Change? For real?

We should all spend a few hours once each year watching the proceedings in our municipal council chambers, or sitting in the gallery of our provincial and federal legislative assemblies. It would be just as important to spend a half day in a courtroom….any courtroom. Noble intentions like these are pipe-dreams for the most part, but we need be encouraged nonetheless to monitor the people we place in positions of trust and authority.

We spent most of a day in mid-January in Toronto’s College Park 501 Court which is reserved for bail applications. We watched man after man from the Toronto South Detention Centre, Ontario’s notoriously ineptly run super-jail, comment (note we did not say ‘complain’) about lockdowns, no showers for days, no lawyers, no visitors, and no meds. One lawyer had his client brought up in person, not only to hold over the process to another date, but to have the Court intervene with the jail to have the man’s heart medications available.

Jail workers claim these lockdowns are primarily caused by staff shortages, and this is one of the concerns borne out in Patrick White’s Globe and Mail “Ontario indicates that major prison-system changes are in the works”, published on Saturday, January 16th of this year. According to available figures, the union representing staff say there were more than 900 lockdowns in Ontario’s provincial jails in 2014 because of staff shortages. At the same time, that figure is zero in some other provinces.

The Toronto South experience during 2015 suggests that staff shortages in the summer occurred mostly on the weekends, when too many guards called in sick and left the institution short-handed. To some, this was a union-mandated ploy to draw attention to its cause; to others, it was “barbecue-itis”, an inmate designation.

Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s minister responsible for jails, is calling for some welcome reforms to address the issues which have brought the system to a low regard. Perhaps the most intriguing to us are statistics that show the number of pre-trial inmates in the system currently make up 60% of the jail population, compared to 30% a decade ago. “We don’t deal with capacity issues by building more jails, but by reducing the demand for jails,” according to Minister Naqvi. Mental-health care, and health care in general, are on his list for attention too, after the staffing shortage is addressed.

We can hope the minister’s resolve to push forward his reforms in the prison file are more substantive than his efforts to eliminate police ‘carding’. We’ve written Yasir Naqvi to offer our encouragement……….

January 23, 2016

The Honourable Yasir Naqvi,
Minister of Community Services & Correctional Services,
18th Floor, George Drew Building,
25 Grosvenor Street,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6

Re: “Ontario indicates that major prison-system changes are in the works”
Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dear Minister Naqvi:

I spent most of a day last week in College Park 501 Court (bail applications) to update my observations on the state of the process in Ontario.

Man after man was called up from Toronto South Detention Centre, commenting about lockdowns, no showers, no lawyers, no visits, no meds. Access to lawyers and medications in particular should raise red flags in your Ministry, given the potential liability the provinces faces for damages.

Ontario has a way to go to match operational standards in some other provinces. Too, your intention to reduce the need for jails is both ambitious and warranted.

Be bold!

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

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Brennan Guigue – Justice takes time.

Our latest data revises some of what is published in “The Light Beam Flickers” on November 9th last year. Specifically, the videos are both more and less revealing than we originally understood …. and expected.

Of the five discs received from Correctional Service Canada in response to our Access to Information request, the first copies video shot using a hand-held camera on July 22, 2014 at the Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines north of Montreal. It commences at 5:11 pm on that day and runs for 32 minutes and 26 seconds. This material was quickly reviewed by Brennan last fall.

Discs #2 through #4 repeat what is on disc #1 and adds additional information, presumably shot in the same mode, except that disc #4 also contains material that may come from a fixed camera. Disc #5 appears to contain information from a fixed camera only. None of the material on discs #2 through #5 is readable, other than what we were able to review from disc #1 and it’s repetition on the next three discs.

Correctional Service of Canada has withheld everything other than those 32 minutes and 26 seconds. Stephen Fineberg has filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, suggesting CSC has withheld more than it is legally entitled to prevent us from seeing.

An analysis of that first disc confirms what both CSC and the Office of the Correctional Investigator earlier admitted; namely, the level of force used was inappropriate and inconsistent with their ‘Situation Management Model’, there was no emergency, and the use of OC (pepper spray) was not appropriate.

A closer examination of that video reveals that CSC guards intentionally ignored their employer’s policy, and engaged in prohibited activity. Further, their use of OC did not meet the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper use of the chemical. Most notably, the CSC guards involved in this incident crossed the line into criminality and acted unlawfully under sections of Canada’s Criminal Code. They also violated provisions of the United Nation’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, to which this country is a signatory. At a point in the video after the attack, Brennan warns the six CSC employees they will have to answer for their behaviour.

To go further, staff at the RCC was aware boundaries had been overstepped and substituted Brennan on a “load” to Donnacona the following day, where he was placed in segregation and on cuff status, all in an attempt to hide him away. As previously noted, health care at Donnacona refused to document his injuries.

Brennan has insisted that video shot after what we’ve seen is more incriminating (refer to Just Another Day on the Range? from September 26 of 2014), and we’ve asked Stephen Fineberg to relay this to the OPC.

The printed material and translations are also in our possession. An initial read indicates at least a few contradictions. As expected though, no CSC employee will implicate the wrongdoing of another, or admit to breaking rules or the law themselves. We’ll report more on this after additional study.

As always, please stand by………

Gotta Minute? (18)

“First they arrested the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat so I did nothing. Then they arrested the trade unionists and I did nothing because I was not one. And then they came for the Jews and Catholics, but I was neither a Jew nor a Catholic and I did nothing. At last they came and arrested me – and there was no one left to do anything about it.”
Reverend Marin Niemollor (Nazi prison survivor)

This is what can happen when we don’t pay attention.  Remember…..

….no vigilance, no democracy….

Never stop watching, talking, walking.

‘Carding’…..What we can learn.

This police ‘carding’ business just won’t stop. It won’t go away.

More than two dozen Ontario groups and individuals expressed their concerns in December around how the province’s Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi’s proposed legislation contains too many loopholes and exceptions, and doesn’t reflect the minister’s initial intent to put an end to carding. The “policing industry” has come out with its own differing criticisms of what already appears to be watered-down new rules, and which are currently under a 45 day review.

Our police are of course intimidated by any interference in their operations. It would appear though that somewhere between the minister’s first announcement, and his presentation of the draft legislation, police had already managed to intervene on their own behalf, gaining ground against an all-out ban.

What should we take from this on-going debate? Simply, our police services, public servants though they may be, assume they are a force onto themselves, and intend to broach no encroachment upon claims as an autonomous authority.

How is it possible for specific government agencies to hold such sway over the masters we have put in place to act on our behalf?

How is it possible? Again, we let ‘em.