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadian-nationalist-party-public-shaming-1.5263497   Related article:  Alter Net (US) – Joe Sexton, Pro Publica    This ex-federal agent infiltrated white supremacist groups for years. Here’s why he thinks Charlottesville was a ‘wake-up call.” https://www.alternet.org/2019/08/this-ex-federal-agent-infiltrated-white-supremacist-groups-for-years-heres-why-he-thinks-charlottesville-was-a-wake-up-call/

CBC News – Robyn Urback
Quebec’s secularism law is a national disgrace — and yet barely an election issue

This opinion piece from the CBC takes issue with the Quebec law banning religious symbols in public, an issue very much alive in Quebec but largely ignored by national political leaders and in the national media.  “No one wants to risk alienating Quebecers ahead of the fall election.”  https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/secularism-law-1.5261713

CBC News – John Paul Tasker
Immigration lawyers report Canadian Muslims being denied entry to U.S.

Canadian immigration lawyers are puzzled by a spike in the number of Canadian citizens who are also Muslim getting turned away as “inadmissible” at the US border.  Daud Ali, an immigration lawyer, said: “But it’s hard to know what you’re going up against when you’re not told why you’re denied entry. The fact that they’re all Muslims, that raises some concerns about whether these people are being targeted or if this is a new form of some sort of ban …”   https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tasker-canadian-muslims-us-border-crossing-1.5264218

CNN (US) – Collette Richards and Drew Griffin
States are trying to change a system that keeps poor people in jail. The bail industry is blocking them.

Justice advocates in the US are starting to suggest that the justice system is causing people to remain in poverty by the systemic application of fines, fees and bail bonds.  The CNN report traces the potential for the inhibition of efforts at prison, justice and bail reform by a politically inspired bail bond companies to preserve a corrupt but profitable practice.  “A CNN review of all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that the powerful industry has derailed, stalled or killed reform efforts in at least nine states, which combined cover more than one third of the country’s population.”   https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/30/us/bail-reform-bonds-lobbying-invs/index.html  Related article: CNN –  She gave birth in a jail cell. Now she’s suing.  https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2019/08/30/woman-birth-jail-cell-orig.cnn

Shalem Mental Health Blog:
A New Story of Justice: Nonviolence and Restorative Justice

This is a link to an animated video that contrasts retributive justice approach to conflict with restorative justice.  The Youtube video is 3 ½ minutes and a good discussion starter / introduction to RJ.  (The video is oriented by the mass incarceration of the US). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YMxk3v7mVY&fbclid=IwAR3npXxEe3PsP4AtwXMJsS28k6nsKfwR5dv06M8NABiQJuKJnJ0VBnAnslI

Austin (TX) Monitor – Ryan Thornton
Council looks beyond the budget

Here is a scenario that must be common enough around budget discussion with intersecting demands and crowded around “finite resources.”  The program dimensions prevent addressing the individual needs so that avoidance of homelessness by pre-emptively supporting those families about to experience the loss of the home is not an option.  When homelessness happens then the myriad of other problems stemming from homelessness take place and make a permanent solution to all the problems even more elusive. Council member Ann Kitchen:  “Because we don’t have funding for everybody, we never get down to the person … who doesn’t have addiction needs, who doesn’t have mental health issues, who doesn’t have other issues and they simply need six months of rent or whatever to get back on their feet. Those folks end up on the street for a long time, which increases the trauma, increases the likelihood that they will develop additional issues.” https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2019/08/council-looks-beyond-the-budget/

 Globe and Mail – Colin Perkel
Ottawa to pay inmates placed in solitary confinement for extended periods preliminary $20 million

Justice Paul Perell of the Superior Court has ruled on a case certified as a class action suit some time ago around a group of inmates in the federal system who were subjected to more than 15 days of solitary confinement, to date about 9,000 in total since the 15 days limit was determined in 2011.  The award of $20 million is preliminary and appeals and other litigation is expected as well but the practice is clearly accepted by the court as a violation of the rights of the inmates.  “Even if some form of segregation were necessary to ensure the safety or security of the penitentiary and its population, there never has been an explanation and hence no justification for depriving an inmate of meaningful human contact. This form of segregation is not rationally connected to the safety of the penitentiaries.”  Justice Perell said. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/canada/article-ottawa-to-pay-inmates-placed-in-solitary-confinement-for-extended/?utm_medium=Referrer%3A%2BSocial%2BNetwork%2B%2F%2BMedia&utm_campaign=Shared%2BWeb%2BArticle%2BLinks&__twitter_impression=true