A deliberate policy…

Jan 21, 2020

Ottawa Citizen – Lisa Kerr and Anthony N. Doob
What happened to the Liberal promise of criminal justice system reform?

First, the authors treat us to a review of the items under which we were promised reform and then they walk us through the progress to date.  The items include mandatory sentences, also identified under the promised reform as Article 32 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the pardons and record suspensions mess, elder abuse, penitentiaries and federal community services programs.  https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/kerr-and-doob-what-happened-to-the-liberal-promise-of-criminal-justice-system-reform?fbclid=IwAR0a1r7YkV276N1aRY1_UblIQPq83GBqRZ01_80CTu_wLneFBajYp0VHo0o

Toronto Star – Editorial (Jan 17, 2020)
Judges are outraged over jail conditions in Ontario. We should all be.

Here is how Ontario Superior Court Justice Andras Schreck finds the condition of Onatrio’s prisons.   “… this isn’t a temporary problem, the judge wrote in a decision released last week. It’s a “deliberate policy choice” by the provincial government. Put simply,” Schreck wrote, “the Ministry (of the Solicitor General) has clearly chosen to save money rather than heed judicial concerns about the lack of humane treatment of inmates.”  https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2020/01/16/judges-are-outraged-over-jail-conditions-in-ontario-we-should-all-be.html   Related article: Office of the Correctional Investigator (Ivan Zinger)  Indigenous People in Federal Custody Surpasses 30% – Correctional Investigator Issues Statement and Challenge  https://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/cnt/comm/press/press20200121-eng.aspx   Says Zinger: “On this trajectory, the pace is now set for Indigenous people to comprise 33% of the total federal inmate population in the next three years.  Over the longer term, and for the better part of three decades now, despite findings of Royal Commissions and National Inquiries, intervention of the courts, promises and commitments of previous and current political leaders, no government of any stripe has managed to reverse the trend of Indigenous over-representation in Canadian jails and prisons. The Indigenization of Canada’s prison population is nothing short of a national travesty.”

Toronto Star – Sandro Contenta and Jim Rankin
A shocking report details how Ontario’s most vulnerable youths are shuttled from child protection to the justice system

Led by Judge Brian Scully of the Ontario Court of Justice and Ryerson professor Judy Finlay, the report traces a shocking story of shuttling vulnerable youth from child protection to the justice system.  The study followed 28 traumatized youth (from 12 – 17) over a period of two years and found that “Ontario’s most vulnerable youths are being “re-traumatized” by child protection and justice systems that set them up to fail and leave them languishing for months in pretrial detention, according to researchers who tracked kids in the care of foster parents and group homes.”  Aboriginal and Black children suffered most from the indifference of the system as determined by the length of time in pre-trial detention.  “During the project’s two-year period, the 28 Toronto youth the researchers followed incurred an astounding 416 charges — 151 of them for violating bail conditions…“Breaching bail conditions was the primary source of recidivism across all (project) sites,” the report states.”  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/01/19/a-shocking-report-details-how-ontarios-most-vulnerable-youths-are-shuttled-from-child-protection-to-the-justice-system.html  Ryerson Report in full:  Cross-Over Youth Project: Navigating Quicksand  https://contactbrant.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/JF-Final-Navigating-Quicksand-2.pdf  (The report of over 200 pages has both an executive summary starting on p. 9 and at the end  series of recommendations starting on page 161.)

CBC News – Sophia Harris
‘I’m appalled’: Lawyers alarmed as Ottawa gives more powers to U.S. border officers at Canadian airports

Pre-clearance through US Borders while still on Canadian soil means ceding certain rights to the US Border guards.  In this instance, minorities are fearful we have given away too much sovereignty at the risk of failure to protect the rights of Canadian citizens, especially in the face to hardening, and some would say, practices of human rights violation, witness the southern borders.  “Previously, law-abiding travellers could simply leave and return home, because they were still on Canadian soil…Now they could be detained — even handed over to Canadian authorities to face charges — for refusing to answer questions about why they’re withdrawing.”  Canadian immigration lawyers are reporting significant increases in five year bans imposed by the US on Canadians.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/preclearance-act-federal-government-u-s-border-1.5429662

The Sentencing Project (US) – Nicole Porter
Top Trends in State Criminal Justice Reform, 2019

This is helpful to those following US criminal justice reform and the achievement to date.  Items included:  Reducing Prison Populations Through Sentencing Reform; Expanding the Vote; Scaling Back Collateral Consequences; Challenging the Lifetime Felony Drug Offense Ban on Public Benefits; Expanding Expungement Reforms for Marijuana Offenses; Challenging Racial Disparity; Reform for Justice-Involved Youth; Phasing Out Private Prisons.  Each item has summary comments. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/top-trends-in-state-criminal-justice-reform-2019/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=8251ac2a-bedb-41ec-a088-cc1e529d01e8  Related article: The Marshall Project (US) – Diedre Mcdonald   What It’s Like to be a Cutter in Prison (First published in Feb 2018)  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/08/16/what-it-s-like-to-be-a-cutter-in-prison  (Ed note:  There is a considerable file on a variety of concerns on the web page under Life Inside – first- hand accounts by inmates themselves.)

The Marshall Project (US) – Eli Hager and Nicole Lewis
Facing Intimidation, Black Women Prosecutors Say: “Enough”

The efforts at prison reform in the US have generated many windows through which to view criminal justice.  Previously, criminal justice critics have drawn attention to the power of the prosecutor in the outcomes and sentencing in criminal trails.  The protests of Black women who are prosecutors at the obstruction put in front of them by white justice officials and majority white police forces adds a new wrinkle, especially when the Black women are also pursuing less punitive outcomes.  “Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner filed a federal lawsuit against her entire city leadership, accusing its mostly white police force and political establishment of engaging in a racially motivated conspiracy to drive her out of office and block her efforts to make the city’s justice system less punitive toward people of color.  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/01/16/facing-intimidation-black-women-prosecutors-say-enough?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share-tools&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=post-top

 The Hill (US) – Tal Axelrod
Florida Supreme Court rules convicted felons must pay fines, fees before voting

The issue of debts owed by felons before voting rights will be restored is forcing a confrontation between those who say voting is a privilege vs voting is a right of all citizens.  So far, Florida has agreed to recognize the rights of 1.2 million citizens deprived of the vote in a state where often only a few thousand votes make the difference between winner and loser.  The court decision also prompts another policy item: under what circumstances may a debt from a criminal conviction suspend the right to vote?  The ruling:  “We conclude that ‘all terms of sentence’ plainly encompasses not only durational terms, but also obligations and therefore includes all [legal financial obligations (LFOs)] imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt.”  There remains much controversy around the use of prison inmates in work roles for profit making of state costs reductions.  https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/478620-florida-supreme-court-rules-convicted-felons-must-pay-fines-fees-before   Related article:  San Francisco Bay View – Ronald Brooks, (Decarcerate Louisiana) How did the slavery clause get into the 13th Amendment?  https://sfbayview.com/2020/01/how-did-the-slavery-clause-get-into-the-13th-amendment/   (N.B.  This excellent article traces the use of criminal law to retain some semblance of slavery under legitimate pretense.)    Related article:  The Pew Foundation   Jake Horowitz & Tracy Velázquez   Congress Can Take A Second ‘Step’ with Focus on Supervision Reform  https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2019/12/19/congress-can-take-a-second-step-with-focus-on-supervision-reform?utm_campaign=2020-01-21+PSPP&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Pew

The New Yorker (US) – Michelle Alexander and David Remnick
Ten Years after “The New Jim Crow”

The link is to a look back and a look forward to prisons and the justice system since the New Jim Crowe was published 10 years ago.  The book made concrete the racial unfairness of the justice system and traced the treatment of Blacks from civil war days to the present.  The link is to a radio link as well.  https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/the-new-yorker-radio-hour/mass-incarceration-then-and-now  Radio broadcast:  https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/tnyradiohour/segments/ten-years-after-new-jim-crow  Related article: Prison Policy Initiative (US) – 70% of people in local jails are not convicted of any crime   https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/pie2017_jail_detail.html?fbclid=IwAR0sGID1AhhEXZENe_FYFPzLklw-fFK5Ni4g9q5zAT8K-ZzaFUrkdUh-A3g  Related article: Detroit Free Press – Angie Jackson   18 ways Michigan could change its criminal justice process  https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/01/14/michigan-jail-reform-criminal-justice/4434827002/?utm_campaign=2020-01-21+PSPP&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Pew   Full Report (46 pages downloadable PDF)   Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Report and Recommendations https://courts.michigan.gov/News-Events/Documents/final/Jails%20Task%20Force%20Final%20Report%20and%20Recommendations.pdf  (Report offers an Executive Summary and a list of offences creating jailing problems followed by some 12 pages of recommendations.)

The Appeal (US) – Eliyahu Kamisher
LA Police Union Contributes $1 Million To Anti-George Gascón PAC – The influx of cash shows the police union’s determination to stop the reform-minded district attorney candidate.

The pressure on reform minded Black prosecutors has already been illustrated above as well. The extent of the problem of the repression of reform minded prosecutors as an obstacle to genuine reform is now illustrated by the revelation that those prosecutors, of all ethnic origins and genders judged reform minded are subjected to political funding by police unions who consider the reforms contrary to their law and order agenda.  The link describes several such incidents of police and political funding in lesser amounts and linked to possible misdeed by police but this one involves $1 million.  https://theappeal.org/george-gascon-los-angeles-police-union/#.XiXJ4BMKgBw.twitter