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 email@example.com.
VERY BEST WISHES FOR 2013!!
The Board of the British Columbia Criminal Justice Association takes this opportunity to wish our members and all readers of this newsletter a thoughtful, peaceful, joyful and hopeful 2013.
Congress 2013 Update
Our readers are aware that the British Columbia and Canadian Criminal Justice Associations will be hosting our biannual Congress in Vancouver from October 2-5, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Vancouver. The theme of Congress is 21st Century Justice: the Economics of Public Safety. Congress planners have defined four major sub-themes: 1) social justice, 2) preserving the rule of law, 3) crime and punishment, and 4) responding to civil unrest. In addition, there will be a particular focus on youth justice issues and content of particular interest to municipal officials.
Informed by the themes, in mid-2012 the CCJA announced a Call for Papers as a central part of building the Congress program. When the closing date for responses arrived at the end of November 2012, almost 70 proposals from Canada, the U.S., S.E. Asia, Australia and the Caribbean had been received. In addition, the local planners in B.C. have been developing the diversity of priority topics. As conference organizers know, building program content that is fresh, of value to a variety of constituencies, provocative, stimulating, rewarding, of value across the justice system and all parts of Canada is always a challenge. Current plans call for publication of the program in early March, 2013. Watch our BCCJA website from time to time for more information.
The Newsletter now highlights topical issues related to the Congress themes. The themes are not mutually exclusive, nor are the items included therein intended as exhaustive! You will also continue to see many of our usual topic headings.
Summary of Contents
A Note From the Editors
Due to some technical difficulties with this edition, the internal navigation is not working in every instance, i.e. you will have to scroll up and down to access the material of interest. Our apologies!
As always, we welcome constructive feedback and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Ambiguous Crossroads“: Persons with Mental Health Problems and the Criminal Justice System. Attend this workshop on Friday, February 1, 2013 by the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, Halifax. Read more.
The Alberta Correctional Education Association Conference on “Trauma. Violence. Rehabilitation.” is being held March 6-8, 2013 at the Banff Park Lodge.Contact Information: Jeff Korchinski, Alberta Correctional Education Association email@example.com
The John Howard Society of Alberta has announced a major international conference on offender integration, to be held in Calgary March 13-15, 2013. The planning is in partnership with the Prairie Region Halfway House association, the St. Leonard’s Society of Canada and the Canadian Training Institute.
1) Social Justice: What social, cultural and financial dynamics are likely to affect the criminal justice system going forward?
- The rising number of aboriginal women behind bars in Canada is “nothing short of a crisis”. But a recent study prepared for Public Safety Canada concludes that Ottawa pays little more than lip service to public calls for change.
- This interesting lecture by Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, Chair of the Scottish Commission on Women Offenders, focuses on the politics of crime and justice for women. See also this related report.
- The British Ministry of Justice has published data on women in the criminal justice system from the perspective of victim and offender.
- Prisoners at the Northwest Territories’ biggest jail got a chance recently to tell their stories of abuse in residential schools. Indeed, it appears that jail is a place former residential school students know well.
- The Harper government’s plans to reform Canada’s refugee system could end up being a back door for the privatization of prisons and detention centres, some critics warn.
- Pressure is building for Ottawa to reverse its decision to eliminate part-time prison chaplains across the country. In a cost-cutting move, 49 chaplains’ contracts are not being renewed.
- We have comparatively little knowledge about the presence of military veterans within the Correctional Service of Canada’s offender population. This exploratory study examines the prevalence of veterans in American, British, and Canadian correctional systems, and talks about the implications and complications of this group.
- The attention being generated by the Ashley Smith inquest has raised broader issues about mental health and the Canadian criminal justice system. Click on the audio link for a most interesting documentary.
- The aging prison population represents a significant challenge for corrections according to the Correctional Investigator, who urged Ottawa “to avoid some of the mistakes we have already made along the way in regards to the mentally ill”. Two significant videos are provided in this report.
- Responding to violence by individuals who are hospitalized for a mental illness can provide challenges for staff and police. Now an Ontario man, himself a patient at the hospital, is pursuing criminal charges against a fellow patient because local authorities won’t do so.
- The RCMP says that youth gang members – not just mobsters and bikers – should be allowed into the federal witness protection program as part of a sweeping modernization.
- What has happened to “tough on crime”? A group of business-oriented groups in Florida are working together to reduce incarceration and recidivism in order to save money.
- This author describes the costs of not dealing adequately with drug and alcohol addiction.
- Greig Clark who made millions in business, is promoting a new model for community development, a mix of public and private enterprise.
- This opinion piece reflects on the large number of convicted individuals who are later exonerated.
- Conrad Black has some very pointed but interesting analyses of Canada’s social policies, including how to finance social programs.
2) Preserving the Rule of Law: As financial and other barriers increasingly affect how justice is delivered (e.g., availability of legal aid, time to trial), how do we ensure the credibility of the rule of law?
- Innovative projects in Manitoba designed to make the court system more efficient have apparently failed. This article outlines some of the possible reasons for this outcome.
- A major reorganization of the agency that investigates organized crime in B.C. should enable police to better tackle gang violence. The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) will have 400 people to concentrate their efforts on disrupting and dismantling violent gangs across the province.
- Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced recently that $300,000 will be spent on a Calgary-based gang initiative. The program targets at-risk youths between 17 and 25. In its two years in operation, it has helped about 60-90 people in Calgary who are looking to leave the gang life behind.
- The Quebec Gang Prevention Workshop Program was launched in 2005. Read more here on the purpose and content of these workshops.
- The UK government’s plan for a rapid expansion of restorative justice is designed to increase awareness of restorative justice and enable more victims to access a high quality service. The plan sets out a series of priorities that will embed restorative justice into the criminal justice system. Click here for the news release, and here for the full Plan.
- A very successful restorative justice initiative for young offenders in England has reduced the number of youth with criminal records while reducing costs to the community.
- Police across Britain are using restorative justice principles “on the street” to deal with up to 12 percent of all cases. This increased use of more informal policing and resolution has attracted supporters and critics.
- A well-known restorative justice advocate claims “our justice system needs a fundamental re-think. We can no longer fix the problem with the same old solutions: more police, more prosecution, more punishment.”
- This editorial notes that volunteers who give their time to restorative justice programs may do more than meets the eye. As we recognized Restorative Justice week in B.C., we should take time to rethink our idea of justice.
- Dalhousie University is the first academic institution to adopt a restorative justice approach to resolve minor criminal activities by its students.
- In these challenging economic times, we can’t afford to neglect our most precious resource: our children, posits the mission of the Pennsylvania Restorative Practices Project. Visit their interesting web site for a wealth of information on restorative justice.
- In an unusual move, the Cumberland City Council adopted a bylaw enforcement policy that includes the use of restorative justice techniques.
- The Canadian government’s Safe Streets and Communities Act which is designed to be “comprehensive law-and-order legislation with respect to repeat and violent young offenders”, is now law. The Department of Justice released this backgrounder.
- As in Canada, a United Kingdom’s government has introduced legisation which requires service providers to store details of internet use in the UK for a year to allow police and intelligence services to access it during police investigations.
- The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) opposes passage of Bill C-37 (Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act), as it would double the amount of victim surcharges and remove judges’ discretion regarding their imposition. While the CBA supports use of victim surcharges to provide services to victims of crime, they object to the removal of a judge’s discretion. Here is the legislative summary of the Bill.
- This article describes a novel approach in the U.K. to keep women from entering the prison system.
- Here is an interesting interview with the director of the Correctional Association of New York discussing changes to the prison system that would benefit the offender, the community and would help save money.
- The recent U.S. elections saw voters in various states decide on a number of criminal justice initiatives including legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the death penalty, assisted suicide, condom use on porn sets, and the three-strikes sentencing law. Here’s how some of these votes turned out.
- While many U.S. states have started pulling back on their “tough on crime” posture, one could argue that the recent U.S. elections show that there is a shift in public attitudes as well.
- The European court of human rights has ruled that the indeterminate sentences currently being served by 6000 individuals in the U.K. are arbitrary and unlawful.
- San Francisco has an interesting community court that positively reinforces offenders for compliance with court orders.
- Two new courts opened New Zealand to deal with people with alcohol and drug dependency issues. Offenders who face a term of at least three years in prison will have the opportunity to get reduced sentences by completing rigorous programming. Officials expect these projects to both help offenders and save money
- Police in Wisconsin recently met with local merchants to offer practical tips on how to reduce the likelihood of becoming victims of crime.
3) Crime and Punishment: Redefining crime as a factor of economic circumstances
- After declining steadily for almost 40 years, Statistics Canada reports that the homicide rate in Canada went up by 7% in 2011. More detailed information from Statistics Canada is available here.
- For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics has reported an increase in violent crime (17%) and property crime (11%). The full BJS report can be accessed here.
- Community or custody? A tough question discussed in this excellent article by the BBC news. A year long review of criminal sentences concludes that rigorous community programmes can help reduce crime and prevent reoffending.
- Performance incentive funding (PIF) programs reward agencies and local jurisdictions with a share of savings for delivering better and cheaper criminal justice results. This report from the Vera Institute describes lessons learned by successful jurisdictions and the key considerations policymakers need to take into account when designing and implementing their own PIF program.
- Further to the last item, the Vera Institute seeks to “improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety”. Their web site has a wealth of information on evidence-based practice that is humane, effective and efficient. It is well worth checking out.
- This article addresses arguements by Conrad Black and former Ontario’s Attorney general Michael Bryant that “prison is futile and destructive and hideously expensive, and is done only because it has always been done.”
- We need to remind ourselves that restraint and proportionality have often been the overarching principles in sentencing through the ages, this lawyer writes. And aside from the nature of the punishment itself, legal scholars and philosophers have all wrestled with a more fundamental concern: what do we hope to accomplish by punishing lawbreakers?
- The Institute for Economics and Peace provides a new methodology to categorize and account for the economic activity related to violence.
- Average counts of adults on conditional release, by type of release status, 1980/1981 to 2010/2011 show the decrease in parole coincides with the enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) in 1992.
- Crimes involving guns cost Canadians more than $3 billion a year in direct and indirect costs.
- Here are two items that contextualize the social ills which bear direct impact on criminal justice effectiveness. The first is a new report from the Broadbent Institute on growing inequality of income and growing poverty in Canada. The second is a speech by Allen Gregg on the failure of the present Government of Canada to factor researched evidence and reason in policy making.
- The Social Science Research Laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan reports a big gap between the perception and reality of the level of crime in Saskatoon and Regina. One might suspect the findings would be true elsewhere as well.
- The British Justice Secretary has argued that prisons should be “tougher” and not places where offenders watch TV and enjoy themselves.
- Several unions representing Correctional Service of Canada employees have been organizing public events to oppose the increased in double bunking and decreased operating budgets.
- While prison-reform and victim-advocacy groups are often in opposition, work in New Zealand is demonstrating that the two sides often share many goals in common and could be effective allies.
- This author argues that criminal justice professionals should understand theories of crime (i.e., why do individuals commit crimes) in order to do their jobs better.
- In this Youtube video, the narrator talks about how the average person gets his/her understanding of incarceration, and how that effects change in the system.
- This article discusses the current status and future directions for using analytic techniques to predict criminal behavior.
- Consistent with the trend to use data analysis to better predict and prevent crime, authorities are using these techniques to help prevent (high seas) piracy.
- While more jurisdictions have moved towards the abolition of the death penalty over the last fifty years, in many countries there has been a striking increase in the use of life imprisonment or indefinite sentences, often without the chance of parole. This short briefing paper sets out human rights concerns surrounding the increasing use of life imprisonment and gives recommendations for reform.
- Amsterdam is to create “Scum villages” where nuisance neighbours and anti-social tenants will be exiled from the city and rehoused in caravans or containers with “minimal services” under constant police supervision.
- What do we do when we see inappropriate or unlawful behavior of strangers, asks columnist Craig McInnes. His thoughts are worth considering.
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that intimate partner violence has decreased by 64% between 1993 and 2010.
4) Responding to Civil Unrest: What does the growth in events such as the occupy movement, the Stanley Cup riots and the student demonstrations in Quebec reflect and how should the criminal justice system respond?
- The House of Commons recently approved a bill banning people from hiding their faces during riots. Read more here.
- The government of Manipur, India is concerned that inefficient police operations are resulting in more mob violence as a citizen response to crime and criminals.
- A United Nations review of Canada’s child-rights record says Ottawa is moving backwards with its changes to juvenile justice. The committee says C-10 needs to be brought in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards. The committee also urged Ottawa to do something to fix the dramatic over-representation of aboriginal and black children in the justice system. Here is a related story
- A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may restore rehabilitation as a component of their juvenile justice system.
- This article describes strategies to prevent the frequent “crossover” of youth from the social welfare system to the criminal justice system.
- The following are three of the many articles written about bullying following the suicide of teen Amanda Todd. The first talks about possible federal legislative action and the second talks about the impact of bullying on young female brain development. The third article is an opinion piece which adds an important dimension to the debate about what to do with respect to bullying. The writer says we know the tried and true remedies.
- One more on this topic. Nova Scotia is spending $500,000 to expand anti-bullying campaigns in schools, hoping “restorative justice” methods modelled after native sentencing circles can curb the problem in the province.
- Recent advances in neuroscience and genetics are spurring an old discussion. If we could predict which children/youth are likely to show violent behavior, should we intervene before they can act out?
- This article describes the pros and cons of Britain’s approach to identify youth at high risk of criminal behaviour and intervene before such behavior occurs.
- Louisiana has won a major award for innovation in its juvenile justice system. Specifically, youth entering the system are assigned a probation/parole officer who handles their case from entry until exit from the system, thus ensuring individualized attention and continuity.
- Arguing that youth gun violence is driven by impulsive behavior, research has shown that interventions aimed at social behavior can significantly reduce such violence.
- Some have argued that delinquent behavior may reflect underlying psychological disturbance and can most effectively be addressed through psychological rather than criminal justice interventions.
- An expert on adolescent brain development suggests that the criminal justice system must stop thinking about juvenile offenders as younger versions of adult offenders. He describes six main areas of difference.
- Here is an interesting opinion piece from a sitting Judge entitled “The Juvenile Justice System Is Not a Hammer and Kids Are Not Nails”.
- Concerns about the use of solitary confinement in prison are not restricted to adults. A recent report supported by the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union has called for virtually eliminating solitary confinement for youth.
- Texas has been experimenting with youth criminal justice reforms. Now a report has concluded that these efforts have successfully reduced the incarcerated youth population. A link to the full report is available on the last line of the article.
- This article considers the implications of subjecting offenders, who have committed a sexual offense as a juvenile, to the adult civil commitment system as sexually violent predators.
- The B.C. government’s recently announced domestic violence action plan is a result of an investigation murders of three children by their mentally ill father.
Criminal Justice Policy
- Eighteen years after Californians overwhelmingly approved the country’s toughest Three Strikes law, they did an about-face in the November 7 elections, easing the habitual-offender statute in a vote likely to influence criminal justice policies nationwide.
- A day after California voted to soften its three-strikes sentencing law, defense lawyers around the state prepared to seek reduced punishments for roughly 3000 offenders serving up to life in prison for relatively minor crimes.
- The Quebec Bar Association has launched a legal challenge against parts of the federal Conservatives’ law-and-order agenda, Bill C-10, specifically mandatory minimums.
- Britain, like Canada, has adopted a “tough on crime” stance. Here is the text of a speech given by the opposition Labour Party critical of this approach.
Criminal Justice System
- A year after California adopted a “realignment” strategy to reduce prison populations (as per a Supreme Court order), there are predictably those on both sides of the issue about whether it has worked or made things worse.
- Human Rights Watch has released a report critical of the criminal justice system in Gaza. The full report is available through the link.
- RCMP are testing mobile units for administration and cells.
- A judge in B.C. has expressed concern about the presence of police gang force officers in courthouses during trials of gang members.
- Vancouver police are proposing a squad of unarmed officers to handle low-priority calls, thus freeing up other officers for more serious cases.
- Determining how pig carcasses are eaten by sea creatures and decompose under water could help police solve investigations into bodies found in the ocean.
- Taser use by police in B.C. is down 87 per cent since Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver’s airport five years ago.
- Further on this topic, Justice Thomas Braidwood says he is satisfied with the responses to his recommendations in the public inquiry arising from the Dziekanski death.
- People who smuggle guns across the Canadian border come from all walks of life.
- Technology, demographics and policing have significantly impacted on the number of car thefts.
- Vancouver’s legendary beat cop Whistling Bernie Smith has died. He was 89.
- The City of Richmond gets more bang for its buck by keeping the RCMP compared with other policing services it might be considering, says a recent report by the force.
- British Columbia’s municipal police complaint process is “well-documented and comprehensive,” if a little slow, according to a new report released recently by the provincial auditor general.
Corrections and Community
- First, a good news story (ignore the ad at the beginning of the video). Manitoba inmates help build house for a family through Habitat for Humanity.
- Apparently, the Correctional Service of Canada is planning a dramatic shift in policy that could make double-bunking the norm and erase all references to maximum capacity in federal prisons.
- The long delayed inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, who killed herself in a Correctional Service of Canada prison, is finally underway with the coroner refusing to narrow the scope of his enquiries. Rather, the entire federal prison system may come under scrutiny.
- A former prisoner infected with hepatitis C is suing the Canadian federal government over its refusal to allow clean-needle exchanges inside prisons.
- The incidence of HIV/AIDS in prisons greatly exceeds that in the community and can present challenges to prison authorities. Now the ACLU is challenging Alabama’s policy of segregating such offenders from the general population.
- Data suggest that over the last five years, there has been a 44% increase in gang affiliation among Correctional Service of Canada inmates, perhaps contributing to the increased prison violence seen over the same time period.
- This writer suggests that the raising of the cap on the officer/prisoner ratio and the reduction of officers has led to a considerable increase in violent incidents in prisons not just in BC, but across the country.
- California’s policy of isolating prison gang members in high-security units based on their gang membership rather than behaviour is being criticized.
- While many prison jurisdictions are facing serious gang issues, inmates in an Idaho prison are alleging that the private company that runs their prison colluded with inmate gangs to help run the facility, thus saving money by having to hire fewer staff.
- Amnesty International has released a report critical of the way thousands of inmates are kept in secure housing units in U.S. prisons.
- Our readers are likely aware that California was ordered by the Supreme Court to reduce its prison population to only 137.5% of rated capacity. Apparently, efforts to comply are not on track and California has asked for an extension to comply.
- After operating under court supervision for the last seven years, prisons in California will begin re-taking control over providing health care for inmates.
- Here is yet another report (this one from the New York Civil Liberties Union) highly critical of the use of segregation in prison.
- An important study suggests that, for teens and adults who don’t grow out of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, staying on ADHD medications may help them stay out of the criminal justice system.
- The federal Justice Minister hplans introduce legislation intended to ensure public safety is paramount in decisions about releasing high-risk mentally ill offenders into society. Here is an interview raising concerns over the proposed changes.
- We have noted in previous issues the growing evidence implicating neurological impairment as a possible cause of crime. Apparently, the use of such evidence as part of criminal defenses is increasing rapidly.
- The number of Correctional Service of Canada inmates who self-harm has tripled over the last five years.
- Not enough is being done to protect troubled B.C. children from self-harm says a recent report.
- It is well known that children growing up with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) need a variety of support systems. The conventional wisdom has been that the neurological damage underlying the disorder is irreversible. However, scientists now recognize that, under the right conditions, new brain cells and connections can grow at any point in a person’s life.
- A recent British report documents the association between traumatic brain injury and involvement in the criminal justice system and offers policy and practice suggestions.
- California’s efforts to reduce its prison population may be having positive benefits for those with mental illness.
- Here is a very interesting discussion of the status of mentally disordered individuals in Pakistan and proposed legislation to change the situation.
- There is a growing move to define and treat drug and alcohol addiction in purely medical terms.
- This article reacts to the apparently very low reliability of diagnosing individuals with the new DSM V.
- As is the case in Canada, mental illness is very prevalent among women incarcerated in the U.S.
- A recent study has found that returning soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at greater risk of running afoul of the law. The findings reinforce the importance of providing appropriate treatment.
- Public opinion and policy can be influenced by myths (Obama’s birth place) that many believe to be fact. This article describes research trying to understand how such myths remain “facts”. Here is another perspective on the same issue.
- Here is an interesting lecture on how policy makers “frame the debate” to influence public perceptions and support.
- This interesting article describes some of the profound effects that adverse childhood experiences can have in later life.
- Research is suggesting that youth may engage is risky behaviours not because they can better tolerate risk, but because they can better tolerate uncertainty about possible outcomes.
- While testosterone is generally associated with aggression, recent research suggests it may also promote pro-social behavior, such as not lying.
- Contrary to popular and academic belief, we tend to judge whether some else is experiencing positive or negative events not from their facial expressions but from their body language.
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 who have or are working in the justice system. Smart Justice puts out a daily bulletin of topical news items. Smart Justice can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Smart Justice is also on Facebook.
The BCCJA Island Branch is an active Branch of the BCCJA located largely in the south Island. Get involved! For additional up to date information on Vancouver Island activities at any time, click on the VICJA button at www.bccja.com.
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 periodic electronic newsletter provides a quick scan of issues before government and items in the public eye.
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. Their web-site: www.rjbc.ca.
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, with information on legal assistance, jury duty, corrections and court services, plus more……
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. The following is another site that provides a wealth of information on preventing domestic and sexual violence.
Changing Directions, Changing Lives: A Mental Health Strategy for Canada was launched on May 12, 2012 by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The Commission exists to promote mental health in Canada, and works with stakeholders to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems, and to improve services and support. Check their web-site for a series of audio-visual clips on the Strategy, and also for important information regarding a number of key initiatives. Click here.