What inmates think candidates should know about life inside Alberta’s jails
Calgary Herald | April 12, 2019
On an average day, there are around 3,800 adults and 100 youth in Alberta correctional facilities — which house pretrial inmates and people serving sentences of less than two years. The system costs $288 million annually to run.
At last count, nearly three out of every four people in the system were remand inmates — people who are being held prior to trial and haven’t yet been convicted. Alberta’s remand rate is the highest in Canada, and would be among the highest in the world if it were its own country.
Inside, the opioid crisis is being felt as acutely as anywhere: 224 people overdosed in Alberta correctional facilities between 2016 and last October alone. Prisoner complaints about being denied access to timely medical care or having medications changed are common.
All parties fail on justice policies, lawyers’ group says
CBC Calgary | April 2, 2019
If the next government of Alberta doesn’t invest in the justice system, the courts will continue to falter with chronic backlogs, says the president of the Canadian Bar Association’s Alberta branch.
“The justice system has not been adequately funded in this province for a long time and it has caught up to us,” said Frank Friesacher, president of CBA Alberta, which represents more than 5,000 lawyers, judges, law teachers and law students across the province.
“‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is the old adage and that’s certainly true of our system today.”
Campaign for expungement of simple cannabis convictions makes tour stop in Calgary
Calgary Herald | March 30, 2019
A cross-country tour aimed at gathering support for the permanent deletion of simple cannabis convictions made a stop in Calgary Saturday.
David Duarte, experiential event manager with B.C. cannabis producer Doja, said a lot of Calgarians came by the Pardon truck to sign the campaign’s petition.
“This tour’s really about driving awareness,” Duarte said. “With cannabis legalization coming and going, people think the conversation about those who have a record has ended, and we’re saying it hasn’t ended, and we’re still here fighting for them.”
Supervised drug consumption sites considered for Canadian prisons
Calgary Herald | March 28, 2019
In a 9-0 ruling Thursday, the high court said people accused of crimes are automatically entitled to periodic reviews of their detention under provisions set out in the Criminal Code.
In clarifying how the provisions should work, the court said Parliament wanted to make certain that people awaiting trial have their cases reviewed by a judge at set points in time to consider whether keeping them in jail is justified.
Supervised drug consumption sites considered for Canadian prisons
CBC Calgary | March 24, 2019
Canada’s prisoner service is considering opening overdose prevention sites as it expands a needle-exchange program that is now offered at a fifth institution for offenders who inject smuggled drugs.
In a statement, the Correctional Service of Canada says it “is in the early stages of exploring overdose prevention sites as another harm-reduction measure option for inmates.”
New RCMP commanding officer a familiar face in Alberta
Calgary Herald | March 24, 2019
Curtis Zablocki was sworn in as the deputy commissioner of RCMP in Alberta at a ceremony at the K Division headquarters in Edmonton last week.
He is taking the post after spending two years as the commanding officer in Saskatchewan. Before that two-year stint Zablocki held a number of posts throughout rural Alberta, including officer in charge of the Wetaskiwin detachment and operations officer of the Battle River district.
RCMP cadet program helps First Nations youth build relationships with police
CBC Calgary | March 23, 2019
A program in Eden Valley is giving kids in the community a first-hand look at what it’s like to be a police officer.
The cadet training program has Eden Valley youth gather in Chief Jacob Bearspaw school gymnasium to participate in activities with Turner Valley Boys and Girls Club.
Turner Valley RCMP started the cadet program five years ago using the same model as the Maskwacis Cadets from Northern Alberta.
Calgary police HR boss hampered by lack of support from top brass, external report finds
CBC Calgary | March 20, 2019
An external consultant’s report lays out the mistakes made by the senior leadership of the Calgary Police Service that led to the sudden and unexpected resignation of its former chief human resources officer, Sheila Ball.
Ball was the first civilian chief human resources officer (CHRO) hired by the service. She started in February, 2018, tasked with leading the service through some highly anticipated reforms, and implement a cultural shift within the organization to address issues of bullying, harassment and gender discrimination.
It’s still too hard to wipe the slate clean in Canada. Change hasn’t come fast enough. A new Senate bill would bring relief to those who need it most.
Policy Options | March 19, 2019
An estimated one in seven Canadians has a criminal record, and while the government’s new bill to expedite suspensions of criminal records for simple cannabis possession convictions is definitely a step in the right direction, it’s far from a full response. Bill C-93, the only gesture the government has made to reform a broken criminal record suspension system, offers precious little to Canadians who have waited too long for meaningful change.
Calgary’s next top cop is Mark Neufeld, president of Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police
CBC Calgary | March 18, 2019
Mark Neufeld, Camrose’s current police chief and the president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, has been named as the next leader of the Calgary Police Service. Neufeld spent 24 years with the Edmonton Police Service and two years as Chief of the Camrose Police Service.
Senate committee confirms major problems in Canadian prisons
John Howard Society of Canada | February 28, 2019
For the past two years, the Senate Committee on Human Rights has been inquiring into “respect for the human rights of federally-sentenced persons in the federal correctional system”. This past week they issued an interim report that is yet another in a long list of reports that find major problems in Canadian prisons.
Prisons not meeting health, end-of-life needs of older inmates, report says
Calgary Herald | February 28, 2019
The federal correctional investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission on Thursday called on the Correctional Service of Canada to meet the unique needs of older people behind bars, whose numbers are going up — along with government costs for holding them.
The two bodies said the country needs a national strategy to address the care and needs of people over 50 prison in federal custody.
They said the corrections service should find ways to release older inmates who don’t pose undue risks to public safety into the community, long-term-care facilities, or hospices to outsource their care.
Half of Canada’s prisoners were abused as children, McMaster study suggests
CBC News | February 20, 2019
About half of Canada’s inmates were abused as children, suggests a new study out of McMaster University.
Medical student Claire Bodkin led a team that studied data from 30 years of research into Canadian inmates. Their work was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).
The researchers found 65 per cent of female inmates experienced abuse in general, and half of them were sexually abused.
Alberta’s Police Act scrutinized by justice experts in review
CBC News | February 12, 2019
An outstanding warrant for stealing tampons stopped an Edmonton mother threatened by her partner from calling 911 last weekend.
Mark Cherrington with the Coalition of Justice and Human Rights helped the young woman and her toddlers instead.
He said cases like this one show why the province’s Police Act needs to give officers more discretion around executing warrants when safety is paramount.
Months locked in a tiny box — how solitary confinement can erode mental health
CBC News | February 8, 2019
On any given day, there are about 340 prisoners being held in solitary confinement — otherwise known as administrative segregation — in penitentiaries across the country in conditions critics, including a leading psychologist who has researched the subject, say amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
The John Howard Society and the BC Civil Liberties Association in British Columbia and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Ontario have been pursuing court challenges to the current practice of solitary confinement, charging that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They’re now awaiting the rulings of appeals courts in their respective jurisdictions on the issue.
Former police chief says wiping out executive or hiring externally won’t solve services’ problems
CBC News | February 4, 2019
Retired Calgary police chief Roger Chaffin said the biggest challenge facing the next chief won’t be the opioid crisis, or other crime and social disorder within the city, but rather ensuring the organization as a whole functions properly, including getting everyone on board with the HR reforms Chaffin began to chip away at during his leadership run.
Especially, he said, knowing there’s a core group of senior members either resistant to change — or at the very least, unenthusiastic about it — and would rather turn back the clocks.
In internal survey, 17 employees at Edmonton prison say they were sexually assaulted by a co-worker
Calgary Herald | February 4, 2019
An internal survey of employees at Edmonton’s maximum security federal prison shines new light on the extent of workplace sexual violence and harassment at the facility.
The survey reveals, for the first time, that 17 current staffers say they have been sexually assaulted by a co-worker — either at the facility or off-site. Only five reported the assault to management, and just three went to police.
The province promised a review of street checks 18 months ago. Where is it?
StarMetro Edmonton | February 3, 2019
Almost 18 months after the Alberta government promised to review the controversial police practice of carding, opposition parties and civil rights and anti-racism advocates are questioning why nothing has been made public.
The practice, also known as street checks, means stopping and documenting someone who is not suspected of a crime. After separate reports in Lethbridge and Edmonton showed police were disproportionately targeting Black and Indigenous residents, the province announced in August 2017 it would launch a six-week consultation on carding.
Province announces funding to tackle sharp spike in crime around Safeworks injection site
Calgary Herald | January 29, 2019
The province has committed $200,000 to create a team tasked with reducing crime while monitoring the city’s only safe drug consumption site.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman made the announcement just hours after a report from police showing the crime rate in the Beltline has skyrocketed near the Safeworks Harm Reduction Program, located inside the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre.
Calgary police to expand mental health consultation line pilot project
Calgary Herald | January 22, 2019
Calgary police are expanding a pilot project aimed at reducing the number of apprehensions under the Mental Health Act.
The Calgary police commission heard Tuesday that a mental-health consultation line offered as a pilot project in District 2 received 51 calls from officers between Oct. 19 and Nov. 30, and resulted in the diversion of 17 “Form 10s,” or apprehensions under Section 12 of the Mental Health Act.
Judge slams Edmonton Remand Centre over lack of TVs in cells but province not budging
Calgary Herald | January 21, 2019
Wayne Wilcox has spent much of the last decade behind bars — most recently, in administrative segregation at the Edmonton Remand Centre.
For 23 hours a day, he is confined to a cell, where he reads, sleeps, works on crossword puzzles and fills out legal paperwork while awaiting trial on his role in a high-speed flight from police.
Opinion: Take it from someone who has been in a gang: tackling the symptoms won’t fix the problem
CBC News | January 14, 2019
At the age of six I was exposed to my first bully. I was punched in the face and thrown to the ground. As a child growing up in the west-side of Toronto, I would come to learn that I lived in a community that bred violence, where tough guys were respected, and where the weak were preyed upon.
By high school the bullying took on a new life, as I was physically and psychologically tortured by boys that were not only bigger, but who had also developed a reputation for hand-to-hand combat and the utilization of weapons.
What drives men to kill? Edmonton Indigenous activist pushing for prison interviews to stop the bloodshed
StarMetro Edmonton | January 13, 2019
One Edmonton Indigenous activist is making the case that solving the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls means understanding why men prey on women in the first place.
On Wednesday, Muriel Stanley Venne, founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, made that very point to Correctional Service Canada as part of the National Aboriginal Advisory Committee. She recommended that Corrections Canada place a greater emphasis on interviewing convicted killers who are locked up to get a better sense of their motivations, their psychology, and, ultimately, to learn more about how society can prevent women from being murdered.
As meth use spikes in Calgary, police and addiction experts call for co-ordinated response
StarMetro Calgary | January 10, 2019
Over the last five years, meth use in Calgary has ballooned to the point where it rivals the use of crack cocaine in the 1990s, according to police, which has left local services scrambling to respond to the spread of the addictive drug.
The Calgary Police Service reported on Thursday that it has seen the number of drug seizures involving meth increase sevenfold in the last five years, from 142 in 2013 to 1,043 last year.
Restorative justice in Alberta ‘far tougher than spending time in jail’
Calgary Herald | January 7, 2019
Earlier this year, the Alberta government doubled what it spends each year on restorative justice programs, to $700,000. Last year, 14 community groups that provide restorative justice services received grants from the province.
While it’s still short of what similar jurisdictions spend, proponents are hopeful it will lead to more widespread adoption of restorative justice in Alberta.
Consider making some criminal pardons automatic, MPs recommend
Calgary Herald | January 1, 2019
A panel of MPs wants the federal government to look at making criminal pardons automatic for some offenders who have served their sentences. The House of Commons public safety committee also suggests lowering the $631 fee for a pardon and simplifying the often complex process for applicants.
Advocates call for decriminalization as Alberta fentanyl deaths continue at virtually same, peak rate
Calgary Herald | December 11, 2018
The pace of fentanyl fatalities in Alberta nearly kept to its record rate in the year’s third quarter, with 158 people succumbing to the synthetic opiate. That compares to 167 in the three months previous to that and 170 in the year’s first quarter.