Jan 16, 2020

(Ed note:  The recent controversy about the increased and often prohibitive cost of the record suspension for applicants has highlighted the issue behind the issue: Why has the Liberal government not addressed the specific issue of a real pardon vs the ineffectual records suspension and the statistical recognition that users also know the failure of the record suspension to adequately reverse the stigma and obstacles a criminal record creates.  Once free, the purpose of the cost increase is allegedly a continuing plan to recover full cost of the government service.  Even at $644 per applicant the fee does not recoup and is not the full process cost – as much as $1500 in ancillary costs borne by the applicant.  We urge you to e-mail those identified in the Jan 11 edition of communiqué found on our website –   and identify as objectionable not only the fee increase but the failure to offer adequate second chance opportunity to former inmates.  Both John Howard Society of Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association are planning a lawsuit around the increase.)Ottawa Citizen – Leo Russomanno
Ottawa Citizen – Leo Russomanno
Stop isolating inmates with restrictive telephone policy, Ontario

Of the various elements that make up best chances for a supportive role for family of inmates in Ontario jails the use of a telephone to make mutual contact must surely be one of the best and easiest given technology.  Yet, as Russomanno records, calls cannot be made to cell phones and must be made collect to land lines only.  “A 2017 inquest into the death of Cleve Geddes amounted to a particularly poignant condemnation of Ontario’s procedures. Geddes, a severely schizophrenic man who ended up in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre because there were no beds available at a psychiatric facility, was awaiting a judge-ordered assessment. He was unable to reach his main family contact, his sister, because she had only a cellphone. Alone, frightened and disoriented, Geddes hanged himself in his cell. His family did not learn of his incarceration until it was too late.”  The power of the accessible telephone call when exigency requires one is surely a healing presence to the mentally ill.   Related article: Nova Scotia Advocate Organization – Robert Devet   Let’s Talk – Bell Canada makes calling from prisons needlessly difficult for incarcerated women   Related article: Ottawa Citizen – Joanne Laucius (Article dated Feb 2019)   Bell, let’s talk about making it easier for inmates to call from jail, say protesters

CBC News – Chantelle Bellrichard
RCMP set up checkpoint restricting access in Wet’suwet’en territory amid clash over pipeline

A confrontation that will only likely get worse is unfolding in Northern BC as the RCMP bring in additional personnel to restrict access to the traditional Wet’suwet’en territory while the drama about the right of Calgary-based TC Energy to build a natural gas pipeline.  “The Mounties have increased their presence in the area, setting up a checkpoint and restricting access along a service road that leads to three sites where the Wet’suwet’en are maintaining a presence…Meanwhile, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue to assert their own laws — saying they want Coastal GasLink and the RCMP off the territory.”

Toronto Star – Marco Chown Oved
The RCMP is shutting down its financial crimes unit in Ontario. Here’s why former top Mounties says it’s a mistake

Amid the Star’s previous revelation that accused money launderers rarely see their cases actually go to court, this revelation is equally bizarre.  The Ontario sector comprises 129 constables who have been re-assigned to other units; the responsibility for financial crimes is now also integrated into those regular units.  The national police force has recently reviewed its priorities and identifies them as “National security, transnational serious and organized crime and cyber crime.”  Critics suggest that unless the particular expertise for financial crime is left in place the decision will compromise the prosecution of those crimes.   Related article: Global News – Sam Cooper   B.C. disbanded RCMP unit after report warned possible crime figure bought stake in casino

Toronto Star – Betsy Powell
Judge slams Toronto South Detention Centre for sending accused to jury trial in oversize ‘security gown,’ without socks or underwear

While corrections authorities are preparing to build additional prisons, the dysfunctionality of those already in services seems to escape notice.  ““We are not a country that debases those accused (or convicted for that matter) of criminal offences,” Superior Court Justice David E. Harris wrote in a scathing decision released Monday, finding there was “no possible justification” for sending inmate David Baichoo to court without clothes.”  Baichoo was appearing on the first day of his murder trial in Brampton.   The judge added: “A prisoner has probably never appeared in Brampton Superior Court in only a security gown, let alone on the first day of his murder trial. Proper treatment of those accused of crimes is of fundamental importance to the lifeblood of criminal justice and to our constitutional democracy. It is a basic ingredient of the rule of law. Maltreating accused persons is deeply offensive to our foundational values and cannot be tolerated.”   Related article: The Oklahoman  – Associated press   Lawsuit says Mississippi prisons are ‘plagued by violence’   Related article:  WJTV – (Jackson, Miss)  FBI releases statement about Mississippi prisons

Vermont (US) Digger – James Lyall
Prisons are the problem, but the solution is clear

Lyall is the Vermont ACLU Executive Director who proposes a radical re-examination of prisons, their purposes and their track record.  After a painful review of recent failures of the justice system, Lyall identifies the way to end the increase in incarceration:  “Turns out, no state is harsher than Vermont in administering a program intended to reduce incarceration and improve outcomes. You heard that right: Vermont’s opaque community supervision system has the highest revocation rates in the country — nearly 80%. Rather than help people re-enter the community, as it was meant to do, community supervision has created a revolving door, leading people back into incarceration, not out of it…Of note, 70% of the revocations are not for new crimes but rather for “technical violations” like lacking adequate housing, or curfew violations. Coincidentally, the number of people whose furlough was revoked for technical violations in 2019 (274) is almost identical to the number we currently imprison out of state (273).”  Of note, the host state for Vermont’s excessive 273 inmates is Mississippi whose state prisons are now under scrutiny by the FBI.

The Marshall Project (US) – Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu
How We Investigated Mississippi’s Modern-Day Debtors Prisons – A tip led us to a little-known program that affected hundreds of poor workers.

Do debtor prisons still make up an element of the criminal justice system?  There is no other name for what is happening in Mississippi where inmate debt is accumulated and low paying jobs forced on them until the debt is paid.  “The tip we got at Mississippi Today seemed a little unlikely: a woman in state prison was also working at McDonald’s—and not voluntarily. But sure enough, we found Dixie D’Angelo, a woman with court-ordered debts of $5,000 because she damaged a friend’s car. She had been sentenced to something called a restitution center, where she worked four different restaurant jobs to try to earn enough to pay off her debts and get out of jail.”  Nor is Dixie D’Angelo the only person – investigators interviewed more than 50 others and examined over 200 court orders.