Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Bill C-51 Backgrounder #2: The Canadian Security Intelligence Service's Proposed Power to "Reduce" Security Threats Through Conduct that may Violate the Law and Charter
"If bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be expressly authorized to 'take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce' very broadly defined 'threats to the security of Canada'. Where authorized by Federal Court warrant, these 'measures' may 'contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms' or may be 'contrary to other Canadian law'.

The CSIS changes are dramatic, even radical. In 1984, parliamentarians granted CSIS a very broad mandate – found in the definition of 'threat to the security of Canada' in s.2 of its Act – but were careful to accord it very limited powers. It has been an intelligence service – it collects and analyzes information and supplies assessments to the government.
That will change in Bill C-51.

The government proposes radically restructuring CSIS and turning it into a 'kinetic' service taking physical action well beyond intelligence collection — and competent to act beyond the law and even the constitution. We doubt the legality of this proposal for a number of reasons explored in detail in our backgrounder."

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Want to Stop Police Brutality? Start Disciplining Officers
"As they strive to solve the public crisis of police use-of-force incidents, illuminated again by the deaths of several black victims last year, officials from the White House on down have coalesced around 'community policing''  When it comes to influencing the national conversation on a local issue like this, it doesn't get more official than the U.S. Conference of Mayors, or USCM.  The non-partisan organization is comprised of more than one thousand mayors representing the nation's largest cities.  Its mission is to shape national urban policy and the positions adopted at their annual meeting are distributed to the President of the United States and to Congress.

On January 30, the USCM released a report on strengthening 'police-community' relations in American cities.  the six-page report came full of recommendations for everything from 'youth study circles' to new equipment.  The report was completed with the help of a working group of police chiefs, including Philadelphia Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the man appointed by President Obama to chair his Task Force on 21st Century Policing in response to rising unrest around the issue of police brutality.  

Absent from their suggestions, however was a single mention of officer discipline...."  

What Caused the Crime Decline?
"What Caused the Crime Decline? examines one of the nation's least understood recent phenomena - the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades - and analyzes various theories for why it occurred, by reviewing more than 40 years of data from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities.  It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline.  In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years.  Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000.  

More important were various social, economic, and environmental factors, such as growth in income and an aging population.  The introduction of CompStat, a data-driven policing technique,also played a significant role in reducing crime in cities that introduced it. 

The report concludes that considering the immense social, fiscal, and economic costs of mass incarceration, programs that improve economic opportunities, modernize policing practices, and expand treatment and rehabilitation programs, all could be a better public safety investment." 


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Report: Human Trafficking, Other Forms of Exploitation and Prevention Policies
"This report was jointly financed by the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) and the Government of Canada’s National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC).  The report explores strategies and initiatives related to the prevention of human trafficking that have been implemented in various developed countries. It covers the following themes: strategies aimed at combating human trafficking; enumeration; dissemination and coordination between the various levels to prevent and combat human trafficking; data collection systems; position in relation to application and evaluation."

4th International Report on Crime Prevention and Community Safety
"The fourth edition of the International Report is concerned with the overarching theme of the movement of people and how cities, their new arrivals, and existing residents are adapting to this increasingly pressing global phenomenon. As always, the Report begins with a review of trends in crime and violence internationally, and in the practice of crime prevention. Four separate chapters look in more detail at issues which have significant impacts especially at the local level in all parts of the world, and at how cities in particular are responding. They examine the rapidly expanding migration of people - across borders and regions, and within countries - to cities and urban areas; the migration of indigenous peoples to urban areas; the continuing issue of human trafficking and its prevention; and the persistent and troubling problem of intimate partner violence against women. Migration and trafficking are all global problems with strong local impacts, and often closely linked."
Mandatory Minimum Sentences are Bad for Communities
"In 2012, the Harper government made a number of changes to Canadian criminal law. These changes introduces a suite of new mandatory minimum prison sentences; changed how credit for dead time in pre-sentence detention is calculated, restricted parole and access to pardons; imposed new victim fines for all offenses; and put restrictions on who can get serve their sentence in the community rather than going to jail.

The government claimed these changes were necessary to protect victims of crime and to keep our communities safe. But even a minor scratch at the conservative logic reveals that the law and order agenda is, out of step with Canadian values, fundamentally unfair, expensive, unnecessary, and ineffective."
The Psychology of Cruelty: Recognizing Grave Mental Harm in American Prisons
"Over the past forty years, American prisons have increasingly relied on a brutal method of confinement that inflicts sever suffering on prisoners.  Inmates confined in this manner have endured symptoms ranging from hallucinations and perceptual distortions to self-mutilation and suicidal ideation.  Walking past these inmates, one can observe babbling, shrieking, and the banging of prisoners' bodies against the walls of their cells.  There is no dispute that this method of confinement has a terrible effect on prisoners' well-being, and yet because it inflicts mental harm, rather than physical harm, courts have largely turned a blind eye.

Solitary confinement - the confinement of a prisoner in isolation with limited chance for social interaction or environmental stimulus - has existed in America for centuries, but until the late twentieth century, it was rarely used.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the use of solitary confinement began to expand, as prisons started to employ it not only for discipline and safety, but also, in America's supermax prisons, as a method of long-term imprisonment.  Supermax prisons - prisons that house inmates in perpetual conditions of solitary confinement - have continued to spread across the country since the first one opened in 1983.  Today, about forty states have at least one supermax prison, and nearly sixty total facilities are in operation around the country.  Though estimates vary, most conclude that about 25,000 inmates are currently incarcerated in supermax facilities, with another 55,000 in solitary confinement outside the supermax setting."
 
The Death of Jill Meagher: Crime and Punishment on Social Media
"In this paper we analyse the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jill Meagher as a case study to highlight a range of issues that emerge in relation to criminalisation, crime prevention and policing strategies on social media - issues that, in our opinion, require immediate and thorough theoretical engagement.  An in-depth analysis of Jill Meagher's case and its newsworthiness in terrestrial media is a challenging task that is beyond the scope of this paper; rather, the focus for this particular paper is on the process of agenda-building, particularly via social media, and the impact of the social environment and the capacity of 'ordinary' citizens to influence the agenda-defining process.  In addition, we outline other issues that emerged in the aftermath of this case, such as the depth of the target audience on social media, the threat of a 'trial by social media' and the place of social media in the context of pre-crime and surveillance debates.  Through the analysis of research date we establish some preliminary findings and call for more audacious and critical engagement by criminologists and social scientists in addressing the challenges posed by new technologies."

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The Need for Democratization of Digital Security to Ensure the Right to Freedom of Expression.  Joint submission of the Citizen Lab (Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto)
"In response to the call for submissions of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression regarding the use of encryption and anonymity in digital communications, the Citizen Lab and independent research Collin Anderson have submitted a joint analysis, entitled "The need for democratization of digital security solutions to ensure the right to freedom of expression."  The submission explores the expression and privacy of civil society actors, many of which are subject to politically-motivated digital surveillance and censorship."

Incarceration's Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America
"Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial disparities disproportionately impact communities of color. This report reviews existing research and data to take a deeper look at [America's] misuse of local jails and to determine how we arrived at this point. It also highlights jurisdictions that have taken steps to mitigate negative consequences, all with the aim of informing local policymakers and their constituents who are interested in in reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and promoting stronger, healthier communities."

View the Full Report

Friday, February 6, 2015

Anti-Terrorism Bill "more about Politics than Public Safety," says Civil Liberties Lawyer
"Anti-terrorism legislation Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled last week gives the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service sweeping new powers that would allow the spy agency to use any undefined measure—other than the use of lethal force, perversion of justice or 'violating the sexual integrity' of an individual—in a new role empowering it to disrupt national security threats, but one of Canada’s most prominent civil liberties and human rights lawyers says it's 'more about politics than public safety.'

The three limitations, along with the stipulation a judge’s warrant would be required before CSIS agents could take measures that would violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are the only defined limits to CSIS operations under new provisions that expand its role from surveillance, security investigations and counter-espionage to a mandate to 'disrupt' suspected terror plots in the planning stages, lawyer Paul Champ told The Hill Times."

Five Years of Solitude: The Use of Segregation in NS Prisons Numbers in the Thousands
"Over the last five years, solitary confinement has been used in Nova Scotia’s prisons 8,516 times. More than 2,000 of those cases involve young offenders. There were over 1,000 cases of solitary confinement in 2014 alone....

There’s no refuting the decades of evidence that segregation is damaging to prisoners. Aside from over a century of academic studies, organizations such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the United Nations have all recently condemned solitary’s practice in North American prisons. Humans are social animals. Isolating a person causes harm, and harms the already vulnerable the most. It quickly causes psychosis, depression, insomnia, aggression, paranoia and hallucinations. The UN’s special rapporteur on torture has called on all countries to ban the use of extended segregation, claiming just 15 days in solitary confinement is enough to cause irreversible psychological damage."

Related Article:  Assaults Nearly Double at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, Records say


How the CIA Made Google: Inside the Secret Network Behind Mass Surveillance
INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet."

 



Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms
"Since 1997, arrest rates among juveniles in the United States have sunk to an all-
time low, and the number of youth incarcerated in state or county correctional facilities has plummeted. After peaking in 1996, arrests of juveniles fell by approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, to their lowest level in 30 years.1

During the same period, youth confinement rates declined almost 50 percent.
  Why are so many fewer youth locked up today compared to nearly 20 years ago? It’s not simply because arrests are down; trends in the 1990s demonstrate that the number of youth incarcerated can actually increase even while arrest rates decline.2

A key reason
that confinement rates for youth have shrunk so considerably is the deliberate efforts made by state and county governments to address youth incarceration—efforts driven by a combination of research, advocacy, litigation, and fiscal considerations."

The Shame of America's Family Detention Camps
"Over the past six years, President Obama has tried to make children the centerpiece of his efforts to put a gentler face on U.S. immigration policy. Even as his administration has deported a record number of unauthorized immigrants, surpassing two million deportations last year, it has pushed for greater leniency toward undocumented children. After trying and failing to pass the Dream Act legislation, which would offer a path to permanent residency for immigrants who arrived before the age of 16, the president announced an executive action in 2012 to block their deportation. Last November, Obama added an executive order to extend those protections to their parents. “We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security,” he said in a speech on Nov. 20. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” But the president’s new policies apply only to immigrants who have been in the United States for more than five years; they do nothing to address the emerging crisis on the border today."

How the Roberts Supreme Court has Strengthened the Powerful and Screwed Everyone Else
"John Roberts is entering the stretch run of his tenth term as chief justice of the United States. In-depth assessments will come, but the preliminary results are plain. The man who vowed to act as a neutral umpire calling balls and strikes has led a Court in which racial and religious minorities, women, workers and consumers have struck out regularly, while the economically and politically powerful have walked around the bases.

The chief justice has emerged as a cunning strategist and leader willing to defy the customs and traditions that buttress the Court’s legitimacy. He has led a Court that has repeatedly overreached by taking cases it does not need to hear, answering questions not squarely before it, and ignoring or overruling longstanding precedent—all in the service of deciding the issues that the conservative majority wants to decide, in the manner it wants to decide them. Roberts has been aided in this effort by Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the Court just months after Roberts and has written some of the most radical decisions of the past nine years."