One of our best…

Nov. 17, 2022

 The Reverend Dr. James V. Scott, O.C.
Toronto, Ontario

Jamie, who is to receive the Order of Canada, has been a tireless champion for both the Church Council on Justice and Corrections and the Smart Justice Network.  The recognition is richly deserved, and already merited many times over, especially in his leadership in reconciliation and in restorative justice.  The citation reads: “James Scott is a champion of our democratic society. A retired United Church of Canada minister, he has been a peacebuilder whose work has transformed communities and established life-changing precedents in our judicial system. As the former church general council officer for residential schools, he earned universal praise as a chief negotiator in establishing the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, and as a seminal leader in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process. He is also revered as an architect of restorative justice in Canadian law courts.”  Congratulations!

  Vancouver Sun – Ian Mulgrew
 As politics muddies policing, it’s past time to switch to a regional force – Police chief: “I don’t report to any politician. I don’t report to the city of Vancouver, I don’t report to the province of B.C. or the federal government. To me, the government of the day doesn’t matter, I’ll just call it how it is and be quite frank about it.”

The policing scene in BC is starting to garner considerably controversy as indicated by the remarks from Vancouver Police Chief Constable Adam Palmer.  This controversy is about policing the Downtown Eastside and the community reaction, including assessments around community court and police budgets, but there are also similar tensions in nearby Surrey where the question of establishing a municipal policing force and rejecting the RCMP is the hot topic.  In Vancouver, almost all the public service labour contracts are about to expire – Jan, 2023, -including the policing contract.    Related article: CTV News (BC) –  Andrew Weichel  Head of Vancouver Police Union shares ‘F*** the DTES grifters’ image on Twitter   Related article: CBC News – Karin Larsen  Vancouver council set to vote on $4.5M for more police, $1.5M for mental health nurses –  Motion before city council acts on election promise to hire 100 new officers and 100 new mental health workers

CBC News – The Canadian Press
Inquest probes deaths of 5 inmates in eastern Ontario jail – Inmates at the Central East Correction Centre in Lindsay died from drug toxicity between 2018 and 2019

The article raises questions about five incarcerated persons who died of drug overdose in separate incidents while in the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, ON.  Coroner’s inquests are mandatory but the recommendations often notoriously ignored.  The incidents occurred between October 2018 and April 2019.

CBC Clips – Kyle Muzyka  (A series of six audio / radio clips between 4-6 minutes each )
Mass incarceration of Indigenous people
  1. 32 per cent of federal inmates are Indigenous. How did we get here?
  2. How Gladue Reports impact Indigenous offenders — for better or worse
  3. The story of Eddie Snowshoe
  4. What’s it like being an incarcerated Indigenous person in Canada?
  5. Why it’s so hard to break the cycle of incarceration
  1. Mass incarceration of Indigenous people in Canada is a huge problem. How do we fix it?
Blogger Russell Webster (UK) –
Children, violence and vulnerability 2022: A Youth Endowment Fund report into young people’s experiences of violence

The report, says Webster, introduces a new element in the issue of violence and children in Great Britain.  While the level of violence directed to children has been previously examined, this study of 2,000 adolescents attempts to define the behaviours following on the violence.  The report also has a summary of the national data available on child violence and vulnerabilities.   Full report: Children, violence and vulnerability 2022: A Youth Endowment Fund report into young people’s experiences of violence   (99 page downloadable PDF )

Pew Foundation (US) – Podcast Julie Wertheimer, Joseph Getch, B.J. Wagner
Mental Health in America: The Intersection of Mental Health and Justice

This podcast is #121 and a 17 min 30 sec discussion about the intersection of mental health and the justice emergency response system.  In the US two million people with mental illness are jailed when police respond, mostly for minor crimes, but nonetheless invoking the whole criminal system.  There are also related resources available through the link.

JSTOR (US) – Phillip Vance Smith, II
What’s It Like to Be an Editor of a Prison Newspaper?  The incarcerated editor of The Nash News in North Carolina shares about the power of higher ed and his work at the prison newspaper.

Prison News, first established in 1926 in North Carolina, also saw a fortunate development of a printing plant in its birth.  The notion was that the print plant would allow for training and gainful employment after release while adding to the revenue of the state.  Says Phillip Vance Smith, II about more recent times: “In general, working for a prison newspaper alters the outlook of incarcerated individuals by instilling tenets of personal change: education, diligent work, and reflection through critical thinking.”  Smith went to prison at age 22 for murder and was sentenced to LWOP (Life without Parole), a sentence that delayed his journalist career because the sentence was thought outside release and to frustrate the re-entry.  The personal development in the face of some extensive odds is worth the read.

 Tweet from Alex Karakatsanis: On jail deaths (US)    “BREAKING news:  We have just filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit challenging the cash bail system in Los Angeles, home to the largest jail system in the United States. No human being should be caged and separated from their family solely because they are poor.”  (Cf thread)

National Catholic Reporter (US) – Thomas Reese
Bishops need to acknowledge collateral damage from Dobbs win

The link presents a different sort of the usual soul searching about how we got to where we are.  Reese is a Catholic priest offering an assessment of the damage done by the US Catholic Bishops in pursuing the overturn of Roe vs Wade in such a single minded way as to preclude electoral choice for anyone but Republican.  “The pro-life strategy was simple: Support presidential and senatorial candidates who would put justices on the U.S. Supreme Court in order to overturn Roe. In current American politics, that meant supporting Republican candidates…The poor are collateral damage to the bishops’ decision to back Republicans to overturn Roe.”    Among the other issues impacted, Reese thinks the environment and the US immigration policies, concluding:  “Democracy is collateral damage to the bishops’ decision to support Republicans who would overturn Roe.”

 American Civil Liberties Union – Hanna Darroll
Three Key Criminal Legal Reform Takeaways from the 2022 Midterms- Despite tough-on-crime rhetoric, voters drove significant progress in prison labor reform, drug policy, and prosecutorial reform.

Despite the clamor and the misrepresentation of the role of runaway crime rates in the US midterms, many of the state and local elections had criminal and prison reform items that passed.  Four more states have voted to remove the right to prison labour prison; marijuana was legalized in 21 states with a host of other changes; several states added reform prosecutors.  “As history has shown time and time again, candidates who perpetuate harmful tough-on-crime rhetoric while ignoring the facts will not actually increase public safety.”   Related article: Davis Vanguard Org – David Greenwald  Down Goes Villanueva: The Tumultuous LA Sheriff Goes Down to Resounding and Rebuking Defeat