And the music goes on and on……

The printed material Correctional Service of Canada submitted in response to our information and privacy requests has been reviewed, along with Stephen Fineberg’s translations. Most of the reports, declarations, observations, and evaluations are in French. Just as with the video discs, the delay in analyzing the 40 pages CSC released shows our reluctance to confront what is a difficult event.
Nonetheless, before we comment, further consultation with Brennan Guigue is necessary.

In the meantime, our Montreal lawyer, impatient with the lack of any response from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to a complaint first filed last September, wrote again:-

Stephen Fineberg, Avocat/Attorney,
625, boul. René-Lévesque Ouest,
Suite 900,
Montreal, Québec,
H3B 1R2

February 15, 2016

Monsieur Jean Plamondon,
For the Registrar,
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada,
30 Victoria Street, 1st Floor,
Gatineau, QC K1A 1H3

Re: Complaint re Privacy Request P-2014-04423
& Access Request A-2014-00314

Monsieur Plamondon:

On September 3, 2015, I wrote on behalf of my client, Mr. Brennan Guigue to file a complaint concerning the action taken by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) on my client’s Access and Privacy requests. In response you explained an authorization signed by Mr. Guigue was required for me to serve as his representative. Mr. Guigue accordingly forwarded such an authorization to your office. On November 13, 2015 I again wrote to file a complaint on his behalf. I am writing now to inquire if that complaint has indeed been initiated.

Furthermore, Mr. Guigue wishes to advise your office that he is convinced the video material forwarded by CSC did not include all the footage of him that was recorded by the hand-held camera. To be more specific, he believes CSC has withheld relevant material which the hand-held camera recorded subsequent to the footage which was shared. He asks that your office take this into consideration in your examination of the existing footage of the incident in question.

Sincerely,

Stephen Fineberg
Counsel to Brennan Guigue

Now, while Mr. Fineberg didn’t suggest I intervene, I also wrote to underscore the point he made in his letter:

February 19, 2016

Mr. Jean Plamondon,
For the Registrar,
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada,
30 Victoria Street, 1st Floor,
Gatineau, QC K1A 1H3

Re: Your file 041614
Complaint re Privacy Request P-2014-04423
& Access Request A-2014-00314
Brennan Wayne Guigue

Dear Sir:

I have a copy of Stephen Fineberg’s February 15th follow-up to his November 13, 2014 letter filing a complaint on behalf on Brennan Guigue.

I am Brennan’s father. While I don’t expect your office to include me in your correspondence on this matter, I am compelled to comment on the outrageous behaviour of Correctional Service of Canada.

CSC responded to a request for video files by providing five discs. The same 32 minutes and 26 seconds is readable on the first four. All other information is unavailable. Those 32 minutes and 26 seconds set the stage for what the hand-held camera continued to record after, and the following 45 to 75 minutes at least are most relevant to Brennan’s complaint. Correctional Service of Canada is purposely withholding evidence of its culpability.

You should also note that both Correctional Service of Canada, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator, concluded from their investigation of this July 22, 2014 incident at RCC in Montreal that the level of force used was “inappropriate”.

We expect Correctional Service of Canada to substantiate their own conclusion with the video evidence for which we’ve asked.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

In a later comment on this ‘project’, Stephen intimated that it might be necessary to take this to court to obtain what we should have had in the first place.

And, as a by-the-way, this is apparently not unusual when trying to wrench something from the government’s fingers. Outliving a complainant seems a legitimate ploy from our public servants.

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U.S. dumps more mandatory sentencing.

On the same day that U.S. President Obama banned youth solitary confinement in federal prisons (Monday, January 25, 2016), the U.S. Supreme Court expanded its ban on mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for inmates convicted of murders committed before age 18. It argued that even those imprisoned years ago should have an opportunity to seek release.

The court’s 6-3 ruling supported Louisiana inmate Henry Montgomery, who is black and at age 17 was convicted in a 1963 shooting of a sheriff’s deputy at a time racial tensions in the area were running high. He’s spent more than half a century in prison with an automatic life sentence without parole.

An earlier Supreme Court ruling in 2012 said that mandatory life sentences without parole in homicide cases involving juveniles violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Monday decision ordered that the ban also applied retroactively to inmates convicted before that 2012 ruling was issued.

That means more than 1,000 people serving similar sentences in the United States could be resentenced or have an opportunity to apply for parole. This doesn’t guarantee their release. It will, however be the first time a judge will be able to take into account the qualities that may have made these under 18s less culpable than adults who committed the same crimes.

None of this is revolutionary. It’s progressive.

Tax accountability…it’s your money.

It’s a hallmark of most lives to complain about taxes….there’s too many, they’re too high, our politicians are misspending. So common at the municipal level, as perhaps these levies hit closer to home, and our civic public servants are more accessible. There’s an opposing argument too, claiming we want city services……as long as we don’t have to pay for them.

No matter where our opinions fall, accountability, or the lack of it, underscores much public angst. There is at least one area impacting all three levels of government where our tax dollars get spent, and we are entitled to know almost nothing about where that money is going.

We’ll use the City of Toronto as an example. Toronto is self-insured for up to five million dollars for successful liability actions taken against it. David Miller, a former mayor of the city, at one point during his tenure called for a review of the cost of police litigation. It had been revealed that the city had spent more than $30-million on over 8,000 lawsuits against the police during one seven year period.

Keep in mind that all or almost all successful actions against the police include non-disclosure clauses. These are our tax dollars, but we cannot know who, how much, or what for. This is not only about policing, as circumstances are the same no matter which part of our city government is a target.

So, the next time you have a problem with what you’re turning over to a government, why not complain about this secret spending of your money, and ask why our politicians fear disclosure?

Obama gets the message……and acts.

The Washington Post published a Barack Obama opinion piece on Monday, January 25, in which the president announced he is banning solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons, noting concerns about its harmful psychological effects.

Last summer, Obama directed the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a review of the practice, and this new package of changes includes an expansion of treatment for mentally ill prisoners, and an increase in the amount of time inmates in solitary can spend outside of their cells. Some 10,000 federal prisoners are affected by the new procedures that also mandate solitary confinement could no longer be used as a punishment for low-level infractions.

The move echoes a U.S. national movement demanding criminal justice reform, arising in part from numerous high-profile police killings in the last few years. Mr. Obama in particular cited the story of Kalief Browder, a black 16-year-old who was arrested in 2010 and spent almost two years in solitary in New York’s Rikers Island jail before his release in 2013 and eventual suicide two years later. The president said research suggests solitary confinement is linked to depression, alienation, withdrawal, a reduced ability to interact with others, and the potential for violent behaviour.

He noted that U.S. states have worked to cut back the use of segregation in their penal institutions and have seen drops in assaults on staff, and more prisoners engage in rehabilitation programs as a result. The president hopes the changes he’s ordered will encourage reforms in all state and local prisons. “There are as many as 100,000 people held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons – including juveniles and people with mental illnesses,” he said. “As many as 25,000 inmates are serving months, even years of their sentences alone in a tiny cell.”

President Obama wrote that solitary confinement is “increasingly overused on people…..with heartbreaking results – which is why my administration is taking steps to address this problem.”

Take that, Stephen Harper!     Justin Trudeau, pay attention!

Break down the walls!

On October 13 of last year, a week before the federal election, Correctional Service of Canada introduced its  staff to 12 solitary confinement reforms, part of a response to the Ashley Smith coroner’s inquest two years ago.  But, prison reform advocates say the changes do little to address numerous systemic flaws, and claim CSC has sidestepped the 104 recommendations made by the coroner’s jury.

Justin Trudeau issued a ministerial mandate letter a few weeks after becoming prime minister, calling for the implementation of all jury recommendations, specifically those concerning “solitary confinement and the treatment of inmates with mental illness.”  In late December, public safety minister Ralph Goodale reiterated the government’s intention to go beyond CSC’s current reform policies.

There is a snag, however.  Julian Falconer has said the current CSC leadership will stonewall any attempt to make substantive changes.  A Google search justifies a description of Mr. Falconer as one of Canada’s top human rights lawyers.  Jennifer Oates, former CSC Deputy Commissioner for Women, accuses CSC of having an inflexible attitude.  Lisa Kerr, assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University, who specializes in prison law and sentencing, adds her voice to the criticism of the prison agency.  These three are only part of a chorus of calls for major shifts in Canada’s federal penal system.

In spite of the CSC claim that the use of segregation/solitary confinement is in decline, Julian Falconer insists “they have an inbred cultural resistance to change”, and focuses his attention on current Commissioner Don Head.  Long ago, we concluded Correctional Service of Canada is abusive, dishonest, morally and ethically corrupt, and a blot on the landscape of this country.  A letter to Ralph Goodale puts in our two cents:

 

January 29, 2016

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re;      “Federal prison agency makes changes to segregation policy”
Globe and Mail, Tuesday, December 22, 2015
“Inmate segregation in decline, CSC says”
Globe and Mail, Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dear Minister Goodale:

“…..any political leadership that is looking to actually implement serious change would be wasting tax dollars if they put Mr. Head in charge of that change,” so said Julian Falconer in response to the present government’s intention to act on the Smith inquest recommendations.

CSC did not need Ashley Smith or Edward Snowshoe’s experience in segregation to tell it things were seriously amiss in our federal prison system.

CSC did not need Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe’s death to show it drastic changes were overdue.

CSC did not need an inquest’s recommendations to point it in the direction it was to take.

CSC has never needed any more than the will to act.  This it does not have.  This it will not have…….until the management team at 340 Laurier Avenue West is swept away in favour of enlightened, progressive revisionists.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc         Jody Wilson-Raybould,
Howard Sapers
Don Head
Chris Hill