600 words; 3 minutes to read.
The introductory post for this blog was in early September of 2017, just over two years ago. Since then we have posted well over 100 items on various aspects of criminal justice. Many of these posts merit a second look. Here are a few of the earlier ones.
Overuse of prison, forgiveness, moratoriums on jail, Just Mercy
Overuse of prison around the world – based on work by the Institute for Criminal Policy research (http://www.icpr.org.uk/) at the University of London, looked at reasons why rates of imprisonment vary so much from one country to another and concluded this has much more to do with politics than with actual crime levels.
Forgiveness spoke to the story of Margaret Van Sluytman (on Twitter as @MargotVan), who eventually came, as an act of forgiveness, to befriend the man who had murdered her father. This inspirational story led to to a career of promoting restorative justice in Canada and beyond through her Sawbonna Project.
A post by Justin Piché, a professor at the University of Ottawa, argued for a moratorium on the building of any new jails or prisons in Canada, arguing for investing the money in building communities instead. Prof. Piché and his team are still leading efforts to stop the building of a $1 billion new provincial jail in Ottawa. On twitter as @CPEP.
Prof Lisa Kerr, of Queen’s University law school, wrote about Bryan Stevenson, his work, and his book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. “Stevenson is relentlessly focused on raising public consciousness about the extreme realities of American punishment, she said. He is also the guiding spirit behind a movement to commemorate lynchings of African Americans in the United states.
IROC, OCI and the harmful effects of a criminal record
Another early post discussed the first report of Ontario’s Independent Review of Corrections in Ontario, or IROC, headed by Howard Sapers, former federal Correctional Investigator. This first report dealt with overuse of segregation in Ontario jails, before various courts had ruled on the suits against the federal government for misuse of segregation in federal prisons. The work of that review, commissioned by the former Liberal government, ended early in 2019, and the current Ontario government has not yet shown any interest on acting on any of the recommendations. As the Review concluded, ‘the system cannot reform itself’.
Early attention was also given to one of the most important resources for understanding the Canadian penal system, the work of Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI). The annual reports of this office, now headed by Ivan Zinger, provide one of the few opportunities for public scrutiny of the billions of dollars spent every year in Canada locking people up in prisons. These reports detail not only the many deficiencies in the way our prisons operate, but the way these conditions worsened for many years, and the reluctance of the Correctional Service to address the issues raised.
Another post commented on a topic that has reappeared several times in later posts – the lasting harmful effects of a criminal record, based on a 2017 report by the Canadian Bar Association. This report detailed how a criminal record could affect for many years after the sentence, and often permanently, all kinds of aspects of a person’s life including custody of children, citizenship, employment, housing, travel and other areas.
The internet is a world in which some things live forever while others are quickly replaced by ‘the next thing’, yet often these have little to do with the enduring value of the material. We hope that readers of this blog, who may not have known about it at the start, can make use of these posts.
As always, all material on this blog is free to reproduce as long as this source is credited.