Smart and humane…

Oct. 9, 2020 

Toronto Star Editorial (Oct 8, 2020)
Governments should heed this smart, humane ruling

Justice David Gibson of the Ontario Court of Justice said: ‘No!’  He refused to apply the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for six Indigenous women who faced jail time but could not have access to serving the term on the week-end.  “It’s a smart, contextual and humane response to a situation that, without such a response, would only exacerbate well-known problems: the warehousing of Indigenous women in crowded jail cells and the terrible effect that has on them, their children and their isolated communities.”  Indigenous women have the highest increase among the incarcerated in Canada, a circumstance raising not only the constitutionality of this particular sentence exercise but also raising issue with short, disruptive sentences in the first place.   Smartly, Judge Gibson asked the community for help.  “When one considers the impact such brutalizing experiences must have on inmates and what they must carry home with them to their First Nations, it is very hard not to notice the grotesque similarities between these kinds of ‘correctional institutions’ and residential schools that have caused such lasting damage to Indigenous communities,” the judge wrote.    Related article: Senate of Canada – SBill 208  Sponsored by Senator Kim Pate  PBO reveals efficiency of Bill 208’s approach in allowing people to move on  (A simpler no-fee & no-application process is possible for those racialized people, poor folks, and people with a history of trauma who’ve served their time, yet remain unjustly burdened.)  Related article: Gowling WLB (Canada) – Bill C-92: Toward restoring Indigenous jurisdiction over child and family services  (A commentary on C-92 An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families – Text of C-92 which has had third reading as of June 2019: )

The Iowa Gazette (US) – Kat Russell
Pandemic prompted jails, prisons to let inmates out. Should they be locked up again?

The extent to which prisons have struggled with Covid-19 by releasing prisoners varies with the state and federal government involved.  Is the virus also a chance to re-think the whole system, health care including a more health issues understanding of the prisons?  What is now up for grabs after Iowa reduced its state prison population by 50% in deference to the virus is the longevity of the furlough from prison and whether the prisoners may have to return to prison to complete their sentences.  Professor Allison Cox of the University of Northern Iowa is advocating for a serious re-think of the criminal justice approach:  “Experts who study the criminal justice system advocate a shift from our current punitive system to one that takes more of a humane, restorative and individualized approach.  Right now, our criminal justice system is kind of a conveyor belt. It’s very generalized, and we’re just doing it, going through the motions, because this is what we know. And one way to kind of push back on that is to think about what are the other options that we can do instead — because they’re there. And I think that if we kind of just start at least thinking in that way, knowing that we can take different steps, I think we would be pretty pleasantly surprised with what those outcomes could bring.  They might be more positive and more empathetic and more humane than simply arresting somebody, throwing somebody in jail and just going through the motions because that’s what we’re used to.”  Cox is offering some comprehensive thinking about the system.  Read on…   Related article: No Kids in   Opposing New Construction of Youth Correctional Facilities   (A 12 page report on why new prison facilities for kids is a further mistake to those already operating.)

Magic (Idaho) – Johnathan Hogan
In death penalty cases, the costs quickly add up

Most debate about the death penalty revolves around the morality – putting people to death to show we disapprove of killing.  This link takes a dollars and cents approach and goes into various mechanisms that are invoked in the trial and death penalty.  The cost can mount up quickly and seldom does the total include all the expenses involved.

N.Y. Times – Austin Frakt
Pointers from Portugal on Addiction and the Drug War: Decriminalization involves trade-offs, but treating addiction as a disease yields a clear gain, research suggests.

This is a refreshing view on the issue of state involvement in addictions.  Most social historians will concede that our approach from the early experience of what are now illicit drugs had a serious hysterical element that still drives the North American tactics.  “Portugal has for some time ended the criminalization of addictions and turned to health care to manage what appears to be a much more satisfactory care of its citizens.  Portugal’s law removed incarceration, but people caught possessing or using illicit drugs may be penalized by regional panels made up of social workers, medical professionals and drug experts. The panels can refer people to drug treatment programs, hand out fines or impose community service.”

BBC (UK) – New Chance / Anawin Women’s Center
Birmingham charity helps women stay away from crime

The link is to a two minute video that speaks to issues around ‘survival crime’ and how to cope with offenders in that context.  The center was set up by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner four years ago, and like many helpful programs now struggles with both the Covid-19 and funding.  The video, as part of BBC’s Action Line pages and explores various aspects of domestic violence.

Level (US)  A Future Worth Building – Colin Kaepernick
The Demand for Abolition – Only by dismantling unjust systems can we imagine a future that is safe, healthy, and truly free

Kaepernick is the football player whose kneeling during the national anthem brought political and social ire down upon him and his career.  Now he seems willing to engage for even broader issues as illustrated in his option for defunding police and closing prisons.  Kaepernick takes a hard line based on the history of Black people and the police: “The more that I have learned about the history and evolution of policing in the United States, the more I understand its roots in white supremacy and anti-Blackness. Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton once said, “The police are in our community not to promote our welfare or for our security or our safety, but they are there to contain us, to brutalize us, and murder us.” The ever-present threat of premature death at the hands, knees, chokeholds, tasers, and guns of law enforcement has only further engrained its anti-Black foundation into the institutions of policing. In order to eradicate anti-Blackness, we must also abolish the police. The abolition of one without the other is impossible.”   Related article: N.Y. Times (US) – Editorial (Oct. 3, 2020)  To Hold Police Accountable, Ax the Arbitrators – Communities should have the power to fire abusive officers. But that power often rests with an obscure group of unelected labor arbitrators.

A Schulich Law Event – Oct 27, 2020
Social Justice Advocacy in Women’s Prisons (By Zoom)

Save the date! Join the @Schulich_CrimJ for the 2nd event in the Criminal Justice Series! @SaraTessier15 in conversation with Kim Pate @KPateontheHill & @emiliercoyle  on Oct 27 talking about advocacy in prison 4 women both from professional& lived experience perspectives! @SchulichLaw  Twitter for connection.