March 16, 2021

Think Global Health.org – Ted Alcorn
How Norway’s Prisons Have Weathered a Pandemic – Its famously progressive correctional system is anomalous, but still has lessons for other countries

Lots of justice people greatly admire Norway’s approach to crime and correction but it seems there are lessons to be learned from the way Norway handles the Covid-19 in the prisons as well.  In the US, one in five in prison have been affected – 380,000 in total.  In Norway, there have been 60 recorded cases for the entire prison population.  The system quickly set free any they could and refused new prisoners.  They used iPads to allow video conferencing with family and took other measures.  https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/how-norways-prisons-have-weathered-pandemic   Related article: National Public Radio WQLN – Cheryl Corley  #FreeHer Campaign Wants Clemency For 100 Women In Biden’s First 100 Days  https://www.npr.org/2021/03/14/976376613/-freeher-campaign-wants-clemency-for-100-women-in-bidens-first-100-days?sc=18&f=1001   Related article: CNN (US)  – Van Jones and Louis Reed  The one issue that could bring Democrats and Republicans together  https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/03/09/opinions/bipartisanship-criminal-justice-reform-jones-reed/index.html?__twitter_impression=true&s=03

Washington Post Editorial (US) (March 16, 2021)
Reimagine safety: A project of the Editorial Board, in conversation with outside voices.

This editorial project (a seven part series) by the Post first assesses the wisdom of trying to reform police departments and methodology.  Then the focus moves to defunding the police.  Then the discussion turns to who we call when we need help.  Part II addresses the help portion and starts with the assumption we need someone other than police to call.  Non-police incident response may be simply the first step but we also need to consider the role of environment to keep the public safe (Part III).  Part IV asks about spending money on those highest at risk.  Part V advocates giving the tools for public safety to the community leaders.  Part VI looks at the interaction between community leaders and police unions.   Part VII invites us to something new, given our repeated failures in the past.  “At this critical juncture, the nation could fall back into a familiar cycle of mass incarceration and aggressive policing. But there is a better option. Instead of creating more “million-dollar blocks” (city blocks where the city spends more than $1 million on criminal justice), it’s time to “eliminate the conditions in which most crime breeds.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/interactive/2021/reimagine-safety/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F30c9219%2F6050d76e9d2fda4c880df1fa%2F597720279bbc0f6826c0ca16%2F15%2F71%2F6050d76e9d2fda4c880df1fa

The Intercept (US) – Jordan Smith
Missouri Prosecutors Lack the Power to Right a Wrongful Conviction – Prosecutor Kim Gardner agrees that Lamar Johnson is innocent, but the state’s top court says there’s nothing she can do about it.

For those who genuinely believe in the rule of law this impasse must shatter fairness and equity.  A convicted man, Lamar Johnson, has spent more than 25 years in prison for a crime no one, including prosecutors, believes that he committed.  When intervening on Johnston’s behalf, the same prosecutors are told there is nothing they can do about a blatant miscarriage of justice.  Said prosecutor Kim Gardiner: “What is at stake is equal justice under the law and public trust in the integrity of the entire criminal justice system.”    https://theintercept.com/2021/03/14/missouri-prosecutor-wrongful-conviction-lamar-johnson/   Related article: The Marshall Project (US) – Amelia Thomson-Devaux, Laura Bronner and Damini Sharma   Police Misconduct Costs Cities Millions Every Year. But That’s Where The Accountability Ends.  If not for inconsistent and shoddy record-keeping, we might know if settlements make a difference in police misconduct.    https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/02/22/police-misconduct-costs-cities-millions-every-year-but-that-s-where-the-accountability-ends   Related article: Ottawa Citizen – Shaamini Yogaretnam  Ottawa police clamp down on suspension information, third officer quietly suspended in one-month span   https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-police-clamp-down-on-suspension-information-third-officer-quietly-suspended-in-one-month-span

Toronto Star – Richard Warnica
Canada’s largest public sector pension sells off stakes in two U.S. private prison giants

The Public Sector Pension Investment Fund (PSP) handles the pension funds for most civil servants, the military and the RCMP.  The fund has $170 billion in assets and in February the fund invested in 600,000 shares of two US private prison companies:  Core Civic and Geo.  The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union for the civil servants, wrote to the pension fund:  “Private for-profit prisons and immigrant detention centres are anathema to the very principles and beliefs of the PSAC membership,” Aylward (Chris Aylward, PSAC’s national president) wrote. “(I)nvestment of pension funds in these types of companies exposes the pension fund to immeasurable material and reputational risks that cannot possibly be considered in the best interests of active plan members and pensioners.”  The fund is selling off the shares. https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/03/15/canadas-largest-public-sector-pension-sells-off-stakes-in-two-us-private-prison-giants.html

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Probation must improve work with BAME service users – and staff

The BAME means Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority and the report does a statistic analysis of the impact on police and probation services by these categories compared to Whites.  In the UK there are 241,000 people under probation.  By all evidence the services to the BAME group is without the support of the culture or ethnic basis in the specific cases.  It also puts the likelihood of a Black arrest at three time that of a white.  https://www.russellwebster.com/probation-must-improve-work-with-bame-service-users-and-staff/   Full Report: Race equality in probation: the experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic probation service users and staff:  A thematic inspection   https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2021/03/Race-Equality-in-Probation-thematic-inspection-report-v1.0.pdf

The Sentencing Project (US) – Ashley Nellis
No End In Sight: America’s Enduring Reliance on Life Imprisonment – In the United States, more than 200,000 people are serving life sentences – one out of every seven in prison.

The question to be posed is the purpose of long prison sentences and at what point is enough.  As the death penalty diminishes in both approval and practice, the life without parole (LWOP) is contributing to mass incarceration and is increasingly a fall back for the lack of a death penalty.  Nellis is taking the position, like Norway, that the maximum sentence should be twenty years.  “In this report, we reveal for the first time that 30% of the life-sentenced population is 55 or older. The imprisonment of an aging population has become a fiscal and humanitarian crisis the country must confront. The urgency of this crisis grows ever greater as the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately jeopardizes the lives of older Americans in prison. Reoffending by persons released after serving long terms is rare, making the need for expediting releases for older lifers the only humane public health and public safety approach.”  Additionally, there still remains the issue of LWOP for youth or those under 25. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/no-end-in-sight-americas-enduring-reliance-on-life-imprisonment/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=93bb5d84-16d7-4b94-a2df-3149b69a934a  Related report: Eyewitness News 7 (US) -Crystal Cranmore    Women’s Prison Association hopes to end mass incarceration    https://abc7ny.com/womens-prison-association-mass-incarceration-history-month-what-is/10403850/    Related article: Toronto Star – Danica Samuel Ontario is pumping $2.5 million into a program to train new prison guard recruits. It’s another example of over-policing, critics say  https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/03/16/ontario-is-pumping-25-million-into-a-program-to-train-new-prison-guard-recruits-its-another-example-of-over-policing-critics-say.html

BC Tyee – Paul Willcocks
A Former Mountie Will Set the Police Budget for Vancouver. That’s Wrong – BC’s Police Act takes power from citizens and their elected representatives and blocks needed reform.

The link offers some insight to how the political decision to fund police, or to increase the funding for police, takes place using the Vancouver police budget but also with comments on how provinces general get to the budget issues.  In BC, “The police board, with no accountability to voters or the community, hires the chief and decides how much money the police department should get and sets priorities…But B.C.’s extreme approach violates basic principles of democracy and accountability, and makes needed police reform almost impossible.”  https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/03/16/Former-Mountie-Sets-Vancouver-Police-Budget/