MORE CARE/DON’T CARE

“……no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” NELSON MANDELA

Picking up from last week with the fate of terminally ill inmates, there is a provision in Section 121 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act permitting compassionate parole for the terminally ill.

Of the 542 federal prison deaths between 2007 and 2017, ill health killed 366.  These inmates might/could/should have qualified for release to community hospice care under the CCRA.  However, only four or five compassionate paroles are granted each year, and the rest died before parole boards processed decisions.  Really?  A terminally ill man or woman without palliative care, and Mickey Mouse pain management, must have a parole board decision?  (Research shows that 50 per cent of prisoners in chronic or acute pain are given nothing stronger than Tylenol 3s.)

As for MAID, Correctional Service of Canada may still not have an assisted death policy, and inmates could have to secure a compassionate parole, and then await transfer to the community before applying.  According to a CSC spokesperson last fall, there have been six requests, but only one inmate met the criteria and that prisoner was already in the community.  The inmate died before the hospital could provide the procedure.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that delay, and we shouldn’t be surprised that CSC health care would prefer that no inmate meets MAID criteria.

We should be concerned….alright, we should be outraged….that our domesticated animals have greater legal safeguards around death and dying than the men and women in our jails and prisons.

As it is, dying in prison today means dying alone, dying without best care, and dying with only a few strangers lingering in the distance.

Now, turning to health care issues for the living……..

Spokespeople for Correctional Service of Canada, and its counterparts in the provinces, have always insisted the men and women in their custody….and care….have the same access to health care that is available to us all.  What’s on paper tends to support the claim….practice and delivery say otherwise.

We’ll flesh this out next week.

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HEALTH CARE/HEALTH DON’T CARE

Getting sick, getting old in our “prison industry.”

In a word, DON’T!

Canada’s provincial and federal penal systems spend tens of millions of dollars each year on health care, including funding for mental health services.

So why then do complaints about health care in our federal system, as an example, top the list of what comes to the attention of the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, the country’s ombudsman for offenders? There is no equivalent for our provincial jail inmates, no at-arms-length substantive recourse, and complainants who use what processes exist are basically left blowing in the wind.

The law in Canada says that although prisoners are deprived of liberty while they are incarcerated, all other human rights remain intact. Legally, mistreatment of any kind, or lack of proper treatment, is out, and that includes an entitlement to the same access to health care as the rest of us.

Available information from Correctional Service of Canada presents a best profile of conditions affecting the health and end of life issues for CSC’s roughly 14 to 15 thousand offenders. About a quarter, around 3,500, is over 50, and in the agency’s parlance they are ‘senior citizens.’ It admits a prison environment will knock up to 10 years off life expectancies, although inmate lifestyles are a contributing factor of some significance. It doesn’t add that the consequences of inmate poor health choices are exacerbated by the difficulties is accessing institutional health care.

Award winning author Sandra Miller wrote “Our aging prisoners deserve proper health care” for the Globe and Mail last October, noting she’d never considered the way prisoners die until she attended a conference on end of life issues last fall.

The number of older prisoners will rise with time and most who die in custody succumb to cancer, heart attacks or liver failure. She asks why we should care “if an inmate old enough to be somebody’s grandparent dies in a cell without adequate medical treatment, access to appropriate palliative care or medical assistance in dying? I think there are three reasons: compassion, equality and autonomy.”

…….continuing next week……….

“…..no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” NELSON MANDELA

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than physical courage

This is another narrative composed by Brennan Guigue while in the Toronto South Detention Centre in 2016. This was written in late February and early March, and underscores our folly in supporting a multi-billion dollar a year self-perpetuating and failed prison industry.

My life has been filled with pain, mistrust, and lies. Early on it was mostly ‘people’ offering me “things” for my own good with one hand…., and ‘slapping’ me with the other. I always fell for the ruse due to my need for acceptance and love/friendship. However, I soon developed a mistrust of authority and decided that I needed to look out for myself. My attitude was that most people just wanted whatever they could get from ‘you’, so why shouldn’t I?

I still felt the need for acceptance and all that, but it was significantly less of a feeling than before….actually, I’m not sure that’s true.

Even today it is still a very strong desire/need within myself. So much so that I often get into trouble because of it. I developed anger/behavioural problems early on as a result of being raped and forced to perform sexual acts by my biological father. I truly believe that had I been treated as a ‘sick’ child rather than a ‘bad’ child….I would NOT be where I am today.

The Crown Attorney talks about a Dangerous Offender application on the basis that……., there’s no place for someone who poses an undue risk like me in society. I ask you….how am I supposed to have the proper skills to function in any particular environment when I have NEVER truly felt a part of said ‘environment’?!

I cannot recall EVER not feeling like an outsider, always ‘looking in’. As a child, my favourite t.v. show was The Little House on the Prairie. Why…? Because, Mr. Ingalls was ALWAYS there for his children. He even took in a ‘wayward’ boy, and adopted him as his son…., was firm but loving.

Even at 10, 11, 12 years of age, I knew what was missing in my life. That knowledge did not help my outlook on life because I didn’t have the knowledge of how to fill that gap. I wanted a relationship with my dad SO bad that my mind repressed (overlooked) the abuse from my early years. The problem there was that he didn’t care about me enough to be around.

Of course that didn’t bother me whenever he did come around because I was so busy thinking how ‘cool’ he was – and how I desperately needed to prove that I was worthy of his love – that I forgot about all the rest. Not that I remembered the abuse at that age; that didn’t begin to come to light until my memories began unlocking themselves around age 21.

After he’d leave with promises to return, I’d be SO happy and proud to have him as my dad that my behaviour would excel. My grades/behaviour at school would drastically improve……, I was euphoric. Bliss.

But, time after time he’s let me down, and the anger would return and perhaps that’s why ‘those’ around me failed to see my pain. To think I was ‘bad’ rather than sick. Period of exceptional – gentlemanly – behaviour mixed with exemplary grades were not beyond my capabilities, and so no one bothered to acknowledge the need for therapy.

Of course, not having the trust in others nor the understanding of what was ‘wrong’ with me, coupled with my me-against-the-world attitude…., I could not ask for help. How could I….? From who….? Mom? She was a ROCK. STRONG. Sacrificing herself – while having issues of her own – in order to provide for three children could not have been easy for a single native woman on welfare.

However those same qualities that helped her – and by proxy, us – to survive prevented her from being the loving, cuddly mother who I could turn to. I now realize that she was my reference guide on how to survive-on-your-own. Her love – when it showed itself – was more like that love one shares with a good buddy.

The ONLY time I ever cried in front of her was whenever she was ‘tanning my behind’, which ceased when I was 12. I was too big (5’7”, 150lbs), it no longer had an effect on me anyway. The last time I was sent to my room for stealing a bag of weed and $40 from one of her friend’s house – to await my ‘whoopin’, – I ran away. At 12 years of age, I survived for 3½ weeks on the street before getting picked up by Hamilton cops and sent back home. That’s when my mom told me she wasn’t gonna bother with the strap anymore.

My father was still coming around every now and then, but was less and less because he was often involved with criminal endeavors which took him in and out of prison (dope selling and the violence associated). Whenever he did come around, he was distant and….., ‘overly generous’, would be the best way to describe him. I didn’t recognize his demeanor until well into adulthood (30s). It was his guilty conscience, the shame he felt about what he’d done to me….and the fear of confrontation which fuelled his generosity and buddy buddy attitude.

When he went to prison I was 15 (1985) and I became enraged at society, the cops, and anyone else in an authoritative capacity for ‘taking my dad away.’ In my sick, twisted sense of loyalty, I could not see that he never deserved such dedication from me….he hadn’t earned it as a father should.

In truth…., I had never ‘had’ him, to be taken away. As the dreams of my childhood drifted further and further away, I sought acceptance from any source I could. This often led me to hang out with older, more ‘seasoned’ bad kids…., even a few young adults. I began doing whatever they did, b & e’s, theft, drugs (did my first shot of cocaine with a needle at 16 with a 22 year-old junkie, Mario).

This was the end of my childhood….my innocence had been stolen loooong before. I just didn’t know it.

The only way to describe the next several years is to say that I drifted from place to place……from ‘being’ to being lost. I soon found myself in Toronto at age 18, again living with ‘unsavoury’ people. On the street doing dope – crack……, thinking I was ‘free’. This was clearly an illusion as I know now that I’ve always been in ‘prison’…, never truly ‘free’.

So I continued like this – becoming an addict, getting in wherever I could fit in, and living with an unconscious sense of self-loathing. One thing I do know is this…..nobody ever hurt me past the age of 12 more than I hurt myself.

When my father was sent to jail when I was 15 years old, I thought – in some maladaptive way – that it was somehow my fault. That, if I had been better behaved then he would have tried harder to be a better person….., a better father.

Yes, I was mad at the world, hated the ‘system’…., but, unwittingly the only one I could see to make suffer was myself. -Rewind-

I should point out some ‘truths’ as they are so that I don’t seem to be “self-pitying”. There were periods in my life where I may have been ‘saved’. From ages 13 to 16 there were a series of CAS interventions (if one can call them that), emotional treatment facilities, group homes, foster care placements, etc. In fact there was so much intervention from CAS through my entire life until the age of 17 that I had been to 18 different schools! In spite of that, I was only one year behind in my studies.

So, what went wrong you ask?

Well….., my anger issues were never properly addressed. Two of the five CAS/Family Court placements were mentally and physically abusive, and I witnessed emotional and sexual abuse. You must understand that it was the 80s. Many of the problems and deficiencies people recognize today were much more prevalent then….., and much less acknowledged back then.

 

……….END OF PART ONE.

The POLICING file – Farewell & Good Luck?

Police, policing, police culture, police budgets get lots of media coverage. Criticism of police, policing, police culture and police budgets get lots of attention. Support for police, policing, police culture and the police budget is front and centre, too.

One deficit is news of the outcomes of the many legal actions in Canada against police. Oddly, we almost never see a suit go to open court; settlements are the usual resolution, and non-disclosure clauses are standard. Most often, we do not even know settlements have been reached. Intentional suppression? And get this, these are our tax dollars at play, and we’re not entitled to an accounting.

There are occasional disclosures of the millions paid over periods of years by our governments to satisfy these suits. But, it takes the persistence of journalists and their employers to source this information, and a willingness to risk the displeasure of powerful offices.

What is most striking is how little impact these legal actions have. Yes, it seems Toronto police officers must now be taking public relations courses, but to what end? And yes, we believe there are people in public service dedicated to supporting best practices. Nonetheless, police culture must be entrenched in the status quo and beyond any easy redemption.

We contest turnoverarocktoday’s simplistic labeling as anti-police, but with so many voices in the arena already, we also believe our resources are better directed elsewhere. Our prison industry is so heavily shrouded against the public eye as to invite suspicion of wide-spread malpractice, for instance. More attention is warranted there.

John Sewell’s Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, journalist/activist Desmond Cole and his supporters in this city, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association cover policing extensively. The African Canadian Legal Clinic continues to operate in spite of funding setbacks, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission has just called a public interest inquiry into racial profiling by Toronto Police. There are many others.

We’ll leave this work to them, but will keep watch, update files, and post a ‘policing’ comment when compelled. As with anything, anywhere, and at any time, the biggest impediment to change is the missing voices of the masses.

Let’s move on.

Police Games III – Marci Ien

Marci Ien is a multiple award winning Canadian broadcast journalist, currently cohosting CTV’s daytime panel talk show, The Social. The Globe and Mail published her op-ed piece, “Driving while black – in Canada”, on February 26.

In it, she wrote of her third stop in eight months by police while driving. She had dropped her daughter off at her sister’s house for a sleepover on a quiet Sunday evening in mid-February. The streets were unusually empty, but as she pulled into the driveway of her home of the last 13 years, a police cruiser came up behind her with its lights flashing.

She was ordered back into her car when she tried to speak to the officer, and was ordered to close the car door again when she stepped out as he approached. Apparently, she had rolled through a stop sign at her daughter’s school a half kilometre away. The officer asked if she lived in her home even after seeing the address on her driver’s licence and then took her i.d, license, registration, and ownership back to the cruiser for a few moments. He returned to say she was getting off with a warning. Throughout the exchange, she described his tone as alarming. She asked to be ticketed, told the officer of her past experiences with the police and how she did not feel respected, served for protected. “He looked at me, bid me good night and walked away,” she wrote.

We sent her a letter of encouragement:-

February 28, 2018

Marci Ien, The Social,
CTV,
P.O. Box 9, Station ‘O’,
Toronto, ON M4A 2M9

Re: “Driving while black – in Canada”
        Globe and Mail, Monday, February 26, 2018

Dear Ms Ien:

Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to put this on paper. It’s important for people who have a voice to remind us of conditions that regrettably still exist in this country.

You’re not the first person with a high public profile to experience overt racism from our police officers. You’re not the first person with a high public profile to go public with what happened to you, and how it made you feel. But, none of that has seemed to impact for positive change. And, we have a black chief of police. Or, is this because we have a black chief of police?

I do understand your anxiety at the time; still, a public servant trespassed on your property without cause. It’s important to remember two things, at least from the perspective of a white senior citizen like me. First, police college 101 teaches recruits to “get on top”, “stay on top”, be in control. Ergo, be firm in response. You’re really the person in charge. Second, when that police officer got out bed that morning and dressed, your tax dollars paid for his underwear.

Finally, what’s the worst that can happen? Toronto pays for a South Pacific cruise for you and your family.

Keep the conversation going.

Charles H. Klassen

cc Mark Saunders, Chief of Police, Toronto Police Service

The police were quick to react to the article, rejecting her claims of racism. Two senior officers tweeted a justification for the stop, and, along with the chief, claimed the videotape of the incident did not provide the officer with enough light to distinguish the race of the driver. The head of the police union tweeted a reference to a 2005 interview in which Ms Ien showed a cavalier attitude toward the rules of the road.

One important and overriding question which Ms Ien asks is why she wasn’t stopped when the traffic violation occurred, rather than in her driveway a half kilometre later. The question is ignored, but we can be sure the officer in the cruiser was running her plate and knew who she was and where she lived by the time he pulled into her driveway. Why then his questioning?

Take note too that police have been dismissive of video footage in the past as irrelevant, incomplete and distorting the facts when it shows them in a bad light.

Toronto Police communications’ director Mark Pugash concluded his comments on this by saying, “Ms. Ien has made some very serious allegations and we would encourage her to file a complaint.”

We suggested that she had:-

March 12, 2018

Mark Pugash, Director, Corporate Communications,
Toronto Police Service,
40 College Street,
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3

Re: Marci Ien

Dear Director Pugash:

I’m sorry, but the TPS and the police association counter punches to Marci Ien’s op-ed, “Driving while black – in Canada” come across as floundering knee-jerk reactions to one of this country’s not-so-dark secrets.

As an example, what video footage does or does not show discounts how ambient light varies on vehicles moving through it, and what a naked eye might distinguish. What is most telling about this one February evening though is Ms Ien’s comment, “The stop signal at my daughter’s school is half a kilometre away; why wasn’t I pulled over there? Why did he follow me home? Why, after seeing the address on my driver’s licence did he still ask if I live at my home?”

As for Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack’s response, he’s worth every penny he earns. Like you, he often works diligently to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

File a complaint, you suggested to Ms. Ien. Why, she did, and to the most relevant of bodies….the court of public opinion.

Regretfully, Director Pugash, no sale.

Charles H. Klassen

cc Marci Ien, The Social
Mark Saunders, Chief, Toronto Police Service
Mario Di Tommaso, Staff Superintendent, TPS
Shawna Coxon, Deputy Chief, TPS
Michael McCormick, President, Toronto Police Association

Police Games II – Sammy Yatim

“Forcillo’s team cites ‘fresh evidence’ in appeal.” Toronto Star, Feb. 18. Of course!

Constable James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder after shooting 18 year-old Sammy Yatim eight times on a Toronto streetcar on the evening of July 27, 2013. A ninth shot missed. This police killing wouldn’t have gone beyond a Special Investigations Unit examination and follow-up exoneration if it wasn’t for video taken by a passer-by.

See “A badge but no gun?” from May 22nd of 2016. Forcillo was not the first police officer on the scene. He wasn’t the third or the fourth. But, he began firing at this mentally distressed teenager carrying a small knife (one source reported it had a 3-inch blade) within seconds of arriving on the scene. Yatim was on the streetcar….the police were many feet away, and only Forcillo had his gun out at that point, and only Forcillo discharged his weapon.

The first three shots were fatal. Yatim fell to the streetcar floor. Forcillo then fired six more times six seconds later for “good measure”, as we put it 2016. One missed. A jury ruled the first three shots were justified (I kid you not!), but the others were overkill and thus the attempted murder conviction. Weird. Compounding the indignity, a dying Yatim was tasered by a second officer after he was down.

Forcillo had been on bail pending an appeal, but breached his conditions last year and is now in prison, awaiting the outcome of that appeal. A few weeks after bail was revoked, he was charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice.

So, what is this ‘fresh evidence’? Forcillo’s lawyers argue that research not heard at trial establishes that the officer was likely experiencing “perceptual distortions” when he fired the second volley, thinking Yatim was getting up after a shot through the heart moments earlier.

Even if one accepts that the first three shots were justified….after all, Sammy Yatim was as much a threat to an armed and armored Forcillo as is a cream pie thrown at a charging bull….his lawyers are still pushing the credibility envelope. But then, they’ll do this for as long as there’s a chance to justify this killing. After all, they have our money to work with.

There’s an eerie similarity here to the police shooting of Michael Eligon on February 3 in 2012, when the 29 year-old black father walked out of Toronto East General Hospital, where he was undergoing a 72-hour mental health assessment, wearing only a hospital gown and socks. He stole two pair of scissors from a local store and was wandering a neighbourhood street. Surrounded by police, one drew his revolver and fired three times. Two shots missed. The third killed the man. A resident’s video recorded the sounds of the gunfire, but not the scene. The police were cleared by the Special Investigations Unit.

What’s the biggest difference between Yatim and Eligon? A camera!

Police Games I – Dafonte Miller

Did the police try to cover-up malfeasance and maleficence?

Go back to “POLICING….still more….” from September 17 of last fall, and the second section lead, “I CAN’T PICTURE THIS HAPPENING TO A GROUP OF WHITE KIDS”. 19-year-old Dafonte Miller was hospitalized with a broken nose, broken orbital bone, fractured wrist, and a badly damaged left eye that had to be removed, following a beating by an off-duty Toronto police officer and his brother, and which included 10 strikes with a metal pipe.

It was the early hours of December 28, 2016 on a street in Whitby, Ontario, and, oh yes, Dalfonte and the friends with him are black. This incident wasn’t reported to the Special Investigations Unit as is required, and the SIU didn’t begin to investigate until Miller’s lawyer Julian Falconer contacted them months later.

Justification? For either the beating, or the failure to report? There doesn’t seem to be, but be certain that Durham, Toronto and Waterloo police are working to make a supporting case on one hand, and to shift focus onto Dalfonte Miller on the other. (Toronto Police Service brought in the Waterloo police to look into this, and say its report will be made public.)

Toronto constable Michael Theriault and his younger brother, Christian, were each charged in 2017 with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon…..and public mischief, for misleading police investigators. Their father, John Theriault, is also a Toronto police officer who was with the force’s professional standards unit at the time, and is accused by Falconer of attempting to conceal his sons’ alleged crimes. According to Toronto Mayor John Tory in a Toronto Star February 21 story, the senior Theriault is no longer in that position.

A preliminary hearing began on Tuesday, February 20 in an Oshawa courtroom. The court was scheduled to hear evidence through that week, and it’s all covered by a court-ordered publication ban. It’s scheduled to continue in May.

Michael Theriault with his lawyer made a first appearance before the Toronto police misconduct tribunal on Tuesday, February 27. The constable is charged under Ontario’s Police Services Act with misconduct “in that you did act in a disorderly manner….likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Toronto Police Service.” Further, after the alleged assault on Miller causing “serious injury”, Theriault provided the Durham police on the scene with “an account of the confrontation…..which was not accurate.”

After this initial appearance, the police tribunal proceedings have been put off until the criminal charges are resolved.