Monday, February 20, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Torontonian Shot and Killed by Police

Yet another police shooting fatality!  A dozen or more police officers were not able to subdue, arrest, restrain one man with scissors?  What about talking calmly with the man?  Calling in an experienced crisis worker?  Yes these solutions may have taken longer but in the end isn't a life saved worth the extra time and trouble?  I know what the cops will say.  There wasn't time, the man presented a danger, etc, etc.  Then why not use other police "tools" which we know police are well trained and experienced in using, as evidenced by the high incidence of their over use...tasers and pepper spray.  Police are trained in the take town of high risk persons.  The public are led to believe that non lethal tactics will be employed first, with tactics likely to kill employed only as a final, last ditch, emergency effort.

The Toronto Star had this report;

Neighbours who watched police shoot dead a 29-year-old man wearing a hospital gown in Toronto’s east end Friday are questioning whether excessive force was used.
Douglas Pritchard, who was 10 metres away, said there were enough police around to subdue the victim on Milverton Blvd., a few blocks south of Toronto East General Hospital.
But another neighbour, also close, believes police had no other choice.
The shooting occurred about 20 minutes after paramedics were called to a stabbing inside a nearby convenience store, at the corner of Sammon and Woodington Aves., across from the hospital.
An EMS official said those injuries were minor.
Witnesses reported that the man arrived on Milverton just after 10 a.m. and began banging on the back door of a house and trying to get in.
The man — who witnesses described as wearing no shoes and wielding two pairs of scissors — was fatally shot on the quiet residential street at around 10:15 a.m.
He was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The victim has not yet been identified.
Toronto police would not provide details of the shooting because it is now being probed by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.
In previous cases of police shootings where the use of deadly force has been questioned, officer have said they are trained to shoot at the centre of the body, not arms or legs.
However, the incident has raised alarming concerns for Pritchard, 63, who was out running with his dog.
Pritchard said he saw a middle-aged man, about 5-foot-8 with dark hair and wearing a blue shirt that looked like a hospital gown. About five or six officers were behind the man trying to grab or restrain him and another two or three were in front, Pritchard said.
“And then I saw one officer raise his arm and fire at him point blank three shots,” said Pritchard, adding the shots were fired from about half a metre away.
Pritchard said that, as far as he could see, the man was not brandishing any weapons.
He fell to the pavement and police jumped on top of him, still trying to restrain him while his body was writhing, said Pritchard, adding the officers continued to restrain the man until his body stopped moving.
“My concern is, is this a man with mental health issues? From the time I came on the scene they had him surrounded with 11 police cars in total. I counted. There must have been 15 officers around this man in total,” said Pritchard.
“Was this an appropriate use of force in this situation? Was there a mental health team on site?”
People need to know the answers to these questions, he said.
“It gives me a real concern to see that level of force applied and someone shot on our streets,” Pritchard said.
Another neighbour, Chad, who would only give his first name, said the shooting occurred in front of his house.
He said the victim was walking toward police with his arms outstretched and a pair of scissors in each hand.
“Stop, stop, stop,” police said to the man, according to Chad, who believes the officers were justified in their actions. “They did their job. They had no choice.”
A police officer also suffered minor injuries in the incident.
The victim is believed to have come from Toronto East General Hospital, although it’s unclear why the man was at the hospital.
Toronto East spokeswoman Angela Pappaianni said the hospital could not answer any questions because of the ongoing investigation.
“We are cooperating with the SIU,” she said.

Ron Smith Hearing for Clemency Set

CALGARY - A clemency hearing has been set for two days in early May for the only Canadian on death row in the United States.
Ronald Smith, 54, originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been on death row for the murders of Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr. 30 years ago near East Glacier, Mont.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ashley Smith's Mom Speaks at Fundraiser - Moncton

Coralee Smith, Ashley Smith's mother spoke to a crowd gathered in Moncton recently to raise money for local mental health service agencies.  She has and unfortunate and somewhat unique experience to share about mental health service provision in our very broken system.  I say somewhat unique because the kind of cruelty that her daughter experienced, being criminalised for mental health issues, denied effective and proper treatment, ignored or further endangered as a response to her issues ~ these are common occurrences in our healthcare and prison systems.  What has been more unique is the rightful publicity Ashley's situation attained.  Rarely is the system ever exposed as widely as it was after Ashley's death.  Rarely is there such a public outcry in the face of a prisoner death.  Ashleys was not the first and more than likely wont be the last instance where a person with serious mental health concerns has been imprisoned and then been ignored when in serious mental or medical distress, ignored and denied assistance right up to the point of their death.   

Perhaps the likelihood of future deaths and the possibility of waking people up before it occurs is one of the reasons why Coralee Smith continues to speak out.  Here is what she had to say as reported by the Canada East News Service;

Ashley Smith was destroyed by prison system: mother

Coralee Smith holds a journal from 2003, kept by her then 15-year-old daughter Ashley Smith, as she speaks at Women & Wellness at MacNaughton High School in Moncton on Saturday. CanadaEast News Service
Coralee Smith holds a journal from 2003, kept by her then 15-year-old daughter Ashley Smith, as she speaks at Women & Wellness at MacNaughton High School in Moncton on Saturday.

Published on February 5, 2012

MONCTON – Coralee Smith has a journal from 2003 kept by her then 15-year-old daughter Ashley Smith, in which the girl wrote touchingly about her "babies," the four children under age five she often babysat for Zalmen and Aida Stiefel and when Zalmen was the rabbi at Tiferes Israel Synagogue.
"She had a big soft heart," Ashley's mother recalled for an audience of nearly 500 at the ninth annual Women and Wellness event at Bernice MacNaughton High School. The event raises funds and awareness for the Canadian Mental Health Association in Moncton.

As most know, Ashley Smith was a troubled Moncton teen whose term of probation for throwing apples at a mail carrier eventually led to an accumulation of more than 100 charges and four years in custody, mostly for incidents that occurred while she was behind bars, mostly in isolation. She died while on suicide watch as guards looked on.

While Coralee Smith has spoken to reporters on a few occasions in the past, the speaking engagement in the MacNaughton High School auditorium stands out for the size of the audience who got to hear some of Ashley's family's story.
Coralee says her daughter also had an independent streak. When Ashley got her first two-wheeler, it had training wheels on it. After making sure she had the hang of it, Coralee and her husband Herbie Gorber let the little girl take advantage of the family home's two driveways, which were configured in a way so she could circle the house safely.

When Ashley disappeared out of sight and then failed to reappear around the far side of the house, Coralee went to look for her.
"When I looked up the other side of the house she was already getting the man next door to take off the training wheels for her."

For all her spunk, Ashley had some definite limits imposed on her growing up, her mom says. In the urban neighbourhood they lived in, where a higher incidence of crime is a fact and the heavy traffic in the area is a fright, the pre-adolescent Ashley usually had a set of concerned grown-up eyes looking out for her. She wasn't allowed to go to the playground by herself, or take her bike more than just around the block.

As she got older, of course, she was gradually allowed to take her bike on rides a bit farther from the family's home in Moncton's east end.
Soon, "cheese strings and granola bars and stuff like that," were disappearing from the Smith and Gorber household.

Eventually, about a year after Ashley first incarceration at a youth centre for the postal worker incident, she finally admitted to her mother where the snack foods had disappeared to. She used to bike down Moncton's Riverfront Trail to feed old Joe, a well known Moncton street person who lived under the old Gunningsvillle Bridge before it was demolished.

Coralee says she eventually ran into Joe outside the Irving Convenience Store in Dieppe after Ashley died in prison and took the time to ask if he remembered Ashley.
He said he did remember the dark haired girl on the red bike who brought him food and was his friend and asked why he hadn't seen her in a long time.
"I told him she passed away and Joe cried, so there were tears out there for Ashley."

Joe has not been alone in crying for Ashley Smith in the past four years or so, as details of her appalling life in prison and her death in front of prison guards who did nothing to stop it have emerged.

Tragically, Ashley Smith's cries for help have mostly been heard long after it was too late to save her. During the roughly four years she was incarcerated, it often seemed as if the old cliché figure of speech was actually true, that society had locked her up and thrown away the key.
Ashley was a troubled person before her incarceration, but her mother says her daughter was not suicidal until she faced an ever growing series of sentences for misbehaviour inside prison walls, sentences that she eventually realized (perhaps correctly) would never end.

Before things completely descended into hopelessness, mother and daughter talked about her coming home whenever they had the opportunity to talk.
"Ashley's biggest wish was to get home to her room, get in the Jacuzzi tub and to hold her dog." Coralee said. "Ashley did not willfully commit suicide."
She was in the youth centre for 36 months, 27 of which were spent in TQ.
Ashley Smith's Orwellian nightmare of imprisonment came with the requisite euphemistic jargon. TQ stands for "temporary quiet" a placid and pretty sounding name for what prisoners, those who actually have to do the time in TQ, call the hole.

"It's segreation, where you're segregated for 23 hours a day and maybe if you're on good behaviour, you get out for an hour a day. That includes shower, shampoo, brush your teeth time. "
Coralee says people shouldn't mistake segregation for prisons cells that inmates get to themselves, where they have a few amenities and are allowed to have books or buy televisions for companionship.

Segregation means you're in there with nothing but yourself and your cell, she said, noting that in many TQ cells the lights are on 24 hours a day until you even lose your sense of day or night. The only human contact is with the hand that pushes food through the slot in the door, light fare like sandwiches in the name of not providing the segregated inmate with cutlery. 

While we like to think of Canadian prisons having enlightened standards when it comes to basic rights like food, it's troubling to note Ashley's mother says her daughter lost 90 pounds in the last 11-and-a-half months of her life.
Her toilet paper ration was four or five sheets at a time, so even the basic dignity of maintaining her own hygiene was denied her. Ultimately, she was allowed no clothes other than a "suicide coat" a garment that made it difficult for her to even conceal her breasts, not that she ever got any visitors.

Coralee Smith asked her audience Saturday what they thought would happen were any of them to take their "15-year-old child and lock them up for three years and segregate them for 27 months. We're talking about a young girl who hadn't stayed out overnight except at her sister's, a young girl who hadn't gone to the movies on her own, just a young girl trying to grow."
Ashley turned 18 at the youth centre and though they could have kept her another year, they shipped her out to adult institutions, first in Saint John and then to the Nova Institution for Women in Truro.

"She had a couple good months there," Coralee recalls of Nova. "She had a psychiatrist who was working with her and she seemed to be doing all right. But while he was on Christmas break they shipped her out to Grand Valley Institute."
Grand Valley Institution is Kitchener, Ontario would ultimately be the last of the 17 facilities Ashley had been bounced to and from.
"Ashley's story is long and sad," her mother said with an audible sigh. "Those four years must have felt like 40, to be alone and in such dire straits."
Saying Ashley had, like most inmates, kept much of the horrors she was going through mostly to herself, Coralee said, "you only hear about the horrors after the fact ­- in our case, only after Ashley passed away."

Noti· g the two news documentaries made to date about Ashley's life and death both won prestigious Michener Awards, arguably Canada's most prestigious journalism awards for reporting in the public interest, Coralee said her daughter, "has raised some people's hearts."

But it (treatment like Ashley received) has to stop. It's still going on."
Coralee and Herbie recently donated $20,000 to assist programs to help women who have been incarcerated, a gift acknowledged by Kim Pate, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies who shared the stage with Coralee.
As for the Women & Wellness event, it raised $41,720 for a number of local mental health initiatives.

Herbie and Ashley's sister Dawna Ward were in the audience to support Coralee as she told her tragic story, Dawna in an ironic twist winning the evening's top prize, a package valued at $2,150.
Somehow, even as she continues to live the ordeal of coming to terms with Ashley's passing and the idea so many other Canadians battling mental illness are in prisons whose very conditions seem guaranteed to break the fragile further, Coralee Smith's natural warmth and wit shone through as she made her first ever speech to an auditorium full of people.

No one was expecting to laugh Saturday night, but a few times they did. Quite likely, because most have already heard so much of the Ashley Smith case these past four years and either hardened themselves to it or started blocking much of it out, most of the women in the audience probably didn't expect to cry. But many did.

"What Ashley went through none of us can begin to understand," her mother said. "There's not a person in this room, myself included, who knows what that little girl endured," she said. "I'm embarrassed to death to say this is Canada. And it's still going on."

Canadian Prisoner: Prison Blogger and Columnist

Wow - two new (to me) Canadian prisoner blogs in one day! I have just discovered this one, though it has been around since 2010.  I.M GreNada is the pen name of a Canadian prisoner who not only writes a blog on his day to day experiences within the Canadian prison system, but he also has his own weekly column in the "Province", a daily newspaper in British Colombia.  Read on for his most recent post and see below for links to his blog and his column.

If You Build It....

The season of snow has also brought with it an education for me — mostly in how this democracy stuff really works. As the government yawned, I watched the media play pitch-and-catch with a lineup that included top Corrections managers, criminologists, provincial justice ministers, and even Joe-from-down-the-street.
“How do you feel about the Conservatives implementing policies that have already failed in the U.S.?” and, “What are your thoughts on the Conservatives locking up children for mandatory minimum sentences?” were among the most predictable queries.
At least Rex Murphy, on his CBC Radio standard Cross Canada Checkup, asked listeners if it was possible that Bill C-10 wasn’t tough enough. One caller from Saskatchewan responded by asking why the legislation didn’t include mandatory pink underwear. What Farmer Fred doesn’t know is that some of us are really into pink underwear.
Meanwhile, as the country was supposedly debating the big lockdown, the real story was in my backyard. That’s where — starting in November (long before Parliament voted on it) — backhoes, tampers, bulldozers and a lineup of double-axle dump trucks (they even brought a 50-foot crane) were paving Bill C-10 right over top of what used to be our baseball field.
“What are they doing?” Boo asked me a couple of days after Halloween.
“They’re building a curling rink,” I said straight-faced. “With a cappuccino bar.”
Boo ogled me from the corner of his hot-glued and Scotch-taped bifocals. Then his attention returned to the boisterous invasion behind our cell block, and the 30-foot-deep hole in the spot where last year’s fall classic played out.
“Naaaah,” he mewled. “It’s too big.”
Boo is one of those guys with a permanent “Kick me” sign stitched to his back. His handle has less to do with a Harper Lee novel than it does his misshapen mug. Rumour is he’s never worn a mask to go trick-or-treating. And the cerebral sewage that pours from the two-toothed hole in his face is just as bad. I keep thinking I need to follow him around and just write down everything he says. It’s Jackass gold.
“Can’t slide nothing past you, can I? Actually, it’s a new condominium-style cell block with an in-ground recreation room and a community kitchen,” I said. “They’re even putting in wiring for high-speed Internet.”
“Gaawwd, why do I ask you anything? If you don’t know, just say so.”
Boo stomped away, bottom lip bouncing off his chin. I guess it’s true what they say. Some people just can’t handle the truth.
A funny thing happened when I stopped smoking all that B.C. bud two decades ago. I found out I had a brain. Not that it was a big eureka moment. Especially after I learned that the grey matter God gave me never quits analyzing. Lately, the list of things I must understand to the 33rd decimal point includes how Michael Jackson’s death bed rated a bidding war, when three years before it was Exhibit 1 in an inappropriate-touching trial — or why it is that we never see Peter McKay and Sarah Jessica Parker in the same room at the same time? But for more than a year now my list has been topped by the question no one will answer. After 40 years of leading the world away from incarceration, how did prison — a 19th-century throwback that has never served a society’s needs — become Canada’s way forward?
Today, the answer hit me like an inside curveball. It happened while I was watching a large flatbed off-loading stainless steel toilets onto what used to be third base. Obviously, some unnamed Right-wing Advocate for Yesteryear (R.A.Y.) has been hearing voices …
R.A.Y: “Why the long face, my co-replicating martial associate? Is it the economy?”
R.A.Y’s wife, A.N.N.I.E. (A Nuptial Necessity for Impersonal Economists): “My god Ray, what is it with you and the economy? I wish you’d just shut up about the stupid economy. It’s you I’m worried about. I heard you in the backyard last night, talking to the ornamental shrubs.”
“Oh, Annie, that wasn’t the shrubs. I was talking to Bootless Billy Miner.”
“Bootless …?”
Billy Miner. He was a bank and train robber in the early 1900s.”
Annie, squinting, does some quick math in her head.
“And you were … talking to him? To a 150-year-old train robber?”
“166. He got his nickname during an escape from the B.C. Penitentiary in 1912 — when he left his boots behind. Snuck right past the guards wearing nothing but a pair of Hudson’s Bay socks — you know, the ones with the coloured stripes? Damn wool socks scandal nearly sunk Lord Borden’s Conservatives. Anyhow, when we first came to Stornoway in 2004, Miner came around and started taunting me there. Claimed that Canadian prisons are for pussies, and dared me to build one he couldn’t steal out of. So, I been thinking …”
“Yeah, Annie?”
“Tell me again how you’re going to save the economy.”
Well, if that’s not how it went down, then you explain to Boo what that three-storey ditch in the backyard is. ’Cause it sure as heck ain’t an Olympic swimming pool.

I.M GreNada is the pen name of a Canadian prisoner who has been serving life for murder since 1994. The people he writes about are real, but their names have been changed. You can read more about him at

Column:  House of the Dead

War on Drugs Film: The House I Live In, Wins at Sundance

Judging from the trailers, pre-views, and reviews, Eugene has put together a really terrific documentary which takes a fair and realistic look at the war on drugs begun by US president Nixon.  While a significant amount of damage caused by the war on drugs has taken place in the US, its impacts have been felt worldwide and sometimes the impacts outside the US have been worse than those inside the US.
Eugene interviews mostly people from the US but also includes researchers, social workers, and doctors from around the world.  Included is Gabor Mate.  A downtown, eastside addictions and methadone doctor in Vancouver, world renowned for his work.
See what SOROS Open Society Foundation, an organization which supports action defending human rights, had to say about Eugene's film and then follow the link to see a pre-view of the film and interview with Eugene hosted by Democracy Now.

Soros Justice Fellow Eugene Jarecki recently won the top documentary prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for his work The House I Live In. The film offers a range of perspectives on the failed war on drugs, fostering a more informed and honest dialogue about drug use, addiction, race, and incarceration in the United States.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mandy Hiscocks - Prisoner, Activist

Wow - today as I was reading and looking around the website, I came across Mandy Hiscocks blog.  Mandy is one of the people who were arrested and convicted on conspiracy charges during the G20 in 2010.  Though I visit Rabble often, I'm sorry to say today is the first time I have come across the blog posts by Mandy Hiscocks.  I like many of you care deeply about social justice, and about the inequality many of us face day to day.  I am passionate about making change or at least bringing awareness to the connections between class, racial, and gendered inequality and conflicts oppressed persons encounter at the hand of the criminal legal system.  Based on Mandy's story of the G20 and her blog posts regarding her forced involvement with the judicial system, I believe these are issues she cares deeply about as well.
Mandy is currently incarcerated at Vanier in the Milton superjail.  She is writing regular blogs about her experiences with the system and with the day to day stupidity and uselessness that is imprisonment.  She is situated in a strong position to bring us the public some analysis of systemic violence as it happens in the provincial prison system in Ontario.  I say her position is strong because Mandy already possesses an educated analysis of systems of oppression as they are applied in Canada and elsewhere.  Her education, her experiences with activism, with advocacy, have allowed her an important viewpoint of the world and the sometimes overt and often times insidious and covert methods of its impact on the vulnerable.  This viewpoint is one incarcerated and criminalised persons rarely hold, nor have most been provided any opportunity to have developed any kind of analysis regarding their lives circumstances.  Mandy seems to be well aware of this fact as well.
Her blog is an important read.  It provides us access to the inner workings of the jail system, its impacts on one Canadian woman incarcerated within, and a sound analysis grounded in social justice.
Here is the latest post and the Rabble link to her other posts.    sj, 2012

Bored but not broken: Liberation 

 The other day I opened a book appropriately entitled Liberation. On the very first page, written in pencil, was this:

Why I am here?
How long am I going to be here?
How do I get out of Prison?
Who put me here?
Who do I speak to, what do I say?
Who will help me?
What do I need?
What type of help do I need?
Where do I go? for help.
When do I get out?
When does someone tell me what I am supposed to do?
I can't imagine how it must feel to be that isolated and disoriented in a place like this. When I got here, I'd been preparing myself for two months -- lots of time to get comfortable with the idea of incarceration, to put plans in place, to find out much of what I needed to know. I'm fortunate, and privileged, to have tons of community support and friends who are skilled organizers with a lot of resources and access. All of that has made it pretty easy for me to get my bearings and transition into life on the inside.
But it's not like that for everyone here. There's a lot of uncertainty. I can hear it constantly in snippets of conversation as people walk around the range, talk to their lawyers on the phone, and ask anxious questions to guards, nurses, social workers -- anyone who might know anything that could help them. I've met people who don't know what exactly their next court date is for, or if their their surety should be there, or why their lawyer didn't show up to represent them, or why they're being deported.
The legal system is not user-friendly, and there's no reason for that. I think there should be an orientation to the process for people just getting to jail. A regularly offered class, like the workshops on anger management, substance abuse, healthy relationships and so on that they run here -- or just a handbook. Hmm... I sense a project coming on, anyone interested in working with me on this?
As I think I mentioned in my last post, my "Earliest Discharge Date" is Dec. 3, 2012. That's two-thirds of my 16-month sentence which will be all I'll serve as long as I "earn full remission and protect it by proper behaviour"... how's that for condescending? Most people end up serving no more than two-thirds of their sentence, it seems that improper behaviour has to be pretty bad (but don't quote me on that, I don't know for sure). Because the Crown has not asked for a period of probation following sentence, on Dec. 3 I will be completely out of the clutches of the criminal "justice" system.
If I fail to act appropriately, I could be held past Dec. 3 but no later than May 12, 2013, which is my Warrant Expiring Date and marks the end of the 16-month sentence. Let's not think about that.

That brings me to the last important date: June 22, 2012, which is my Parole Eligibility Date and marks one-third of my sentence. Despite rumours to the contrary, which I'm sorry to say I helped spread before arriving here, parole is available for people doing up to two years less a day in provincial jails and isn't only for people serving longer sentences in federal penitentiaries. In fact, if your sentence is six months (181 days) or more, your right to a parole hearing is automatic. If it's less than that you have to apply in writing but it's still possible.
The person to talk to about parole is the institution liaison officer (ILO). One is available at every institution. The ILO I spoke to was very nice, and explained that her role is to give me all the information I need and then to help me prepare for a hearing. She gave me some pamphlets to look over which were very informative and slightly condescending, and a Parole Planning Guide which was slightly informative and very condescending.
If you're interested in how parole works in provincial jails, check out
For now, in case you're thinking that me getting out on parole this summer sounds like a good idea and/or remotely possible, here are some of the highlights:
-  The parole board "wants to discuss your offences with you and how you plan to keep yourself from committing a crime in the future." They want to see remorse, of which I have none.
-  "The board will focus on whether or not your release will pose an undue risk to society" -- yes, that's important because I was such a threat before -- and "whether or not your release will help you to become a law abiding citizen." Pardon me while I laugh uncontrollably for a moment.
-  One of the "things you can do to increase the likelihood of parole" is "think about the decision you made that got you into trouble with the law and what you need to do to increase your chances of staying out of trouble if you are released." <sigh> so many things to say about this, and they all lead to PAROLE ELIGIBILITY FAIL.
But here's the real kicker: There are six mandatory standard conditions that come with parole. If I breach any of them or am "convicted or charged" with another criminal offence before the end of my full sentence in may 2013, my parole could be suspended. I could be forced back to Vanier to serve the rest of my time, which could even be extended past the 16 months if they decide not to count my time out on parole as time served. The conditions are:
-  Report to your parole supervisor and local police as required;
-  Remain in Ontario;
-  Get permission from your parole supervisor before changing address or employment;
-  Carry your parole certificate at all times
Okay, so far so good, I suppose I could accept those, but the last two are:
-  Obey and the law and keep the peace;
-  Not associate with any person who is engaged in criminal activity or who has a criminal record unless approved by your parole supervisor.
Now there's absolutely no way, after what happened to Alex, that I trust the cops or the crown attorney's office to not have me arrested on some bogus charge or breach and have me thrown back in here just because they can. As for non-association conditions, I don't expect I'll ever sign those again. It's hard to believe they're constitutional (I suspect they're actually not) but easy to believe they're designed to rip targeted communities apart, one conditional release at a time. Of all the mistakes I made since my arrest in the summer of 2010, agreeing to non-communication with my co-accused is the one I regret the most.
So thanks but no thanks. I've decided to waive my right to a parole hearing so that when I walk out of here I will not be on any conditions and won't be bound to the criminal "justice" system in any way.
This post is titled "Liberation" so I'll end with a shout-out to Erik, who's spending his first week out of jail as I write this. Of course, being freed from incarceration is not real freedom... none of us will have real freedom until we get our shit together and decide what we're willing to give up for it. But you all know that already.
In solidarity, with much love and thanks for all your letters,
mandy :)

This post was orignally published on mandy's blog: bored but not broken.


Be sure to take a couple of minutes to write Mandy a letter. Her mailing address is:
Amanda Hiscocks
Vanier Centre for Women
655 Martin Street
Box 1040
Milton, ON
L9T 5E6

For an explanation of why letters are important to Mandy, what she would like to hear about, and some tips for writing prisoners please see the section of her blog on writing letters

to read Mandy's blog on Rabble, go to:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bill C10: A Radical, Socialist Critique

A pretty good critique of C10 omnibus Bill by Ed Patrick of the World Socialist Web Site.  Ed talks about the bourgeois' criticisms of C10 and points out quite succinctly what is wrong with this narrow viewpoint that misses the larger and more important picture altogether.  One of my favorite paragraphs:

 "The thrust of the Conservatives’ criminal justice policy is the repudiation of any notion that crime is rooted in poverty and other social ills and the resurrection of pre-Enlightment views of crime as a product of personal evil and original sin"

 Canada: Conservatives’ reactionary “tough on crime” bill soon to become law

By Ed Patrick
31 January 2012
Stephen Harper’s new majority Conservative government has made pushing the Safe Streets and Communities Act, Bill C-10, through parliament a top priority.
Comprised of nine bills that were either defeated by the last parliament or died with its dissolution, the Conservatives’ omnibus anti-crime bill is a collection of socially regressive measures. Most of these would make the criminal justice system more arbitrary and vindictive. Some are petty. Taken together they represent a wholesale repudiation of the bourgeois liberal concept of rehabilitation, in favor of punishment and vengeance.
Among other things, Bill C-10 would:
  • Significantly erode the distinction between youth and adult offenders. Henceforth, the courts would be obliged to consider imposing adult sentences on persons as young as 14 convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault. Judges would also have the right to impose harsher sentences in cases involving violent or repeat offenders, including those found guilty of reckless behavior.
  • Allow police to arrest without a warrant “an offender who appears to be in breach of a condition of any conditional release.”
  • Eliminate judges’ discretion to impose conditional sentences or house arrest for many crimes, including manslaughter and drug trafficking.
  • Impose new or increased mandatory minimum sentences for those in possession of even small amounts of marijuana and other illicit drugs if deemed “for the purposes of trafficking,” and for persons convicted of child sex offenses.
  • Impose longer wait-time before persons can request a pardon and bar those convicted of serious crimes from ever obtaining a pardon.
  • Introduce new hurdles for Canadian citizens jailed abroad to serve the remainder of their sentences in Canada.
Claiming that they have a popular mandate, the Conservatives brushed aside opposition reservations about Bill C-10, including some 88 proposed amendments, and invoked cloture last month to ensure its passage by the House of Commons. The bill now only needs the imprimatur of the Conservative-dominated Senate and the Governor-General’s signature to become law.
The government claims stern action is needed because for the last 20 years the criminal justice system has “worked for criminals, not victims” and ordinary Canadians feel vulnerable.
In fact, Statistics Canada polls in 2004 and 2008 found that vast majority of the populace—about 93 percent—feels very safe. Moreover, crime rates, including rates of violent crime, have steadily declined for more than a quarter century.
Even some crime victim “advocates” have spoken out against the government’s emphasis on incarceration and retribution. As Steve Sullivan of Ottawa Victim Services pointed out, “Victims understand, better than most, that nearly all offenders will eventually be released from prison... The best protection victims, their families, and the community will have is if the offender can learn to modify negative behaviour before he or she is released.”
It is widely agreed among criminologists and others with expert knowledge about the criminal justice system that mandatory minimum sentences do not enhance community safety or lower crime rates. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues that mandatory minimum sentencing will make it impossible for the judiciary to respond to the particularities of individual crimes, resulting in prison terms way out of proportion with the crimes committed. By way of an example, it notes that under Bill C-10 a person who was coerced by a relative into participating in a marijuana grow-up would be subjected to the mandatory sixth-month minimum prison sentence.
As a result of Bill C-10’s mandatory-sentencing provisions, persons convicted of crimes will be treated less as individual human beings, responding to and operating within widely different circumstances, and more as members of a general deviant subgroup—“criminals”— all deserving of essentially the same penalty.
One of the inevitable perverse impacts of mandatory minimum sentencing will be a surge in the prison population. Bourgeois critics of Bill C-10, such as the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Liberals and the trade-union-supported New Democrats (NDP) have made this consequence a key point of criticism. Their objections, however, have chiefly to do with the huge increased cost to the state of housing all these new prisoners and whether, in a period of austerity, the government is making the best expenditure of taxpayer dollars in embarking on a major federal prison-building program.
To be sure, it is a telling indication of the government’s priorities that the criminal justice system and the military are among the only programs that will escape massive budget cuts in the coming years.
But even more important than dollars and cents is the suffering that will be inflicted on the prison population as the result of mandatory sentencing. Cramped conditions will lead to greater violence and force reductions in already inadequate services such as libraries, psychological and substance abuse counselling, and skills programs. All the more so, as the government is much more interested in building prisons than providing prisoners with programs aimed at their rehabilitation.
The government has cavalierly dismissed its bourgeois critics. When challenged over the statistics demonstrating a long-term decrease in crime, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson retorted,
“We don’t govern on the basis of statistics. If we see a need to better protect children or send a message to drug dealers, that’s the basis upon which we’re proceeding.”
The Conservatives’ law-and-order campaign has deeply reactionary political and ideological motivations that go far beyond the common media refrain that Prime Minister Harper is pandering to the religious social conservatives who constitute an important part of the party’s activist base.
The thrust of the Conservatives’ criminal justice policy is the repudiation of any notion that crime is rooted in poverty and other social ills and the resurrection of pre-Enlightment views of crime as a product of personal evil and original sin. Likewise, the Conservatives and the bourgeois establishment as a whole more and more present unemployment and all the other social injustices of capitalism as the product of individual failings.
Nicholson has promised that Bill C-10 is only the beginning of a massive “overhaul” of the criminal justice system. The Conservatives have already announced plans to significantly expand police powers, including to spy on the Internet, and to revive two lapsed provisions of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act that provide for detention without charge and set aside the right to silence.
Under the cover of their “law and order” agenda, the Conservatives are building up the repressive apparatus of the state; promoting the police, along with the military, as an elite owed special respect, indeed deference, from the public; and cultivating the most base popular instincts, with their insistence that criminals must be “made to pay” through ever harsher sentences and prison conditions.
This goes alongside the criminalization of popular dissent and workers’ resistance, as in the case of the massive security mobilization and police riot during the 2010 Toronto G20 summit and the government’s use of emergency strikebreaking laws to break last year’s postal and Air Canada strikes.
While some of the measures in Bill C-10 have caused handwringing in sections of the elite, the Conservatives’ authoritarian measures against working people have been backed with enthusiasm by big business.

Where Canadian Persons Have Historically Been Provided Government Support if Detained Abroad - the Harper Conservatives are Leaving People to Languish and Rot

Yet more Canadians imprisoned abroad in countries with abysmal human rights records.  Cynthia Vanier has been incarcerated in Mexico without charge for the past 3+ months.  She has been beaten and tortured.  According to her family she has lost more than 45 pounds.  The Canadian government has taken the stance that they will ignore Canadians detained abroad.  That Canadians are subject to the laws of the countries which they visit and that the Federal governments has no business stepping in.  To this point they have not intervened, have not pressed for her release, and have only offered counsular assistance.  Ms. Vanier has been transferred to a federal prison awaiting a decision on charges by the Mexican government.

Canadian Woman accused of trying to smuggle Khadafy son into Mexico; she charges abuse, torture during 3 month detention

A Canadian woman jailed in Mexico last year on suspicion she was leading a plot to smuggle the son of slain Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy into that country will languish in prison for at least ten more days, as Mexican authorities decide whether to formally press charges.
Cynthia Vanier, 52, and three others were detained in Mexico City on Nov. 10 and accused of masterminding a plan to fly Saadi Khadafy and his family into the country on false passports.
Vanier's family has said the allegations are ridiculous.
The Ontario consultant was in Mexico working on water-purification projects when she was arrested, the family says.
They suspect she was targeted because she had traveled to Libya in July on a fact-finding mission for a Montreal-based engineering firm, Canada's CBC News reported.
The firm, SNC-Lavalin, had more than 1,000 employees in Libya and ties to the Khadafy family, CBC News said.
Her detention order was set to expire on Tuesday, but a Mexican judge extended the order and moved her to a federal prison, saying authorities need more time to decide whether to charge her.
In a letter to Canadian authorities obtained by CBC News, Vanier claims she's been tortured and abused during the three-month nightmare, at one point urinating blood after a Mexican cop punched her in the kidneys.
"They ignored me and just put me into the cell... I thought I was going to die in there," she wrote.
Vanier's parents, John and Betty MacDonald, were finally allowed to visit their daughter last Thursday, after months of grappling with the Mexican prison bureaucracy.
The couple told CBC their daughter looked gray-haired and gaunt — having lost some 45 pounds — and was suffering from kidney and blood pressure problems.
"It was pretty overwhelming," Betty MacDonald said of hugging her daughter for the first time. "I wanted to hang on to her forever, wrap her up in a blanket and bring her home."

A Canadian man has been arrested in Bahrain and in this case Canada has taken the position to stand back and observe, but little else.

Canadian man arrested in Bahrain court house

Verdict on petition to overturn prison sentence expected Feb. 16

 A Canadian man who lost his appeal of a five-year prison sentence and had been hiding out in Bahrain was arrested in court on Wednesday, CBC News has learned.

Canadian Naser al-Raas was arrested in a Bahrain court on Wednesday when he showed up hoping a five-year prison sentence would be set aside.Canadian Naser al-Raas was arrested in a Bahrain court on Wednesday when he showed up hoping a five-year prison sentence would be set aside. (Courtesy of family)
Naser al-Raas, 29, was convicted in October for charges of illegal assembly, rioting and incitement in the Arab Spring protests. He was sentenced to five years in prison, where he alleges he has been tortured. He had been in hiding since the conviction.
Katie Edwards of the group Free Naser in Canada said in an email Wednesday the Bahrain court is expected to make a decision on whether to overturn al-Raas's sentence on Feb. 16.
His fiancée Zainab Ahmed told CBC News al-Raas was arrested Wednesday afternoon when he showed up in court in a final bid to get out of the five-year sentence.
She said al-Raas only showed up because his lawyer thought his client would be found innocent. Ahmed said she didn't get the chance to see him before he was taken into custody.
"I'm so upset, so mad, so sad," Ahmed said between sobs in a Skype conversation with the CBC's Ashley Burke. "I'm afraid they will torture him again.
"I'm begging the Canadian government to do anything."