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


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)


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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