2 Calgary police supervisors relieved from duty due to harassment, chief says

CBC | Dec. 19, 2019

Two supervisors with the Calgary Police Service have been relieved from duty due to allegations of bullying and harassment, according to police Chief Mark Neufeld.

“We’ve taken them out of the workplace with their supervisors’ responsibilities for the short term, so that we can actually conduct an investigation and find out exactly what was going on,” Neufeld told The Homestretch.

Opioids are poisoning prisons, prompting fears of ‘weaponization,’ study suggests

CBC | Dec. 10, 2019

The prevalence of deadly opioids in western Canadian prisons has inmates and the officers who guard them increasingly fearful the drugs could be weaponized, a new University of Alberta study suggests.

“It is this prospect that fentanyl is being (or could be) weaponized that represents the most dramatic change fentanyl is producing in prison,” according to the study, recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Reports of use of force by Calgary officers on the rise, police data shows

The Star | Dec. 17, 2019

It was September 2018. Calgary police were chasing a suspect who was driving a stolen truck in the city’s northeast.

The driver of the stolen truck crashed into a police vehicle, a civilian’s car, two houses and was shot at by police. Finally, the chase ended when the driver ran from the truck and was bitten by a police dog.

‘State of continual crisis’: Alberta Crown prosecutors overworked, understaffed

CBC | Dec. 12, 2019

Crown prosecutor Dallas Sopko can’t remember the last time he had an entire work-free weekend. From Monday to Friday, he’s usually double or triple booked, and it’s typical for him to be in court five days a week. There’s a constant scramble to handle the relentless workload.

“You go home at the end of the day around suppertime from being in court one day and you’re cramming and preparing for what you have coming up the next day,” Sopko told CBC News.

Bear Clan Patrol, Indigenous community watch group, opens Calgary chapter

CBC | Dec. 7, 2019

The idea behind the Bear Clan Patrol dates back to pre-colonization — Indigenous people providing security to their communities.

Bear Clan Patrol first started in Winnipeg in 1992 but went on hiatus after about three years in operation.

James Favel is the executive director of Bear Clan Patrol Inc. in Winnipeg. He was instrumental in getting the group up and running again in 2015.

Court challenge to federal ban on needles for drug-using prisoners postponed

The Star | Dec. 9, 2019

A court hearing to challenge the federal government’s ban on needles for drug-using prisoners has been postponed until next week in the latest delay for a case that began seven years ago.

Monday’s hearing before the Ontario Superior Court was pushed back to Dec. 17 due to a medical emergency in the applicants’ legal team.

‘The system is broken:’ Many can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

The Star | Dec. 6, 2019

Legal experts say the justice system is failing Canada’s working poor, many of whom are unable to afford lawyers and end up pleading guilty or representing themselves in court.

In Alberta, legal aid isn’t available to anyone making over $20,000 a year. In Ontario, the threshold is $17,731. British Columbia’s limit is $19,560, while it’s slightly higher in Quebec at $22,750.

‘Incredibly low’: Only 118 pardons granted for pot possession in first 4 months

CBC | Dec. 1, 2019

Four months after the Liberal government passed legislation to provide free, fast pot pardons, just 118 people have had their records cleared — a figure one observer calls “incredibly low.”

Statistics provided by Public Safety Canada show there have been 234 applications for record suspensions to date.

The government has estimated that about 10,000 people are eligible for the expedited pardons.

Rise in crime reflects economic stress in Calgary, analyst tells police commission

CBC | Nov. 27, 2019

Crime in Calgary has increased, and while it’s not necessarily caused by the city’s economic troubles, there’s certainly a link, an analyst told the Calgary Police Commission on Tuesday.

Calgary Police Service crime and intelligence analytical section manager Rebecca Davidson says stress from the economy is reflected in the data, especially when it comes to domestic violence.

“We’re seeing almost a doubling of the number of incidents since 2014. We’re seeing that it is tied to the economy in terms of a relationship, not causation,” she told the commission.

End strip searches in Canadian prisons, Laurier researcher says

CBC | Nov. 21, 2019

It’s time to end the practice of strip searches at women’s prisons and jails across Canada, according to a researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Jessica Hutchison, a PhD student in the faculty of social work, studies the impact of strip searches on female inmates.

She’s organized a panel discussion on Thursday evening in downtown Kitchener to share the stories of women who were strip searched while incarcerated.

‘Something has to give’: Alberta justice system braces for budget cuts

Calgary Herald | Nov. 21, 2019

Crown attorneys, clerks and others in the Alberta justice system are warning provincial budget cuts risk adding more backlogs to an already strained system.

The Alberta justice ministry’s operating budget, released last month as part of the provincial fiscal plan, calls for a nearly seven per cent decrease in spending between the previous fiscal year and 2022-23.

In total, the department’s budget — which covers everything from jails to legal aid to prosecutors to government lawyers — is expected to shrink from $1.45 billion to $1.35 billion.

‘Ignored’ by justice minister, chair of board tasked with reviewing NCR cases like Matthew de Grood resigns

CBC | Nov. 20, 2019

The chair of the Alberta Review Board, whose job it is to review not criminally responsible (NCR) cases, has resigned after less than six months in the role, feeling she has “no support” from the justice minister or UCP government.

At annual hearings prescribed by the Criminal Code, Alberta Review Board members get updates on the condition, treatment and progress of people found not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial. They are then responsible for issuing decisions on what, if any, freedoms should be granted to the patients.

Investigation finds Calgary Remand Centre mishandled requests for public information

CBC | Nov. 15, 2019

Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner says she had immediate concerns about how freedom of information requests were being handled by the Calgary Remand Centre, after she was asked to deny the requests of an inmate.

“It all started in June 2018 when there was a request to my office asking for permission to disregard some access to information requests made by an inmate who was in the Calgary Remand Centre at that time,” said Jill Clayton, Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Let’s fix broken system for suspending criminal records

The Star | Nov. 12, 2019

The first anniversary of cannabis legalization has come and gone — and at least 250,000 Canadians still have a criminal record for past cannabis possession.

This is in spite of Bill C-93, which was advertised as a quick way for these Canadians to have the record of their conviction suspended (that is, the record would be removed and kept separate from the main Canadian police database).

Province doubles size of Edmonton, Calgary drug treatment courts

Calgary Herald | Oct. 31, 2019

The provincial government is doubling the size of drug treatment courts in Edmonton and Calgary, giving non-violent offenders a chance to enter recovery programs instead of prison.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer on Thursday at the Edmonton John Howard Society announced $20 million in new funding for the programs.

The funding will roll out over four years, and could allow for the creation of drug treatment courts outside Alberta’s largest urban centres. The new funding will double the total number of drug court spots from 40 to 80 each year.

The end of solitary confinement in Canada? Not exactly

The Conversation | Oct. 27, 2019

As of Dec. 1, inmates in Canada’s federal prisons can no longer be legally held in solitary confinement. Sort of. Bill C-83, an amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, received royal assent in June and will be fully enforced by Nov. 30.

The act eliminates administrative and disciplinary segregation, also known as solitary confinement. According to Ralph Goodale, the former minister of public safety who lost his seat in the recent election, this amounts to a “fundamental” change in the way prisons deal with inmates who are considered a risk to others or themselves.

Justice department takes hit, remains dedicated to most vulnerable

Calgary Herald | Oct. 24, 2019

Few areas of Alberta’s justice system will see an increase in funding, with the department forecasting an overall spending decrease of $3 million this year, and $96 million — or 6.6 per cent — within four years.

Budget forecasts show operating expenses dropping from $1.45 billion in 2018-19 to about $1.36 billion in 2022-23, with the bulk of savings coming from within the court system.

How much hate crime does Canada have? Without a standard definition, no one knows for sure

CBC | Oct. 9, 2019

Police departments across Canada have different ideas of what constitutes a hate crime, a new CBC investigation shows. As a result, experts say it’s impossible to have accurate numbers that show which communities are struggling.

Police departments use different definitions of hate crime, which means how crimes are identified as hate-motivated differs from region to region and even among police officers investigating complaints. Some municipalities have comprehensive definitions that include gender identity and expression, while others have no formal definition at all.

Clare’s Law may hurt more than help, Edmonton lawyer says

CBC | Oct. 20, 2019

A proposed law that would give police the authority to share a person’s criminal record of domestic violence is raising red flags for at least one lawyer in Edmonton.

Alberta’s UCP government introduced Bill 17 on Wednesday: the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence Act, colloquially known as Clare’s Law.

The legislation would allow people to ask for their partner’s or potential partner’s criminal record involving domestic abuse.

Defence lawyer concerned about prosecutor shortage causing delays in domestic court

Calgary Herald | Oct. 17, 2019

The day after the Alberta government introduced legislation to help curb domestic violence, a Calgary defence lawyer sounded off over the lack of prosecutors handling such cases.

Defence counsel Adriano Iovinelli told court he was informed the earliest an assigned prosecutor was available to handle his in-custody client’s day-and-a-half domestic violence trial was next July.

Iovinelli said that was despite court time being available as early as Dec. 2, leading Judge Gerry Meagher to tell the lawyer to schedule that date.

‘I can carve my own path:’ Mechanic shop provides employment to at-risk youth

CBC | Sept. 22, 2019

A Calgary mechanic is repairing more than just engines.

He’s working with at-risk youth who don’t have fathers to help them succeed, giving back for the help he received in his formative years.

The program is called Father and Sons Small Engine Services.

Calgary Legal Guidance struggling to keep up with demand for low-income services

Star Calgary | Sept. 28, 2019

Calgary Legal Guidance is seeing the demand for legal advice put them nearly at capacity, partially because they see so many clients who are ineligible for Legal Aid Alberta’s low income cut-off for eligibility.

CLG, a local non-profit providing legal advice for people with low income, has provided the service for nearly 50 years. On Saturday, the non-profit held its annual Advice-A-Thon at city hall, a fundraiser where anyone can walk up and receive 30 minutes of free legal advice from one of CLG’s volunteer lawyers.

Calgary police to launch internal and external search for new deputy chiefs, no timeline set

Calgary Herald | Sept. 25, 2019

An internal and external search is set to be launch by the Calgary police as they look to fill the roles of two departing deputy chiefs.

Two long-standing deputy chiefs — Ray Robitaille and Sat Parhar — are heading for retirement, it was announced Tuesday. Robitaille’s last day was last week, while Parhar’s final day with the service will be this Friday.

The search for their replacements, the service said, has no timeline and will be starting as soon as possible.

All prisoners have the right to vote in the federal election. Here’s how

CBC | Sept. 21, 2019

All Canadians incarcerated in provincial, territorial or federal institutions have the right to vote in the Oct. 21 election. And they are a potentially large voting block.

In 2017-2018, there were 38,786 adults in federal or provincial/territorial custody, according to Statistics Canada.

Voter turnout among incarcerated Canadians in the 2015 federal election was 50.5 per cent, compared with an overall turnout of 68 per cent for the general population.

Alberta courts face uncertainty as justice bill scales back preliminary inquiries

Calgary Herald | Sept. 16, 2019

Fewer people facing criminal charges will be eligible for preliminary inquiries prior to trial when a controversial portion of the Liberal justice bill goes into effect this month.

As of Sept. 19, only those facing a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison or longer will be eligible for a preliminary inquiry — a type of pretrial proceeding in which a judge determines whether there is enough evidence to send a case to trial.

Child advocate warns about use of pepper spray, segregation in Alberta young offender centres

CBC | Sept. 9, 2019

The use of pepper spray and segregation in Alberta young offender centres can re-traumatize incarcerated youth and harm their chances of rehabilitation, Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff warns in a new report.

The report, released Monday, calls for a review of segregation practices, improved training for correctional officers, and increased transparency around how often young offenders are being pepper sprayed or placed in isolation.

‘We don’t have a word for crime’: New Calgary Indigenous Court to follow peacemaking approach

CBC | Sept. 3, 2019

The Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC) will officially open this week during a ceremony presided over by Judge Eugene Creighton, a member of the Blood Tribe who speaks fluent Blackfoot.

After about 18 months of planning, the court will open Wednesday. Sitting weekly, it will deal primarily with bail and sentencing hearings, focussing on a restorative justice approach to crime through peacemaking and connecting accused people to their cultures and communities.

ASIRT ‘working at maximum capacity’ amid funding crunch, head of police watchdog says

CBC | Aug. 22, 2019

The head of Alberta’s police watchdog agency says it’s strapped for resources as cases pile up faster than investigators can close them.

“It’s work that you can’t shortcut and that you can’t cut corners on to try and close these files, because it’s important we get the right result in every case,” said Susan Hughson, executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).

YouthLink launches gang prevention presentations to address violence in northeast Calgary

The Star Calgary | Aug. 21, 2019

The Calgary police’s youth outreach organization is launching a series of presentations on gang violence and recruitment in an effort to prevent kids from getting involved in organized crime.

YouthLink is offering the free presentations beginning Thursday at the YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre in the northeast.

Police worry about budget cuts at social agencies as crime rate increases

CBC | Aug. 19, 2019

Calgary police say they’re worried provincial budget cuts affecting social agencies will diminish broader efforts to handle an ongoing drug and addictions crisis that has led to increased crime.

The Calgary Homeless Foundation, which helps fund about 30 agencies in the city, says its budget will drop by $3.2 million, or nearly eight per cent, in the current year.

Calgary police now have 1,150 body-worn cameras on front-line officers

CBC | Aug. 13, 2019

It’s their second try at rolling out a body-worn camera program and, this time, Calgary police say they got it right.

For the first time, all of the Calgary Police Service’s front-line officers are now equipped with the devices.

3 gadgets that could make police officers more empathetic — and accountable

CBC | Aug. 12, 2019

Hundreds of police chiefs and officers from across Canada are meeting in Calgary this week, as are dozens of vendors displaying the latest high-tech wares in the hope of attracting law enforcement buyers.

Some of the gadgets on display at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Conference could make policing better, vendors say, not just for officers but for citizens — by making those who wear the badge more empathetic and accountable.

Canada’s prisons are failing

National Magazine | Aug. 12, 2019

It has been more than 80 years since a government-ordered report into the conditions inside Canada’s prisons recommended nothing less than “radical change.”

That study, spearheaded by Justice Joseph Archambault, laid the framework for our modern prisons. It would reject a system built on retribution and punishment and ensure the “reformation and rehabilitation of all those who find their way into our prisons.”

The better part of a century later, there are worries that the wisdom of that report has been lost. Lawyers and human rights advocates say conditions in Canada’s prisons and jails have deteriorated to the point of crisis. Administrative segregation, overcrowding, arbitrary lockdowns, a lack of access to counsel are all problems that have become shockingly common.

‘This can happen to you.’ David Milgaard works to help free other innocent people – even though it opens the wounds of his past

The Globe & Mail | Aug. 3, 2019

David Milgaard’s garden sits on the edge of a sweeping valley. It’s not much, but enough for what he needs. Tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries for the kids. Some parsnips and wild flowers grown from seed.

His yard is small but boundless, a thin patch of grass that turns quickly wild, then dips into a valley and stretches out to the horizon beyond. It’s the expanse that made him want to live there. Vast and open. Endless. You can see the Bow River snaking by, and at intervals, trains clatter and squeal on the tracks alongside. He hasn’t always liked trains, they remind him more of captivity than freedom, bringing to mind for him the dark purposes they’ve served in history, how they carried people away to captivity and worse.

Do prisons perpetuate problems they are supposed to solve?

The Star Calgary | July 28, 2019

There are approximately 15,000 people serving time in Canada’s federal prison system and we pay $115,000 to $200,000 per prisoner per year to keep them in custody.

Most come from poverty, many have mental health issues connected to histories of complex trauma and rates of racialized prisoners are disproportionately high. More than one in four prisoners — and more than one in three imprisoned women — are Indigenous; almost one in 10 are Black.

There’s something else they have in common: Most of them will one day be released.

Calgary had a lot more shoplifting but a lot fewer homicides last year

CBC News | July 22, 2019

A surge in shoplifting in Calgary — part of a trend across the province and even country — helped push up the city’s crime rate last year despite a plunge in some other offences, Statistics Canada says.

Provincewide, the incidence of shoplifting — including both below and above $5,000 — climbed by 23 per cent in a year, from 17,673 total incidents in 2017 to 21,802 in 2018, according to a Statistics Canada calculation released Monday. Called the Crime Severity Index, it measures the volume and severity of police-reported crimes.

‘Long overdue’: Alberta court aims to go paperless

Calgary Herald | July 10, 2019

Alberta’s superior court is taking steps to reduce the reams of paper it consumes.

The Court of Queen’s Bench said in an annual report released Tuesday that it aims to ultimately go “paperless,” but did not provide a date by when that might happen.

“The court recognizes that a paper-based system is antiquated, and fails to serve the public as effectively and efficiently as it should,” the report says.

Cannabis legalization has had little impact on crime, disorder: city police

Calgary Herald | July 2, 2019

Legalizing cannabis hasn’t led to an increase in visible disorder or crime in Calgary, say city police.

The force said their statistics on cannabis enforcement, obtained by Postmedia, and their wider experience in upholding the law suggest little has changed on city streets since recreational use of the drug was legalized last October.

Alberta federal prison opened an overdose prevention site for inmates this week

Global News | June 28, 2019

Alberta’s Drumheller federal prison opened an overdose prevention site for inmates on Monday, Global News has learned. It is the first prison in Canada to do so.

“Participants using the service will be allowed to use self-supplied substances,” a spokesperson for the Correctional Service of Canada told Global News in an email.

Canadians can soon get quick, free pot pardons — but pros expect modest uptake

CBC News | June 22, 2019

Canadians saddled with criminal records for possessing cannabis can soon apply for fast, free pardons, but professionals working in the field aren’t expecting a mad rush at the door.

Bill C-93, which waives the $631 fee and the five-to-10-year waiting period for pardon applications, received royal assent Friday and will soon come into force. The legislation aims to remove barriers to employment, housing, travel and volunteering opportunities for people who were convicted of simple possession before recreational cannabis use was made legal last fall.

Calgary pilot program helps recently released prisoners with hepatitis C

Global News | June 23, 2019

Imagine adjusting to life after serving prison time, then add mental-health struggles, addiction or homelessness.Now, throw in hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause serious liver problems and is several times more prevalent in federal prisons than the general population.

Edmonton lawyers’ group calls for amnesty for non-violent Indigenous offenders

Calgary Herald | June 20, 2019

A local lawyers’ association is calling on governments to reduce the number of Indigenous people in Canada’s prisons and jails, saying Indigenous over-incarceration is worsening despite numerous reports and court rulings aimed at fixing the problem.

Members of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association (CTLA), which represents about 300 lawyers in Edmonton and northern Alberta, held a news conference at the river valley Indigenous Art Park Thursday.

John Howard Society opens new transitional housing facility in Manchester

Calgary Herald | June 13, 2019

After a nearly 15-year process, the Calgary John Howard Society has opened the doors at its new Bedford House location in the Manchester area.

The new facility will provide transitional housing for 32 men. The replacement site has been in the works since the original Bedford House location was expropriated by the City of Calgary in 2005 due to Stampede Park expansion. For the last three years, the organization was renting a temporary space in Forest Lawn until the building could be constructed.

Calgary John Howard Society opens brand new Bedford House

CBC — The Homestretch | June 12, 2019

Men who are transitioning out of Alberta’s justice system, back into society, now have a NEW place to call home. The Calgary John Howard Society opened its brand new Bedford House in Southeast Calgary this afternoon. The residential facility has 32 units and houses round-the-clock staff and support programs to help men navigate the sometimes rocky-road back into the community. Gord Sand is Executive Director of the Calgary John Howard Society.

HIV patient advocacy group fears consumption site at Alberta prison won’t succeed

CBC News | June 12, 2019

An advocacy group has raised doubts over whether an overdose prevention site proposed for a southern Alberta prison will work.

The Correctional Service of Canada says it has received a Health Canada exemption that would permit the site at Drumheller Institution by the end of the month.

Corrections Canada turns to detection equipment to fight contraband drone drops

CBC News | June 9, 2019

Canada’s federal prisons will soon have a new weapon against a threat from above: Drones delivering drugs, cellphones and other dangerous contraband inside prison walls.

The Correctional Service of Canada will be spending $6 million to install radar-based drone detection equipment at six facilities following a spike in drone incidents.

Audit flags risk of ‘food-related health event’ in Canadian prisons

CBC News | June 8, 2019

A new federal audit raises quality and safety concerns regarding Canada’s prison food system, warning of food being wasted, substandard meal portions and the risk of a “food-related health event” behind the wire.

Federal government auditors scrutinized kitchens and food preparation rules in federal institutions that feed more than 14,000 inmates daily. It found that the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is failing to meet Canada Food Guide’s nutrition guidelines, to provide quality assurance oversight and to take consistent steps to avoid contamination.

Senate committee approves changes to solitary confinement bill

The Star | May 30, 2019

A committee of senators has approved changes to a bill that aims to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons — including a key change to require a judge’s approval to keep an inmate in isolation for more than 48 hours.

A number of human-rights organizations say Bill C-83 offers only a cosmetic rebranding of solitary confinement with no hard time limits on isolation or separation of inmates. The current law has such restrictions.

Alberta’s top court calls on province to end delays in bail-hearing system

CBC News | May 28, 2019

The province must fix the ailing bail-hearing system, says Alberta’s Court of Appeal in a decision that ruled staying charges when a hearing is delayed is going too far.

“It must be emphasized that the primary responsibility for finding a remedy for systemic Charter breaches does not lie on the judiciary,” the Court of Appeal decision says. “It is up to the government to identify and implement the necessary solutions.”

70 per cent of prisoners in Alberta are in remand, the highest in Canada

Edmonton Journal | May 13, 2019

Alberta once again has Canada’s highest remand rate, with 70 per cent of people locked up in the provincial correctional system awaiting trial instead of serving a sentence.

Statistics Canada released fresh data on the country’s correctional systems Thursday, highlighting incarceration rates, Indigenous over-representation and spending on each province’s jail systems.

The report, Adult and Youth Correctional Statistics in Canada 2017/2018, also detailed remand rates in provincial and territorial correctional systems, which house pretrial inmates and people serving sentences shorter than two years.

Enforcement alone won’t fix downtown crime linked to mental health, addiction: police

Calgary Herald | May 9, 2019

Creative solutions are being sought to address rising crime linked to drug use downtown, amid an effort to revitalize the city’s core.

The Calgary Downtown Association held its annual general meeting on Thursday, with executive director Marco De Iaco saying his focus for 2019 will be to “change the narrative” around downtown in the face of “significant headwinds” facing businesses in the core.

Canada’s new solitary confinement bill makes it easier to put inmates in isolation, senator says

Global News | May 5, 2019

A Canadian senator who has spent four decades advocating for the rights of vulnerable people in Canadian prisons says a new bill that purports to end solitary confinement should be scrapped.

Sen. Kim Pate says the Trudeau government’s Bill C-83 only offers a cosmetic rebranding of the practice of separating inmates from others in isolated cells for administrative or disciplinary reasons.

Canada’s Wrongfully Convicted: What are the psychological impacts?

Global News | May 3, 2019

According to research conducted by University of Ottawa criminologist Kathryn Campbell, who studies cases of wrongful conviction, at least 70 people have been exonerated in Canada.

That’s an estimate, however, and there could be many more.

The wrongfully convicted people she has spoken to say being in prison is hard but the mental anguish is exacerbated when you know you’re not meant to be there. Many people who are locked away become obsessed with their case, she says, and with getting out.

Why We Must End Strip Searches In Canada’s Prisons for Women

Vice | May 3, 2019

Imagine being told by someone in a uniform, someone with near complete authority over your every need, to undress in front of them, while another uniform stands nearby; “remove your shirt,” throw it in a pile on the ground, and then “your bra” and then “your pants, now your underwear.” It gets worse: “lift your breasts, open your mouth, turn around, bend over, spread your cheeks, squat, cough.” If you’re menstruating, “remove your tampon.” As a formerly incarcerated woman told Jessica as part of a research study, “I remember there was a time when I was on my period and she told me to squat and cough and I felt so embarrassed because drops of blood came out of me and then they told me to clean it up.”

New Calgary collective brings together experts of all kinds to tackle street-level drug use

CBC News | May 1, 2019

The people dealing with drug addiction on the front lines and on the streets — and its impacts on Calgary communities — met Wednesday morning to talk about how they can work together.

Nearly four dozen law enforcement officials, social workers, researchers, outreach workers, medical professionals, city officials and community leaders attended the informal meeting hosted by Mount Royal University criminologist Dr. Kelly Sundberg.

Canada’s investment in prison system isn’t bringing results, watchdog reports

The Globe and Mail | April 26, 2019

Canada is pouring money into an outdated prison model that provides questionable value for dollars spent, according to an internal analysis by the federal corrections ombudsman.

The 33-page document, obtained by Access to Information legislation, shows that recently announced spending will give Canada approximately one staff member for every inmate, an employee-to-prisoner ratio that would lead the world.

Delayed justice: Ongoing trouble with Alberta bail system

CBC News | April 26, 2019

The Criminal Code in Canada mandates that anyone placed under arrest has a constitutional right to a bail hearing within 24 hours.

In Alberta, it’s become so common to go past the 24-hour time limit that there’s a code word for it: over-hold.

Statistics obtained by CBC News from Alberta Justice reveal that between March 2018 and March 2019 more than 25,000 bail hearings were held in Calgary and Edmonton. During that same time period, there were 678 over-holds in Calgary and 2,555 in Edmonton.

Calgary Police working to include Brain Story for new recruits

Apple Magazine | Winter 2019

Policing is a complex job that requires continuous and specialized training.

That’s why the Calgary Police Service is making the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative’s Brain Story part of basic training for new recruits.

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.