Crime & punishment

In our crime & punishment issue, Briarpatch brings you a variety of ethically engaged perspectives on questions of crime, punishment, and the justice system, from policing mental health to securing the Olympics, from the fathers’ rights movement in Canada to the drive for prison reform in Ghana — plus some killer investment advice.

  • Magazine

    Letter from the editor

    Crime dominates the news, but the standard political pronouncements on the subject seldom move beyond empty, knee-jerk vows to “get tough” on the perpetrators. This approach to the issue only stokes the politics of fear, of blame, of poor-bashing and insidious racism. An obsessive public focus on the bogeyman of “crime” serves the interests of right-wing politicians very well indeed: more police for the poor, fewer regulations for the rich, less money for the universal social safety net.

  • Magazine

    The detestable solution

    Under colonial rule, Ghana’s multiple traditional systems of justice were replaced by a single, expensive, incarceration-based penal system. Now, 52 years independent and among the poorest 15 per cent of nations, Ghana is at the mercy of foreign countries for financial support in maintaining its overcrowded prisons, retraining prison staff and educating prisoners in an effort to upgrade a system of punishment that is falling into disfavour in the wealthier nations from which it originates.

  • Magazine

    Anger in action

    I first heard about fathers’ rights groups when I was working at a Vancouver drop-in centre for women several years ago. A family law advocate for a similar organization in a neighbouring community told me about a group of men who would show up at court in matching T-shirts to support male members of their organization who were engaged in custody and access disputes with their ex-partners.

  • Magazine

    Class-war games

    On February 12, 2009, exactly one year before the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, the grim future of political freedom in British Columbia was on full display. Military and police flanked by helicopters rehearsed manoeuvres in Vancouver, where escalating harassment, intimidation and surveillance of activists had already begun.

  • Magazine

    Between home and a hard place

    Public outrage over the treatment of Canada’s “security certificate” detainees has receded with the seemingly good news that four of the five detainees are now living at home. But the reality of house arrest is almost worse, because it effectively extends the almost total loss of freedom the men endure to their wives, children and friends.

  • Magazine

    Policing mental health

    Twenty-four-year-old Chris Klim was shot to death a little over a year ago, when seven armed men came to his apartment in Vernon, B.C., a town of 40,000. Two men stayed outside the apartment while the leader and four others smashed the door in with a battering ram. Bewildered, Klim stood in his bedroom with a kitchen knife in hand. The armed men shot him twice. According to the forensic report, it was the bullet through his back that killed him.

  • Magazine

    Examining the past honestly

    What does “history” mean to you? A list of names and dates? Great deeds of long ago? “History,” says historian Margaret MacMillan, is something we all do.” Formerly at the University of Toronto, now at Oxford, Professor MacMillan is well-known for her Governor General’s Award-winning book, Paris 1919, and, more recently, for Nixon in China.

  • Magazine

    Law & order

    Irvin Waller, a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, has made it his career and mission to get governments throughout much of the world to shift their emphasis from law enforcement to prevention, with some limited success. His book is a plaintive cry for movement by government in the direction of more attention to crime preventive approaches.

  • Magazine

    Dark days

    Dark Days is about the imprisonment and torture of four innocent Canadians in Syria in the furtherance of the so-called “war on terror” launched by George W. Bush. The four men, all Muslims, are Maher Ahar (361 days in Syrian detention), Abdullah Almalki (more than 22 months in Syria), Ahmad El Maati (two years, two months and two days in Syria and Egypt) and Muayyed Nureddin (34 days in Syria). Not one of them was ever charged with any crime.

  • Magazine

    Modest investments, immodest returns

    Everybody’s looking for a lifeline to pull themselves out of the global downturn. But with giant bailout packages failing to provide stability in the U.S. and grim predictions for the remainder of 2009, what are the emerging opportunities for secure and lucrative investment?