Jails are no place for addiction help.

A recent case in the news, finds a mother grieving her loss. Her son struggled with drug addiction for some time and she thought that when he was arrested and in jail he would get him the help he needed. Unfortunately, her son died while in custody and she is waiting to know why.

Jails and detention centers hold people who are waiting for release on bail or trial, and those who are serving a prison sentence. Federal prisons hold those who have been sentenced to length of custody over 2 years.  Unfortunately, jails and detention centers do not have a lot of resources, so prisoners spend a lot of time in their cells, watching television, doing next to nothing. In a few jails, there may be Alcoholics Anonymous, or chapel, but no programs for education, or skills training.

Jails do not have the ability to monitor people who are addicted or who have mental health issues, sometimes there is a special wing, however, there is minimum medical staff, and often prisoners have to make several requests before they are seen. The courts and jails are unable to force people into giving up their addictions and have treatment.

Resources like the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) http://www.camh.ca/  and your family doctor have better resources if you or a loved one is facing addiction or mental health issues.



History of the Amber Alert

America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response or AMBER is named after a 9 year old abducted and murdered in Texas, Ms. Amber Hagerman in 1996.  These alerts are transmitted by commercial, internet and satellite radio, television, email,  texts. Details are also added to Facebook, Google and Bing in order for the largest possible audience to receive this information and keep a look out. In December 2002, this alert system came to Canada, and Alberta launched the first province-wide system, Quebec launched on May 26, 2003. Ontario also displays its AMBER alerts on 9,000 lottery terminals.  Twenty countries in Europe have some form of AMBER alert system.

The criteria a police department might assess is: whether the missing person is under 18; whether the police believe the person may be abducted;  and whether there is reason to believe the physical safety or the life of the missing person person may be in danger. Sometimes, the police do not issue an AMBER alert until it is too late, as in the case of Victoria Stafford in 2009.

On February 14, 2019, a AMBER alert went out to locate a missing 11 year old, unfortunately authorities found the girl too late, but because of the AMBER alert, her father and sole suspect in her death was located, and arrested.

The trouble with experts

A recent overturning of a innocent’s man’s conviction is another example of how experts can be dangerous to a criminal trial. Experts are usually needed to provide specialized information that would not be in the jury or judge’s area of knowledge. An expert’s job is to help the trier of fact, understand parts of the evidence and ultimately whether the defendant is guilty or acquitted of the charges faced.

Sometimes, the expert’s opinion goes too far, and their findings block out any other testimony that contradicts this. When faced with this outcome, defendants often plead to lesser charges afraid that a definite conviction would result for the more serious charges. This is what happened in Mr. Blackett’s case. Fortunately, the system worked to overturn his conviction, but unfortunately, after he served his sentence. Experts can be useful but their findings should be independently tested.


Being a good blue jay fan ( remember a video is always on)

A fan of any sport or entertainment activity, has to pay for their ticket, and food, and be part of a great event. However, sometimes a fan gets over-excited or does not like the way the event is going, the calls that are being made or the other team’s players. This dude (99.9% times a guy)) full of alcohol decides to shake things up by throwing a can on the field, yell something racist, and ends up facing charges.Whether or not someone is hit, charges such as assault, assault with a weapon, public mischief can be in this dude’s future.

Remember a video or camera is always on somewhere.

Mental health and criminal charges

There are cases in the news recently of crimes committed by defendants possibly due to their mental health issues, which unfortunately stigmatizes all those with mental illnesses. Often when families are dealing with a child or spouse who has mental health issue they call the police hoping that the police can take them to the hospital. Usually, if there is also a report of bad behaviour such as threats, assaults or damage to property, the police have to arrest the person to provide protection to the victims/complainants. Most times these family members are taken to jail instead of the hospital.

The courts can only order treatment if the person is unable to recognize where they are and what is happening in the court, the court can not force someone to see a doctor or take medication if they do not want to. All the court can do is make it an order of bail or probation and if the person does not follow the conditions they will get re-arrested. Also the court may order that the defendant not contact the family members that have contacted the police as the complainant. This does not help those with mental illnesses.

Before calling the police, contact your family doctor, the nearest hospital or the Centre for mental health and addiction (CAMH) at http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/Pages/home.aspx or (416) 535-8501 or 1(800) 463-2338 toll free and get a diagnosis and help for your family member.

Why should someone be released on bail?

A judge or justice of the peace can consider three important areas before deciding whether to release a person charged with a criminal offence.

One will they come to court. If there is a criminal record where someone has fail to appears or escape lawful custody convictions, or if there is a possibility of a long jail sentence the court will be concerned about whether the accused will come to court.

Second, will they get into further trouble. The court will look at a criminal record because past behaviour predicts future behaviour. If there is not a criminal record the court will look at any outstanding charges to see if past charges are similar. The court will also check whether there has been any breaches of bail or probation – that means the accused did not follow previous court orders. Another concern is whether the victim/witnesses will be harmed if the accused is released.

Third, the court will ask will the administration of justice be compromised if this person is released because of the nature of the offence, whether a firearm was used, the seriousness of the offence and the possibility of a long jail sentence.

These are the main concerns of the court and then the court looks at the person who has stepped forward to sign the bail for the accused. Do they know the accused, can they supervise and keep the accused out of trouble and will they call the police if the accused breaches her bail conditions.

These are the main concern of the court.