April 12, 2021

CBC News – Erica Johnson
School custodian refuses to download phone app that monitors location, says it got her fired – Increase in ‘tattleware’ a slippery slope for loss of workers’ privacy, employment lawyer warns

Given the changes that work-at-home are bringing to the workplace, this development is not surprising.  Michelle Dionne was told by her boss of this janitorial service to download an app to her personal cell phone that would reveal where she is located.  She refused, seeing the request as an offensive invasion of privacy and she was fired in a letter specifically naming the refusal as cause.  The app creates by design of the employer a “geo fence” which records each time the cell phone crosses the parameters defined.  There were no statements by the employer about what happens to the data. “Other Canadians have been asked to download software that helps employers remotely monitor their productivity — such as phone apps that register an employee’s location via GPS, and software that monitors the activity of their computer mouse. Others have tracking devices in their vehicles.”  The app owner, a British company, says that the app complies with all privacy law in Alberta but clearly, electronic eavesdropping by employees and government is a growing issue.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/gopublic/tattleware-privacy-employment-1.5978337

Washington Post (US) – Katie Mettler
Once jailed, these women now hold courts accountable — with help from students, retirees and Fiona Apple

Here’s a less well known person around US courtrooms: the Court Watchers, a small but dedicated group of amateurs who go to court for bail hearings and other matters, note who the judge is, what the court case is about, refer to the defendant as ‘loved one’ and follow the court to its conclusion, adding the info to a data bank.  The court watchers operate in Prince George County Maryland, directed by Carmen Johnson, the executive director, who served three years in federal prison, and who daily directs her volunteers over a Zoom conference on which courtrooms to attend.  “Along the way, Johnson determined that the decision to jail someone or let them go was rarely just about the crime they had been accused of committing. It was also about the perspective of the judge.”   https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/courtwatch-prince-georges/2021/04/08/dc63e064-2e96-11eb-bae0-50bb17126614_story.html?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%2F31caa47%2F60707ae59d2fda1dfb487097%2F597720279bbc0f6826c0ca16%2F46%2F70%2F60707ae59d2fda1dfb487097

NY Times (US) – Michael Levenson and Bryan Pietsch
Maryland Passes Sweeping Police Reform Legislation – The measures, enacted over the objections of Gov. Larry Hogan, placed the state at the forefront of a national debate over police brutality and officers’ excessive use of force.

A lot of the new bill is directed at what constitute legitimate force by police and the consequences for illegitimate police force.  The qualified immunity has been replace by new guidelines and puts 10 years in prison for ignoring the guidelines.  A more controversial piece of the reform requires the state to identify police officers who are considered likely to use excessive force and to re-train them. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/us/maryland-police-reform.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes    Related article: Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox   Maryland enacts landmark police overhaul, first state to repeal police bill of rights  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/hogan-vetoes-police-accountibility/2021/04/09/c0ac4096-9967-11eb-962b-78c1d8228819_story.html

Change.org (Canada) – Matthew Behrens
Please Sign and Share to End Wrongful Jailing of Alberta Abuse Survivor

The link offers an update to the circumstances prompting a petition for the release of Helen Naslund, a woman convicted in killing an abusive husband and given a very severe sentence of 18 years.  The goal of 35,000 signatures is to force a government response to the petition.  https://www.change.org/p/ahmed-hussan-grant-syrian-refugee-and-ottawa-resident-dima-siam-permanent-residency-in-canada/u/28855605?cs_tk=Ai0o8WPo-CdpAfMtdmAAAXicyyvNyQEABF8BvGpz-5SfGFo7yI025Tr-bRw%3D&utm_campaign=d4cd4ac579124a6590a84f28b68a48cb&utm_content=initial_v0_4_0&utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_update&utm_term=cs   Related article; CBC News – Shaina Luck  ‘My chance to change my life’: Woman shares story of being in federal dry cell – Lisa Adams reflects on prison and self-worth while awaiting judge’s decision on dry cells   https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/woman-shares-story-federal-dry-cell-1.5978140   Related article: Change.org – Dale Huxtable  Improve Health Care in Canadian Prisons!   https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-of-canada-justin-trudeau-improve-health-care-in-canadian-prisons?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=custom_url&recruited_by_id=4ec34620-95e6-0130-ec82-3c764e049c64

Democracy Now –

A video review of Victoria Law’s book “Prisons make us safer” (Beacon Press, Boston, 2021) (Found at 1:54 in the time line – about 12 minutes long) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fB6yBiIHy0   The book explodes 20 myths about the benefits of prisons commonly entrenched in public opinion and providing the background for all political decisions about prisons, prison reform and justice issues.  The book is masterfully written with ample documentation.

 NY Times Editorial Board (April 11, 2021)
You’ve Heard about Gerrymandering. What Happens When It Involves Prisons?  Counting people where they’re imprisoned takes political power away from cities and transfers it to rural areas.

There are many factors about prisons that rarely get to the light of day.  ‘Gerrymandering’ the populations of federal and state prisons is one of them.  One of the most attractive parts about having a prison in a specific district are the jobs the prison bring to a local, small, rural community probably economically depressed without the prison.  The Editorial board has identified a second advantage to local politics: stretching the census numbers so as to attract more federal funds – based on the size of the population – for various social programs.  Rural sites for prisons mean higher populations and funds for rural settings, and less for larger urban settings.  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/11/opinion/prison-gerrymandering-census.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage