Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2013
New Juristat publication from Statistics Canada:  Co-offending in Canada: 2011
This Juristat article presents information on the nature and extent of co-offending in Canada. It addresses three key areas in relation to co-offending, including: the prevalence of co-offending, factors associated with co-offending and the seriousness of co-offending (i.e. whether incidents committed by two or more people are more or less serious than those committed by a lone accused). The article also examines other aspects related to co-offending, including street gangs, and clearance rates.
Read on...

A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Federal Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits

A new report by The Sentencing Project finds that the nation’s “war on drugs” posture of recent decades may have a devastating impact on the health and safety of women and children of color and their communities.  The report, A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Federal Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits, concludes that a provision of the 1996 welfare reform legislation passed by Congress subjects an estimated 180,000 women in the 12 most impacted states to a lifetime ban on welfare benefits.
Highlights from the report: 12 states impose lifetime ban on welfare and food stamp benefits for all drug offenders; 25 others impose partial banRacial disparities in drug war produce adverse effect on communities of colorNo evidence that the ban prevents drug abuse or welfare fraud Read on...

Stemming the Tide:

The federal prison population has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as more people are sentenced to prison and for longer terms. The result? Dangerously overcrowded facilities and an increasing expense to taxpayers. In a new Urban Institute report, the authors project the population and cost savings impact of a variety of strategies designed to reduce the inmate population without compromising public safety. They find that the most effective approach is a combination of strategies, including early release for current prisoners and reducing the length of stay for future offenders, particularly those convicted of drug trafficking. Read on...

This is from the Urban Institute.  Tom

Cuts to Federal Funding Jeopardize Criminal Justice Initiatives Nationwide, Survey Finds

Vital federal funding that supports a variety of crime-prevention strategies, treatment programs, and innovative initiatives in our communities has decreased by 43 percent since 2010, according to a recent survey conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA). The survey examines the impact those cuts have on essential programs and staffing levels across the nation.

The second annual survey of state and local criminal justice practitioners was conducted to gain insight into the impact of these budget cuts, both those enacted as well as those still to come. The survey received more than 1,200 responses from all sectors of the criminal justice community, including law enforcement, the judicial system, corrections and community corrections, juvenile justice and prevention programs, victim assistance programs, and social services. It found that more than 75 percent of respondents reported funding cuts that led to workforce …

Sentencing and Prison Practices in Germany and the Netherlands

Germany and the Netherlands have significantly lower incarceration rates than the United States and make much greater use of non-custodial penalties, particularly for nonviolent crimes. In addition, conditions and practices within correctional facilities in these countries—grounded in the principle of “normalization” whereby life in prison is to resemble as much as possible life in the community—also differ markedly from the U.S. In February 2013—as part of the European-American Prison Project funded by the California-based Prison Law Office and managed by Vera—delegations of corrections and justice system leaders from Colorado, Georgia, and Pennsylvania together visited Germany and the Netherlands to tour prison facilities, speak with corrections officials and researchers, and interact with inmates. Although variations in the definitions of crimes, specific punishments, and recidivism limit the availability of comparable justice statistics, this report describes the con…

RCMP Question Credibility Of 3 Tory Senators In Duffy Deal

RCMP documents filed in an Ottawa courthouse Wednesday reveal a level of skepticism the police have in the roles three Conservative senators played in the Mike Duffy expenses scandal.

The documents, filed as part of the RCMP's criminal investigation, make it clear the RCMP's lead investigator, Cpl. Greg Horton, does not fully believe information he has so far received from Senators Marjory LeBreton, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and David Tkachuk.

Through interviews with the three senators, as well as emails from various staffers in the Prime Minister's Office, the RCMP has attempted to piece together a picture of the role they may have had in the public relations game plan that was developed to explain why Duffy preemptively repaid his housing claims.

Read on...

Video Game Allows Players To Reenact Newtown Massacre

In an online video game, players follow shooter Adam Lanza’s footsteps the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary school mass shooting. Called “The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary School,” the widely condemned simulation takes players through the shootings of 26 children and adults before it shows their “score”:

Game creator Ryan Jake Lambourn claims it has a “gun safety” message, but activists against gun violence are baffled and disgusted by the game. The family of Victoria Soto, a murdered Newtown teacher, took their outrage to Twitter, telling Lambourn, “Please tell us how playing a game that recreates how Vicki died would be beneficial?” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told the Hartford Courant he hopes the “very disturbed person who could think of something like this sees the cruelty of what he’s done and stops it.” 

Read on....

How Conservatives Abandoned Judicial Restraint, Took Over The Courts And Radically Transformed America

Child labor laws hurt children. Social Security is an anchor dragging down economic growth, and Medicare should be abolished.

Those are the lessons I learn in a room full of conservative lawyers snacking on lamb sausage and Gorgonzola fondue — a room that’s absolutely packed with top practitioners, right-wing intellectuals and judges. I walked into the room alongside a Texas Supreme Court justice. When I reach to ladle some of the fondue onto a plate full of croutons, my hand accidentally brushes the arm of a federal court of appeals judge.

My sparring partner during much of this closing reception for the Federalist Society’s annual lawyer’s convention, is Ilya Somin, who is a law professor and writer for the Volokh Conspiracy, a popular legal blog that thousands of lawyers, law clerks and judges read every day. As Ilya lays out Social Security’s supposed vices, I wonder if his readers are aware of the breadth of his agenda. I also chide him that voters would have an easy ti…

Fixing our prisons: Answers are complex and will take time, money, and a public that cares

Ask an NDP or Liberal corrections critic how to improve the federal prison system and the answer will be short, and political.

Turf the Conservative government and its tough-on-prisoners agenda.

The federal Conservatives, of course, will say the tough-on-crime agenda is keeping everyone safer.
Various solutions rest between the political extremes.

Here's a snapshot of some of the ways federal and provincial governments could, and in some cases, are trying to handle the growing and changing populations behind bars, as well as the federal government's response to questions about safety in Canada's prison:

Federal and provincial reports and inquests have long recommended governments improve services for mentally ill and addicted offenders, and training in those areas for correctional officers.

There's been sporadic progress but it's going to be a long haul.

Read on....

Sentenced to a Slow Death

If this were happening in any other country, Americans would be aghast. A sentence of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for trying to sell $10 of marijuana to an undercover officer? For sharing LSD at a Grateful Dead concert? For siphoning gas from a truck? The punishment is so extreme, so irrational, so wildly disproportionate to the crime that it defies explanation.

And yet this is happening every day in federal and state courts across the United States. Judges, bound by mandatory sentencing laws that they openly denounce, are sending people away for the rest of their lives for committing nonviolent drug and property crimes. In nearly 20 percent of cases, it was the person’s first offense. 
As of 2012, there were 3,278 prisoners serving sentences of life without parole for such crimes, according to an extensive and astonishing report issued Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. And that number is conservative. It doesn’t include inmates serving…

Prisoners Denied Medical Care, Told To Pray Instead

A year after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging grave medical neglect of prisoners by Arizona’s private prison health care providers, prisoners have continued to die or endure unnecessary suffering after lack of basic treatment. After asking for medical assistance, many prisoners were told to “be patient” or “pray,” according to a new report. In a particularly tragic case, a man with lung cancer, Ferdinand Dix, issued multiple requests for medical treatment. Instead of receiving proper attention, Dix was told to drink energy drinks. The cancer ultimately moved to the rest of his body, severely impacting his liver and lymph nodes, and resulting in Dix’s death.

The new report by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) issued this month found that medical neglect included “delays and denials of care, lack of timely emergency treatment, failure to provide medication and medical devices, low staffing levels, failure to provide care and p…

Cops Are Already Trying to Use Computers to Predict Crime -- It Ain't Gonna Work

Computers are predicting crimes for cops. What's next?

A small story popped up in the news this November -- "A unique collaboration between a University of California, Riverside sociologist and the Indio Police Department has produced a computer model that predicts, by census block group, where burglaries are likely to occur. ... The result is an 8 percent decline in thefts in the first nine months of 2013." The Indio police chief called the project the "wave of the future." 

And by all appearances, it does appear to be on the menu for Federal law enforcement. The National Security Agency and its digital dragnets like  PRISM -- one of the big Snowden leaks -- aren't just about immediate surveillance of criminal activity. That's only a limited use of the potential of a technology that creates profiles of a population, records all their significant behavior,

communications and who their friends are. A recent report from the FBI's Behavi…

Mike Tyson, Former Boxer and Convicted Rapist, Makes Charming Film With Spike Lee

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth affords Mike Tyson yet another big opportunity to open up. Spike Lee's new film (premiering Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HBO) documents the controversial boxing legend's one-man Broadway show. Tyson—sharply dressed, sweaty, charismatic—commands the stage for an hour and a half, dishing on his public and private ups and downs. (The show was written by his wife, Kiki Tyson.)

"I came from the gutter," he says to the packed theater. He discusses (in full-on emotional vulnerability mode) his rough childhood and deaths in the family; his star-making fights and his history of substance abuse; his adrenaline rushes and his rude awakenings. He cracks a lot of cheap jokes, including one about Mitt Romney's whiteness and one about George Zimmerman.

This documentary and one-man show are the latest steps in his years-long effort to reinvent himself. Instead of a drug-addled, off-putting, ear-chomping fighter, he's now a sensitive, …

23 Petty Crimes That Have Landed People in Prison for Life Without Parole

As of last year, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 3,200 people were serving life in prison without parole for non-violent crimes. A close examination of these cases by the ACLU reveals just how petty some of these offenses are. People got life for, among other things...

Possessing a crack pipePossessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab testsHaving a single crack rock at homePossessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distributePassing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead showActing as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover copSelling a single crack rockRead on....

Unlearning Gun Violence

In 1995, an epidemiologist named Gary Slutkin returned to the United States from Africa where he had spent the previous decade helping Africans stem the spread of diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS and cholera. “I was exhausted,” he said in a TED Talk earlier this year. “I wanted to come home and take a break.”

Once back in Chicago, however, friends kept telling him about the epidemic of violence in inner-city neighborhoods. As he began to study the problem he came to the view that gun violence in poor neighborhoods did indeed resemble the epidemics he had treated in Africa. Maps that charted gun violence showed clustering — just like maps tracking infectious diseases. The greatest predictor of violence was a prior violent incident, which also mirrors epidemics. 
In 2000, he founded CeaseFire (now known as Cure Violence), a Chicago-based organization that treated violence in one such local cluster — in West Garfield, one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city — as a publi…

Jimmy Carter: Ban the Death Penalty

US Supreme Court should rule death penalty is 'cruel and unusual punishment,' said former presidentThe death penalty is a form of legalized "cruel and unusual punishment" and should be banned across the entirety of the U.S., former president Jimmy Carter urged in a Guardian interview published on Monday."It’s time for the Supreme Court to look at the totality of the death penalty once again,” said Carter. “My preference would be for the court to rule that it is cruel and unusual punishment, which would make it prohibitive under the U.S. constitution.” Carter's sentiment is shared by an increasing number of Americans. As recent polling has shown, support for the death penalty in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest rate in more than four decades. While a majority still approves of the measure, support has fallen from 80% in 1994 to roughly 60% today.
Currently, 32 U.S. states still allow the death penalty. However, as The Guardian notes, the majority o…

Why Do Brits Accept Surveillance?

Think of it as the ‘‘Skyfall’’ session. In a committee room of the House of Commons, the heads of the British secret services appeared on Thursday before a panel of M.P.’s in what might have been a re-enactment of that scene from the latest Bond movie — minus the shootout.

Even without gunfire, it was not short of drama. The mere sight of the heads of Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6, along with the director of its listening post, G.C.H.Q., was spectacle enough. This was their first joint appearance in public, addressing a parliamentary intelligence and security committee whose hearings had, until now, always been held behind closed doors. (Indeed, little more than 20 years ago even the names of the intelligence chiefs were a state secret.) 
That fact alone guaranteed coverage on the evening news. Which meant a rare focus on the topic that provided the session’s most electrifying moments: the Edward Snowden affair. Rare because the dominant…

MafiaLeaks Website Lets Italians Anonymously Squeal on Organized Crime

Turns out that one episode of The Sopranos where the gang goes to Italy wasn’t exaggerating: the pasta-loving peninsula is still teeming with organized crime. And now, a new WikiLeaks-inspired website is hoping to put a dent in it.

Ten anonymous Italians created the site, according to the Daily Dot, in hopes of connecting police and journalists to people with inside knowledge about mob activity.

Read on...

Forecasting Rise In Inmate Population, Florida May Re-Open Nine Prison Facilities

Last year, Florida did what many other states did to save money in a tight budget. They closed prisons and other correctional facilities. But unlike other states that implemented “smart on crime” reforms, Florida didn’t change the laws that imprison most people in the first place.

So the closures didn’t stick. Now, with projected increases in its prison population over the next two years, the state’s Department of Corrections is seeking to re-open nine corrections facilities, including two prisons, two re-entry centers, and five work camps. Work camps are minimum to medium-security facilities where inmates are transferred to complete their sentences while performing work assignments for the prison or community.

Although Florida’s crime rate is at a 41-year low, the prison population continues to grow, with the largest increase coming from first-time drug offenders ensnared by undercover agents, according to a recent analysis by the state’s accountability office. Among those …

As Federal Prison Population Spiked 790 Percent, Average Drug Sentences Doubled

The federal prison population has ballooned 790 percent since 1980, and almost half of those now imprisoned are there for drugs. In the coming years, the Bureau of Prisons projects that prison overcrowding will get even worse. While federal prisons are now 35 to 40 percent over capacity capacity, they are expected by 2023 to reach 55 percent over capacity without a policy change, according to a new report by the Urban Institute.

The prison population explosion was not driven primarily by a spike in crime, but by a change in punishment. Over a 25-year period, average drug sentences doubled from 38.5 months in 1984 to 74 months in 2011. And over a similar period, the percentage of convicted federal offenders sentenced to prison spiked from 50 percent in 1986 to 90 percent in 2011. Before the passage of several draconian laws that impose mandated harsh sentences and remove judicial discretion, many offenders received probation or a fine for the same violations.

Read on...
Politics and the Canadian Language.  What would Orwell say about our curious brand of Newspeak?

The Senate expenses scandal, as the CBC now calls it, continues to grow, while the language used to describe it continues to shrink: we have fewer words to describe the scandal and those involved, and many of them are clich├ęs like "bombshell" and "house of cards."

Without an extensive and nuanced vocabulary, our media provide a narrow and simplistic picture of events. Our own ability to think about those events is similarly narrowed.

Read on...
MPs cool to call for Access Act to cover their offices
Access to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has made repeated calls for Parliament to be covered by the Access to Information Act, but some MPs are raising privacy concerns.MPs on the House Access to Information Committee say that Parliamentary administration should be covered by the Access to Information Act, but some have concerns that extending the legislation to their own offices would infringe on their privacy and the privacy of their constituents.Read on...

Fifteen Tory motions to know about from the convention

Gathering in Calgary, Conservative delegates passed a series of motions aimed at carrying the party through the next election.

The policies were accepted or spiked on Saturday, the final of three days that the country's major players met in Calgary. The policies tackled a range of subjects, and could – or could not – ultimately steer the Conservative government. Here's a look at what passed – and one that didn't.
1. Sex-selective abortion In a motion by the riding association of pro-life B.C. MP Mark Warawa, delegates agreed to support a motion to condemn sex-selective abortion. The motion read: "The Conservative Party condemns discrimination against girls through gender selection."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said his government won't reopen the abortion debate, and Mr. Warawa said flatly "no" when asked if the motion did. "I'm very pleased that the Conservative Party of Canada has condemned the practice of…

Chess Grandmaster Takes On 10 Jail Inmates Blindfolded, And Wins

A chess grandmaster, ranked 3rd in the U.S., put his skill at playing blindfolded to the test Friday at the Cook County Jail, beating ten inmates in two hours, without ever seeing any of the chess boards.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Timur Gareev visited the jail as part of a program aimed at helping inmates think things through, and be more thoughtful about their actions.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who started the program last year, said the goal is to direct inmates away from their predilection toward seeking out instant gratification, and urge them to think before they act. He said chess teaches people patience and strategy, and acting impulsively will be devastating.

Gareev played against 10 inmates on 10 different chess boards on Friday, with a black bandana covering his eyes. He visualized each game as moves were called out loud, letting him know each of his opponents move as they made them. Still, he couldn’t exactly keep track of every single piece on…

Enabling Justice to Be Seen to Be Done

We have reached a landmark moment for open justice and our legal system here in England and Wales. Starting today the ban on filming in the courts is lifted and broadcasters can film proceedings in the Court of Appeal.

New legislation has overturned a near-century long ban on filming in court. It follows a long campaign that I've been involved in with others across the broadcast industry. Before 1925 photographs were sometimes taken in court - for example in the case of Dr Crippen on trial for murder. Since then the public has not been able to see inside the court without being there in the public gallery.

The campaign to bring about the change has been a long process. Here in England we have watched the issue of cameras in court take off in many jurisdictions around the world. Regularly ITN - the news organisation I work for - shows footage in its news programmes from courts outside England and Wales - for example the case of Anders Breivik in Norway. Here we'…

Tasered senior files $1.1M lawsuit against Peel cops

MISSISSAUGA - An 80-year-old Mississauga woman with dementia and her daughter are suing three police officers and the Peel Regional Police Services Board for Tasering the elderly woman twice during an incident that left her with a broken hip.

Police found Iole Pasquale walking in the Thomas St. and Erin Mills Pkwy. area on Aug. 28 around 3:30 a.m. carrying a bread knife, according to the province's Special Investigations Unit. After attempts to get her to drop the knife failed, they used the Taser on her twice, causing Pasquale to fall and break her hip.

The senior is now suing for $1.1 million and her daughter, Angela, is seeking $250,000 in damages. Their lawyer, Clayton Ruby, filed the papers to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice Thursday.

Read on...

Huffington Magazine This Week: Juvenile Injustice

In this week's issue, Chris Kirkham takes an in-depth look at a private prison empire based in Florida.

What he learns about the Youth Services International prison system is deeply disturbing -- the result of six months spent scouring thousands of pages of state audits, lawsuits, local police reports and probes by state and federal agencies, along with interviews with former employees and prisoners.
In Florida, YSI manages more than $100 million in contracts. And despite a record of abuse and mistreatment at its facilities, the company has continued to win business in several states.

Read on...

Can Theater Help Solve California's Prison Overcrowding Crisis?

Can theater help solve California's prison overcrowding crisis? The answer is yes.
The recent prison compromise between Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Senate presents California with a unique opportunity to provide a durable, transformative solution to its prison overcrowding problem by focusing on rehabilitation. One reason for the crowding crisis is California's highest-in-the-nation 63.7 percent recidivism rate. That means for every 1000 inmates that leave prison, 637 commit new crimes and land back in prison.

There is a better way -- and it saves taxpayer dollars.

Multiple studies show in-prison rehabilitation programs can significantly reduce the percentage of prisoners who re-offend. If California could reduce its recidivism rate by just 10 percent, that alone would solve the crowding problem. Any successful system of rehabilitation requires multiple components, ranging from mental health and drug treatment to education and skills training. One aspect th…

5 Things Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Has Done That Are Worse Than Smoking Crack

Yesterday, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair revealed that Mayor Rob Ford appears in a video smoking crack, confirming rumors that have been swirling for months. A close friend of the mayor was charged with extortion, apparently in connection with trying to recover the video.

But while the revelations rocked North America’s 4th largest city, it is hardly the first time Ford has brought disrepute to Toronto. While substance abuse may impact Ford personally and ultimately compromise his ability to perform his job well, here are five things Ford has done as an elected official that are arguably worse:

1. Voted against AIDS funding because “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably.” “‘These are the facts,’ he added when asked if he backed his earlier comments. According to the United Nations, the majority of those affected with AIDS are heterosexual, non-drug users.” [City News Toronto, 6/29/06]

Read on...