First responders…

Nov. 15, 2020

Toronto Star – Rachel Collier
Health PEI ignores recommendation, adds police to mobile mental health units

The decision in PEI marks a sharping of the focus for the composition of first response team when mental health is the primary concern.  PEI has decided to include armed police but in plain clothes and unmarked vehicle with the mental health workers.  The decision now made after two years of community discussions seems to be an uneasy compromise at best and is likely to become more controversial given that the implementation date and the assessment dates are not identified.   Related article: A Twitter from Jude Oudshoorn – “a few key facts about police response to domestic violence,” which highlights the need — from a survivor perspective — to defund the police”   Interrupting Criminalization  A documented four page summary of the deficiencies in police response to domestic violence and challenges for change   Related article: CBC News (NS) – Cassidy Chisholm   Premier calls jailing of domestic violence complainant ‘completely unacceptable’ – Serrece Winter was arrested and strapped to a restraint chair after failing to testify against her ex-partner

 Global News – Canadian Press
Advocate says second COVID-19 wave has inmates locked down in ‘atrocious’ conditions as 5 test positive

Take as the starting point that health care in all prisons is inadequate and failing.  Add the threat of Covid-19 with one population locked in their cells and another coming and going on shifts.  How easy is it for the primary population, the prisoners, to catch the virus and where / how do they fight the virus.  Here what actually happens says Emilie Coyle National Executive Director of Elizabeth Fry:  “They’ve compensated for the lack of ability to socially distance by locking people down in really restrictive ways, which has tremendously affected the mental health of prisoners… A “deficient” health-care system is aggravated by guidance from public health officials who are not familiar with prisons, resulting in punitive restrictions that “don’t equate to care.”   How to solve the problem?  Since CSC cannot protect them and care for them, release them!    Related article: The Marshall Project (US) –  Jermaine Archer, Cecil Myers and Eric Manners as told to Lisa Armstrong  Lax Masking, Short Quarantines, Ignored Symptoms: Inside a Prison Coronavirus Outbreak in ‘Disbeliever Country.’  – The latest COVID-19 surge is happening behind bars, too. Here’s three accounts from an upstate New York prison hit by the pandemic.   Related article: The Marshall Project (US) – A State-by-State Look at Coronavirus in Prisons – The Marshall Project is collecting data on COVID-19 infections in state and federal prisons. See how the virus has affected correctional facilities where you live.

  Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Children in custody need more help

The Justice Committee has voiced a number of specific concerns affecting youth in custody.  First a racial disparity and a system that does not explain the disproportionality (50% of those in custody are from an 18% minority).  A drop in numbers incarcerated which seems to stem from better and more effective diversion programs.  The committee also identified on-going problems with youth court.   Webster also introduce a new tool of referencing one article with other helpful links or tags.  Tags to follow the topic:

Center for Crime and Justice (UK) – Richard Garside
Undercover fictions…

We in North America likely have our stories as well regarding the long-time undercover police officers who strike up relationships for the sake of penetrating suspected political activist groups.  “It was exactly 10 years ago that I discovered that my partner of six years was actually a policeman. He was a fictional character – his identity was fabricated and he was put into my life to deceive me, by his employer, who knew that one day they would remove him.”  There have been about 1,000 such cases in the UK since 1960 but there is also a shroud of secrecy over the practice and may be many more.

John Howard – Catherine Latimer
By Any Other Name: Spotlight on Solitary Launch

In recent weeks, the issues around the variety of formats of solitary confinement and the alleged rationale for delay in correction by court order has been intensifying after the snubbing of the committee to report on the implementation of the supposed changes.  A number of organizations – including John Howard and Elizabeth Fry – are organizing a 15-day Spotlight on Solitary (on-line) that will end on November 30th, the one-year anniversary of the Structured Intervention Units coming into force.  It starts on Monday November 16th and includes a number of interesting panel discussions and presentations on the continuing problem of various forms of solitary confinement both within the SIUs and elsewhere in the prisons.  Here are the contacts for the 15 day event:   (Includes a schedule of sessions)   Facebook:

Chicago Sun Times – Mitch Dudek
Chicago Public Library says eliminating fines has paid off

How we love to cling to punishment to motivate!  But the public library has discovered that when you stop punishing people look to a considerable increase in the behaviour you are trying to promote.  The library wrote off 900K in accumulated fines, a mere breathe of the city budget.  In exchange, 1650 overdue books were returned the first five months after the amnesty, 11,000 who had fines registered against them renewed their membership cards and the library had an overall increase of 7% in readers.  Now what about the criminal legal system?   Related article: CNN – Michael Smerconish  From addiction to advocacy for drug decriminalization  (a 7 minute video) (The link introduces Morgan Godvin, a Commissioner of the Oregon State Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, once herself an addict and a former felon, who decries the punishment approach to drug addiction and advocates for the health / treatment approach.  Oregon is introducing a legislative decriminalization of small amounts of addictive drugs.)  Related article:  (Oregon, US) – Victoria Lewis  Punishment is no cure for addiction: Morgan Godvin pushes for prison reform

Blogger Russell Webster (UK) – Guest commentary by Cameron Holloway
Shaping success: innovative programme prepares women prisoners for release – Shaping Success is a technology-based gender-responsive, trauma-informed resettlement programme for women prisoners.

This approach is operating at the Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida.  We have heard of many innovations in re-entry, for men and women.  But, 12 months to six  months before release, this one takes “a systematic approach to behaviour management, with a focus on gender-responsive, trauma-informed care.”  The program is tablet based and works to help women become more familiar with high tech through interaction using cell phones and tablets.  “It’s something that’s never been done before. Highly collaborative, there are five different companies involved; hundreds of thousands of hours of software-writing has gone into it. We are really hoping that when the program has emerged in its fullness, that it is going to be a great support to these women in helping ease their anxiety and their fears about the re-entry process, and that it will help set them up for success.” (There is a link and an offer for a Webinar on the program at the link.)

National Restorative Justice Symposium

Still time to link to the National Restorative Justice Symposium that starts Monday:

The NRJS 2020 webpage:

The virtual program:

Keynote dialogues: