House of Hate…

Mar 3, 2021

MacLean’s – Justin Ling
Houses of hate: How Canada’s prison system is broken – Dangerous, racist and falling apart. By nearly every metric, the nation’s penal system is not just failing, it’s making things worse.

“In fact, by nearly every metric, found in a veritable mountain of reports from Correctional Services Canada and its watchdog, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, our penal system is badly broken.”  Ling offers a sobering and sad look at how the prisons work, the cruelty, the human rights violations, the indifference and denial of those responsible – a deplorable state of affairs.

Lawyer’s Daily – John Schofield
Perceptions of racism in Ontario’s court system rising, says new report

Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, Ryerson University, and the University of Toronto have an interesting conclusion to racism in the court system: racism has been increasing over the last 25 years in spite of efforts from direct challenge.  “While worries about bias in policing seem to have been a constant, perceptions of the bias that exists in the court system have actually increased,” said Scot Wortley, a U of T professor…”   Full report (A 90 page pdf)  Race and Criminal Injustice: An examination of public perceptions of and experiences with the Ontario criminal justice system (An executive Summary in bullet form on pp 6-7; “In the first part of this report, we provide an overview of earlier research that has examined public 9 perceptions of the police and the courts in Canada and document work that has explored racial differences in police stop-and-search practices. The second part of the report provides details of the methods used to gather data from our sample of respondents in the GTA. In the third part, we detail the findings of the present study and compare these findings to the results of our earlier studies. The final part of the report contextualizes our study findings and provides recommendations for moving forward.”)

Washington Post (US) – Parris Glendening
Opinion: I made a serious mistake as Maryland governor. We need parole reform.

Glendening is a former 2 term governor of Maryland who is renouncing as error the decision to enforce the famous ‘life-means-life’ dictum in criminal sentencing.  Glendening wants the system to trust a reformed parole program where the governor stays out of process.  “This cumulative history shows that peoples’ freedom is being determined not on the merits of their rehabilitation, but often on the political tides of the day… Most Marylanders serving life sentences are Black, and many are geriatric or otherwise medically vulnerable. In this era, with a global pandemic, a collective awakening to our society’s persistent racial inequities and calls for social justice, there can be no real doubt that it is time to finally change this structural flaw of our parole system.”  Maryland currently has before its state legislature a bill to reform the parole system.

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Collaborative Family Work In Youth Justice – This is a recent report from the UK on the probation services offered to youth and their families.

The approach uses a problem solving perspective in the context of family support for the offender.  “Overall, there is a solid evidence base to demonstrate that good quality family interventions are effective in reducing re-offending. However, despite the research support for family interventions, they seem to be relatively rare in criminal justice settings.”  The process for involvement involves six steps.  Full report:  HM Inspectorate of Probation – Chris Trotter   Collaborative Family Work In Youth Justice (A 10 page pdf)   Related article: Blogger Michael Spratt (Ottawa) Wendigo Lake Expeditions – Project D.A.R.E. given 60 days to shut down.

Washington Post (US) – Tom Jackman
Study: 1 in 7 U.S. prisoners is serving life, and two-thirds of those are people of color – Advocates call for limiting sentences to 20 years, reviewing geriatric inmate population to reduce mass incarceration

This statistic offered is astounding in itself and indicative that sentencing is badly in need of reform but to have the stat itself is troubling around the hardness of heart and the bitterness necessary to achieve.  More than reform, the system, with its 200,300 lifers (61,000 over 55), many aged literally and aged before their time, needs a new heart and a new soul.  Some would find the life sentence preferable to a death sentence but the purpose of such long sentences, even approximate life sentences, needs examination.  In Norway the maximum sentence is 20 years. What if rehab is really possible?   Related article: KJZZ – Jimmy Jenkins  Lawmakers Call For Arizona Department Of Corrections Investigation Following KJZZ Report – Prisoners held after their release dates  Related article: Canadian Lawyer’s Daily –  DANGEROUS AND LONG-TERM OFFENDERS – Dangerous offender designation – Protection of the public  (An appeal requesting dangerous offender designation)

HuffPost (Canada) – Althia Raj
Canada’s Whistleblower Law Ranks Dead Last in International Rankings – Canada was chastised for ignoring its own legal requirement for periodic reviews of the effectiveness of its whistleblower law.

Whistleblower laws protect those privy to information of wrong doing and decide to go public, often because the internal correction mechanisms simply ignore the problem.  “A report released Tuesday by the U.S.-based Government Accountability Project and the U.K.-based International Bar Association surveyed whistleblowing frameworks in 37 countries with such laws to determine whether they are actually working… What they found is that they are not.”  Worse still, Canada is at the bottom of the 37 countries surveyed for weakness in the whistleblower legislation.

Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (Canada)

The link gives an open access connection to the back issues of the Journal from 1988 through the University of Ottawa.  The re-launch of the Journal is intended to make scholarly articles more readily available to a broader public access.  You can also order print copies of full volumes from U of Ottawa Press.