New vision…

April 11, 2020

The Guardian (UK) – The Long Read – Rebecca Solnit
‘The impossible has already happened’: what coronavirus can teach us about hope

The outcome of disasters is not foreordained. It’s a conflict, one that takes place while things that were frozen, solid and locked up have become open and fluid – full of both the best and worst possibilities. We are both becalmed and in a state of profound change.

Already there is a yearning to discover some seed for a new vision of society and even humanity from the devastation of the Coronavirus.  Here’s a link to a refreshing assessment of the potential for hope from the virus, deadly though it may be.  “We have reached a crossroads, we have emerged from what we assumed was normality, things have suddenly overturned. One of our main tasks now – especially those of us who are not sick, are not frontline workers, and are not dealing with other economic or housing difficulties – is to understand this moment, what it might require of us, and what it might make possible.”  Solnit offers a pointed analysis of the lessons from this pandemic for our economic, political and social lives together.  A starred recommendation for all***

Millhaven Lifers Liaison Group
Latest brochure

The link is for a brochure encapsulating the history of the lifer’s support group and the issues that presently, often capriciously, define that sentence.  The number of lifers in Canada’s federal prisons is 21% or approximately 5,000 inmates.  The link also offers factual info around the parole system since the usual sentence is 25 years to life; after 25 years the person is eligible for parole but remains under sentence and supervision for the rest of natural life.  The brochure also offers a summary of the work of the supporters.  Related article: Voices From Inside out  – Rick Sauvé – Part 1: From Prison to Living as a Lifer in the Community   Related article: Inquire Publications = Rory Sullivan  Questioning the Purpose of the Prison System (The link includes a bibliography on these issues.)  Related article: CBC Radio – Ideas If we abolish prisons, what’s next?

Prison Policy Initiative – Peter Wagner
Large scale releases and public safety – Can governments safely release hundreds or thousands of people from prison? We offer 14 historical examples to show that, in fact, they already have.

The question about release of inmates for virus reasons and public safety is increasing at issue.  The link reminds us that large scale releases have happened before and offers no fewer than 14 such historical occasions.  Normally, prison authorities measure incarceration of the basis of the number imprisoned per 100,000 of population.  There is info on US adult, US youth, from a variety of states, some well-known for being hard on crime, as well as an international review of incidents.    Related article: Truth Out (US) – Jack Herrera    It’s Impossible to “Distance” in ICE Detention. Doctors Say Free All Detainees   Related article:  National Post – Justin Ling Justin Ling: The CSC is censoring whistleblower complaints about COVID-19 in federal prisons – Inmates have painted a picture of a system buckling under the weight of a pandemic. And they have been punished for that   Related article: Blue Ridge Public Radio (US) – Grant Holub-Moorman, Jennifer Brookland & Frank Stasio   In NC Prisons, COVID-19 Outbreak Could Mean A Death Sentence   Related article:  WFAE Radio (Charlotte, North Carolina) – Gwendolyn Glenn    Activists, Advocates Protest For Mecklenburg County Inmates To Be Released Due To COVID-19

Herald News (US) – Jett Goldsmith
Prisons Serving as Litmus Test for How Governments Worldwide are responding to COVID-19 – What’s next for the millions of people incarcerated across the world? Only time will tell, as governments weigh public health, politics and the value of human life.

Goldsmith draws a picture of the status of prisoner release throughout the international places where Covid-19 has struck.  His summary of the US scene:  “Slave labor, riots and death in prisons in the US and abroad, as prisoner Rights Organizations fight for clemency.”   Related article: Huffington Post (US) – Angelina Chapin   Governors Are Too Cowardly To Solve The Coronavirus Outbreak In Prisons – Governors have the power to grant clemency to thousands of incarcerated people, but they are too afraid to use it.

NOW (Toronto) – Samantha Edwards
One in 10 women concerned about violence in the home during COVID-19 – Shelter workers worry that stay at home measures could prevent domestic abuse victims from seeking help or resources

The survey is from Stats Canada and is suggesting that staying at home may provoke domestic violence.  The survey found that 9.9 per cent of women were “very or extremely concerned” about violence in the home and 7.6 per cent were “somewhat concerned.” In comparison, six per cent of men said they were “very or extremely concerned” and 10.7 per cent were “somewhat concerned.”   Stats Canada Survey (Released April 8, 2020)  Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: Impacts of COVID-19

City News (Toronto)
Ontario jail guards refusing to work without protective gear in COVID-19 crisis

Guards are upset that in some facilities they are not allowed to wear protective gear and are refusing to work without it.  So Far Monleith, the Toronto South Detention Centre and Hamilton Wentworth all have had virus cases.  Sarnia and the Ottawa Carlton Detention Centre are also in dispute about the protection equipment.  The guard union is asking for a specific policy across the province in favour of personal protection equipment (PPE).  Kristy Denette, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, said that 9 low risk inmates had been released since April 2 to cut down the risk from jail population.   CNN (US) – Andy Rose   Nearly 200 inmates rioted after officials announced coronavirus cases in a Washington state facility

 Washington Post – Editorial (April 10, 2020)
The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate along racial lines. But America does.

The stats coming from the numbers of virus infected and deaths in the US from the Coronavirus is repeating a dire social and racial reality already pronounced in the criminal legal system: more Black people are impacted than any other racial origin.  “The numbers trickling in from cities, counties and states in recent weeks are alarming: Chicago’s population is about 30 percent black, but so are nearly 70 percent of those in the city killed by the virus. Milwaukee County looks worse: Black people make up 26 percent of the population, and a whopping 73 percent of covid-related deaths. In Michigan, it’s 14 and 41; in Louisiana, it’s 32 and 70. Maryland has a 30 percent black population and reported Thursday that black residents account for 40 percent of the state’s deaths.”

Global Affairs Canada –
Canada improves terms of light armored vehicles contract, putting in place a new robust permits review process

The Canadian government has determined to renew the sale of military equipment and weapons to Saudi Arabia, one of worse international human rights abusers.  The Canadian government still insists that secrecy is the order of the day and that Canada is contractually obligated for military hardware to Saudi Arabia.  Critiques say that the need for employment is causing the break in principles.    Related article: Washington Post (US) – David Moscrop   Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia reveal that Canada is willing to trade jobs for its principles