Tuesday, March 12, 2019

JAIL hotline first quarterly advocacy report released



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ottawa JAIL hotline takes more than 650 calls in its first three months of operations – nearly 1 in 10 callers report issues with access to and the administration of opioid substitution treatment medications

12 March 2019 – A volunteer hotline setup to take calls from prisoners at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) and their loved ones in December 2018 to monitor and work towards addressing issues at the jail has received 659 phone calls in three months. Approximately 20 percent of the total calls received from prisoners at the Innes Road jail cited health care as their primary concern, with nearly half of these callers reporting issues with access to, and the administration of, opioid substitution treatment medications in the context of an overdose epidemic inside and outside jail walls in Ontario.

While no prisoners have died recently at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) from drug overdoses, JAIL hotline callers have identified a number of issues that suggest the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is not positioning the institution as well as it could to avoid future catastrophes. Dozens of OCDC prisoners have reported not getting access to their treatment regimens and experiencing excruciating withdrawal symptoms. One former OCDC prisoner describes the impact the situation has had: “they’re doing a third more time because they’re not sleeping”. Even when people get access to their medications, callers report receiving insufficient or inconsistently timed dosages, which increases the probability of overdoses upon release. One caller remarked: “Within three weeks they tapered me down to 2 millilitres. After release I wasn’t able to make it to my methadone clinic and ended-up overdosing”. The lack of continuity in care between jails and community healthcare providers was also an issue for many callers who expressed their frustrations waiting weeks for access to their OST medications because OCDC healthcare staff were not acting on the opioid substitution treatment agreement forms sent by community doctors in a timely manner. One caller stated: “Some people get cut-off their methadone inside, then when they get released the methadone clinics are closed, and people get heroin with fentanyl in it and they OD”.

JAIL hotline coordinator Sarah Speight underscores the significance of these problems: “In the face of this crisis, where an average of more than three human beings died every day in the province in 2017 – a trend which continues – the Government of Ontario needs to do more to stop preventable deaths, including in custody”. For Speight, there are several solutions available to address the overdose crisis inside and outside jail walls: “At OCDC, prisoners who require methadone or suboxone should have timely access to their medication. Providing nasal naxolone to prisoners to augment the emergency response capacity of the institution, and providing education on harm reduction and overdose prevention resources to people upon their release from custody would also help. To ensure continuity of care from communities to jails, the provincial government should transfer medical and mental health care responsibilities to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. This would save lives and money. Premier Ford should also demand that Prime Minister Trudeau’s federal government decriminalize and facilitate access to a safe supply of regulated drugs of a known potency to prevent the further criminalization and deaths of people who use them”.

Several other issues reported by prisoners documented in the JAIL hotline’s first quarterly report include: matters relating to access to justice; prolonged use of segregation and inadequate review mechanisms; the inability of prisoners to call the cell phones of their loved ones and the above-market, high costs of collect calls; poor treatment from some staff members; lack of medical privacy due to continued medical and mental heallth assessments through cell door slots; cutting-off or modification of the administration of prescriptions; poor air quality; lack of cleanliness in some cells; inadequate winter gear to access yard; the predatory prices at canteen for basic necessities to maintain personal hygiene and food to supplement poor quality meals provided by the jail, and lower canteen account limits put in place last fall that require more frequent deposits by prisoners’ loved ones on-site; and lockdowns associated with incarcerating weekend prisoners at OCDC or transferring them to other facilities where they endured more austere conditions of confinement.

The JAIL hotline’s first quarterly report contains 23 recommendations to limit the damage of incarceration experienced by prisoners. Souheil Benslimane – who’s also a JAIL hotline coordinator – notes, “what we’re proposing are common sense remedies to improve conditions of confinement at OCDC and reduce the use of imprisonment. We will continue our work with prisoners and their loved ones, no matter the barriers, no matter the walls that stand in our way”.

To arrange for a media interview with report authors contact:
Souheil Benslimane, Coordinator, JAIL Hotline – 819-592-6469 / jailhotline@gmail.com

Friday, February 15, 2019

Invest more in young people and communities, not police to enhance safety

PRESS RELEASE 

CPEP launches #NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion infographics series, joining others in the community demanding the City of Ottawa invest in young people and communities to enhance safety

February 15, 2019 - Earlier this month, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) tabled its budget for 2019, which includes a "net incremental operating budget increase of $12.2 million", amounting to a "police tax increase of 3%" from 2018. The OPS budget also includes plans to raid municipal reserves for one-time funding allocations to off-set their budgetary shortfalls, a measure which Mayor Jim Watson has proposed should be limited so that more investments can be made in things like affordable housing. The Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) is joining others in the community who are demanding the City of Ottawa invest more in young people, families and communities, not police to enhance safety. To this end, CPEP has launched a #NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion infographics series to raise awareness about alternative ways to spend $12 million in 2019 to build safer and healthier communities across our city.

Infographic 1 - "Families & Youth
Infographic 2 - "Health"
Infographic 3 - "Housing"
Infographic 4 - "Jobs"
Infographic 5 - "Restorative Justice"

Audrey Monette, crime prevention consultant and Master’s student in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa, argues that if City Council approves an OPS budget increase they're missing an opportunity to tackle violence more effectively. She notes, “For every dollar the municipality invests upstream in prevention initiatives, they’ll save up to $7 in costs incurred by police, courts, corrections, and victims themselves when a crime takes place. This has been said before, but it bears repeating - investing upstream is more effective in preventing victimization, improving community safety outcomes, and saving taxpayers’ money”.

Justin Piché, co-founder of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project, adds: "I agree with OPS Chief Charles Bordeleau when he says "we can't arrest out way out of this issue. But there's a broader and deeper conversation that we need to have". We're not having enough of these conversations that lead to investments in our young people, families and communities that'll actually reduce violence. If we tolerate this, our children will be next. We can't leave it to them to fix this. We've got the know-how to address this now and the solutions are in investments in our young people today and in the years to come, not more boots on the ground and police militarization".

Those interested in supporting greater investments in young people and communities are encouraged to phone the offices of the Mayor and City Councillors or write letters (for an example - see the template provided by Grassroots Blackburn-Orléans) telling them #NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion. Ottawa residents can also attend the 20 February 2019 meeting of the Finance and Audit Committee (2:30pm, Colonel By Room, City Hall / 110 Laurier Avenue West) and the 25 February 2019 meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board (4:00pm, Champlain Room, Heritage Building, City Hall / 110 Laurier Avenue West) to voice their concerns.

Contact to arrange media interviews: 
Justin Piché, PhD 
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa 
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Families & Youth


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Health


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Housing


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Jobs


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Restorative Justice


Friday, February 1, 2019

#NOPE infographic 1 - "The Numbers"




#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series launched


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series launched urging
Premier Ford and his team to invest more in building communities, not cages

Infographics:
Day 1 - The Numbers
Day 2 - Education
Day 4 - Housing
Day 5 - Jobs
Day 6 - Health
1 February 2019 – “Leaving no stone unturned” and “everybody will have to make sacrifices” are frequent mantras uttered by Premier Ford and his team as they press forward with measures said to be aimed at “balancing the books”, making Ontario “open for business”, and putting “more money in taxpayers’ pockets”. Announcements of funding commitments made by the previous Liberal government being cut or significantly reduced by the Progressive Conservatives, along with trial balloons being floated about for “input” from and “consultation” with “the people”, are now regular occurrences. Many of these measures are aimed squarely at Ontario’s children and young people generally, and the poorest among them in particular. Their publicly-funded educations are under attack, while Premier Ford oversees the development of new school-to-prison pipelines in the form of new and bigger jails in Thunder Bay and Ottawa planned by the previous Wynne administration.

Today, the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project – a group based at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa conducting research and public awareness initiatives aimed at reducing the use of imprisonment and improving conditions of confinement – launched the first daily instalment of its #NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series that'll end on 8 February 2019 when Ontario’s provincial budget consultations are set to conclude. The initiative urges Premier Ford and his team to divest from jail expansion and invest more in infrastructure and services that’ll actually enhance community well-being and safety. In particular, the campaign aims to stop the planned replacement of the 585-bed Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre with the 25% bigger, 725-bed Wynne-Ford jail. The project is slated to cost taxpayers up to $1 billion to design, build, finance, and maintain over the life of a 30-year private-public partnership that’ll line the pockets of wealthy corporations and their shareholders, while taxpayers pay millions more every year in operational costs that could be spent on helping marginalized youth build their lives, instead of expanding our province’s capacity to cage them.

Katarina Bogosavljevic – President of the Criminology Graduate Students’ Association and PhD student at the University of Ottawa – is urging the government to invest in education, not incarceration stating: “We know from research that societies that have less social inequality and a better educated population are safer and have a higher quality of life. Ontario needs to invest more in young people, not make cuts to their educations, while building more cages to imprison them. The province should divest from building bigger jails in Ottawa and Thunder Bay, and invest in covering the costs of skilled-trades training, college and university, particularly for young people pushed to the margins by poverty”.

Concerned about the opportunities being missed by the province to tackle violence effectively, Audrey Monette – crime prevention consultant and Master’s student in Criminology at the University of Ottawa – notes: “For every dollar the province could invest upstream in prevention initiatives, they’d save up to $7 in costs incurred by police, courts, corrections, and victims themselves when a crime takes place. I don’t doubt that Premier Ford cares about community safety and victims, but he shouldn’t go down the road of expanding policing and jailing. Investing upstream is more effective in preventing victimization, improving community safety outcomes, and saving taxpayers’ money”.

Rebecca Ward – common law student at the University of Ottawa – questions the ‘criminal justice’ spending priorities of the government, noting: “In Ontario, nearly 70% of people in our provincial jails and prisons are awaiting their day in court. This is an affront to the presumption of innocence. Instead of building more cages that’ll do nothing to address court backlogs and delays, Attorney General Mulroney’s ministry should have more resources at its disposal to support restorative justice encounters when all parties affected by a criminalized act wish to engage in such a process instead of using the traditional adversarial and retributive process that often retraumatizes those affected by social harm. Her ministry could also be allocated more resources to ensure the penal process moves more fairly and efficiently. Greater investments in legal aid, coupled with more supportive bail policies and practices would also help diminish Ontario’s reliance on imprisonment and make us safer”.

In light of the on-going disaster at the Toronto South Detention Centre, which opened in 2013 and has since fallen well-short of its billing as a facility that would make imprisonment “safer for correctional staff” and prisoners, Justin Piché – Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Ottawa – argues: “If the government ‘remains committed to building a new jail in Ottawa’ to ensure ‘correctional officers work in a safe environment’, past failures be damned, the new institution should smaller than the one planned so that we can invest in more cost-effective prevention, diversion and decarceration measures that’ll diminish our reliance on human caging, while improving community well-being and safety. This work should start with investing more, not less in education”.

Contact to arrange media interviews:
Justin Piché, PhD
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

#our1billion
#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion – #YESS / Yes to Education and Social Services #BuildCommunitiesNotCages – #got99solutions, a bigger jail ain’t one

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

#BellLetsTalkOCDC demonstration being held tomorrow


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Protest tomorrow on #BellLetsTalk day to push the phone company to provide Ontario prisoners and their families with more affordable and accessible phone calls to diminish their mental distress

29 January 2019 – A demonstration is being held tomorrow on #BellLetsTalk day from 12:15pm to 12:45pm at Place Bell (160 Elgin Street – Ottawa / Algonquin Territory) against the predatory and flawed Ontario jail phone system run by Bell Canada. Speakers and others gathered will present two demands to the telecommunications giant: (1) that the company put an end to the very high phone charges paid by provincial prisoners, including those held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC), and their loved ones that deepen poverty, sever family and community bonds, and cause stress and mental anguish; and (2) that they make changes to the system they administer to allow prisoners to call cell phones to connect with their families and friends. These changes are needed given that in 2015 then Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi acknowledged that “25% of people of people who come into our care and custody have mental health problems” and research shows that imprisonment can lead to the onset or worsening of existing conditions.

Under the terms of its current contract with the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which began in 2013 and expires in 2020, Bell Canada – a multi-billion-dollar company – generates a share of its profits off the backs of prisoners who are separated, sometimes at great distances, from their families. According to CBC News, Bell Canada charges $25 for 20-minute long-distance collect calls from the province’s jails and prisons. Sadia Jama of the Canadian Somali Mothers Association notes, “when a family is experiencing poverty because of the loss of an income-earner to incarceration, the huge phone bills paid to try to stay connected during an already very isolating moment in their lives just adds to the financial pressures they face”.

Currently, individuals imprisoned at OCDC and other Ontario jails can only call landlines, which are increasingly rare. Souheil Benslimane, who is a Coordinator for the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line, notes that “since we launched the hotline, we’ve received calls from dozens of people at the Innes Road jail who haven’t spoken to their families for weeks or sometimes even months”. The situation has caused considerable mental distress for prisoners. One JAIL hotline caller, who was exasperated about not being able to talk to his wife as their household doesn’t have a landline, stated: “We need to be able to call cell phones. This is not a joke anymore”. Farhat Rehman of MOMS / Mothers Offering Mutual Support underscores what is at stake: “A single timely phone call to a family member has the potential to avert a disastrous outcome and can even save the life of a love one behind bars”.

The Bell Canada administered Ontario jail phone system also erects barriers for prisoners to connect to their defense attorneys. Michael Spratt, lawyer and partner for Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP, underscores the seriousness of the issue, noting: “In Ontario, nearly 70% of provincial prisoners are awaiting their day in court. Imagine if your future was hanging in the balance and you weren’t able to call your lawyer’s cell phone to discuss your defense. Imagine getting transferred to a jail far away from your community and then being charged a fortune when you needed to call your lawyer”.

Given that research has documented that imprisonment – through severing ties between prisoners and their loved ones – undermines the ability of incarcerated people to reintegrate into society following their release from custody, Joel Harden, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa-Centre, is concerned that “Ontario’s jail phone system is undermining community well-being and safety”. He adds, “Bell Canada needs to step up and do its part to keep families together so that Ontario’s future is one where we build safer communities, not bigger jails”.

Contact to arrange media interviews with demonstration speakers:
Justin Piché, PhD
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa 
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

First monthly report of the JAIL hotline released


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JAIL hotline releases first monthly report based on 148 calls about 
conditions of confinement at OCDC - among myriad of issues plaguing the jail, 
health care cited by prisoners as primary concern

15 January 2019 – A new volunteer hotline received 148 phone calls in the last month, the vast majority of which were from current prisoners, revealing a myriad of on-going issues at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC). Approximately a quarter of the calls received from prisoners at the Innes Road jail cited health care as their primary concern.

Poor conditions of confinement and human rights violations have been commonplace at OCDC for decades, receiving widespread condemnation in media coverage, inquests into preventable jail deaths, reports by the Ontario Ombudsperson and most recently by the now disbanded Independent Review Team lead by Howard Sapers. Despite some recent reforms, including the 2014 creation of the Community Advisory Board, the implementation of the 2016 OCDC Task Force, and the 2018 passage of the Correctional Services and Reintegration Act which has not been proclaimed into force by the new provincial government, there remain profound problems at the Innes Road jail. It’s in this context that the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project launched the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line on 10 December 2018. JAIL hotline volunteers work with prisoners and their loved ones to improve conditions of confinement at OCDC, as well as connect people to community care and service providers to help facilitate their safe re-entry into their communities upon release.

As is detailed in the JAIL hotline’s first monthly report, in several calls to the line, prisoners reported being assessed by medical and mental health professionals through their cell doors, a practice which came to light during last month’s inquest into the preventable death of Cleve “Cas” Geddes – who was living with schizophrenia and died by suicide in 2017 after being sent to OCDC instead of the Royal Ottawa Hospital for a judge-ordered psychological assessment. During the inquest, a jail psychologist who ‘assessed’ Cas through a segregation cell door noted this was “not a very therapeutic environment for an assessment”, while a deputy superintendent at OCDC noted the practice was being curbed through the availability of an interview room. Yet, many prisoners have reported that this dehumanizing and dangerous practice that inhibits care continues. One caller noted, “Half the time here you don’t get to go speak to the doctor privately... If you have personal issues the whole range can hear everything”. Another caller remarked, “You don’t feel safe about talking about mental health or other sensitive issues”. When a prisoner’s health conditions are out in the open, they can be perceived to be vulnerable, and become targets for violence and harassment. Space exists at OCDC for private health assessments and it ought to be used to the degree possible.

Other health matters reported to the JAIL hotline included the cutting-off or modification of the administration of prescriptions, which prevents OCDC prisoners from being able to follow their treatment regimen as directed by medical and/or mental health professionals. For instance, some callers reported that they’ve asked several times for their prescribed monthly shots to treat schizophrenia when they were in crisis, only to see their requests fall on deaf ears. Such inaction can lead prisoners to harm themselves or others, sometimes with lethal consequences. This must end.

As discussed in the JAIL hotline’s first monthly report, other issues reported by prisoners include: poor air quality; lack of cleanliness in some cells; inadequate winter gear to access yard; the inability of prisoners to call the cell phones of their loved ones and the above-market, high costs of collect calls; the predatory prices at canteen for basic necessities to maintain personal hygiene and food to supplement poor quality meals provided by the jail, and lower canteen account limits put in place last fall that require more frequent deposits by prisoners’ loved ones on-site; and lockdowns associated with incarcerating weekend prisoners at OCDC or transferring them to other facilities where they reported being “denied our basic rights”.

JAIL hotline coordinator Sarah Speight notes, “we’ve attempted to resolve the matters reported to us through various means, including phone calls and emails to the OCDC administration and Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services officials. While issues are occasionally resolved, officials suggest that adequate oversight mechanisms exist to address prisoner complaints. Given the volume and nature of the calls we’ve received to date, we disagree, and we’ll continue to work with prisoners and their loved ones to improve jail conditions”. Souheil Benslimane – who’s also a JAIL hotline coordinator – adds, “the official response to the issues we’ve raised with prisoners and their loved ones has been inadequate. This being the case, we’re going to release monthly reports and raise public awareness in other ways to hold OCDC, the Ministry, the provincial government, and private sector jail service providers to account for what’s taking place at the Innes Road jail in order to affect change. We don’t have a choice – the well-being of people, inside and outside jail walls, is at stake”.

To arrange for a media interview with report authors contact:
Justin Piché, PhD (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa)
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca 

Attachments:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Recommendations to address longstanding issues at OCDC

by the Innes Road Jail Prisoners' Collective

Preface from the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line


While sites of confinement differ across time and space, there are certain “carceral universals” (Gaucher, 2007) that characterize life behind bars. All prisoners are subject – albeit unevenly – to coercive power and dehumanization, violence and brutality, poor medical and mental health ‘care’, the forcible separation from, and difficulties of remaining connected to, their loved ones and communities, and increasingly costly privatized services (e.g. telephone calls, canteen, etc.), whether they are held in the provincial jail at Burnside in Nova Scotia, the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) in Ontario, the federal ‘Healing Lodge’ in Saskatchewan or elsewhere across Canada and the world. 

Below, is a list of reasonable and realistic requests from a collective of 48 prisoners at OCDC. It was sent to the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line with the expectation that it would be shared with the public in the hopes of affecting change that will limit the damage of the incarceration regime they endure on a daily basis, which will also benefit staff and the broader community to which they will eventually return.

Concerns and Requests from the Innes Road Jail Prisoners' Collective

The issues below have been discussed with 48 of us here and we hope you can help us, as they impact our daily lives and the NEW policies that came into effect in October are making our already strenuous lives even harder. As a groupwe discussed a few issues we are seeking support in resolving. We hope that the public becomes aware of the hardships we face. There are nine main issues we wish to focus on here. We are sure the public will be shocked, particularly when knowing that we have yet to be convicted.We are in OCDC on remand waiting for due process and justice to be served.

1) Our Medical Privacy Is Not Respected

Medical privacy is a huge problem at OCDC. The doctor comes on the living units between 5:30am and 7:00am. He talks to us through the hatch, which is a rectangular slot in the metal door. Everyone can hear about the personal medical matters of others. The doctor’s voice is so loud that people are woken-up by him. Alsothe door of the room medical staff sometime use to assess us is wide-open. Anyone on the other side of it can hear the conversation between the doctor and the patientWe demand that the doctor and the medical staff respects our privacy and dignity.

2) Health Care in OCDC is Dysfunctional

Seeing the doctor takes long periods of timeblood work takes months and the dentist just pulls our teeth out and never repairs them. We would like the delays to improve and to be able to get teeth cleaning yearly. This is because it makes absolutely no sense to make prisoners unhealthy given the preventable costs to all that are incurred while we are imprisoned and down the road when we return to our communities.

3) The Canteen (Commissary) Account Limit 
Causes Us and Our Families Many Problems

Since October, with the new policy being enacted, we saw a canteen account limit of $180 being imposed on us. Now, we have to make sure visitors comevery two weeks to deposit funds for us to be able to get canteen. This new administrative practice is hard on loved ones and puts a lot of stress on them and us. For this reasonthe limit should be increased to at least $500.

4) The Visitation Policy is Unsuitable and Isolating

The number of people allowed to visit an incarcerated person at OCDC is 6 visitors. Besides, we can only have a maximum of 8 visits a month. We would like to be able to put 12 people on our list as we can only change our visitor list on the first week of each month. As part of the new October policy, ONLY people on our visitors’ list can deposit money into our accounts. This is a huge problemit impacts our mental and physical health, our safe reintegration into societyas well as hampers the support we can receive from our familiesThis is because the people who send us money are not necessarily the ones who visit us. This policy isolates us from meaningful contact with our families and loved ones. We would like to see this condition removed and for anyone can deposit/send us money to be able to do so.

5) Canteen Items Are Extremely Expensive

Some canteen items are at least double the price as similar ones outside. We would like the cost to go down and our $60 weekly spending limit to go up to $80 dollars weekly to purchase goods to supplement the poor hygiene products and meals given to us by the jail in order to maintain our health. Again, it makes absolutely no sense to make prisoners unhealthy, because when we come-out with life-altering health issues it not only impacts us and our loved ones, but also all of us who pay taxes for things like health care.

6) Canteen Items Are Unsuitable For Our Needs

The canteen does not offer people with sensitive skin adequate products. We would like sensitive skin soap, lotion and deodorant. Some of us spend years at OCDC before judgements are rendered, including acquittals. We would like that the commissary to add whitening toothpaste and dental flosas these are basic toiletriesWe would like to also be able to purchase noodles and to see the selection of books widened.

7) Magazine Subscriptions Sent From Publishers Are Blocked

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, under which purview OCDC operates, encourages incarcerated people to “have access to have a general right to read and access information that is commonly available to the public and are encouraged to do so [...] To buy a newspaper or magazine that is not on the canteen list, [the prisoner] must make arrangements through a third party (e.g., family member, friend, etc.), to subscribe and pay for the newspaper or magazine”. As stated by the Ministry, we are encouraged and allowed magazine subscriptions. Yet, a policy blocking magazine subscriptions came in effect in October. Not having access to our literature harms our mental health greatlyIn addition, our families and loved ones have already paid for the magazines that are being blocked since October by the OCDC administration that is acting in contradiction with the directives that it should follow. We would like to be able to get our subscriptions back.

8) We Are Not Given Appropriate Winter Clothing

In the winter time, we are denied gloves and toques when getting outside yard time, while the jackets we are offered are very oldripped and thin. We would like warm jacketsa toque and gloves, so we can get fresh air for twenty minutes when we are offered yard without putting ourselves at risk. It is our health and safety that is at stake.

9) Meals Are Inedible and Not Nutritious

The quality of the food the jail serves us is terrible. When we get the meal trays, the vegetables are soggy and depleted from their nutritional value – the food is inedible. The nutrition guide is clearly not respected. The portions are also extremely small. We would like better quality foodmore variety and bigger portions to limit the impact of incarceration on our health.

Post-face from the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line

In Canada, provincial jails are places were the people under the colonial grip of the state suffer from state-sanctioned aggression under the pretence of “public safety” and “justice”. The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) is the local remand centre situated in the National Capital Region of Canada and what transpires there is not unique to the jail. This is made evident in the writing of prisoners in Canada spanning decades, as well as the work of those involved in Prisoners’ Justice Day organizing since the death of Eddie Nalon on August 10th 1974 and the recent campaign by Burnside prisoners in Nova Scotia.

Yesterday, the men incarcerated at the Burnside provincial jail issued a statement of support to Cyntoia Brown, a sister who has been imprisoned for defending herself from her aggressor. Their solidarity extended to all women who are criminalized for the mere fact of standing up to aggressors in acts of self-defence. They demanded that all women who are incarcerated for standing up to gender-based violence around the world ought to be released. The article was written by the prisoners and shared by long-time prisoners’ rights advocate, poet, professor, and vocal social justice activist El Jones. In the piece, the Burnside prisoners called for the liberation of all victims of injustices around the world.

Back in August 2018, the individuals incarcerated in the jail located in the Halifax Regional Municipality went on a 20-day non-violent protest - which received considered public support - to challenge the inhumane conditions of detention and the injustices they were subjected to by a problematic “injustice” system that draws its underlaying foundation in colonialism and slavery. In their communications, they asserted that their goal is to improve the jail conditions in order to ameliorate the environment for both staff and prisoners, along with their respective families. After taking all the existing channels of complaints, discussion and negotiation, and after seeing their persistent efforts to improve inhumane conditions of detention turned down, rejected and thwarted, these individuals, to whom the motto “out of sight, out of mind” applies, saw themselves forced to take-up an even more proactive way to draw attention to their appalling fate. 

The bar set by the provincial jail at Burnside had been set so low that no one can honestly say that the demands put forth by the prisoners there were unreasonable. No one with the semblance of humanity can argue against their requests. They asked for better healthcare, programming, space for physical activity, an appropriate and humane visitation protocol, adequate clothing, healthier food and commissary, improvements to the air circulation system and access to a library. However, on September 2018, the last day of the protest, the prisoners reported worse conditions than those in the beginning of their peaceful action.

They continue to plead for their cause, noting that their “current standard has been allowed to deteriorate past an atmosphere that is beyond uncomfortable and is blatantly unconstitutional”. Prisoners at OCDC are expressing similar concerns and requests, and the JAIL hotline will continue to work with them and their loved ones to ensure that their voices are heard, respected and translate into meaningful change.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Outlook for criminalization and punishment in 2019

by Justin Piché (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa)

2018 was a year where those engaged in the politics of promoting criminalization and punishment successfully rolled-back reforms and stopped others dead in their tracks that, if enacted, had the potential to constrain penal power. In 2019, those working towards divesting from, and reinvesting the resources currently devoured by, the 'criminal justice' system will need to contend with these "carceral clawbacks" and other key issues outlined below that'll likely garner considerable political attention this year in Ontario and/or across Canada.

How many people need to die before 
Canadians on mass demand an end to drug prohibition?

Despite the 'legalization' of recreational marijuana, 2018 brought considerable pain to those fighting for compassion and care with and for drug users in Canada. Last year, people continued to needlessly die of opioid overdoses by the thousands as those in power refused to end the failure that's drug prohibition or even take the modest step of decriminalizing simple possession of prohibited drugs so that individuals don't consume unregulated substances (sometimes spiked with fentanyl) in hiding. The latter approach has shown to improve public health and community safety when accompanied by more investments in harm reduction and treatment. Worse still, some politicians like new Ontario Premier Doug Ford think it's a good idea to erect more red tape to restrict harm reduction capacity, while adding burdensome reporting requirements at a time when more resources, not paperwork, are needed.

As more and more stories of how drug prohibition kills and harm reduction saves lives hit closer to home for an increasing amount of Canadians, let 2019 be the year where municipal, provincial and territorial, and federal governments finally acquiesce to legitimate demands to end the costly and ineffective war on drugs, which above all else is "a war on people". The senseless carnage needs to stop.

More policing money shakedowns to come?

In capitalist societies, both private and public entities are wired for growth. While companies often problematically turn to contraction when financial booms turn to busts, a cycle which is endemic to our economic order, 'criminal justice' entities are often very adept at managing crises (e.g. financial, reputational, etc.) that would see their role in a given society shift or shrink in ways that would translate into resources being lost. In fact, historically, they're masters at neutralizing attempts to enact fundamental reforms coming from inside and outside their organizations, while managing to convince governments that more is better even as they continually fail meet the stated objectives that legitimate their existence.

In 2018, we witnessed this dynamic play-out when police forces demanded more money and resources to enforce the 'legalization' of recreational marijuana. Given the vast amount of resources dedicated to and wasted on law enforcement activities associated with the war on drugs, it's difficult to fathom how a legalization regime can translate into greater policing costs (perhaps we're doing it wrong?). Yet, we've managed to do it. Heads (illegal) or tails (legal) - they win.

As communities historically targeted by police seek to end the systemic repression they face, the trade-off to get law enforcement entities to acquiesce is more policing. The question is, when it comes to matters of social justice like ending the racist practice of carding, should governments and the people they claim to represent accept policing money shakedowns in 2019? Should we also accept the proposition that police forces require bigger budgets so that they can 'get more boots on the ground' and increase capacity for 'community policing' when "it has not been proven to reduce crime"? Shouldn't we be spending this money on ensuring that all communities are adequately resourced so that the basic needs of their residents (i.e. housing, food, education, health and mental health care, etc.) are met?

If "everyone across the province will be required to make sacrifices",
how will Ontario's jails and prisons be impacted?

While on the campaign trail, then Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford promised that he'd end the "party" with "taxpayers' money" if elected, but offered few clues about how this would be achieved. After roughly half a year in office, Ontarians are getting a glimpse of what Premier Ford and his team have in store "for the people" - service and benefits cuts for the masses and policies to line the pockets of the rich. Such measures were sold by Finance Minister Vic Fedeli during the release of the Fall 2018 economic update as "sacrifices" born by all.

What government austerity will mean for prisoners and staff in Ontario's jails and prisons isn't yet clear. Will they follow the Stephen Harper conservatives who during their time on Parliament Hill expanded the federal governments capacity to imprison at a great cost, while making conditions of confinement more austere? Will they follow the Mike Harris conservatives who during their time at Queen's Park enacted a 'no frills' regime of incarceration as part of a broader strategy to discipline workers and the poor to expect lower living standards in Ontario, while testing the jail privatization waters? Will they follow the Ralph Klein conservatives in Alberta (circa mid-1990s), who turned to decarceration measures as a means of reducing government expenditure?

In 2019, we should begin to have answers on this front. No matter the direction taken, it's essential to build bridges between the people inside and outside of Ontario's jails and prisons in order to work towards reducing the province's reliance on imprisonment, while improving living and working conditions for all.

Build communities or cages?

Among the decisions that the Ford government will make in 2019 is whether to follow through with the Wynne government's plan to build bigger jails to replace existing ones in Ottawa and Thunder Bay. While the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services had indicated this past fall that the projects were moving forward, as news of cuts to benefits and services in Ontario were rolled-out the webpage updating the public on the status of carceral expansion in the province was removed (see image below).


As the cuts keep coming, Premier Ford and his team will have to decide whether they can defend a wasteful plan "for the people" that includes expanding the means to cage more of us when there are plenty of reasons not to do so, and better alternatives to enhance community well-being and safety.

Is there a future for solitary confinement in Ontario and in Canada?

Since the October 2007 preventable death of Ashley Smith in a segregation cell at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ontario came to light, there's been on-going scrutiny of the barbaric practice of solitary confinement.  While ardent proponents of this form of torture have denied the victimization endured by those who've experience it and defended the status quo, others have demanded changes ranging from placing limits on who can be segregated and the amount of time one can spend in 'the hole' to its abolition, full-stop.

In Ontario, legal action related to the prolonged isolation of Christina Jahn at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and media scrutiny associated with the segregation of Adam Capay for over 1,500 days at the Thunder Bay Jail were central to the Wynne government introducing and passing legislation that included placing limits on the use of solitary confinement in its jails and prisons. The law has yet to be proclaimed into force by the Lieutenant Governor and is collecting dust on Premier Ford's desk. What the Premier will do remains a mystery, but in the meantime the use of segregation in the province is once again climbing.

With court cases in British Columbia and Ontario determining the constitutionality of solitary confinement at the federal level, the Trudeau government engaged in legal manoeuvring in defence of the status quo at the same time that it introduced legislation in June 2017 that, among other things, proposed placing limits on the practice. The federal government lost both cases and the June 2017 bill was subsequently shelved, only to be followed by the introduction of new legislation in October 2018 that proponents claim will "eliminate segregation". Even as new legislation was brought forward, the federal government's legal manoeuvring continued in an apparent effort to buy themselves more time.

As has been noted elsewhere, the proposed law will likely fall well-short of ending segregation if enacted as-is. With the clock ticking on the federal government, who has until 30 April 2019 to put in place measures to remedy the issues flagged in the Ontario court ruling, change is coming. If the Trudeau government is sincere in wanting to end solitary confinement, my advice to them is to get Coralee Smith (who has been a leading advocate on the matter since the death of her daughter Ashley in a federal penitentiary more than a decade ago) on the phone and provide her with the opportunity to get involved in amending Bill C-83 to ensure it's positioned to accomplish its stated aims, while neutralizing those who wish to preserve the draconian status quo. As the Liberals in Ottawa should know all too well after sitting in political obscurity during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lengthy tenure in office, when 'criminal justice' reforms are introduced with the support of victims connected to high-profile deaths, it's difficult to muster an effective defence of existing arrangements.

The "other death penalty" olympics - 2019 federal election edition?

As if they're both helpless in the matter, both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer are expecting the 2019 federal election campaign to "get nasty". After all, how else can you distinguish yourself from your opponent when you're both situated in the "extreme centre" where you and your opponents, more often than not, champion policies that facilitate the intensification of wealth accumulation in the hands of few, while distracting and selling-out everyday people who put you in office?

Enter the "other death penalty" olympics - 2019 federal election edition? Who can be crueller to those that are collectively denounced for engaging in the cruellest of acts? Who can ratchet-up the deprivations of imprisonment they face to match just how little we now value freedom, which has become taken for granted to the point that removing it from others, in and of itself, is never enough? Who can be 'tougher' in the face of the 'worst of the worst' (as if it is easier to show humanity to those who've trespassed against us than it is to dehumanize and degrade them)? Who can import more policies enacted elsewhere that have failed to make communities safer in the name of 'public safety'?

With the 'faint hope' clause gone for all and parole eligibility having become a fiction for some because we allowed ourselves to get drawn into setting public policy in response to the horrors perpetrated by the likes of Clifford Olson and other exceptionally rare and sadistic individuals, we effectively have a death by incarceration penalty in this country. Given that the average time spent behind bars for murder in Canada is now much lengthier in comparison to (a) when state executions were still allowable in 1976 or (b) what we see in many other comparable jurisdictions, what would it say about us all if we continue to allow ourselves to be led down this road where 'healing lodges' aren't prisons and medium-security penitentiaries are 'luxurious'? If we deny any semblance of humanity to others, deny that people can and do often change for the better, we deny ourselves of the same.

Perhaps Canadians will be spared from such corrosive political brinksmanship during the next federal election campaign. However, the opportunity for mudslinging might be too tempting for Liberal and Conservative politicians who've spent the past few months assigning blame to each other and defending themselves for how people convicted of murdering children like Victoria Stafford cascaded through the federal penitentiary system during their respective times in government.

Instead of engaging in one-upmanship, our political leaders should work together to ensure adequate investments are made in proven measures to prevent victimization and to ensure capacity exists to meet the needs of those impacted by interpersonal violence to the degree that's possible through tried-and-tested approaches such as restorative justice (note: federal government spending on prevention, victims services and restorative justice comes nowhere near the roughly $2.5 billion it costs to operate and manage its penitentiaries).

Canadians deserve pathways to peace. However, if the past offers a glimpse into the future, we're more likely to receive additional pathways to vengeance that foster anger and seed division, which is exactly what those who ascend to political power need for the morally bereft neoliberal capitalist order that lines their pockets and those of their wealthy benefactors to continue. With the future of my children and our planet at stake, in 2019, I hope I'm proven wrong.