The art of the con…

Dec 15, 2022

New York Times – Phillip Atiba Goff
The Root Cause of Violent Crime Is Not What We Think It Is

This article is a must read for anyone who cares about the frustrating political context that condemns everyone to repeating what is already known failure to address the causes of crime.   “If you want policies that actually work, you have to change the political conversation from “tough candidates punishing bad people” to “strong communities keeping everyone safe.” Candidates who care about solving a problem pay attention to what caused it. Imagine a plumber who tells you to get more absorbent flooring but does not look for the leak… Because the old narrative is so ingrained, candidates often assume that voters agree with it. But common sense and recent polling show that a majority of voters are concerned about crime and also supportive of changes in how we keep communities safe.”  Related article:  Prison Reform Trust (UK)  “This is Me”: A Child Impact Assessment toolkit – Resources to support children with a mum in the criminal justice system   Tweet from Brandi Morin On gravesites  “Volunteers with daughters of Morgan Harris are blocking the entrance to Brady Landfill in Winnipeg after police said they won’t search both Brady & Prairie Green landfills 4 remains of murdered native women. Blockaders say they’ll search if needed & have support from locals”

Popular Info (US) – Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria
Walmart claims low prices require long prison terms

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail article on shoplifting has found some resilience in this article as well in which the biggest, the most accessible, and most profitable retailers will dictate what becomes the agenda for the tough-on-crime crowd.  “Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced during an interview on CNBC last week that the retailer may have to raise prices or close stores due to insufficiently aggressive prosecution of retail theft. McMillon claimed that, as a result of lenient sentences, theft at Walmart is “higher than what it has historically been.” During the interview, McMillon does not disclose how much merchandise Walmart is losing to shoplifting or how that compares to previous years.”  The ultimate threat comes from fear that the giant will have to raise prices – already happening anyway and close stores, two choices that Walmart will make anyway without reference to crime or prison.  Related article: Fox News (US) America’s Crime Crisis   Related article: – Karl Nerenberg  Economist debunks supermarkets’ claim they’re not profiting from food inflation – Canada’s major supermarket chains dominate the industry and are raking in billions more in profits when compared to before the pandemic.

CBC News – Erik White
$10M renovations at Sudbury Jail to help make it ‘a place of rehabilitation, not only punishment’

This is both a good and bad news story.  The Ontario government is renovating some of the oldest and poorest physical facilities for keeping people in pens by allocating some of the funds to improving recreational and mental health services in the Sudbury jail.  If rehab is the goal, the jails are doing little and this focus may help bring community based rehab and services instead.  Related tweet: Jessica Stites “Excited to share this investigation. Des Moines Public Schools replaced police with restorative practices, and the brilliant @andykopsa spent 2 wks listening to students, teachers & staff on how it’s working.  Spoiler: It’s transforming the culture.  Related article: Huff – Lindsay Holmes   Why You Should Stop Saying ‘Committed Suicide’ – The phrase is stigmatizing in a lot of outdated, insensitive ways

BC Tyee – Cherly Simon
Pretendians and the Sexism Built into the Indian Act – How colonialism is still undermining the rights of Indigenous women.

By definition a pretendian is one who gains privileged position by false claim of Indigeneity, a status recently highlighted when a claim of Mary Turpel-Lafond was discovered to lack credibility.  Simon draws attention to the gender limiting side of the Indian Act at the root of the problem.  She says the gender discrimination of the Indian Act came from the colonial doctrine of coverture.  “With coverture, a married woman is not viewed as a separate legal entity from her husband. This doctrine, developed in England, was brought to Canada with colonization and was used to prevent women from being recognized as persons, holding property, testifying against their husbands, and voting or passing on Indian status to their spouses or children.”  Related article: BC Tyee – Amanda Follett Hosgood  A Groundbreaking Indigenous Rights Decision, 25 Years Later – The Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case had impact around the world. What has it done for the nations who fought it?

The Oregonian (US) – Hillary Borrud
Gov. Kate Brown commutes sentences of all 17 people on Oregon’s death row

Oregon has had a moratorium on the death penalty for 25 years through a succession of governors.  There are now 26 remaining states that still have the death penalty on the books or engage in executions. Said Brown:  “I have long believed that justice is not advanced by taking a life, and the state should not be in the business of executing people — even if a terrible crime placed them in prison,” Brown said in a statement sent out in a press release. “This is a value that many Oregonians share.”  Brown commuted the seventeen death penalties to LWOP.   Related article: The Sentencing Project– Nicole D. Porter  Top Trends in Criminal Justice Reform, 2022

Police Notes: 

(Ed note: Police misconduct, often accompanied with immunity from accountability, is undoubtedly part of the problem.  Today’s sources were overwhelming with examples and we re-produce the more blatant ones here in both Canada and the US.  We have added a few references to misconduct by prison authorities.)

CBC News (Calgary) – Meagan Grant   Video shows Calgary officer pushing over man put in wheelchair, kicking him in the face – Calgary judge handed Const. Eric Plummer conditional discharge meaning he won’t go to jail

City News (Halifax – Canadian Press Retired Newfoundland and Labrador RCMP corporal charged with assault, confinement

Tweet from Winnipeg Police Cause Harm (@WpgPoliceHarm  “There is so much violence happening in Winnipeg. The instinct, often understandable, is to call for more police, security, etc… But police and security cannot be everywhere at once and almost always only respond after harm has occurred – and, further, often escalate this harm.  (Cf string)

Tweet from Soledad O’Brien on the meaning of Rural – “He meant white people.”Rural” is journalism code for white people.”

Tweet from Alex Karakatsanis on Police numbers:  “Here are the sources, in chronological order, from the outrageous New York Times story trying to convince the public that there is a “shortage” (the paper’s word) of police officers in New York City, and in the United States generally:

Tweet from Alex Karakatsanis (US) Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) “If you missed it, yesterday I wrote about one of the more subtle ways in which reporters (often subconsciously) smuggle dominant ideologies into supposedly objective news coverage.”

Cambridge University Press Max Felker-Kantor   DARE to Say No: Police and the Cultural Politics of Prevention in the War on Drugs  (The change from education and social public health to policing in Los Angeles school system.)

THE City (N.Y. City) – George Joseph  Feds Investigating Drug-Planting Allegations Involving NYPD Officers  The allegations had previously been dismissed by the NYPD and the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office despite explosive video footage from two separate car stops in Staten Island in 2018.

The Gothamist Staten Island, N.Y. – George Joseph and Sydney Pereira  Staten Island DA Releases Thousands Of Records Documenting NYPD Misconduct And Dishonesty

Police Budgets:

Tweet from Ted Rutland (@TedRutland) “I’m releasing a report today on police spending between 2017 and 2021 in Canada’s ten largest cities/regions. The report shows how, despite politicians promising a “racial reckoning” in 2020, cities have continued to boost police budgets – some much more than others. (1/7  Cf string)

City News (Vancouver) – Greg Bowman and Mike Lloyd    Surrey police transition to cost $235M more than keeping RCMP: report – Lee Berthiaume, Canadian Press –  Louise Arbour accuses military of foot-dragging, blasts progress on misconduct reform – Some forces say they need more resources from the federal government to absorb any extra cases – Eva Ureta and Jeff Shantz  Here’s why we can abolish most of the criminal justice system now without endangering public safety (An article from 2020 but worth a second look.)



Tweet from derecka (@dereckapurnell) on Leftovers for New prisons  “When people fight for new prisons for women because of sexual violence at existing prisons, I think of what Ruth Wilson Gilmore says, “the prison didn’t assault them, the people did.” New jails and prisons don’t stop harm. They transfer them to more shiny buildings.”

CBC News (Edmonton) – Wallis Snowden   Negligence in medical care led to inmate’s suicide at Edmonton jail, lawsuit alleges – Timothy James McConnell repeatedly asked for medical help while incarcerated

Toronto Star – Canadian Press  Correctional officer charged in alleged sexual assault of inmate at women’s prison

New York Times – Glenn Thrush   Justice Dept. Considers Early Release for Female Inmates Sexually Abused behind Bars – The push comes amid new revelations about the extent of abuse of women, and the unwillingness of many prison officials to address a crisis that has long been an open secret in government.

Reason (US) -C.J. Ciaramella    Senate Investigation Finds Federal Prisons Fail to Prevent or Investigate Rapes – Long delays and management failures “allowed serious, repeated sexual abuse in at least four facilities to go undetected.”

Every report on the resistance to changing the criminal legal system deserves at least one “Can you beat this” for absurdity:

AI (Alabama) – Amy Yurkanin   ‘Y’all have three cop cars because I’m feeding cats?’ Two Alabama women guilty in trial over feral felines

Tweet from Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) On who gains?  “To learn who brought a story to reporters, who benefits from a story being considered “news,” and who profits from decisions about what to include (and what to exclude), examine the sources quoted. As always with corporate media, think about how the story came to be and why.”  (Cf string)


Washington Post – Caroline Kitchener   Antiabortion movement seeks to jail people for ‘trafficking’ illegal pills – Six months after their Supreme Court victory, conservatives complain that strict new laws are not being sufficiently enforced