Fix the taxes…

Sept 23, 2020

Policy Options – Senator Kim Pate
A reform of taxes would make a guaranteed liveable income feasible:  Eliminating the web of financial programs and social assistance would offset the cost of a GLI, and a five percent hike in GST could cover it.

Pate thinks the Covid-19 virus has exposed the failed nature of UI and Welfare in which she sees the failures coming from a complex system with inadequate income anyway – “full of onerous conditionalities and qualifications that hindered access for those most in need… By comparison, the availability and ease of access to CERB point to the multiple potential benefits of a Guaranteed Livable Income.”   Related article: Twitter  Cindy Blackstock   Spirit Bear Plan – End Inequalities in Public Services for Indigenous Children, Youth and Families.

Canadian – Lital Khaikin
Canada drags its feet on international convention against torture – Canada still hasn’t ratified OPCAT, revealing apathy of Canadian politicians toward human rights standards

Historically, Canada has been reluctant to ratify the UN Convention on Torture.  In this first of a three part series,the first article examines the lack of transparency and bureaucratic reticence toward OPCAT. The second part examines the circumstances in Canadian detention centres—and other care and medical environments—that urgently call for this greater accountability. The third part examines precedents in Canadian military use of torture alongside Canada’s spotty human rights track record.

N.Y. Times – Lynn Vavreck and Chris Tausanovitch
Americans Mostly Agree on Policing. The Difference Is Priorities.  Why has it become a big election issue? Democrats prioritize banning chokeholds, and Republicans are focused on not defunding the police.

Given all the rancor and polarization to this point, the perspective of this article is somewhat surprising.  It minimizes substantive differences and reduces the difference to the priorities of the two political poles.  The authors present graphs on the results of their inquiry by political party among some 10,000 people.  “Americans are more likely to trade away issues relating to taxes, immigration and health care in order to get policies they want on policing; it leads the list for Democrats and Republicans and is one of the top three priorities for independents.”  Are we in for bargaining about band aid first responses instead of substantive changes?  Related article: New Jersey Herald – Police unions fight NJ attorney general to keep names of punished cops secret  Related article: Pro Publica – Zipporah Osei, Mollie Simon, Moiz Syed, Lucas Waldron   We Are Tracking What Happens to Police After They Use Force on Protestors (Ed note: Pro Publica seeks info from its readership who are witnesses to the police violence and updates the article and the incidents.  This version is the third update.)  

 Florida Times-Union (US) – Editorial Board / Gainesville Sun
Prison policies are cruel, wasteful

The editorial draws attention to what it calls ‘the second sentence’ that begins when a prisoner is released from prison:  it means the sentence continues in the form of job denial, voter disenfranchisement, addition and arbitrary imposition of fines and fees to wipe the slate clean and offer a new beginning.  The system is decidedly racist and often imprisons because the accused to too poor for the bond / cash bail.  “As Time magazine reported, “When faced with a social ill, our nation responds by building more prisons and jails… That’s the cruel and most costly option.”   Related article:  Daily Mail (UK) – Valerie Edwards   Is Bloomberg trying to buy the Florida vote? Billionaire pays off more than $20m in debt for 31,000 felons so they can vote in the state where just 537 votes decided the presidential election in 2000    Related article: Washington Post (US) –  Michael Scherer   Mike Bloomberg raises $16 million to allow former felons to vote in Florida  (Ed note: The reports vary in the amount raised and who contributed but average $500 per person and a total of 32,000 ex-prisoners empowered.)    Related article: – Kristin Toussaint  The insidious ways building private prisons creates more prisonersA new study finds that creating more private prison beds causes more people to be incarcerated—and for longer periods.

 Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
The State of Youth Justice 2020

Webster is reporting on the latest updating report on youth justice in the UK and advocating a youth first justice.  Webster notes that the numbers, the offences and the disposition of these matters is changing.  He also offers a statistical racial review of the offenders and a breakdown of the type of responses within community sentencing.  Full report:  National Association for Youth Justice (UK) – Dr. Tim Bateman – The state of youth justice 2020: An over view of trends and developments (152 page downloadable pdf)

Michael Spratt Podcast
Tony Doob on solitary confinement

Spratt interviews Professor Tony Doob of the U of T Criminology Department and chair of the implementation committee for the CSC Corrections to the practice of solitary confinement.  Doob resigned when the mandate time expired without response to repeated requests for data about the actual practice in the prisons.  The podcast is almost one and a half hours but Doob’s interview does not start until the 9 minute mark.  The prior content discusses recent events including the Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment system in the US.

The Court of Appeals of Ontario
Opening of the Courts of Ontario for 2020

The link provides the opening address of Chief Justice the Honourable George R. Strathy, an address thought noteworthy by a number of observers.   The Chief Justice professes an optimism in the role of the judiciary in improving the legal failures brought out by the Covid-19 virus.   “COVID has demonstrated some of the cracks in the foundation of our justice system. Some of those cracks can be repaired by an appropriate investment in technology and other resources to enable the courts to work more efficiently and to serve the public more effectively… But it will take more — much more — to build a better justice system than simply more computers and more video screens. I believe we must radically re-think the process we use to achieve justice. We need to examine the way we do justice in criminal, family and civil cases and ask ourselves whether there is a more just, cost-effective and cost-efficient way to do things at every stage of the proceeding. That process must be fair, it must respect and promote the rights and freedoms contained in the Charter and it must not be unreasonably delayed.”

N.Y. Times (US) – Lauren Leatherby and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
Which Police Departments Are as Diverse as Their Communities?

After all the controversy about defunding police, and the counter claims of police accountability and improvements, this link offers a cynic’s view of the alleged improvement through the racial composition of police in the light of the racial composition of those policed.  The article and the stats presented serve to illustrate that most police forces still have a long way to go before they represent adequately the population they serve.  “Of 467 local police departments with at least 100 officers that reported data for both 2007 and 2016, more than two-thirds became whiter relative to their communities between those years, according to a New York Times analysis of the data.” (Emphasis original.)  The numbers represent a small portion of the 18,000 plus police agencies in the US.   Related article: Globe and Mail – Molly Hayes and Kristy Kirkup  In rare case, police officer gets jail time for failing to provide medical help to person in custody   Related article: National Post – Canadian Press    Two men not guilty in death of inmate during 2016 riot at Saskatchewan jail

 Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (US) – Ryan D. Hancock and Carl Oxholm
Pardons and Public Safety: Examining A Decade of Recidivism Data in Pennsylvania (August 2020)

The report takes an unusual perspective on the recidivism issue in that the authors examine the economic gain from the pardon of prisoners in Philadelphia.  Whereas the average person would think that those pardoned are a financial burden and most will fail to become productive and self-sustaining, to say nothing of the risk to public safety, the report offers a very contrary view that would advocate for even earlier intervention and release.  “Of the 3,037people who applied for a pardon, only 2(0.066%) were later convicted of a crime of violence… Pardon applicants as a whole were subsequently confined at similarly low rates: judges ordered incarceration for only53 of 3,037pardon applicants (1.75%)… To the extent that the Board of Pardons has tried to predict who poses a risk to public safety when making its decisions, it has denied pardons to an enormously high percentage of applicants who could have benefitted from them.”  The report also offers an overview of the state pardon system.