Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Greenspan & Doob: Stephen Harper’s scary crime bluster

Editor’s note: Last Tuesday, legendary Canadian defence attorney Edward “Eddie” Greenspan passed away. Hours before his death, he submitted an article to the National Post. With the permission of his co-author, Anthony Doob, we are honoured to run that article below. 

“All convicted criminals belong behind bars.”
We know of no person knowledgeable about criminal justice in any democratic society who has ever proposed imprisonment for all convicted offenders. But earlier this month, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, who oversees our penitentiaries, bluntly told Parliament that “Our Conservative government believes that convicted criminals belong behind bars.” No qualifications, no exceptions.

Read on...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Severely Mentally Ill Prisoners: Who Goes to Prison and Who Goes to Psych Institutions?
"People with a severe mental disorder who commit a crime and who are incarcerated have different characteristics compared to people who are hospitalized after committing an offence. These are the findings of a study by researchers at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal (IUSMM) and the Institut Philippe-Pinel de Montréal (IPPM), affiliated with the University of Montreal.

'We found a clear difference between people with a mental illness who are incarcerated for a crime and those declared not criminally responsible for a crime and then hospitalized at a psychiatric institution,' explained Dr. Alexandre Dumais, a researcher at the IPPM and the IUSMM and the study's first author. 

'Since the adoption of Bill C-30 in 1992, federal detention centres have had a significant decrease in the number of people with severe mental disorders, such as schizophrenia. Conversely, there has been an increase in the number of people declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) and who find themselves in the psychiatric network,' added Dr. Dumais, who is also an assistant clinical professor in the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine and a psychiatrist at the IPPM."

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Gun Proliferation Fuels Homicide Rates in the Americas
Poor and middle-income nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are the most homicide-prone countries in the world, according to an analysis of a new United Nations report on violence. And because of lax gun laws, it found, far more homicides are committed with firearms in the Americas than in any other part of the world.

The analysis of the Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014, published last week by the Pan American Health Organization, reported that the highest homicide rates were in Honduras, Venezuela, Jamaica and Belize, with the Honduran rate — 104 killings per 100,000 population — nearly double that of the next deadliest countries. By contrast, the lowest homicide rates in the Americas were in Canada, Antigua and Barbuda, and Chile. Canada’s was less than two per 100,000 population, while others were below five. The homicide rate in the United States was 5.3 per 100,000.

View the UN Report

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fearful Prisoners Postpone Parole Reviews, Expert Says
"A culture of fear within Canada’s correctional system is keeping an increasing number of offenders behind bars and costing taxpayers more money, a former high-level public servant says.
Parole Board of Canada documents, acquired by the Citizen under access to information laws, contain figures that show the number of offenders asking to have their parole reviews postponed has spiked in recent years.

'Postponements, I think, are part of that atmosphere of denials and fear and over-cautiousness on the part of both the board and (Correctional Service Canada),' says Mary Campbell, who was director general of corrections and criminal justice at the Department of Public Safety for 10 years."

Related Article:  Parole Numbers Don't Paint Accurate Picture, Expert Says 

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Ontario's Probation System in Shambles, Auditor Reports
"Most of the criminals released in Ontario who are considered a very high risk to re-offend do so, even though they’re supposed to be extra-closely supervised by probation and parole officers.

The details of the way the Ministry of Community Safety doesn’t protect community safety are in a report by Ontario’s auditor-general Bonnie Lysyk...."

View the Auditor General's Report on Adult Community Corrections and Ontario Parole Board 

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Every Mother's Son (A Video)
"In the late 1990s, three victims of police brutality made headlines around the country: Amadou Diallo, the young West African man whose killing sparked intense public protest; Anthony Baez, killed in an illegal choke-hold; and Gary (Gidone) Busch, a Hasidic Jew shot and killed outside his Brooklyn home.  

Every Mother's Son profiles three New York mothers who unexpectedly find themselves united to seek justice and transform their grief into an opportunity for profound social change. It was Iris Baez, who had become a veteran activist since her son Anthony’s death, who approached Amadou’s mother, Kadiatou, and Gary’s mother, Doris, after their sons were killed. As a Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx, a West African woman who relocated to New York, and a Jewish woman from Long Island, they made an unlikely but powerful team.

The grassroots movement they inspired in New York is challenging the militarization of law enforcement and the erosions of constitutional protections. When police kill someone under suspicious circumstances, the mothers assemble to help the family deal with its grief and to seek the truth and accountability. The mothers have also become advocates for police reforms, including better training and more citizen oversight, and have connected to a larger national movement against police brutality."

* Free streaming until May 3, 2015

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Corrections Canada is Sentenced to Fail, Again and Again
"Correctional Service Canada has finally responded to the coroner’s inquest into the 2007 death of a troubled young woman who spent more than 1,000 days in solitary confinement before choking to death in an isolation cell as correctional officers watched, unwilling to help her. The agency quietly put the response online late Thursday – a full year after the inquest made its 104 recommendations – and then went back to ignoring the world outside its walls.

Feel free to read the report. If you do, though, do not hope to be uplifted. Once you get past the self-important acronyms (CRIMP, IMP, RSPMC) and the sly appeals for public sympathy in CSC’s response to the “absolute tragedy” of Ashley Smith’s death, you will be left with the sinking feeling that what happened to that 19-year-old girl will happen again, if it hasn’t already.

That’s because the response reinforces that fact that the agency that employs 18,000 people to look after 22,000 federal offenders, including more than 15,000 inmates, is allowed by the government to work outside the reach of public oversight. It answers only to itself. The federal prisons ombudsman, Howard Sapers, can make recommendations. So can the federal Auditor-General. So can a well-meaning inquest jury. But they are among the very few public advocates that prisoners have, and nothing they say is binding."

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations
"The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday issued a sweeping indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency’s program to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, drawing on millions of internal C.I.A. documents to illuminate practices that it said were more brutal — and far less effective — than the agency acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public.

The long-delayed report delivers a withering judgment on one of the most controversial tactics of a twilight war waged over a dozen years. The Senate committee’s investigation, born of what its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, said was a need to reckon with the excesses of this war, found that C.I.A. officials routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained, and failed to provide basic oversight of the secret prisons it established around the world."

View the Report and the Republican Party's Rebuttal 

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Mass Surveillance Exposed by Snowden "Not Justified by Fight Against Terrorism"
"The 'secret, massive and indiscriminate' surveillance conducted by intelligence services and disclosed by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden cannot be justified by the fight against terrorism, the most senior human rights official in Europe has warned.

In a direct challenge to the United Kingdom and other states, Nils Muižnieks, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, calls for greater transparency and stronger democratic oversight of the way security agencies monitor the internet. He also said that so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing treaty between the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada should be published.

'Suspicionless mass retention of communications data is fundamentally contrary to the rule of law … and ineffective,' the Latvian official argues in a 120-page report, The Rule of Law on the Internet in the Wider Digital World. 'Member states should not resort to it or impose compulsory retention of data by third parties.'"

View the Report

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Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration
Thirty-three U.S. states and jurisdictions spend $100,000 or more annually to incarcerate a young person, and continue to generate outcomes that result in even greater costs. Our new report, Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration, provides estimates of the overall costs resulting from the negative outcomes associated with incarceration. The report finds that these long-term consequences of incarcerating young people could cost taxpayers $8 billion to $21 billion each year.

View the Report (best viewed in Internet Explorer)

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Province to Legislate what Police can Disclose about Innocent Ontarians
"Ontario will table legislation in the new year detailing what information police can disclose to employers, volunteer agencies and academic institutions about Ontarians who have not been convicted of a crime.

The province will table legislation in the new year detailing for the first time what information police can — and cannot — disclose to employers, volunteer agencies and academic institutions about Ontarians who have not been convicted of a crime, the Star has learned.
'There is a balance between safety and security of our communities and protection of personal information,' said Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services in response to questions from the Star Wednesday.
'We want to strike that balance.'
A lengthy Toronto Star investigation earlier this year detailed how the routine release of police-held information about innocent Ontarians has ended careers, undermined job prospects, forced students out of university and college programs and ended up in the country’s criminal records database which is accessed by U.S. border officials who have used it to restrict the travel of Canadians."

Related Documents:

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How the World's Biggest Companies Bribe Foreign Governments
"Corruption knows no boundaries, or borders, according to a new study released by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The OECD analyzed 427 foreign bribery cases that were closed between 1999 and 2014. What the researchers found is a steady stream of illicit money exchanges between multinational businesses and public officials in both poor and rich countries.

'We have learned that bribes are being paid across sectors to officials from countries at all stages of economic development,' the researchers wrote. 'Corporate leadership is involved, or at least aware, of the practice of foreign bribery in most cases, rebutting perceptions of bribery as the act of rogue employees.'"...

... these are business executives and government officials who have actually been caught, meaning that they likely only represent a fraction of the total number involved in under the table cash exchanges. While the report doesn't name any of the corporations, finding one currently embattled by corruption accusations isn't hard. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailers, is currently being probed for bribery in a number of countries, after the company disclosed potential violations in Mexico.


But what is truly unique about the study is the level of detail it uncovers about how the bribes are being paid, where they are being paid, why they are being paid, who is offering them, and to whom they are being offered.  Large multinational companies, for instance, appear to be much fonder of offering illicit cash for quiet favors than smaller corporate entities.

There are also certain industries, which appear more comfortable with—or, at least, familiar with—the practice than others. Nearly 60 percent of the foreign bribery cases observed happened in just four sectors: extractive (i.e. mining), construction, transportation and storage, and information and communication."

View the Report
  

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Fair Trials Publishes Position Paper on Proposed Presumption of Innocence Directive
"Fair Trials International, together with its Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP), has published a position paper on the proposed EU Directive protecting the presumption of innocence of  suspects and accused individuals in criminal proceedings, which was proposed by the European Commission in November 2013. The paper is being circulated to MEPs in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament in advance of their discussions of the proposal and publication of their position and to members of the Council.

The directive on the presumption of innocence is another development in the completion of the Roadmap on Criminal Procedural Rights – the EU’s step-by-step approach to improving protection for fair trials rights. It is the second directive to be proposed following the European Commission publishing a package of five new measures to establish fair trial standards across the EU. The proposed directive on the presumption of innocence follows the proposed directive on procedural safeguards for children, about which Fair Trials has also written a position paper recommending improvements to the draft. The new package of measures follows the 2009 Roadmap which has resulted in the successful adoption of directives on the right of criminal suspects to interpretation and translation (in 2010), to information in criminal proceedings (in 2012), to access a lawyer and communicate with third parties on arrest (in 2013)."

View the Position Paper

 

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Monday, December 1, 2014

U.N.  Panel Criticizes U.S. Policy on Police Shootings, Torture
"A United Nations panel on Friday sharply criticized how the United States handles a variety of criminal justice-related issues, such as the police shooting of unarmed African Americans, the imprisonment of terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the application of the death penalty.

In a 16-page report, its first such review since 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture condemned U.S. policies in handling how police dealt with issues of brutality against blacks and Latinos. It did not specifically mention events in Ferguson, Mo., but the parents of Michael Brown, fatally shot by a white police officer, spoke to the commission before the findings were released.

'There are numerous areas in which certain things should be changed for the United States to comply fully with the convention,' Alessio Bruni of Italy, one of the panel's chief investigators, said at a news conference in Geneva. He was referring to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which took effect in 1987 and the United States ratified in 1994."

View the Report

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Think Tank Names Supreme Court of Canada "Policy-Maker of the Year"

"The Supreme Court of Canada was remarkably united against the Conservative government in a year of unusually important rulings, a conservative think tank found in naming the court 'policy-maker of the year.'

The government had a clear win in just one of the 10 biggest cases, on aboriginal land rights, while in seven cases it was a clear loser, a report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute said.

The losses covered a wide range of areas – the government’s attempt to create an elected Senate, to keep thousands of convicted criminals in jail for longer terms, and even to appoint a judge of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choosing to the Supreme Court. In the seven clear losses, the court was unanimous five times. Only three judges dissented in the seven cases combined."

View the MacDonald-Laurier Institute Report

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Free Access to Taylor and Francis Highly Cited Research Collections

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Community-Based Assessment of Police Contact Carding in 31 Division. Final Report
"During the summer of 2014, the Community Assessment of Police Practices (CAPP) research project surveyed over 400 community members across 31 Division in order to determine community satisfaction with policing during the June to August, 2014 time period, measure the impact of the Community Contacts policy, and make recommendations for changes or improvements to the Community Contacts policy....

Through our research, we learned that very few members of the public are aware of the new policy or the formal procedures involved in 'carding'.  We also learned that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way that police interact with members of the community.  In general, the level of trust in the police is low and many participants expressed negative views regarding the police.  For example, a large number of respondents believe that police regularly abuse their power.  In addition, there is a view that police racially profile members of the community.  Compellingly, this belief was identified among both racialized and non-racialized groups.  While a significant number of respondents identify small improvements  in the relationship between police and community residents since June 2014, roughly 40% still feel that the relationship between police and the community is poor...."

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Victims Let Down by Poor Crime-Recording
"The national average rate of under-recording of crime is almost one in five, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found in its report, ‘Crime-recording: making the victim count', published today.

This was the most extensive inspection and analysis of crime-recording ever carried out, which examined over 8,000 reports of crime to the police. The national average of under-recording of crime is 19 per cent, which amounts to over 800,000 crimes each year. The inspection was into the integrity of police-recorded crime data; it was not an inspection or inquiry into the integrity of the police.

In the audit period (November 2012 – October 2013), police were found to be less likely to record violent and sexual offences as crimes than other crime types. The inspection found that, on the national average, over a quarter of sexual offences and a third of violent crime reported to the police each year are not being recorded as crime."

View the Report and associated documents 
 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Does "Right-to-Carry" Lead to More Crime?
"So-called 'right-to-carry' gun laws are associated with higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder, according to a recently released Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University study.

For decades, gun rights supporters and foes have debated whether laws that allow more people to have guns create an environment where less crime is committed.

All 50 states have laws allowing certain concealed weapons in public.

Researchers expanded on a 2004 National Research Council study that covered county-level crime data between 1977 and 2000, adding in six additional years of county information and state-level data from 1979-2010.

'Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent,' researchers wrote.

The study also found that homicide rates increased in eight states that adopted right-to-carry laws between 1999 and 2010."

View the study
 

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View the Sexual Assault Policies on Campus Discussion Paper

Federal Government Considers Privatizing Some Police Services
"The Conservative government is examining the "opportunities and challenges" involved in privatizing some policing services in Canada.

Public Safety officials are commissioning a study to examine the growing industry of private policing in Canada and abroad, and to outline the role private security firms could play in traditional public policing roles.

The study appears to be primarily motivated by the cost of and increased pressure on public forces, despite historically low crime rates."

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The Jail that has Reduced Violence by Helping Inmates Escape from the Gang
"Latest Ministry of Justice figures show the number of recorded assaults in English and Welsh prisons has increased by more than 1,000 over the last year, from 14,045 in 2012-13 to 15,441 in 2013-14. The government’s London Crime Reduction Board highlights the worrying significance of gang members driving such violence and offending in custody. And Nick Hardwick, HM chief inspector of prisons, has reported on unacceptably high levels of violence in young offender institutions, such as Isis and Feltham, named last year by the Howard League for Penal Reform as the most violent prison in England and Wales.

Yet since the Catch22 project began in April 2013, the number of violent incidents in Thameside has significantly dropped from a peak of approximately 90 violent incidents per month to fewer than 20. This 75% reduction is highlighted in an evaluation of the project published on 19 November. The research, Gangs in Prison, based on 19 in-depth interviews, clearly shows that leaving a gang is very difficult. 'It is clear that they are coming from and likely returning to very challenging living environments. Prisoners often described their area as a ‘ghetto’ with few opportunities and high levels of crime and violence.'”

View the Gangs in Prison report

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Deaths Linked to Terrorism Are Up 60%, Study Finds
"As Western governments grapple with heightened apprehension about the spread of Islamic militancy, an independent study on Tuesday offered little solace, saying the number of fatalities related to terrorism soared 60 percent last year.

Pointing to a geographic imbalance, the report by the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace said five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria — accounted for four-fifths of the almost 18,000 fatalities attributed to terrorism last year. Iraq had the bloodiest record of all, with more than 6,300 fatalities.

At the same time, the statistics in the organization’s Global Terrorism Index suggested that the world’s industrialized nations — often the target of threats by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL — had suffered relatively few attacks on their soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, onslaught in the United States and the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings in London."

View the Report

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Listening to Young Women's Voices
"McCreary [Centre Society] has published the findings from it's latest report on youth in custody. This report is based on interviews with 57 girls aged 13-19 at the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre, following the centralization of custody services in Burnaby."

View the Report

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Community Corrections: Profiteering, Corruption and Widening the Net
"Smoke and Mirrors is a new series that dives into the details of "bipartisan prison reform" to reveal the right-wing, neoliberal carceral sleight of hand that's really at work. It asks hard questions about the content and consequences of various proposals and explores ways in which commitments to unregulated free markets, privatization and states' rights drive the agenda for a new generation of reforms that will reinforce structural racism, intensify economic violence and contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society."

See the related report: Treatment Industrial Complex: How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain

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Friday, November 14, 2014

A Police Cell is no Place for a Sick Youngster
When an adolescent is seriously ill and desperately needs help, a police key turning in a cell door lock is the last thing they should hear. A night surrounded by criminals and drunks banging on the walls is hardly a helpful environment for any sick person, but for young people with severe mental health problems it can be catastrophic. Despite this, each year hundreds of teenagers find themselves not in hospital beds but banged up.

Police cells are for those suspected of doing wrong, not those whose bodies have somehow gone wrong. But now a dispiriting Health Select Committee report about child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in England has highlighted horribly high levels of detention. The report finds a litany of failings that go far beyond the placement of sick youngsters in custody. Most damning is the number of times police end up looking after someone who really needs a doctor. This is the worst symptom of a system in very poor health indeed.

View the CAMHS Report

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Incorporating Racial Equity into Criminal Justice Reform
"There are few areas of American society where racial disparities are as profound and as troubling as in the criminal justice system. This briefing paper provides an overview of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and a framework for developing and implementing remedies for these disparities. We first describe the rationale for incorporating racial equity as a goal of an overall criminal justice reform strategy. Next, we document trends in racial disparity and assess the various causal factors that have produced these outcomes. Finally, we identify a selection of best practices for addressing disparities, along with recommendations for implementation, and provide a guide for establishing rigorous metrics for success."

View the Report

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Google's Rapidly Expanding Political Activity and Information Collection Systems Present Cause for Concern
"Google is so rapidly expanding both its information-collecting capabilities and its political clout that it could become too powerful to be held accountable, a new Public Citizen report finds.

'Mission Creep-y: Google Is Quietly Becoming One of the Nation’s Most Powerful Political Forces While Expanding Its Information-Collection Empire' looks at the ways Google is accruing power both in terms of the information it collects about the public and the sway it has over federal and state governments, as well as civil society.

Privacy experts say only the National Security Agency (NSA) rivals Google in terms of information gathering, and a recent survey showed that Americans are more concerned about companies like Google than the NSA. But Public Citizen documents that Google has not always warned the public before collecting or combining users’ information in new ways – and some of its collection practices have pushed the boundaries of the law. This is cause for concern as Google expands into new technological developments and acquisitions that collect information beyond what people do on the Internet."

View the Report

Related Report:  Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Progress on Women's Rights: Missing in Action
This report reviews Canada's implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and finds that while progress has been made in access to education, it also highlights the areas where inequality has persisted and worsened - particularly in terms of violence against women, political representation, economic security, access to social services, and the additional barriers to equallity faced by Aboriginal women and girls, racialized women, women with disabilities and women from sexual minorities.

View the Report

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Secret Manuals Show the Spyware Sold to Despots and Cops Worldwide
"When Apple and Google unveiled new encryption schemes last month, law enforcement officials complained that they wouldn’t be able to unlock evidence on criminals’ digital devices. What they didn’t say is that there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

We’re publishing in full, for the first time, manuals explaining the prominent commercial implant software 'Remote Control System,' manufactured by the Italian company Hacking Team. Despite FBI director James Comey’s dire warnings about the impact of widespread data scrambling — 'criminals and terrorists would like nothing more,' he declared — Hacking Team explicitly promises on its website that its software can 'defeat encryption.'"

Related Articles:

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I'm not a Criminal: Jailed with No Charge, No Sentence, No Oversight
"Sitting in a glassed-off visiting cubicle, Masoud Hajivand pulls up the sleeve of his orange inmate uniform, rotates wrist upward to show ropy scars up his left arm.

That’s from the second time this year the Canadian Border Services Agency tried to deport him to Iran. The first time, two months earlier, six CBSA officers gave up on trying to drag him out of his cell as he wept and clung to the bars....

Hajivand is one of more than 200 immigration detainees held in Ontario’s notoriously crowded jails, many of them without charge. Their cases are reviewed monthly, but in practice they could be incarcerated indefinitely.

All of them, Global News has learned, have been hidden for years from Red Cross attempts to ascertain their well-being and ensure Canada’s living up to its international human rights obligations.

The Canadian Red Cross has conducted annual inspections of immigration detention conditions since 2008, sending its findings in confidential reports to the federal government. Global recently obtained the reports under access-to-information laws."

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

A documentary about the use of use of security certificates in Canada.  Showing at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Nov. 7-13.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Online Harassment
"Harassment—from garden-variety name calling to more threatening behavior— is a common part of online life that colors the experiences of many web users.  Fully 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center."

View the Report

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Amnesty International Releases New Ferguson Report Documenting Human Rights Abuses
"Following the initial protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, Amnesty International USA dispatched a human rights delegation which included observers to monitor the protests and police response. Today, the human rights organization has released a new report, On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson, documenting the human rights concerns witnessed first-hand by Amnesty International while in Ferguson from August 14-22, 2014. The report also outlines a series of recommendations that need to be implemented with regards to the use of force by law enforcement officers and the policing of protests."

View the Report

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The Police Are Still Out of Control
"...Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved.... In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider.... The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that 'us-versus-them' feeling."

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Damning Annual Prison Report Should Make Grayling Think Again
"The chief inspector of prisons' annual report has just been published and it is as damning as you would expect. Nick Hardwick is doing the best he can to get the chaos of Britain's prisons into the public sphere and to tentatively offer explanations for why it is taking place.

The situation is currently verging on catastrophic. He found a 'significant decline in safety'. There were often weaknesses in basic safety processes such as risk assessments for new prisoners and prisoners in crisis being held in segregated areas in poor conditions. Drugs in prisons – legal and illegal – were becoming a source of debt, with the associated bullying and violence which comes with that."

View the Report

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Big Data and the Future for Privacy
"In our inevitable big data future, critics and skeptics argue that privacy will have no place. We disagree. When properly understood, privacy rules will be an essential and valuable part of our digital future, especially if we wish to retain the human values on which our political, social, and economic institutions have been built. In this paper, we make three simple points. First, we need to think differently about 'privacy.' Privacy' is not merely about keeping secrets, but about the rules we use to regulate information, which is and always has been in intermediate states between totally secret and known to all. Privacy rules are information rules, and in an information society, information rules are inevitable. Second, human values rather than privacy for privacy’s sake should animate our information rules. These must include protections for identity, equality, security, and trust. Third, we argue that privacy in our big data future can and must be secured in a variety of ways. Formal legal regulation will be necessary, but so too will 'soft' regulation by entities like the Federal Trade Commission, and by the development of richer notions of big data ethics."

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Brutal Crimes Don't Justify Bad Laws
"Massachusetts Juvenile Judge Jay D. Blitzman got it right when he explained in 2008 why brutal crimes so often lead to bad laws. In an article for the Barry Law Review he wrote: 'As the public and media react to the crime du jour, there is an unfortunate tendency to legislate by anecdote.' Stories gain momentum, get fueled in the press, and can be used for political advantage by the powers that be, and before we know it, the need for change, and in some cases, vengeance, turns too quickly into ill-conceived laws."

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New Report Shines Light on Domestic Violence Rates in LGBTQ Communities
"This month, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released its latest report, Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2013. The report provides detailed data on LGBTQ and HIV-affected, as well as data on police, medical, and other responses to them. This report builds on a growing but limited body of research on domestic and sexual violence in LGBTQ communities, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)."

View the Report

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Overcoming Barriers to Reintegration: An Investigation of  Federal Community Correctional Centres
"The 2013-2014 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (CCI) features a special focus on the safe and timely reintegration of offenders into the community.  The Office has become concerned that indicators of effective community corrections have been trending in the wrong direction in recent years.  Parole grant rates are declining (20% in the last 5 years), offenders are serving longer portions of their sentence behind bars before first release, the majority of releases from federal penitentiary are now by statutory release rather than day or full parole and the number of waived or postponed parole hearings has been increasing.  The Office continues to receive complaints regarding the quality of case management practices in which some inmates claim to have little or no contact with their assigned Institutional Parole Officer.  Finally, the operating budgets to prepare offenders for resettlement and safely maintain them in the community have seen no new investments and are set to decline in real terms in 2014-15 and beyond."

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Addressing the Impact of Wrongful Convictions on Crime Victims
"When a wrongfully convicted individual is exonerated, the original crime victim may experience feelings of guilt, fear, helplessness, devastation and depression. For some victims, the impact of the wrongful conviction may be comparable to — or even worse than — that of their original victimization.

These are the findings of an NIJ-funded study examining how wrongful convictions affect the original crime victims, an area in which no prior empirical research had been conducted. Researchers from ICF International conducted in-depth studies to identify the shared experiences and service needs of the original crime victims in 11 cases of wrongful conviction. Recognizing the sensitive nature of the study, the researchers initially contacted victims through third parties, such as district attorneys' offices and innocence commissions that had pre-existing relationships with the victims. They also used what is called 'snowball sampling,' meaning they worked with participating victims and stakeholders to reach out to crime victims in other cases of wrongful conviction and to identify service providers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, attorneys and family members who supported victims during the exonerations."

View the Report

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Is it Legal for the Police to Shoot an Unarmed, Surrendered Citizen?
"Across the years in the United States, police officers have consistently been found not guilty in the shooting deaths of countless unarmed, non-violent citizens....

In each of these horrific cases, the victims were unarmed and not committing a crime, but police, with stories, far-fetched or otherwise, were able to convince juries that they reasonably feared for their safety. At the root of widespread anger in African-American communities over these cases is the idea that if a white officer imagines a threat, he is basically allowed to act on it, no matter how fictitious the threat may truly be. In the shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo and Kendrec McDade, officers successfully argued that they believed they saw Diallo and McDade not only possess guns, but actually fire them—even though both men were completely unarmed.

Considering the facts of Mike Brown's shooting death at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, the question is, then, is it legal for a police officer who is reasonably aware that a citizen is unarmed, to shoot and kill that citizen if the citizen is incapacitated or has peaceably surrendered?

In the end, the shooting death of Brown and the case against Wilson may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court"

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Friday, October 17, 2014

The Cost of Crime in Canada
"Despite a decreasing crime rate over a 10-year-period, the costs associated with fighting and punishing illegal activity has increased dramatically, according to a report by public policy think-tank the Fraser Institute.

"Between 2002 and 2012, Canada's crime rate declined 27% while costs associated to the justice system increased 36%.

The report's authors point to actions by the Supreme Court of Canada as directly affecting the cost of justice - specifically, the right to a state-funded lawyer, the right to a speedy trial as well as the requirement by the Crown to full disclosure of all evidence.

Police, for example, are legally obligated to fully disclose to defence lawyers copies of all investigative materials, audio and video recordings, notebook entries, reports, tips from the public; all operational plans, wiretap information and phone records, among other things....

The report also emphasizes a glaring omission in the way crime statistics are compiled.

The Statistics Canada General Social Survey looks specifically at criminal activity but is only conducted every five years.

The report questions the veracity of that data because it isn't collected annually and concludes the ability to collect meaningful statistics is severely compromised."

View the Report

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Mass Internet Surveillance Threatens International Law, UN Report Claims
"Mass surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies is 'corrosive of online privacy' and threatens to undermine international law, according to a report to the United Nations general assembly.

The critical study by Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, released on Wednesday is a response to revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden about the extent of monitoring carried out by GCHQ in the UK and the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US.

Emmerson’s study poses a direct challenge to the claims of both governments that their bulk surveillance programs, which the barrister finds endanger the privacy of 'literally every internet user,' are proportionate to the terrorist threat and robustly constrained by law. To combat the danger, Emmerson endorses the ability of Internet users to mount legal challenges to bulk surveillance."

View the full Report

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Managing the Boundary Between Public and Private Policing
"The boundary between public and private policing is messy and complex.  Police executives deal with some aspect of it almost every day.  Private investments in security continue to expand and public/private partnerships of myriad types proliferate, even as budgets for public policing stall or decline.  

This paper provides police executives an opportunity to explore the critical issues that arise at this boundary.  The analysis here starts with a number of assumptions:  First, that it is not longer possible for public police to ignore the extent and pervasiveness of private policing arrangements.  Second, that being in some general sense 'for' or 'against' private security is not helpful, as such views are inadequately nuanced or sophisticated given the variety of issues at stake.  Third, that the interests of private parties will rarely, if ever, be fully aligned with public interests.  Fourth, that it is not sufficient for public police agencies simply to deal with private security arrangements that exist today; rather, public police have a role to play in influencing future arrangements and in making sure those arrangements serve the public interest."

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Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan: A Public Health Approach
"In the U.S. `warehouse prisons,`where activities, programming, and mobility have been deemphasized and prisoners are merely stored like objects to serve out their sentences, are increasingly becoming the norm.  While we may think of prison warehousing as a uniquely American problem, it is increasingly emblematic of the Canadian experience as well.  Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan: A Public Health Approach, by Dr. Jason Demers, illustrates how Saskatchewan boasts one of the most highly strained provincial prison systems in the country.  Saskatchewan prisons currently house almost twice as many inmates as they were designed for.` To accommodate this crisis, classrooms, gymnasiums, workshops, and visiting rooms are being converted into dormitories, and most of the province`s cells are being double bunked - with triple-bunking a distinct possibility in the future.  The effects of this overcrowding on the living conditions of the inmates in these institutions are alarming.  Through a series of interviews with government officials, prison justice advocates, former inmates and their families, Dr. Demers documents a series of troubling findings due to overcrowding in SK prisons, and concludes the report with a summary of recommendations that could reverse the further deterioration of the provincial prison system."

View the Report

In the U.S., “warehouse prisons,” where activities, programming, and mobility have been deemphasized and prisoners are merely stored like objects to serve out their sentences, are increasingly becoming the norm. While we may think of prison warehousing as a uniquely American problem, it is increasingly emblematic of the Canadian experience as well. Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan: A Public Health Approach, by Dr. Jason Demers, illustrates how Saskatchewan boasts one of the most highly strained provincial prison systems in the country. Saskatchewan prisons currently house “almost twice as many inmates as they were designed for.” To accommodate this crisis, classrooms, gymnasiums, workshops, and visiting rooms are being converted into dormitories, and most of the province’s cells are being double bunked - with triple-bunking a distinct possibility in the future. The effects of this overcrowding on the living conditions of the inmates in these institutions are alarming. Through a series of interviews with government officials, prison justice advocates, former inmates and their families, Dr. Demers documents a series of troubling findings due to overcrowding in SK prisons, and concludes the report with a summary of recommendations that could reverse the further deterioration of the provincial prison system. - See more at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/warehousing-prisoners-saskatchewan#sthash.LBdWUm1E.dpuf
In the U.S., “warehouse prisons,” where activities, programming, and mobility have been deemphasized and prisoners are merely stored like objects to serve out their sentences, are increasingly becoming the norm. While we may think of prison warehousing as a uniquely American problem, it is increasingly emblematic of the Canadian experience as well. Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan: A Public Health Approach, by Dr. Jason Demers, illustrates how Saskatchewan boasts one of the most highly strained provincial prison systems in the country. Saskatchewan prisons currently house “almost twice as many inmates as they were designed for.” To accommodate this crisis, classrooms, gymnasiums, workshops, and visiting rooms are being converted into dormitories, and most of the province’s cells are being double bunked - with triple-bunking a distinct possibility in the future. The effects of this overcrowding on the living conditions of the inmates in these institutions are alarming. Through a series of interviews with government officials, prison justice advocates, former inmates and their families, Dr. Demers documents a series of troubling findings due to overcrowding in SK prisons, and concludes the report with a summary of recommendations that could reverse the further deterioration of the provincial prison system. - See more at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/warehousing-prisoners-saskatchewan#sthash.LBdWUm1E.dpuf

In the U.S., “warehouse prisons,” where activities, programming, and mobility have been deemphasized and prisoners are merely stored like objects to serve out their sentences, are increasingly becoming the norm. While we may think of prison warehousing as a uniquely American problem, it is increasingly emblematic of the Canadian experience as well. Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan: A Public Health Approach, by Dr. Jason Demers, illustrates how Saskatchewan boasts one of the most highly strained provincial prison systems in the country. Saskatchewan prisons currently house “almost twice as many inmates as they were designed for.” To accommodate this crisis, classrooms, gymnasiums, workshops, and visiting rooms are being converted into dormitories, and most of the province’s cells are being double bunked - with triple-bunking a distinct possibility in the future. The effects of this overcrowding on the living conditions of the inmates in these institutions are alarming. Through a series of interviews with government officials, prison justice advocates, former inmates and their families, Dr. Demers documents a series of troubling findings due to overcrowding in SK prisons, and concludes the report with a summary of recommendations that could reverse the further deterioration of the provincial prison system. - See more at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/warehousing-prisoners-saskatchewan#sthash.LBdWUm1E.dpuf

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After California Decriminalized Marijuana, Teen Arrest, Overdose, and Dropout Rates Fell
"A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice adds to the growing body of evidence that legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana does not lead to any number of doomsday scenarios envisioned by legalization opponents. Looking specifically at California, where full marijuana decriminalization went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, the report finds that 'marijuana decriminalization in California has not resulted in harmful consequences for teenagers, such as increased crime, drug overdose, driving under the influence, or school dropout. In fact, California teenagers showed improvements in all risk areas after reform.'"

View the Report

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Why Police Lineups will never be Perfect
"Eyewitness testimony is hugely influential in criminal cases. And yet, brain research has shown again and again that human memory is unreliable: Every time a memory is recalled it becomes vulnerable to change. Confirming feedback .... seems to distort memories, making them feel more accurate with each recollection. Since the start of the Innocence Project 318 cases have been overturned thanks to DNA testing. Eyewitness mistakes played a part in nearly three-quarters of them."

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California Voters to Decide on Sending Fewer Criminals to Prison
"Twenty years ago, amid a national panic over crime, California voters adopted the country’s most stringent three-strikes law, sentencing repeat felons to 25 years to life, even if the third offense was a minor theft.

The law epitomized the tough-on-crime policies that produced overflowing prisons and soaring costs.

Now California voters appear poised to scale back the heavy reliance on incarceration they once embraced, with a measure that would transform several lower-level, nonviolent felonies into misdemeanors punishable by brief jail stays, if that, rather than time in a state penitentiary. The referendum on Nov. 4 is part of a national reappraisal of mass incarceration."

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Police-reported Cybercrime in Canada, 2012
"In 2012, 9,084 incidents of cybercrime were reported by select police services policing 80% of the population of Canada.  this represented a rate of 33 cybercrime incidents per 100,000 population.

The most common type of cybercrime was fraud, accounting for more than half (54%) of all police reported cybercrimes in 2012.  Intimidation violations, composed of violations involving the threat of violence, accounted for 20% of police reported cybercrimes in 2012, while 16% of cybercrimes involved a sexual cyber-related violation."

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Librarians Won't Stay Quiet About Government Surveillance 
"In September 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft called out the librarians. The American Library Association and civil liberties groups, he said, were pushing 'baseless hysteria' about the controversial Patriot Act. He suggested that they were worried that spy agencies wanted to know 'how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.'

Ashcroft was 17 speeches into a national speaking tour defending the Patriot Act, a law expanding government surveillance powers that passed nearly unanimously in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And all along the way, the librarians showed up to protest.

In the case of government surveillance, they are not shushing. They've been among the loudest voices urging freedom of information and privacy protections.

Edward Snowden's campaign against the National Security Agency's data collection program has energized this group once again. And a new call to action from the ALA's president means their voices could be louder and more coordinated than ever."

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Born Suspect: Stop-and-Frisk Abuses & the Continued Fight to End Racial Profiling in America
"NAACP’s groundbreaking report opens a renewed dialogue about racial profiling by law enforcement in America. This conversation includes a call to action for NAACP members to work toward ending this ineffective policing practice across the country."

View the Report

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Criminalizing Prostitution will not make it Safer for Prostitutes says Panel at University of Guelph
 With commentary by Centre alumna Prof. Rashmee Singh

"Bill C-36 will change the laws around prostitution in Canada, but will it actually make life safer for prostitutes?

That was the question put to a panel of experts at a discussion at the University of Guelph, hosted by the criminal justice and public policy program and the Institute for Liberal Studies Wednesday afternoon."

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Slave-like Conditions: Abuse of Foreign Workers in Canada
Recently there has been growing concern about the return or expansion of slavery globally. Some have suggested that neoliberal globalization has resulted in a decline in workers’ rights and labor protections that leave workers vulnerable to conditions that are less than reflective of a “free” labor market. Still much of this concern remains focused on poorer economies or contexts outside of liberal democratic government structures. Certainly many would be skeptical about any notion that slavery, or conditions akin to slavery would be found in a liberal democratic nation such as Canada, which is still viewed internationally as a progressive upholder of human rights.

Yet, on May 23, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal released its findings that the owners and operators of a tree planting firm in the interior of British Columbia (B.C.) had indeed run a “slave-like” work camp in the province. The ruling stated that the company Khaira Enterprises had racially discriminated against 55 African workers, most originally from Congo (and most of whom have been made refugees), including many women.

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A Cop's In-born Ability to Multitask Impacts Decision to Shoot, Researcher Says

A series of police shootings of unarmed black men in the U.S. triggered research into the minds of officers that, according to a lead researcher, is relevant to any community struggling to understand a controversial police shooting.

To a Canadian policewoman who was shot, that research is important ammunition in the argument that officers’ mental health must be protected.

Heather Kleider-Offutt, chair of Cognitive Sciences in the psychology department at Georgia State University, began studying the working memory of police officers in shooting situations because of social “upheaval” in Atlanta over police shootings.

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Insight: Canada's Divided Cities
Class is more than a socio-economic construct; its divides are inscribed on the geography of cities and metro areas.

Just as the rise of the knowledge economy has created a job market that is split between high wage knowledge jobs and lower wage service jobs, middle class neighborhoods have been hollowed out as the geography of cities and metropolitan areas has become increasingly divided between rich and poor neighborhoods. Recent research shows that Canada’s major metro areas, notably Toronto and Vancouver, have fallen victim to these urban class divides.

View the Divided Cities Report

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Civil Rights, Big Data, and Our Algorithmic Future
The key decisions that shape people's lives - decisions about jobs, healthcare, housing, education, criminal justice, and other key areas - are, more and more often, being made automatically by computers.  As a result, a growing number of important conversations about civil rights, which focus on how these decision are made, are also becoming discussions about how computer systems work.

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Prison Bankers Cash in on Captive Customers
This is the first in a two-part series examining how financial companies charge high fees to the families of prison inmates.

JPay and other prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives, the Center for Public Integrity found in a six-month investigation.


Megabanks Have the Federal Prison System Locked Up
This is the second in a two-part series examining how financial companies impose high costs on the families of prison inmates.

On Wall Street, Bank of America plays a perpetual second fiddle to JPMorgan Chase & Co., the only U.S. bank that holds more assets.

A few blocks north, however, at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center, there exists a market that Bank of America has locked down, literally. For the 790 federal prisoners incarcerated at MCC, Bank of America controls the provision of money transfers, e-messaging and some telephone services.

The bank’s monopoly extends across the federal Bureau of Prisons system—121 institutions housing 214,365 inmates. Since 2000, Bank of America has collected at least $76.3 million for its work on the program.

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U.S. Prisoners, a Growing Population, Experience Accelerated Aging While Incarcerated
If you are an aging prisoner in the United States, 50 is the new 65.

This phenomenon is called “accelerated aging” and according to the Urban Institute’s KiDeuk Kim and Bryce Peterson, “the physiological age of some older prisoners is up to 15 years greater than their chronological age.” This is in stark contrast to outside prison walls where our youth-oriented culture labels “40 as the new 30,” “60 as the new 50,” and so on.

Older prisoners -- a demographic that is growing rapidly -- face numerous hardships and injustices from incarceration, including : having their chronic health conditions ignored or mistreated; physical threats from younger prisoners; the need for special equipment, including wheelchairs and walkers to be able to ambulate around their prisons; difficulties climbing on and off top bunks; trouble hearing, making it challenging to discern orders from guards; and mental health issues, many of which are the result of prolonged imprisonment.

View the Report
 

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Police and Crime Rates in Canada
There is growing public concern over the rising cost and sustainability of police services given that crime rates continue to decline. Indeed, between 2001 and 2012, the number of police officers per 100,000 population in Canada rose 8.7% while the crime rate declined by 26.3%.

This study reviews the literature on the relationship between police resources and crime rates and then examines trends in crime rates and police resources in Canada. It also estimates the “efficiency” of police staffing across Canadian cities using a determinants approach that first estimates the relationship between the number of police officers per 100,000 in population and the crime rate, controlling for other factors. It then uses that relationship to estimate the predicted number of officers relative to the actual figure. The purpose is to assess whether the efficiency of municipal policing can be improved.

View the Report

Another Perspective:  Jack Knox: Documentation Rules Make Fighting Crime a Costly Business

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Most Sex Workers in Canada "Don't See Themselves as Victims," National Study Finds
Most sex workers in Canada are comfortable in their work, according to a landmark national survey of prostitutes, their partners, clients and managers.

Researchers were in Ottawa on Monday and Tuesday to present preliminary findings from Understanding Sex Work, an ambitious ongoing study of the industry, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

During debate over the Conservative government’s new prostitution law, which seeks to criminalize the purchase of sex with the goal of abolishing the industry, the bill’s supporters have portrayed sex work as intrinsically exploitive.

But the study, which is based on hundreds of interviews in six Canadian communities, found that 70 per cent of sex workers are satisfied with their jobs. Eighty-two per cent feel they are appropriately paid and 68 per cent feel they have good job security.

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Crime Prevention Ottawa Releases Gang Plan
One year later, Crime Prevention Ottawa has released what they believe is a positive update on the approach being taken to combat gangs in the city.

They've come up with a list of eight initiatives they're working on.

Those are; building a community leadership network for families, developing a post-incident neighbourhood support protocol, enhancing risk identification tools, supporting families with at-risk siblings, hosting training events, providing contact information for provincial services and resources, talking to police and other officials about "exit strategies" during incarceration and after release, and continued enforcement.

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Federal Prosecutions for the 21st Century
This new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law proposes modernizing one key aspect of the criminal justice system: federal prosecutors. Prosecutors are in a uniquely powerful position to bring change, since they make decisions about when and whether to bring criminal charges, and make recommendations for sentencing. The report proposes reorienting the way prosecutors’ “success” is measured around three core goals: Reducing violent and serious crime, reducing prison populations, and reducing recidivism. The mechanism for change would be a shift in how attorneys' performance is assessed, to give prosecutors incentives to focus on how their practices reduce crime in and improve the communities they serve, instead of making their "success" simply a measure of how many individuals they convict and send to prison.

View the Full Report

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Prison Policy Initiative: Criminal Justice Research Clearinghouse. Updates for Sept. 23, 2014

Does Immigration Enforcement Reduce Crime? Evidence from "Secure Communities"California Prison Downsizing and Its Impact on Local Criminal Justice SystemsAging Behind Bars: Trends and Implications of Graying Prisoners in the Federal Prison SystemAdventures in Risk: Predicting Violent and Sexual Recidivism in Sentencing Law The Effect of Collateral Consequence Laws on State Rates of Returns to Prison  And more...  

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