Guns, still…

May 5, 2020

Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis
Assault weapons ban ‘significant,’ but handguns the key to Toronto gun violence, say advocates

Reactions to the federal government’s plans to ban assault weapons have been varied.  The vast majority of Canadians, according to polling, are approving.  Critics have framed a U.S. 2nd amendment argument charging a denial of the right to bear arms.  Others say that the ban will not work unless the smuggling of guns from the US is reduced.  Others have suggested that while it is a good ban, the real problem with gun control and crime lies in the availability and use of handguns.   Toronto Star Editorial (May 1, 2020) Canada bans military-style firearms, but what about handguns?

Los Angles Review of Books – Daniel Fernandez
Carceral Aesthetics

This is an unusual link and reference for this newsletter – a book review.  But it offers a perspective on art in prisons, who is doing this art, what kind of art, the limitations of art in prison, the perspective and motivation of art in prison.  It likely will also debunk the traditional stereotypical version of art consisting of concrete and steel.  The insights are from Nicole Fleetwood’s new book, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.  “Put bluntly, mass culture has been remarkably successful in commodifying the horrors and humiliation of incarceration, but it has done little to create a movement that might challenge the laws, political actors, and institutions that permit these routine abuses to happen.”

Sawbonna: Victim-Led Restorative Justice – Margot Van Slutyman

The link is to a recently published paper espousing restorative justice with origin in the victim and led by a victim’s perspective, as opposed to RJ from the offender’s perspective.  Published on the site of the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, the paper has an abstract and a bibliography.  “Sawbonna shines a light on how victims not only choose to find and create empowerment, but further challenge, shift and affect change in policies that limit and truncate agency.”

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg – Kate Kehler
Corrections issues decades in the making

This link is to an article raising wisdom questions about avoidance rather than confronting.  Kehler points out the disproportionate number of adults and children jailed in Manitoba and asks why in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic would one ignore the restorative justice alternatives and insist on prison?  “Winnipeg (10 per cent) and Manitoba (six per cent) saw increases to their violent crime index from 2017 to 2018. All agree that methamphetamine abuse and addiction seems to be a major contributing factor, yet our response has remained punitive rather than treatment-focused.”    Costs, culture and a larger community role in delivering justice are the alternatives says Kehler, chair of the Restorative Justice Association of Manitoba and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

The Marshall Project (US) –
A State-by-State Look at Coronavirus in Prisons

The total reported infections of Coronavirus in prisons as of April 29 is 14, 513 and 218 deaths to this date.  The report offers a state by state look at a breakdown of these stats.  The report also includes a stat for testing per 100,000.  The stats are presented in bar graph style which makes clear the state specific status in the progress of the virus within the prisons.  Related article: Prison Policy Initiative (US) – Emily Widra and Peter Wagner   While jails drastically cut populations, state prisons have released almost no one – Our analysis finds that jails are responding to the unprecedented public health crisis by rapidly dropping their populations. In contrast, state prisons have barely budged.

The Atlantic (US) – Joe Pinsker
 All the Things We Have to Mourn Now – Six experts explain how to recognize the many new faces of grief during a pandemic.

The number of deaths in the US is getting to the point where few people remain untouched by the virus.  Those who are recoiling from the sting are often denied the opportunity for contact as death of a loved one approaches and equally denied the chance to channel their expression of grief through the normal family gathering and funeral.  Pinsker questions the experts while offering references for their published works.

The Chronicle-Herald (Halifax) – Tara Bradbury, The Telegram (NF)
Thirty-eight percent of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary released; St. John’s crime rate lower than this time last year.

The strategy of emptying the prisons to eliminate over-crowding and the spread of the Covid-19 virus has brought objections that the prisoners will go back to the life of crime.  One can’t prove the assumption from St. John’s (the prison is provincial – 2 years less a day) according to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary who note a 30% reduction in crime. One obvious implication is whether a jail sentence is appropriate or necessary for all. “There was a lot of fear about doing this and some people were in a panic,” Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons said of the release of the handful of inmates as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We knew that the majority of that was unfounded, but it’s nice to show that it’s not the case. I’m very happy to see that the increase in releases has not led to any kind of increase in crime.”  Related article: Canadian Lawyer – Michael Spratt   The government’s hypocrisy around COVID-19 – Jails are not safe for inmates and courts must recognize this for detentions   Related article: Psychology Today – Mikkail  Lyubansky   A Brief History of Punitive Justice – In many societies, punishment serves multiple functions  (Aug. 2019)

CBC News – Donna Carreiro
Pandemic proves it’s time for basic income for all, economists say – COVID crisis a harsh reminder that ‘people were not making enough money to meet their basic needs’

Economists in Manitoba are voicing support for a universal basic income as they recognize many people living on inadequate income even before the Covid-19 impact.  Now many such minimum wage and part time workers are catapulted into the category of essential workers.  “The next time the world is blindsided by a global emergency, the economy will better survive it if everyone is paid what they need to survive it — before it hits, experts say… And if employers don’t cough up the cash, they say, governments should.”   Related article: Toronto Star – Robin Sears   What is the value of ‘essential’?