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."

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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."

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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."

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."

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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."


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."

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)."

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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."
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."

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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"

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."

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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."

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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."

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."

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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
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.'"

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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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

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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."

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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