April 6, 2020

Toronto Sun – Sam Pazzano
COVID-19 trims Ontario’s inmate populations by 24%

In response to the Covid-19 threat to inmates in provincial prisons, Ontario has released just over 2,000 inmates of the 8,344 as of March 16.  The reduction was achieved by ending week-end imprisonment of less than 90 days and is now looking at temporary absence reviews for those near the end of their sentences.  The process excludes those with violence in the conviction.  Some think the numbers to date suspect.  Related article: Criminological Highlights Professor Anthony Doob and Rosemary Gartner:  Vol 14, #3  (Ed note: Professor Doob forwarded this reference for our readers to speak to the previous Canadian history of decarceration and reasonable speed, noting that Ontario now tops the Alberta record.  While the whole paper is of interest, Doob is suggesting the article on Alberta (#6); and the question of varying standards for guilt (#1) and punishment is also of pressing interest.)    Related article: Toronto Star – Canadian Press   Grand Valley inmates in lockdown over COVID infections, guards union says  Related article: Toronto Star – Jim Rankin and  Alyshah Hasham   Four inmates test positive for COVID-19 in outbreak at southern Ontario women’s prison  (Ed note: The prison is Grand Valley where there are some 41 women serving federal sentence of two years or more.)  Related article: CBC News – Stephen Hoff    ‘In here, you’re defenceless’: Inmates ask for release amid virus fears  Related article: Toronto Star – Alyshah Hasham and Jim Rankin   ‘They can’t self-isolate in there’: Inmates’ loved ones fear it may be too late to stop COVID-19 in Canadian prisons   Related video:  CNN – Michael Smerconish  Coronavirus spread in prison won’t stay behind bars  (An interview on lessons learned from other countries and other epidemics in prisons.)

Coronavirus: Up to 4,000 inmates to be freed

The UK announced yesterday the intention of freeing up to 4,000 inmates from the prisons in England and Wales.  So far, 88 inmates have tested positive for Coronavirus.  The plan calls for releasing those with less than two months left in their sentence “to be released on temporary license” in stages; then, low risk offenders who will get electronic monitoring.  The plans do not include releasing sex or violent offenders, nor any convicted of public health Covid-19 offenses.  The MoJ also said no prisoners with symptoms of coronavirus would be released, nor would those who do not have housing and health support in place.  Special Report:  UK Government Plan Measures announced to protect NHS from coronavirus risk in prisons   (Press Release)

 The Guardian (UK) – Daniel Trilling
‘It’s a place where they try to destroy you’: why concentration camps are still with us

This link to the Guardian’s Long Read is very timely when the mass incarceration policies are beginning to bite us back through both prisons and detention facilities for immigrants.  Here is Trilling’s question:  “Mass internment camps did not begin or end with the Nazis – today they are everywhere from China to Europe to the US. How can we stop their spread?”  and here is his definition of what they are:  “a way for modern states to segregate groups of civilians by placing them in a closed or isolated location via special rules that are distinct from a country’s main system of rights and punishments.”  Read the original article, even if your bones chill out.  Related article: Globe and Mail – Marsha McLeod   Human-rights complaint filed against Kingston prison requiring sick, disabled inmates to wait outdoors for medication   (Ed note: Worth noting in the face of claims by Corrections Canada around health services to inmates.)

Toronto Star – Alyshah Hasham
Can justice be open in a ‘virtual courtroom’? How the pandemic is shaping access to Ontario courts

The majority of court rooms are now closed to the public and Hasham recounts the way he gained access to a hearing in Scarborough – through his phone to the virtual courtroom.  Only two current operate but there is still a tangle of detail and scheduling problems to make the virtual a satisfactory option at this point; court reporters are particularly challenge making records when one speaker speaks over another.

Citizens for Public Justice – Stephen Kaduuli
Statement for Refugee Rights Day 2020

Yesterday (April 4) was Refugee Day and Kaduuli offers a timely reminder of both the needs and rights of refugees in these times of the Coronavirus and Canada’s decision to turn away irregular entries on our borders. “After hearing their submissions, the Supreme Court ruled that based on Section 7 of the Charter, “life, liberty and security of the person” applied to everyone who was in Canada, whether they had status or not. This, then, included refugee applicants and undocumented persons. They decided that refugee status claims required an oral hearing where claimants could state their case and know the case against them before being either accepted into the country or deported.”  Related article: Globe and Mail – Janice Dickson   Four asylum seekers turned away at Canada-U.S. border

The Appeal (US) – Dawn R. Wolfe
Sex Offender Registry Requirements Leave Some Facing Stark Choices As Coronavirus Risks Grow

The sex offender registry is one perhaps with a host of varied requirements for those released already, sentenced served, but confronting residual requirements on reporting.  Most registries require the person to report physically to a particular place or person who may or may not be available to note the check-in or the report of circumstances created by the Coronavirus.  Some will find themselves having to choose between violating the terms of their release as sex offenders or risking going back to jail.