Sanctioned abuse…….

…….political malpractice……..getting worse

Even as inmate finances in federal institutions were neglected over the years, there was one welcome although conditional relief in the first decade of this century……the cost of telephone calls. Even this wasn’t accomplished though without a duplicitous arrangement between Correctional Service of Canada and a major Canadian corporation. And, since this will bear on a morally repugnant government decision in 2013, we’ll pause to “talk on the telephone.”

We’re referencing life in federal prisons in this series and not conditions in provincial jails. Financial support for provincial inmates comes solely from friends and family. Provincial inmate telephone services are provided predominately by Bell and all calls are made collect. Generally, local calls are $1.00 but tariffs increase with distance. Burdensome to some families, although stays in provincial jails are short-term, and there’s no incentive for the relevant ministries to consider alternatives.

What is common in all telephone service provider contracts with provincial jail AND federal prison agencies is a “kickback”, a percentage of what the telephone companies take in from inmate calls. How much of a cut the government gets is a corporate trade secret and not subject to access to information legislation.

But, back to “talk on the telephone.” Federal inmate calls had been collect for decades. Even as competition and improvements in telecommunications drove costs to consumers lower, and the packaging of services became the norm, prisoners continued to pile up telephone charges to their families and friends, and Correctional Service of Canada and Bell Canada in particular profited.

At the beginning of 1998, the Service introduced the ‘Millennium’ telephone system to enhance security. With that came an increase in charges. In the succeeding years, no measures were taken to bring costs in line with those in the community, and no assessment of the system’s benefit as a security mechanism was undertaken. Naturally, this was contentious with both inmates and the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

A dozen years ago or so, Correctional Service of Canada undertook to rectify an obviously untenable position, and put out a tender to provide inmates with calling cards. Under this arrangement, each inmate received a card registered to their name and to which the institution placed up to five pre-approved telephone numbers. On a monthly specified date, and at the inmate’s request, cards could be loaded with funds from an inmate’s account, and telephone tariffs were competitive with what was available in the community. For an inmate who ran out of funds on a card before it could be reloaded, or an inmate with no money, all calls would be collect, and the charges for those collect calls reverted to the older and more expensive scale.

Bell Canada was awarded the contract for this service, and as long as inmates can keep a positive funding position on their cards, it’s worked well. The one drawback that comes to the Correctional Investigator’s attention now is access to telephones.

But, hold it. There was one snafu, one kerfuffle in this neat contracted process that was closeted.

When the bids to provide this telephone service to inmates were unsealed, and keeping in mind that Bell had been a big player all along, Correctional Service of Canada subsequently asked them to ‘repair’ their offer. Following the request, Bell was then awarded the contract.

Telus screamed foul, and took their argument to the federal government department charged with ethics and best practices. Telus lost. Why? It was ruled that judgments could be made only in circumstances where government money, taxpayer money, was involved. In the matter of telephone services for prison inmates, it was inmate money, citizen’s money, in question. The committee had no authority to intervene. Further, and to its discredit, no comment was made on what lead Telus to bring its case forward in the first place.

This should have come back to bite the government’s butt in a 2013 policy decision. It didn’t.

Read on……..

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POLICING – compelled to interject……..

Only three and a half months after “The POLICING file – Farewell & Good Luck?” on April 1st, the heat from recent events demands comment:-

NEPTUNE FOUR: In November of 2011, four black teenagers walking to an early evening program in their apartment complex, and armed with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms….and an attitude of entitlement to its protections, are confronted by two Toronto Police TAVIS (anti-violence) officers armed with protective vests, revolvers…..and their own attitude of empowerment. What ensued has been heavily covered in the media.
Now, at a June 19 police disciplinary tribunal hearing this year, Constable Scharnil Pais, one of the two officers accused of unlawful arrest that night so long ago, claims he was “scared” during the confrontation. His partner, Constable Adam Lourenco, did not testify.
“Scared” of what? “Scared” he’d get caught?
This is simply standard operating practice to vilify police victims.

SAMMY YATIM MURDER: Constable James Forcillo’s lawyers are seeking leave to appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada on a technicality used by the Crown to gain an attempted murder conviction. Forcillo is currently in custody, serving his sentence. The application announced on July 10 is a long-shot but then, the police have a big purse….your deep pockets.
James Forcello should have been convicted of second-degree murder.

THE DEATH OF ORLANDO BROWN: A 32 year-old black man, Barrie resident Orlando Brown, was arrested early in the afternoon on June 22, and died in hospital later that day. There was an active non-violent domestic dispute warrant for his arrest, and he was arranging bail before turning himself into police. A paralegal who was to represent him viewed a passerby’s video of the arrest. He’s convinced “excessive and reckless violence was utilized.”
A cousin told Brown to surrender quickly, telling him, “The last thing I want to happen to you is that you walk in the streets and police kill you.”
The SIU is investigating. The family want to see the video of the police booking Mr. Brown.
A July 9 letter went to the Barrie police chief:-

Kimberley Greenwood, Chief,
Barrie Police Service,
Barrie, ON L4M 6K9

Re: The death of Orlando Brown

Dear Chief Greenwood:

No doubt you have men and women on your force who are proactively engaging the people of Barrie to build positive working relationships.

And then, as everywhere in policing, there are the ‘cowboys’, officers who don’t get that Orlando Brown’s tax dollars contributed to the cost of their training, paid for the uniforms they wear, and supplied the weapons used to kill him.

The SIU investigation cannot change the most compelling outcome of this event. This man did not have to die on June 22.

ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT ‘CARDING’?:- Believe it or not, Jennifer Evans is still the chief of the Peel Regional Police. The June 29th Globe and Mail published “Police chief slams crackdown on carding”, her rant on the pressure to end ‘street checks’ by police services in Western Canada.
This definitely needed attention, and a July 6 letter followed:-

Jennifer Evans, Chief, Peel Regional Police,
Mississauga, ON L5N 8M5

Re: Police chief slams crackdown on carding, Globe and Mail, Friday, June 29

Chief Evans:

“….because of abuse by the police.”

That’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s response during a press scrum outside the House of Commons in 1972 when asked why his government gutted the Criminal Code’s vagrancy law. Of the three sections in the legislation, three of the five subsections in section 1 were repealed, as was section 3. One tends to remember when the first minister of the Crown chose the accusatory language Mr. Trudeau knew would be widely reported.

Canada’s police services have creatively developed resources to circumvent the intent of those changes ever since.

Carding is one of the more odious.

If street checks are a warranted important investigative tool, why not push the envelope. Why not press for ultimate control, incarcerating every person, subject to release upon a proof satisfying your officers there’s no threat to good order.

Extreme, you say? How much less so is carding?

Let’s just call if for what it is.

Carding is code for police state.

Police chiefs in Edmonton and Vancouver were copied, along with Ontario’s premier, the mayors of Toronto and Missisauga, and the Toronto Police director of communications.

Enough. Now, let’s get back to the government sanctioned abuse in our federal prison system.

Sanctioned abuse……..

……..through political malpractice

So, the pay scale set up by Canada’s government in 1981 to help federal prison inmates cover the cost of what Correctional Service of Canada didn’t provide, to finance links with family and the community, and to give men and women in custody a head start on their release, hasn’t been adjusted from day one. Not even to accommodate inflation.

And, no one noticed. Right? No one at Correctional Service of Canada, or in succeeding governments over the years, Liberal or Conservative, thought about what a 1981 dollar bought in 1995, or in 2001, or in 2010….or today. Is that what we’re supposed to believe?

Of course not. The inmates noticed. They spoke about it often. They complained about it often. They made submissions often.

So did Howard Sapers. Referring to his 2002-2003 annual report when he was Canada’s Correctional Investigator, and under a section titled Inmate Financial Resources, he wrote…..

“As I have repeatedly indicated, adequate levels of inmate pay are important for two primary reasons:
(1) to combat the effects of the illicit underground economy that prevails in institutions where inmate funds are overly scarce, and
(2) to provide offenders with sufficient means on release to support their successful reintegration to the community.”

The Correctional Investigator went on to again make recommendations to resolve the increasing deficiencies with the compensation program.

The Correctional Service of Canada’s response to the CI:
“To address the complexities of the current pay system, CSC is examining all policies related to inmate monies, pay and the management of these funds. The study will address issues raised by the CI (Correctional Investigator), as well as those raised by the public. Stakeholders, including the OCI will be consulted.”

What happened? Nothing. The last posting here on June 24 referred to a 2006 report from that same OCI office targeting the same issue. It comes up year after year after year.

But wait. Isn’t what we read from CSC back in 2002-2003 typical bureaucratic double-speak anyway?

Nonetheless, Mr. Sapers went on to politely note all those years ago that:
“As to income pay in general, we the found the response (from Correctional Service of Canada) was vague as to timing and as to the specific offender problems that were the basis for our recommendation.”

Things were going to get a lot worse, we said.

It’s coming……