Monthly Archives: March 2012

March 2012 Vol 4 (1) Edition

Sources and Resources — A Newsletter for Criminal Justice and Related Professionals

The BCCJA is a not for profit association of criminal justice and related professionals which has been fostering debate, dialogue, providing advocacy and advancing current and best practices for 40 years. Visit our website at www.bccja.com.

The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information of professional interest to our members and colleagues. Let us know your thoughts and ideas and if you would like to be put on our distribution list at newsletter@bccja.com.

Summary of Contents

Criminal Justice Policy (23 references) Violence (2 references)
Criminal Justice System ( 9 references) Sexual Offenders (11 references)
The Law and Police (23 references) Mental Health (9 references)
Children and Youth (9 references) Related Interest(6 references)
Corrections (21 references) Did You Know?
Criminal Behavior (7 references) Important Sources and Resources
Victims of Crime (7 references)  

A Note From the Editors

We hope our updated format will be more user friendly. using different software, we have been able to re-install the internal navigation that saves you “long distance” scrolling to access a particular section of interest. Further, you will notice that at the top right we have archived the last several newsletters for ease of access. Most importantly, we also hope that the links are more reliable across different computers. Since this newsletter is done by volunteers, there are some preparation advantages for us as well!

 As always we welcome constructive feedback and suggestions at newsletter@bccja.com.

 Congress 2013

As announced in the last newsletter,  BCCJA will host the 2013 Congress of the Canadian Criminal Justice Association in Vancouver. Planning is underway for this October 2013 event, and the Congress theme has been determined: 21st Century Justice: the Economics of Public Safety. Economic slowdown and shrinking tax bases combined with overwhelming public debt threaten the ability of governments to continue to deliver the kinds of services to which the public has grown accustomed. In the circumstances, we think that it is time to take a serious look at the economics of criminal justice within the broader framework of community needs. Go to the BCCJA website now and follow this newsletter for ongoing updates.

Also Note

The 14th Biennial Symposium on Violence & Aggression is taking place June 3-5, 2012 at the University of Saskatchewan, sponsored by Regional Psychiatric Centre, CSC and the Centre for Forensic Behavioral Science and Justice Studies. Early registration deadline: April 30, 2012. For more: Violence & Aggression Symposium

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Criminal Justice Policy

  • Under the heading at the end of this newsletter “Did you know?”, you will see reference to the Smart Justice Network. They have a produced an informative booklet which is worth the review. The link is here.
  • This article talks about the work of the renowned Pew Center for the States with half a dozen US States that are willing to shift money away from ineffective programs toward those shown to be better uses of taxpayer dollars. This requires a more disciplined approach to budgeting, using the same hard-nosed assessments that businesses use to drive investment decisions.
  • British Columbia is one of only a few provinces and territories where all charges to proceed must be approved by Crown Counsel. This opinion piece has harsh judgement about the process, in the context of the justice review currently underway in the province.
  • After years of discussion about police delivery in B.C. and the opportunities that the contract renewal with the RCMP provided , a new 20 year deal has now been signed.
  • In a Vancouver Sun editorial piece, a variety of sectors in the justice system in B.C. are admonished. It will require the cooperation of all concerned, particularly the provincial government and the province’s judges. And on that point, things are not looking good.
  • On a Sunday afternoon last August in Halifax, Gov.-Gen. David Johnston made an extraordinarily thoughtful speech to the Canadian Bar Association’s annual legal conference.
  • In recent years, restorative justice has been a process that has been adopted by an international audience, particularly the USA, Australia and New Zealand, each employing it to address some of the traditional concerns of the formal justice system. This article talks not anly about the UK, but summarizes developments elsewhere.
  • Here is another article, on “restorative justice” in an educational system. Instead of being kicked out for fighting, stealing, talking back, or other disruptive behavior, public school students in San Francisco are being asked to listen to each other, write letters of apology, work out solutions with the help of parents and educators, or engage in community service.
  • When it comes to helping first-time offenders avoid a damaging criminal record and bringing closure to the victims, Restorative Justice Victoria is thinking outside the box, accepting some unconventional cases that, so far, have been effective.
  • The Canadian government’s controversial omnibus crime bill has passed all parliamentary hurdles, although opposition to it remains strong. Interestingly, the government is now saying that it will phase in implementation of Bill C-10 over an unspecified time.
  • This video shows five Canadians prominently involved in the criminal justice system discussing the likely impact of Bill C-10. The video includes questions from the media.
  • One final article on the passage of Bill C-10: “a sad day for Canadians”, the author writes.
  • To read a copy of Changing the Frame: A new approach to drug policy in Canada by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, visit their website.
  • Going Dutch: What Canada can learn from European lawmakers’ divergent approaches to prostitution. Read more
  • Here is a recent article that reviews the evidence about whether prisons reduce criminal recidivism.
  • At least one U.S. lawmaker believes that the current death penalty does not deter crime sufficiently. His solution: public hanging.
  • An Ontario judge has ruled that mandatory minimum sentences for firearms possession are unconstitutional. Ontario plans to appeal the ruling.
  • While discussing proposed legislation that would greatly enhance law enforcement’s ability to access electronic communications, Canada’s public safety minister argued that critics of the bill were siding with child pornographers. The bill has since been put on hold. 
  • The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently held special hearings on child pornography crimes. Clicking on the names of the various experts who testified will take you to their prepared comments.
  • There is growing bi-partisan support for Oklahoma legislation that would reduce prison populations and provide diversion services for those offenders with mental health problems.
  • Georgia has joined other U.S. states in considering legislation to send fewer offenders to prison, expedite early releases, and provide more assistance and supervision to those returning to the community.
  • Testimony about the brutal slaying of a young girl has some commentators arguing that Canada should reconsider the death penalty.

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Criminal Justice System

  • The preliminary report of the Uniform Crime Report for the first six months of 2011 has been released. Violent crime continues to decline significantly.
  • A recent study from Connecticut confirms other research in showing that, while re-offense rates for the general prison population is very high, sex offender recidivism is much lower than is often claimed.
  • A new study confirms sustainable ways to reduce the disproportionate rates of victimization and offending affecting urban Aboriginal peoples in prairie cities.
  • This thoughtful essay asks why the U.S. incarcerates so many.
  • Our readers will recall that the US Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison population. Thus far they have reduced it by about 16,000 to 128,000.
  • This thoughtful analysis considers the generally ignored fact that violent crime, particularly homicide, has been dropping very significantly in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
  • In at least one jurisdiction, Facebook is being used as a tool to solve crimes.
  • Racial inequity remains a significant issue in the U.S. criminal justice system.
  • Asylum seekers are not criminals and B.C. is flouting international law by treating them as such, according to a report prepared for the United Nations’ refugee agency.

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The Law and Police

  • Why cuts to courts are bad for business.
  • More than 90% of charges never see a jury due to extensive and often coercive plea bargaining. Now, a civil rights attorney is proposing highlighting the problem by suggesting that all accused should demand a trial. This would create chaos in the judicial system that would force reform.
  • Four appeals of murder convictions citing the controversial practice of jury vetting are before the Supreme Court of Canada. If Canada’s top court rules against the practice, the murder trials could be thrown out and new trials ordered, says a criminal law expert. 
  • Canada’s highest court has twice ruled that mandatory minimum sentences will “inevitably” and “unavoidably” result in miscarriages of justice. But the Supreme Court of Canada has also cautioned the country’s judiciary that it should only reluctantly override sentence guidelines set by politicians.
  • A proposal before the Alaska Legislature would give judges flexibility that they do not have now when handing down criminal sentences to people who were born with effects caused by their mother drinking during pregnancy. 
  • The RCMP’s highly successful Mr. Big “sting” operations have garnered much media commentary, almost entirely negative, almost entirely not that well-informed, says a Crown Counsel. Read more.
  •  Strategic enforcement and tough new laws helped the RCMP drive Lower Mainland traffic fatalities down by 38 per cent last year, police say. There were 97 traffic fatalities in the Lower Mainland.
  •  Richard Rosenthal is the new director of B.C.’s independent police investigations office. 
  • In an effort to speed up background checks, the RCMP says it plans to install an additional 32 electronic fingerprint scanning devices in detachments across the country by the end of March.
  • More than 80 per cent of Canadians believe Canada’s Mounties are honest and work with integrity and professionalism, according to a recent annual survey gauging satisfaction with the national police force.
  • The Vancouver police board is considering adopting new sex worker enforcement guidelines that will encourage officers to treat sex trade workers with dignity and respect.
  • Current provisions in the Criminal Code that allow police to get a general warrant anytime they want are not focused enough to track down child pornographers online, a Senate committee heard.
  • The next time you see flashing police lights on the streets of Saanich, it just might be a bicycle constable chasing down a suspect.
  • Some researchers are criticizing Canadian police agencies that do not report the race of those arrested.
  • The first study to examine how B.C. residents with severe mental illnesses perceive police has found they have far less confidence in police than does the general population.
  • In a unique pilot project, Ottawa police and the RCMP have merged two units to battle any threats in the nation’s capital.
  • Justice Minister Rob Nicholson recently unveiled legislation imposing tougher sentences for crimes against the elderly – a fast growing demographic increasingly targeted by violence and abuse.
  • If you live in Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, Langley, New Westminster or Victoria, you may be at higher risk for cyber crime.
  • The use of Tasers by Canada’s police forces represents a “teething new urban terrorism” that targets society’s “downtrodden,” says a recently published study.
  • Solicitor-General Shirley Bond recently announced that she has approved new provincial policing standards that will apply to all police officers in B.C. Read more.
  • Canada’s national parks wardens who went to court three years ago, citing public safety to be armed with handguns,  have (fortunately) not discharged a firearm.
  • A U.S. Supreme Court ruling means that law enforcement cannot continue to track suspects through placing GPS devices without a warrant.
  • Canada’s most dangerous cities: the good news. Yes, there’s been an overall decline in crime levels in Canada—but some areas stand out as especially safe.  Here is more detail.

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 Children and Youth

  • This study provides evidence challenging the popular belief that juvenile crime is on the rise.
  • This recent study documents the nature and extent of crimes in public schools in the U.S.
  • Restorative practices, which have become popular in criminal justice contexts, also appear to be an effective alternative to punishment in school settings.
  • Research suggests that youth subjected to strict enforcement of underage drinking laws had less criminal involvement as young adults.
  • Recent research has concluded that children’s exposure to online sexual solicitation and pornography is declining. You can access a summary of the findings or the full report.
  • We have long known that early childhood adverse events may have long-term physical and psychological consequences. Now researchers have determined that such effects may be due to genetic changes due to such childhood adversity. However, the researchers are optimistic that these genetic changes may be reversible.
  • Youth justice laws must be designed for youths and not victims, Merlin Nunn told a Senate committee. Nunn was a witness at a meeting examining changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Many of the changes are inspired by the former Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice and his famous Nunn Commission report.
  • Organisations across the country have raised serious issues with the omnibus crime legislation, particularly when it comes to amendments relating to the treatment of young offenders.

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Corrections

  • Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview Annual Report 2011 provides a statistical overview of corrections and conditional release within a context of trends in crime and criminal justice. A primary consideration in producing this overview was to present general statistical information in a “user friendly” way.
  • According the Justice Policy Institute, there are two major corporations at play in the political sphere of private correctional services: Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group Inc. The GEO Group Inc is an active registered lobbyist that deals with the following branches of the Canadian Federal Government: Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), Public Safety Canada (PS), Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and Public-Private Partnerships Canada, Solicitor General Canada (SGC)” 
  • The federal Public Safety Minister acted unreasonably when he refused to allow two Canadians imprisoned in the United States to serve out their sentences in Canada, a Federal Court judge has ruled.
  • More than 625,000 women and girls are in prison around the world, new report shows.
  • The premise of Ernest Drucker’s new book is that mass incarceration is an epidemic ravaging the country — not a solution to a problem, but a problem in itself.
  • Canadians seeking a criminal record suspension under a new pardon system will have longer to wait.
  • This article outlines seven employment barriers for ex-offenders.
  • Two out of three B.C. criminals serving their sentences in the community instead of jail may not be completing rehabilitation programs aimed at preventing repeat offences, according to British Columbia’s auditor general.
  • It’s opened new worlds, granted insight into the past and even helped some turn a page to the future. It’s called reading and — for many — its pleasure is being discovered in monthly book clubs behind the walls of some federal penitentiaries.
  • For those who like detailed data, here is an interesting analysis of the actual cost of incarceration in U.S. prisons. State-by-state data are provided.
  • As one elderly inmate says: “If you ain’t got peace of mind, you can’t do the time.” He says he came to that peace of mind after being admitted to the True Grit, Senior Structured Living Program at the North Nevada Correctional Centre just outside Carson City. It’s one of a handful of prisons in the U.S. that accommodates older inmates by segregating them in geriatric ranges — a strategy Canada’s correctional services is being urged to consider.
  • The Corrections Corporation of America recently offered to buy (and run) state prisons. Many states have rejected the offer. The offer, which requires that states guarantee 90% occupancy, raises clear ethical concerns.
  • In the midst of allegations that its privatized prisons are uneconomical and unsafe, the Arizona legislature has passed a budget that would ensure that the public would have no way of knowing whether the state’s private prisons are saving money, rehabilitating prisoners, or ensuring public safety. Scroll down the page for a number of related stories.
  • This page has links to a wide variety of news stories about prison privatization, most of which take a more “critical” slant.
  • Concern is being raised about the state of prisons for women in England. Of particular concern is the very high rate of self-harm.
  • Concerns are being raised about the growing incidence of tuberculosis in South African prisons.
  • This article argues that teaching yoga in prison may help inmates develop important self-control skills and could reduce overcrowding.
  • Canada’s correctional investigator Howard Sapers says overcrowding is one of the leading factors in prison violence. That’s why he is concerned that plans for an addition at the Collins Bay federal institution in Kingston call for upper bunks.  Here is another article.
  • Michigan is planning to cut armed perimeter patrols of numerous prisons as a cost-savings measure.
  • Prisons for women in Uganda have 161 children who remain with their mothers during incarceration.
  • This comprehensive article describes the growing movement to reduce the number of inmates maintained in long-term segregation/isolation.
  • This article describes some of the methodological and policy concerns that arise in studying transgendered inmates in a prison setting.
  • A new study suggests that many offenders in high-security prisons could safely be managed in less-expensive lower-security environment.

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Criminal Behavior

  • There has been increasing interest in whether neuroscience could assist criminal justice processes. Recent research suggests that we are far from that goal. The Royal Academy has released a series of reports that support this conclusion.
  • This interesting paper describes everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the polygraph and it’s utility to detect lying.
  • Researchers are challenging the belief that psychopaths are born not made, and suggest psychopaths may even be able to change.
  • Research has suggested that genetics may play a more important role than environment in developing criminal involvement.
  • A recent, large-scale study questions widely held criminology theories about criminal careers.
  • Whether alcohol increases the likelihood of you behaving aggressively seems to depend on whether you normally consider the future consequences of your actions.

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Victims of Crime

  • Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Sue O’Sullivan, has released her first special report, recommending the Government take immediate action to enhance the treatment of victims within Canada’s criminal justice system. Here is the full report
  • The Centres for Disease Control has released its latest Intimate Violence and Sexual Violence survey. Note that this link also provides access to a fact sheet (a brief overview of the findings) and toolkit (to help best communicate these findings).
  • The U.S. Attorney General has announced a new definition of rape.
  • The total lifetime financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (e.g., physical and sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion.
  • As if surviving the Haitian earthquake was not enough, a recent report documents the risk Haitian women in camps face from sexual assault.
  • Tensions between the Catholic Church and alleged victims of abuse by priests appear to be on the rise.

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Violence

  • The Office of Applied Research, Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) is pleased to provide electronic copies of two new reports you might find of interest, supported through the Centre for the Prevention and Violence (CPRV). The reports are entitled Domestic Violence Prevention and Reduction in British Columbia (2000-1010) and Strategies for working with South  Asian male perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Click here for both reports.
  • A new study in which researchers contrast the marketing appeal of blood and guts movies with audience enjoyment of such scenes has discovered that there’s a significant gap between what we think we want to see and what we actually take pleasure in viewing.

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Sexual Offenders

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Mental Health

  • Is it really true that during our lifetimes, one in five of us will experience mental illness 
  • New psychiatric guide may label grief as mental illness.  Draft of  ‘DSM’ removes section known as the ‘bereavement exclusion’.
  • This story and video concerns a female offender who frequently self-harmed in Canadian prisons. She has now been transferred to a provincial mental health facility and seems to be doing much better.
  • Allowing chronically homeless alcoholics to drink in their apartments can actually lead to a reduction in alcohol consumption.
  • Using heroin to treat relapsed heroin users is more cost-effective than traditional methadone maintenance, according to a new study based on North America’s only clinical trial of medically prescribed heroin.
  • A new blood test may help diagnose depression accurately.
  • For the first time, researchers believe they have identified the mechanism by which psychostimulant drugs (e.g., Ritalin) have a calming effect on hyperactivity.
  • Researchers have reported that repeated mild current applied to the brain through scalp electrodes has a significant ameliorative effect on depression.
  • A history of childhood trauma is common among people undergoing treatment for alcoholism and may be a factor in the development of the disorder.

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Related Interest

  • Researchers have detected changes in brain development in autistic babies as young as 6 months old — half a year or more before parents typically begin to notice symptoms of the condition. The results could lead to earlier detection and treatment.
  • Many women might agree with recent research showing that testosterone makes us less cooperative and more egocentric. However, this research used female subjects. Another study has concluded that testosterone levels are negatively related to generosity.
  • People tend to make poor decisions about the likelihood of positive vs. negative outcomes, even when they have personal experience with the actual probabilities involved.
  • Canadian researchers have discovered two areas of the pre-frontal cortex that seem to be critical in detecting and interpreting emotions from facial expressions.
  • People who read news accounts of crime that include information on the involvement of alcohol show greater support for stricter enforcement of alcohol laws.
  • Apparently, humans are not the only species who drown their sorrows over unrequited love at the nearest bar.
  • Organized crime has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making the Mafia the country’s biggest “bank” and squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms, according to a recent  report.

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Did You Know?

The Smart Justice Network is a consortium of volunteers to promote a vision of responsible justice in Canada. It was created by a number of concerned individuals and many of the names on the Chairing Committee will be known to those who have or are working in the justice system: Sheila Arthurs, Lorraine Berzins, Bob Cormier, John Edwards, Susan Haines, Willie Gibbs, Danny Graham, Catherine Latimer, Margot Lavoie, Michael Maher, Ed McIsaac, James Scott, Barry Stuart, Steve Sullivan, David Daubney and Michael Jackson.  Smart Justice puts out a daily bulletin of topical news items. Smart Justice can be contacted at: info@smartjustice.ca. Smart Justice is also on Facebook.

The BCCJA Island Branch held a very successful forum on February 23 at the University of Victoria with the catchy title of “Who is Spinning Whom?”, a public forum on the media and the justice system.  A brief is provided on the BCCJA website at www.bccja.com. For additional up to date information on Vancouver Island activities at any time, click on the “VICJA News-Vancouver Island” button on the website.

The Canadian Criminal Justice Association (CCJA) is our national organization and has existed since 1919. CCJA publishes the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, quarterly Justice Reports, and an electronic newsletter regularly. Their website includes book reviews and position papers on important topics of relevance to criminal justice. Take a few minutes to update yourself on the information available on their website. Their newsletter provides a quick scan of issues before government and items in the public eye and is routinely filed on our BCCJA website.  Click here for direct access to this and more recent CCJA newsletter editions.

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Important Sources and Resources

The Justice Institute of British Columbia specializes in justice and public safety agency training and education. Its’ library is a premier source of academic and experiential training information. For instance, visit the Library site for a prepared bibliography on a wide range of topics: gangs, bullying, critical incident stress, emergency management, etc….click here to access that site.

Restorative Justice BC has an excellent website as a resource of interest to practitioners, community partners and others with an interest in restorative justice, who are wanting to stay up to date on current issues and practices. www.rjbc.ca to access this important information.

JusticeBC.ca has been created by the British Columbia government  “… to ensure the right information and services are available for people who become involved with the criminal justice system in B.C.” It’s a good resource for everyone.

As part of its Domestic Violence Action Plan, the Government of B.C. has developed a new web portal of resources for victims of domestic violence to help them get the support they need. Click here for the website. Here is another site that provides a wealth of information on preventing domestic and sexual violence.

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder website provides a wealth of excellent information on FASD and the criminal justice system. Click here.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada promotes mental health in Canada, and works with stakeholders to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems, and to improve services and support. Their website contains important information regarding initiatives. Click here for the website.

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