The corrections officers’ union voiced its opposition to the much-discussed omnibus crime legislation Bill C-10, which they say puts more people in jail, without addressing inmate mental issues.
The president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) spoke Thursday at a gathering to coincide with the third day of justice ministers meetings in Charlottetown.
The NUPGE said one in three prisoners have mental health issues, which they say endangers corrections officers and prisoners themselves.
The union said the problem will just get worse when C-10 becomes law.
“When people talk about Harper being tough on crime, I think Bill C-10 demonstrates that the Harper government is dumb on crime,” said James Clancy, the NUPGE president Thursday.
The union called for federal and provincial governments to address the crisis of the amount of people with mental illnesses being incarcerated.
“Our members who work in provincial jails are telling us that the number of inmates with mental health or addiction problems is growing dramatically,” said Clancy in a news release earlier on Thursday.
“The federal anti-crime legislation is going to make a bad situation worse by imprisoning more and more people,” he added. “It is an inhumane way to deal with people who need treatment, not jail time.”
The union estimates the number of mental health cases in jails is growing 10 per cent a year.
The union called for more training for corrections officers, more support staff such as nurses and psychologists, and more beds in facilities.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Bill C-10 will keep violent and repeat offenders in jail longer.
“The cost to victims on an annual basis of crime is $100 billion dollars.”
Toews also said much work has been done on mental health issues of prisoners, for example, there was a symposium recently held in Alberta, where ministers agreed to bring in health and social service workers to collaborate on an action plan.
The Island has two jails – in Summerside and Charlottetown and two youth facilities.
P.E.I.’s Justice Minister Janice Sherry said the Island jails have seen a 30 per cent increase in inmates in recent years. P.E.I. has about 100 corrections officers and about 100 youth workers.
Francesco Schettino ‘cried like a baby,’ says Costa Concordia chaplain
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE JANUARY 20, 2012
ROME – The captain of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship “cried like a baby” as he hugged its chaplain hours after the luxury liner crashed into the island of Giglio, the priest said in an interview Friday.
Interviewed by French magazine Famille Chretienne, Father Raffaele Malena said he was among the last to leave the ship at around 1:30 am (0030 GMT) on Saturday and then stayed “close to the injured” in the tiny harbour of Giglio.
“I descended on the rope ladder. I was picked up by a little lifeboat,” said Malena, who has returned to his village of Ciro Marina in Calabria.
“At around 2:30 a.m. I spoke to the captain (Francesco Schettino). He embraced me and cried like a baby for about a quarter of an hour,” Malena said.
Schettino is accused of multiple manslaughter, abandoning a ship and causing a shipwreck and faces several years in prison if he is found guilty.
Many witnesses have said that he was sailing far too close to Giglio in a show-off manoeuvre and struck submerged rocks close to the Tuscan island.
He has admitted to making a mistake but said that following the impact he steered the vessel to save as many people as possible, according to a leaked transcript of his interrogation by prosecutors on Tuesday.
The 73-year-old chaplain, who has worked for Costa for around 20 years, praised the bravery of crew members amid panic during the evacuation.
“There were heroes of all nationalities… They were shaking with fear. They were threatened. They were telling people to stop boarding lifeboats which were full but people were getting in anyway,” he said.
The Catholic priest said he was also angry at some of the passengers, “who are going to sue because they have lost 30, 40 or 50,000 euros in jewels.”
“Me, I defend the weak. Not the rich and the billionaires,” he added.
The priest said he went to pray for a few moments in the ship’s chapel before leaving the ship.
“Baby Jesus was still in his manger. I told him, crying like a child: ‘We are all about to die. I’m asking you for nothing short of a miracle. Please let as few people die as possible!'”
© Copyright (c) AFP
Continued Majority Support for Death Penalty
More Concern among Opponents about Wrongful Convictions
Public opinion about the death penalty has changed only modestly in recent years, but there continues to be far less support for the death penalty than there was in the mid-1990s.
A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Nov. 9-14, 2011, among 2,001 adults, finds that 62% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder while 31% are opposed. That is generally in line with polling on the death penalty over the past several years.
During the mid-1990s, when the Pew Research Center first surveyed on this issue, support for the death penalty was at a historic high point. In 1996, 78% favored capital punishment for people convicted of murder. Support for the death penalty subsequently declined, falling to 66% in 2001 and 62% in late 2005. Since then, support has mostly remained in the low-to-mid-60s, though it dipped slightly (to 58%) in October 2011.
When Gallup first asked about the death penalty in 1936, 59% registered support for the policy. This fell to an all-time low of 42% in 1966, which was the only time over the course of 75 years in which there was more opposition (47%) than support. Gallup’s trend showed that support for the death penalty grew again over the course of the 1970s and 1980s and peaked in the mid-1990s.
More Concern about Wrongful Convictions
When asked why they oppose the death penalty, 27% of opponents say it is wrong or immoral to kill someone, while an identical percentage (27%) cite concerns about flaws in the justice system and the possibility that innocent people could be put to death.
In a Gallup survey 20 years ago, when just 18% opposed the death penalty, a much higher percentage of death penalty opponents (41%) cited moral considerations and there were far fewer mentions of problems with the justice system or wrongful executions (11%).
The majority of Americans who support the death penalty today offer largely the same reasons that supporters gave 20 years ago. Roughly half (53%) say the punishment fits the crime or that it is what murderers deserve. A smaller share raises concerns about the costs of keeping murderers in prison for life (15%). Relatively few death penalty supporters cite deterrence (6%) or keeping murderers from committing more crimes (5%) in explaining their position.
Racial and Partisan Differences over the Death Penalty
The death penalty continues to draw much more support from whites (68%) than from African Americans (40%). Among Hispanics, 52% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder while 42% are opposed.
Large majorities of conservative Republicans (84%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (73%) support the death penalty, as do 64% of independents. Among Democrats, conservatives and moderates favor the death penalty by 55% to 37% while liberals oppose it by about the same margin (54% to 40%).
Majorities of major religious groups, except for black Protestants, favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. Roughly three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants (77%) and white mainline Protestants (73%) support the death penalty. Somewhat fewer white Catholics (61%), Hispanic Catholics (57%) and the religiously unaffiliated (57%) favor capital punishment for convicted murderers.
Pope visits prisoners, says poor conditions amount to ‘double sentence’ : News Headlines – Catholic CulturePosted: January 17, 2012
Pope visits prisoners, says poor conditions amount to ‘double sentence’
December 19, 2011
From Our Store: The Documents of the Second Vatican Council: A Summary and Guide (eBook)
During a December 18 visit to the Rebbiba prison in northern Rome, Pope Benedict XVI told inmates that overcrowding in jails and poor conditions often mean a “double sentence” for convicted criminals.
Prisoners should be treated with dignity in all cases, and the penal system should be designed to rehabilitate criminals and help them re-enter society, the Pope said. He said that changes are need to fill the “chasm between what life in jail is really like and how it was intended by the law.”
The Pope reminded the inmates that visiting the imprisoned has always been recognized by the Church as a corporal work of mercy. He emphasized that this should mean not only dropping in on a prisoner but “making space for him in our time, in our home, in our friendships, in our laws, in our cities.” The same attitude should motivate prison officials, he said. He suggested exploring new ways of protecting society and rehabilitating criminals, including alternative sentencing and “non-custodial” terms.
After speaking to the assembled prisoners, the Holy Father took a series of questions from the group. When one inmate complained that HIV-positive prisoners are regularly addressed “aggressively” by the guards, the Pope urged him to maintain a positive attitude. “We have to endure the fact that people speak about us ‘aggressively,’” he said. “They also speak ‘aggressively’ about the Pope, yet nonetheless he perserveres.”
When another prisoner asked why he should confess his sins to a priest rather than directly to God, the Pope said that of course God would forgive any sinner who genuinely repents. “However,” he continued, “sin is not only a ‘personal’ thing, an individual account between me and God. Sin also has a social dimension. … And it is this social dimension of sin that needs to be absolved at the level of the human community, the community of the Church.”
By Amanda Greene, Religion News Wilmington
Published: Monday, January 9, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.
Editor’s Note: This story is the result of a year following the Rev. Jennifer Kostyal’s prison ministry.
Danielle Norris awoke in her bunk at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh at 3 a.m. one morning in 2011 to a nightmare.
Beside Norris’ bunk, she found a book she’d laid there, a bible study by Wilmington minister the Rev. Jennifer Kostyal. She hadn’t really read it until that night.
“I dreamed I had been in a car crash, and I was standing over my own body, and it scared me so bad ‘cause I saw my two little girls there really wanting their mama back, and I couldn’t hold them ‘cause I was dead,” she wrote in a letter to Kostyal days later. “I got up and was crying so hard and begging God to help me when I found your book laying on a little table. I think that when I prayed so hard for God to help me that he did by sending me your book.”
A six-inch high stack of letters from female prisoners regularly tops Jennifer Kostyal’s desk each week at her Transformed by the Word Ministries office in the tiny town of Scotts Hill, in southeastern North Carolina. She hand-writes a letter back to each female prisoner, some who write from South Carolina or Tennessee institutions.
“The women say this bible study really blessed us because you’ve lived our story,” Kostyal said. “All of the abuse as a little girl for me was worth the healings of these beautiful women.”
December 7, 2011
Huffington Post, John Rudolf
Just a single visit from a family member or a friend can make a big difference in whether or not a prisoner ends up back behind bars after their release, a new study finds.
The study, by researchers with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, determined that prisoners who received at least one personal visit at any time during their incarceration were 13 percent less likely to commit another felony and 25 percent less likely to end up back in prison on a technical parole violation. Read the whole story here.
This morning, retired judge Barry Stuart (served in the Yukon, now is affiliated with the Restorative Justice program at Simon Fraser – (http://www.sfu.ca/crj/) was interviewed on The Current. The topic was Bill C-10. He apparently was the first judge (in the Yukon or maybe Canada as a whole – not sure) to introduce sentencing circles into court proceedings.
You can hear the interview here: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/ (It’s a very powerful interview. He pulls no punches about how the criminal justice system – especially the courts and prisons – fails everyone – and how what Bill C-10 proposes to do will only make things worse.)