Prisons – No one safe…

Feb. 22, 2020

The Marshall Project – Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo
Mississippi Prisons: No One’s Safe, Not Even the Guards – Too many prisoners, too few officers leads to violence.

The reputation of prisons in Mississippi leaves nothing to the imagination except to say that conditions have been deteriorating for some time.  There have been 340 attacks on guards each year since 2016, and about 115 per year result in serious injury.  Staff shortages and daily absences from duty are a major factor here and across the country:  “Half of all correctional-officer jobs in Mississippi’s state-run prisons are empty. A Marshall Project survey of state corrections systems nationwide found only Alabama had a higher vacancy rate, at 58 percent. At least 12 states reported vacancies over 20 percent.”  The link includes a graph of the shortages and info on pay scales, considered a major problem beyond the violence with recruiting.

Richmond News (BC) – Canadian Press
Prison watchdog raises concerns of ‘culture of impunity’

Advocates have recently drawn attention to the failure of the federal prison system to provide adequate health care for inmates.  Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger in his latest report identifies a culture of impunity at the base of the stubbornness of the system to change. Says Zinger after looking at three prisons, two of which are maximum security:  “A professional culture that has grown wary and resistant to change, a practice steeped in a tired and worn belief that ‘this is the way we do things here,’ are holding the service back from being the best it can be.” Zinger report offers sixteen recommendations to government.   Corrections Canada summary of the report (Feb 18, 2020)   Latest Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator of Canada Tabled in Parliament – Dr. Zinger Raises Concern about Misconduct and Mistreatment Behind Bars   Related article: CBC News – Rafferty Baker  Prison needle exchanges driven by security, not health concerns, federal watchdog says in critical report – Few inmates have enrolled in the needle exchange program, according to correctional investigator.    Related article: Global News   Rachel D’Amore   She spent 4 years in a men’s prison — how Canada often ignores complexities in trans violence

Toronto Star – Kate Allen and Wendy Gillis
Privacy commissioners launch investigation into facial recognition technology tested by Toronto police, other GTA forces

Amid reports that police forces across Canada are testing and using facial recognition software the science behind the software as well as the potential for invasion of privacy is coming under suspicion.  The software made by Clearview AI and known also as Clearview needs a data bank of faces from which to compare if the facial recognition is to be useful.  Privacy commissioners suspect that the collection of faces for the comparison without consent is violating privacy and they have begun an analysis of the process.  “In the last week, Toronto police as well as the services in Peel, Halton and Durham regions, have all confirmed to the Star that they used Clearview AI, an app that allows officers to match pictures of unidentified people against what the U.S. company claims is a database of three billion images scraped off the web, including from social media sites.”   Related article: Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis   Police chiefs say facial recognition needs more review — but cops should be able to use AI

CBC News (London, ON) –
Ontario Court judge rules parts of Canada’s prostitution laws are unconstitutional

“Tiffany Harvey and Hamad Anwar were charged in 2015 when London, Ont., police busted Fantasy World Escorts. Those charges have been stayed following a Superior Court judge’s decision Friday.”   The judge, Justice Thomas McKay, “ruled that the laws, which prohibit procuring, advertising and materially benefiting from someone else’s sexual services, are unconstitutional.”  Critics of sex trafficking say that the decision legitimizes and protects pimps over the rights of vulnerable girls.   Related article: The Walrus – by Viviane Fairbank with Illustration by Holly Stapleton   How One Woman Reimagined Justice for Her Rapist – Few survivors of sexual assault pursue justice in the legal system. Marlee Liss advocates for an alternative option      Related article: Huffington Post (Canada) – Zi-Ann Lum     ‘Difficult’ Testimony Heard By Senators In Don Meredith Harassment Case – Former staffers appear at committee after feeling ignored by the Senate for years.

John Howard Society – (Canada)
Voices Inside and Out

The link is to a series of podcasts describing both the initial steps of walking into a prison and those same steps on release and walking out.  By featuring a number of individuals who have had this experience, the podcasts hope to draw out the commonalities and to help understand both the impact of prison and the needs to cope with re-entry.  The first episode is: Introduction – Lawrence’s warrant expiry release and continuity of medical care  and features Catherine Latimer, Executive Director of John Howard Canada and Lawrence who is about to be released.       Related article: CTV News (SK) – Nicole Di Donato     ‘It was an awful experience’: Sask. woman shares story of being pregnant behind bars

Vera Institute (US)
Moving from Punishment to Harm Reduction and Health – Changing Course in the Overdose Crisis – Moving from Punishment to Harm Reduction and Health

A 76 page report from Vera “examines the intersection of problematic drug use and the criminal justice system. It offers practical guidance for practitioners, policymakers, and funders by compiling the wide range of interventions that communities can consider to minimize justice system contact for people who use drugs and improve public health and safety.”  The report credits the increasing availability of Naloxone in the reduction of overdose deaths and advocates for a public health approach.

WR Crime Prevention Council

Here’s a two minute YouTube video which describes how the Kitchener-Waterloo Crime Prevention Council operates.  It may be helpful in getting started or in reviewing where your local group is – great discussion piece for any group.