Bail boondoggle cured?

ONLY MAYBE.

Toronto City Council recently proposed a series of reforms to the city’s police service that have a significant similarity to reforms suggested by the U.S. Senate for American policing. They are both sops, which according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, are things of little importance or value that are offered to stop complaints or unhappiness. The same ineffective scenarios should be anticipated elsewhere at all levels of government in North America.

Politicians are elected to serve their constituent’s best interests, to have their backs. And yet, there is no appetite in North American municipal, provincial/state, or federal governments to confront head-on what brought so many people onto the streets to protest policing and its impenetrable blue wall.

What can be expected over time with what’s on the table now? The goal of law enforcement, under the auspices of police unions and with government indulgence, is to create a perception of change and reform, to vilify within police ranks the proliferation of cameras, and develop strategies to avoid being filmed. Business as usual. As Toronto human rights lawyer Anthony Morgan claims, “You create a lot of supply through policing. You overpolice communities – Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities, impoverished folks, folks living with mental health challenges – and so you create a massive supply of folks that would need to then be incarcerated.”

About 70% of men and women in our provincial jails are in custody on remand. They are technically innocent and yet have lost their liberty. According to a recent Globe and Mail editorial, many of these people have been charged with violating bail conditions, itself subject to as much as a two-year sentence. Even a new Supreme Court of Canada ruling calls this country’s bail practices “unfair and harmful”, particularly for the poor, people with addictions and racialized minorities.

This ruling should make for substantial changes to the way bail is granted but there is and will be resistance unless and until the disadvantaged leverage the Court ruling in their favour. “Too often, the Court said, bail court judges have agreed to ‘boilerplate’ conditions that are applied to all defendants, regardless of their circumstances. In some cases, the conditions included unwarranted attempts at behaviour modification that are impossible for the accused person to live up to, such as telling an alcoholic they can’t drink, or ordering a homeless person to stay at a fixed address.”

With this new ruling, bail condition violations may compel a return to custody but without additional charges that simply create a “cycle of incarceration.” As it has been, people can end up serving sentences even if they were never convicted of any of the crimes for which they were initially charged. “The bail system is also partly to blame for overcrowded jails, and it contributes to the slow administration of justice by flooding the courts with unnecessary cases.”

When someone goes to jail for a few days, what happens is that people lose their homes, they lose their place in programs, they lose access to services, and for women in particular, lose access to their children. None of this makes someone’s life better or easier. High rates of recidivism continue, while what is needed are programs that divert people away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate services that get at the root causes of community rot.

It’s not rocket science, so what’s the hold-up? More later…..

Criminal justice……

…….IS A MAJOR INDUSTRY.

Why would we entangle a person who has committed a crime into the complexities of a legal and penal system that often does its damnedest to foil an eventual return to the community as a contributing law-abiding citizen?

Recovery is what the criminal justice system is intended to do. That it routinely fails suggests this system is broken. But no. There is a valid argument supporting just the opposite.

The system works. It is not broken. It works for the benefit of those who control it.

Start with law enforcement and the work of our police services. The first of Robert Peel’s nine principles of policing, propositions almost 200 years old but widely known and accepted in police agencies today, is “to prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.”

“Crime and disorder” in some form will always be with us and these nine truths underscore the maxim that the police are the public and the public are the police. The concluding ninth of these principles recognizes “always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”

The sandwiched principles from two to eight stress a duty to secure public co-operation, approval and respect, to minimize the use of physical force, to seek favour by an impartial service to law, and to “refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary…..or of judging guilt and punishing the guilty.”

Today’s demands to defund the police are a symptom of decades of abuse and perceived injustices by law enforcement, a culmination of deteriorating relationships between police and disadvantaged neighbourhoods in this country and in other widespread areas of the world. The movement highlights the growing gulf between the police and the policed, and how far we have strayed from the founding fundamentals of preventing “crime and disorder.”

This writer grew up in a community without a police presence. Yes, the village was in the patrol area of the local Ontario Provincial Police detachment, and one of their cars would occasionally drive through the town, as did the Niagara Parks Commission Police on a patrol of their properties. Help from the police, available if needed, wasn’t witnessed in those years. Community policing was the norm, the usual remedy in times before fixed bodies were formed to enforce the law.

Was there ‘crime and disorder’ in that community? No, at least not that came to the attention of the criminal justice system via a police action. Would that be the case if the village were a neighbourhood in an urban area regularly patrolled by police officers? Yes.

Our police services are the first point of contact between a person presumed to have committed an offense and the criminal justice system. The argument for defunding police calls for a redirection of resources to social programming and services to reduce the demands on police, along with appeals for the decriminalization of minor and non-violent offenses to deter the overpolicing of some marginalized communities.

Our police fuel our courts, jails, and prisons. Efforts by the people to transform the status quo threatens the health of a major industry in Canada.

Later………..our public servants don’t have your back.

 

Crime dependent…..that’s us?

THE CELL PHONE CAMERA IS CHANGING OUR WORLD. COVID-19 IS CHANGING OUR WORLD. WIDESPREAD PROTESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS CALL FOR CHANGE, URGING US TO CONFRONT SOCIAL INEQUITIES AND TO PRESS FOR REFORMS. THE PUSHBACK FROM THE RIGHT AND AMERICAN ALT-RIGHT DELINEATES A DIVISIVE GULF THAT PROMPTS A CONSIDERATION OF JUST WHAT OUR BEST INTERESTS ARE.

There’s no doubt though. The status-quo will not do any longer. But, what will change for real?

Demands to defund police are a doorway to hold our entire justice system up to scrutiny for example, to question its purpose, its goals, its efficacy, its outcomes.

As a redux of where this can go, let’s repeat a posting from March 26 of 2017.

“Cells for sale or rent.”

The New York Times ran a story in late February under Dan Bilefsky’s byline which began, “The Netherlands has a problem many countries can only dream of: A shortage of prison inmates.”

About a third of Dutch prison cells are empty, attributed to a ‘spectacular’ drop in crime over the last twenty years, and a national preference for rehabilitation over incarceration. There was a upswing in prison populations there in the 90s, but the Netherlands now imprisons only about 61 of every 100,000 citizens, similar to Scandinavia. The United States, on the other hand, puts about 666 of every 100,000 citizens in prison, the highest in the world.

Norway negotiated an agreement with the Dutch two years ago for a three-year lease of a high-security facility and sent 242 prisoners there. They’re paying $35 million per year for the use of this prison, and Belgium is also making use of Dutch jails, sending about 500 inmates across the border.

Even more cells will become surplus over the next few years. As one criminologist explained, the Dutch have a deeply ingrained pragmatism when it comes to regulating law and order. “Prisons are very expensive,” this professor at Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam rationalized. There is a relatively liberal approach to soft drugs and prostitution, and the Netherlands is more focused on what works and what is effective, while people in the United States, for instance, make moral arguments for imprisonment.

The Dutch have also become creative with the vacancy rates by transforming jails into housing for asylum seekers, converting cells into apartments for families, and where the interior exercise yards, gymnasiums, kitchens and outdoor gardens have a practical benefit. High exterior walls and barbed wire are removed, but care is taken not to house former political prisoners in cells, unless they feel at ease.

Not everyone is happy. About 2,600 prison guards could lose their jobs in the next four years as more prisons close. The government doesn’t want to give up too many jobs, as this political football can play out to the disadvantage of the present centre-right party in control. As a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Security and Justice put it, the surplus of empty jail cells is “good and bad news at the same time.”

This isn’t an environment that’s generated in a vacuum, with no explanation, or can be simply written off to happenstance. This comes with a concerted effort to question the status quo, think outside the lock-em-up box, and take bold steps to take a different road. Separating some people from the community in a custodial setting will continue to be a reality for now, but there is an illogic to a prison-based system of justice. One perspective is in the form of a poem reprinted in Baz Dreisinger’s book, “Incarceration Nation”:-

We want them to be responsible,
So we take away all responsibilities.
We want them to be positive and constructive,
So we degrade them and make them useless.
We want them to be nonviolent,
So we put them where there is violence all around them.
We want them to quit being the tough guy,
So we put them where the tough guy’s respected.

Now, that makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it!

Of course, it doesn’t. We’ll go on to examine the why’s next time.

Toronto South Detention Centre……revisited

WHEN ONTARIO OPENED THIS PROVINCIAL JAIL IN 2014, IT “WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A STATE-OF-THE-ART SUPERJAIL. INSTEAD, IT’S A TOTAL DISASTER.”

The quotation is from Toronto writer/journalist Raizal Robin’s “The $1-Billion Hellhole” Toronto Life cover story in its March 2017 issue. Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno reprised the nomenclature in the headline of her December 14, 2019 opinion piece. Known also as Guantanamo South and the Plea Factory, the latter since many remand inmates admit their guilt just to get out of the jail, “it’s a failure from top to bottom,” said John Struthers, president of the criminal lawyers’ association.

Rosie DiManno began her column with, “Segregation. Isolation. Over-crowding. No showers. No fresh air. No family visits. No lawyer meetings. Seething anger that can be taken out on anybody.”

Why?

Why is this jail such a mess? Every Ontario institution has its challenges, and trouble often spills over into the press. To cite four examples, conditions at the Thunder Bay jail are under scrutiny regularly, Elgin-Middlesex in London has a deplorable reputation, and Ottawa-Carlton has been controversial. Lindsay generates the most complaints; living conditions prompted a recent five-day hunger strike. But, it’s the shining citadel on Horner Avenue in Etobicoke, the Toronto South Detention Centre, that grabs the headlines.

“Despite so much evidence to the contrary, government, guards and their union cite inmate hostility as a central cause of the problems at the institution….along with ongoing complaints by guards of staffing shortages.” That’s from our posting on July 21 of last year.

Inmate hostility is justified to the degree it exists at Toronto South. Staff shortages do exacerbate the toxicity of the facility’s environment, too. In the meantime, the Ministry consistently insists it intends to resolve any issues plaguing the jail each time Toronto South makes news.

It keeps making headlines. At the beginning of March, five correctional officers were charged with aggravated assault of an inmate on December 20th of last year, and a sixth is expected to be indicted as well. Police won’t release the names of the accused, an unusual decision considering the shielding of identities and reputations of correctional officers implies a double standard. And, the dance goes on.

In the beginning back in 2014, tension among guards was palatable given that some were previously stationed at the Don Jail and others came from the Toronto West Detention Centre, both shut down earlier. That festering incompatibility permeated the entire operation, stressing inmates and non-unformed staff alike. While those issues may have been overcome and a more homogeneous climate exists today, lingering bad practices still predominate.

One bottom line stands out as an explanation for the disarray. Management doesn’t. Management doesn’t manage. We’ve seen this elsewhere at both the provincial and federal levels. Senior civil service management and the politicians who are expected to oversee operations, in this case provincial jails, are nervous and even afraid of the power of the unions. Labour unions serve a purpose and warrant support, but they are not in charge.

When will Toronto South improve? Life will change when management and the Minister at Community Safety & Correctional Services expect established practices, policies, and procedures to be foremost in daily operations at the jail, and adopts persuasive encouragement to ensure compliance.

Should judges go to jail?

SHOULD JUDGES, PROSECUTORS BE REQUIRED TO VISIT PRISONS AND JAILS?

The Toronto Star’s Jacques Gallant, legal affairs reporter, posed this question in the paper’s December 23rd edition last year.

“Prosecutors routinely recommend jail time for offenders and then judges lock them up – but what do they really know about the places they’re sending people?” is how Mr. Gallant opened.

Daniel Brown, vice president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association added that even defence lawyers visiting clients in jail and get just a glimpse “can’t really understand what it’s like to lose your liberty entirely, the indignity, the inhumanity of it.” Mr. Brown added, “I just think it’s one of those things that if judges understood better or Crown attorneys understood better, they would think twice before they insisted on jail for some offenses, or insisted on a lengthy jail sentence.”

Ontario provincial jails, which hold inmates serving shorter sentences of less than two years, also house a “remand population” of men and women awaiting disposition of their charges and they can account for up to 70% of people in custody. Research into Ontario jails also shows that Indigenous and racial minorities are over-represented in a system which has come under increasing judicial criticism as being cruel and harsh.

Lisa Kerr, a Queen’s University law professor involved with prison research thinks federal prison and provincial jail visits by Crown attorneys and judges would be a could thing, but cautions that conditions inside facilities change with regularity and vary from one institution to another. Courts don’t control where a convicted person will be sent or where they might be transferred during their sentence. She suggests that Crown attorneys be mandated to file evidence about prison conditions and programs when making submissions on sentencing.

There’s already a voluntary program in parts of Canada where mainly newly appointed judges visit provincial jails and federal prisons, Indigenous healing centres, attend a parole hearing and speak with experts, inmates and parolees. But, this is limited in numbers, is voluntary, includes only judges, and is not offered on a national scale.

Senator Kim Pate, former executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, and a member of the Senate of Canada’s Human Rights Committee, is committed to major custodial reforms and believes that parliamentarians who pass the laws that judges enforce should also be required to visit these same facilities. “Ultimately,” she says, “what a number of us want to work on is creating an environment where there are fewer people who end up marginalized and victimized as well as criminalized.”

So, if this proposal to educate our judges and court officers to better understand how the decisions they make will impact the lives of the people who pass in front them were to become practice, we could expect our prison industry to also benefit from constructive scrutiny as a result.

Now, how about we take yet another step to illuminate how our courts, our justice system works for our well-being?

Let’s require every Canadian citizen, exemptions allowed, to spend at least one half a day in a courtroom once a year. Management of the program would not be difficult. Court clerks would distribute personalized certifications when the court rose for lunch and at the end of the day. The documentation would be submitted with income tax returns to avoid a financial penalty.

We all have a part to play.

Solitary confinement – the government folds.

WHY?

“Ottawa abandons solitary case”, read the headline under the Globe and Mail front-page banner on Wednesday, April 22. For five years, the federal government has been aggressively defending the status quo in federal prisons on the one hand, and then attempting to mollify its critics with Bill C-83 on the other.

Canada’s Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments arising from lower court decisions in British Columbia and Ontario challenging Correctional Service of Canada’s use of solitary confinement, decisions that had gone against the government time after time and decisions which were persistently appealed by Ottawa.

“A joint statement released on Monday (April 20) from the offices of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Attorney-General David Lametti said the government decided to the abandon the appeal because legislation passed last year effectively repealed administrative segregation, the prisoner-isolation method akin to solitary confinement that has been the target of recent court challenges,” read the Globe and Mail story under Patrick White’s byline.

Don’t buy it.

The federal prison industry loathes attempts to shine a light on its operations. It is constant in sidestepping demands for public accountability and oversight. The government’s move to appeal each and every court ruling against the use of solitary confinement defended not just the practice but its entitlement to use whatever segregation policy it chose, its entitlement to establish any action, any behaviour, without question. In an environment where the Supreme Court would likely feel encouraged to uphold lower court decisions around solitary confinement, government obstinance would only serve to expose Correctional Service of Canada to greater scrutiny and criticism. Better to count one’s losses and withdraw.

As it stands, Bill C-83 does not meet the standards advanced by reform advocates. In the April 5th posting, Solitary confinement. It’s going to the Supreme Court, the Globe and Mail noted in a February 14 article that, “Bill C-83 was widely panned in prison law circles. In a letter to Ottawa, more than 100 lawyers and academics argued that it authorized ‘solitary confinement under another name’ and ignored lower court orders to adopt binding independent oversight and a 15-day limit on placement in isolation.”

That last posting also pointed to antipathy towards the new Structured Intervention Units on the front lines. While CSC has still to fully implement even the limited provisions of Bill C-83 in many institutions, some correctional officers…..and stress some…have taken it upon themselves to undermine the new policies as impractical, counterproductive, and unmanageable. A guard on a SIU range may demean inmates using language such as “goof” and “rapehound” to generate tension and conflict among the prisoners. Guards may kick inmate cell doors during their night walks along the range to disturb sleep, one more irritant to stress levels. An ‘accidental’ double-dooring will lead to an inmate-on-inmate assault, furthering arguments in opposition to the changes. (Double-dooring is the terminology describing a practice where guards open the door of a vulnerable inmate’s cell, and at the same time open the cell door/doors of that inmate’s antagonists in order to incite an assault.)

In the meantime, back in early March, Ontario’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision that federal inmates should be compensated for time spent in solitary confinement The Court endorsed $40-million in damages awarded in two class-action cases from last year. The government had argued that since courts had only recently characterized Correctional Service of Canada’s use of segregation as cruel and unusual punishment, Canada was absolved for any historical use of the practice. So, CSC and the government were claiming they didn’t know isolation can cause physical and mental harm within a few days. Imagine that! All the same, don’t expect cheques in the mail any time soon.

What to do? Persist, persist, persist!

Solitary confinement – it’s going to the Supreme Court.

WHILE WAITING, THERE’S STILL WORK TO DO.

Back on February 14, the Globe and Mail published Patrick White’s “Solitary confinement headed for showdown at top court.”
“Canada’s top court has agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of prolonged solitary confinement, setting up a final showdown in a years-long legal push to ban isolation practices in federal prisons.”

The government passed Bill C-83 last year to mollify critics and address the shortcomings of current practices, but “Bill C-83 was widely panned in prison law circles. In a letter to Ottawa, more than 100 lawyers and academics argued that it authorized ‘solitary confinement under another name’ and ignored lower court orders to adopt binding independent oversight and a 15-day limit on placement in isolation.”

Tucked deep into Mr. White’s account was, “Correctional Service of Canada has also appointed University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob to head a panel that will monitor implementation,” referring to Bill C-83.

To this point, federal prisons haven’t fully executed the provisions of the Bill’s promises, and there are grim indications of a subversive bias at the institutional level against any change from prior policies and practices. CSC’s national headquarters is either not aware of this antipathy in the trenches or assumes all is well up and down the line and anticipates an at-arms-length scrutiny will echo its own bow to compliance.

Anthony Doob is a prominent Canadian criminologist and professor emeritus of criminology at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto. According to Wikipedia, he is “one of the most prolific criminologists in Canada and is consistently one of the three most cited Canadian scholars in the field. His research has included studying the effectiveness of certain crime-reduction policies, including carding.”

We can expect Professor Doob to be objective, inclusive and thorough, but there is no harm in offering encouragement:-

March 27, 2020

Professor Emeritus Anthony Doob, C.M., FRSC,
Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies,
Toronto, ON M5S 3K9

Re: Bill C-83

Dear Professor Doob:

Patrick White’s “Solitary confinement headed for showdown at top court” published in the February 14th Globe and Mail includes, “Correctional Service Canada has also appointed University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob to head a panel that will monitor implementation,” with reference to Bill C-83.

No doubt your experience tells you the work the panel you head will do must include the perspective of inmates, and in numbers at least equal to CSC staff members interviewed. Of importance too is that you follow your own counsel in observations and inspections to arrive at acceptable objective assessments.

Be forewarned. The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights released “Interim Report – Study on the Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons: The Most Basic Human Right is to be Treated as a Human Being (1 February 2017 – 26 March 2018)” in February of 2019. To excerpt from page 64 of that report, “….the committee was informed that a number of federally-incarcerated persons refused to meet with the committee for fear of reprisal. The committee was very concerned to find that this fear extended to communications with senators during site visits. In this context, it was particularly disturbing that at certain institutions, correctional staff surreptitiously listened to the committee’s confidential meetings with federally-sentenced persons, despite the committees (at times repeated) requests for privacy.”

With my best wishes for continued successes, I am,

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Good advice never gets old.

We Killed Soleiman Faqiri……

……THE CIVIL SERVANTS INVOLVED WORK FOR US!

Editors note: This timely entry interrupts the “Voice in the Wilderness” series….the final two installments will follow.

“More than a hundred Canadian doctors, lawyers, academics and politicians have signed an open letter calling for accountability in the death of a mentally ill man at the hands of Ontario prison guards in 2016.”

This is how Toronto Star reporter Margaryta Ignatenko began “Open letter calls for justice in jailed man’s death”, her story published by the paper on February 29th. The column acknowledged contributions from the files of Fatima Sayed, another reporter on the Star’s staff who has also written on the death of Soleiman Faqiri.

The letter was sent to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and underscores the frustration with a seemingly stalled second investigation into the death of Soleiman Faqiri. First time round, police declined to file charges, but the case was reopened when an eyewitness came forward, risking life and limb by doing so, prompting pressure upon the government to act.

Not to be left out, we wrote to Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general, whose ministry includes responsibility for provincial jails:-

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General,
Queen’s Park,
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Dear Minister Jones:

The media coverage around the beating death of Soleiman Faqiri at Lindsay’s provincial jail in December of 2016 is missing a reality check.

No matter the issue guards had with Mr. Faqiri, once he was put in a cell, it was left only to close and lock the door. That didn’t happen because those guards intended to beat him. The more he tried to save himself, the more he was beaten. He was beaten in shifts by uniformed civil servants. He was beaten to death by uniformed civil servants.

Assaults on inmates by guards are common and frequent in Canada’s federal and provincial prison industry and only come to public attention when injuries need hospital treatment…..or an inmate dies. Assaults on guards by inmates are common and frequent too but are more in the public domain. Unmentioned is they always result in a beating of the offending inmate. That in addition to victims such as Soleiman Faqiri where guards are simply pissed off.

Take one piece of advice from this long-time advocate/activist. Check the institutional histories, the incident reports, for the guards involved, and for the officer in charge of the segregation unit at Central East in particular. He is after all responsible for directing the actions of his staff.

You and so many other public servants appear anxious to make this manslaughter by fellow provincial employees just go away. That’s a sad indictment of justice in Ontario.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Doug Ford was copied, along with Senator Kim Pate, a signatory to the letter, Yasin Dwyer, Executive Director of the Muslim Chaplaincy of Toronto, Nader Hasan, the Faqiri family lawyer, Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, Warren Thomas, president of OPSEU, and Toronto Star reporter Margaryta Ignatenko.

……..justice for Soleiman Faqiri is still a long way off.

Yukon gets a Gold Star!

“Yukon to place strict limits on solitary” headlined Patrick White’s Globe and Mail prominent front-page story on October 28.

Editor’s note: This was prepared for publication late last year prior to the two-month hiatus referenced at the head of the last posting. It remains relevant and current all the same.

Those limits are the thrust of Yukon’s Bill 6, an Act to Amend the Corrections Act 2009, which was in committee after passing first and second reading in the territory’s legislature when the Globe article was published. Since then it passed third reading and came into force on November 27.

Under the Act, an inmate cannot be held in segregation who is pregnant or has recently given birth, who is suicidal or chronically self-harming, has a mental disorder or intellectual disability, requires medical observation, or has a mobility impairment. All exemptions have prescribed legislated conditions.

Bill 6 declares an inmate cannot be held in segregation for more than 15 days to an annual 60-day limit. And, an inmate who is released from segregation after 15 days cannot be placed in segregation again until a period of five days has expired since the end of the last 15-day segregation period. Those limits can be exceeded only with the consent of an independent arbitrator, who could not be a government employee.

The legislation is the first in Canada to comply with the United Nations General Assembly’s 2015 adoption of what are now called the Mandela Rules, which asks all jurisdictions to limit solitary confinement to 15 days. As such, this bill doesn’t address questions around segregation placements for less than 15 days, except that 60-day annual maximums apply.

Yukon Director of Corrections Andrea Monteiro wanted to be pro-active in dealing with the issue and make the territory a leader in segregation reform. Yukon has only one territorial prison, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre with a problematic recent history with solitary confinement, but the government is advantaged in its reform efforts over other jurisdictions like Ontario which has 25 provincial jails.

Canada’s prison industry is watching the impact of this legislation. The Courts have been very clear with its position on segregation practices and any federal or provincial government that ignores recent decisions will face and is contending with further litigation. “The hard 15-day cap has been met with stiff resistance from current and former prison staff, who say it jeopardizes the safety of employees and inmates,” said Patrick White in the Globe and Mail.

Former federal warden Glen Brown, now a criminology instructor at Simon Fraser University, described Yukon Bill 6 as “terse and perfunctory” in attempting to comply with the Mandela Rules, claiming the complexity and seriousness of circumstances can’t be effectively managed under its provisions.

On the other hand, Howard Sapers, a former federal correctional investigator who advised Yukon on this bill, says that its “far-reaching approach” is to be admired. “My experience in the federal sphere, sadly, is that the government was quite content to be re-active, to not get ahead of these things. It’s nice to see a jurisdiction that wants to be pro-active,” he said.

Aging in prison…..

…..not hard to explain.

Editor’s note: A broken leg and rehabilitation challenges led to six weeks in hospital, with follow-up therapies at home. At last, we are at work again.

Earlier this month, Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger released “Aging and Dying in Prison: An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody.” From the introduction, “In so far as older individuals in federal custody are concerned, this joint investigation by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission finds a general failure on the part of the Correctional Service of Canada to meet the fundamental purposes of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act:  safe and humane custody and assisting in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into the community.”

On CBC Radio One’s “The Sunday Edition” this morning, host Michael Enright took up the question of why there is so much difficulty in releasing older and chronically ill inmates to the community. After all, as Mr. Zinger also wrote in his report, “Prisons were never intended to be nursing homes, hospices, or long-term care facilities.” Mr. Enright couldn’t answer the question, but we offered one explanation in a letter today.

Michael Enright,
The Sunday Edition, c/o CBC Radio One,
Toronto, ON M5W 1E6

Re: Aging prison inmates

Dear Mr. Enright:

A portion of today’s Sunday Edition focused on Ivan Zinger’s “Aging & Dying in Prison” report released this month, and the challenges aging prisoners have in securing compassionate release.

Take it from this long, long, long-time prison activist and prisoners’ advocate that Canada does not have a correctional system. It has a prison industry.

From that perspective, the status quo is easily explained.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

It’s good to be back!