Somehow, Someday, Somewhere

… a reporter or editor will realize that they aren’t explaining anything with this:

In Piedmont, Quebec a rich and reputable cardiac physician appears to have murdered his children on Sunday.  He was pretty well off – he had shared a $275,000 home with his wife.  So we know he didn’t kill his children because he was “frustrated” by unemployment or underemployment.  We also know his new house in Piedmont is “just minutes from the Saint-Saveur ski hill”.  Hmm.  I don’t think that was the problem.  What else do we know?

Well, he’d just broken up with his wife, also a successful doctor, and she’d gone off on a ski trip leaving him with his five-year old son and three-year old daughter.  Dr. Turcotte was “apparently distraught”.  So he killed his children?  Hmm.  What else do we know?

Some people are concerned that doctors are “too reluctant to seek help for psychological distress”.  Now if Dr. Turcotte had only sought psychological help.  I’m sure he’d have told a counsellor that he was contemplating killing his children and then he could have been helped and then … Hmm.  What else do we know?

Dr. Turcotte and his children were supposed to meet family members for breakfast with his children but he never showed up.  Relatives immediately called police via 911 (emergency!) who broke into the doctor’s home and found him unconscious and his children dead.  His relatives were instantly freaked out when the doc didn’t show before breakfast because they knew he was suicidal?  Oh for fricking Christ-on-a-cracker sakes!  They were so worried about his suicidality that they panicked when he didn’t show up and they left a five-year old and a three-year old in his care?  Don’t they read the newspapers?  Don’t they have any imaginations?  Haven’t they heard this pathetic story before?  Hasn’t somebody?  The doctor’s family must feel just terrible and finding fault will likely do no good.  Still, if we don’t realize that this was a critical missed cue, we will continue to see this kind of result.  We will continue to see this kind of result.

Before this dreadful occurence, Dr. Turcotte was “a much-appreciated cardiologist” who  “was extremely dedicated and had a very good reputation”.  Because only under-appreciated men with bad reputations kill their children so what a surprise?

You know, people like Dr. Turcotte,  “like other figures in position[s] of authority, can develop a sense of omnipotence. ‘They almost feel they have divine power, as if you are not allowed to question them. They do anything to hold onto that power…’

Throngs and throngs of men in positions of power kill their children.  So that explains it.  No?  Not yet?

Try this.  Psychologist Pierre Faubert says:

Some fathers in breakups target children to seek revenge on the mother… ‘The children become an extension of the mother. The father attacks her through them. The children become missiles aimed at the mother, who will be stricken by pain, guilt and shame.’

Now that sounds closer to an explanation that makes some sense, even though it’s virtually a throw-away line at the end of the article.  It’s not the father’s power at work and in society that precedes these terrible events, it’s the father’s power within his family.  Try this:

‘The profile of a family annihilator is a middle-aged man, a good provider who would appear to neighbours to be a dedicated husband and a devoted father,’  [Professor Jack] Levin said. ‘He quite often tends to be quite isolated. He is often profoundly dedicated to his family, but has few friends of his own or a support system out with [sic] the family. He will have suffered some prolonged frustration and feelings of inadequacy, but then suffers some catastrophic loss. It is usually financial or the loss of a relationship. He doesn’t hate his children, but he often hates his wife and blames her for his miserable life. He feels an overwhelming sense of his own powerlessness. He wants to execute revenge and the motive is almost always to “get even”.’  [emphasis mine]

Research from the States shows that family annihilators rarely have a prior criminal record. However, many experts believe there is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse. A report published two years ago in Britain by Women’s Aid, called Twenty-nine child homicides, found that, out of 13 families studied, domestic violence was a feature in 11. In one of the other two cases, the mother spoke of her ex-partner’s obsessively controlling behaviour.  [emphasis mine]

Control, you see.  Power.  Wife-hating [or woman-hating] abusive and obsessively controlling behaviour – it doesn’t need to be physical abuse.  When a woman leaves, she asserts a power that some men feel they have to take back by any means possible.  He feels emasculated, de-manned, he’s a loser, as M. Gary Neuman pointed out in his book about why men cheat.  Men have to feel like heroes, they have to feel like winners and if not, look out for the destruction they will cause.  And yes, it is men and not women who are by far more likely to perpetrate these crimes – 95% of the time.

Why must men feel in control of their women and children?  Why must they hold power over them?  The answer is simple and complex.  The answer is patriarchy.  Read about it on the web.  Google “feminism fathers who kill children” and you’ll find a kit-load of shit from the men’s rights and father’s rights “side” of this issue and you may wish you hadn’t.  Here’s a taste from Angry Harry.  His website came up first in my search.

Research from the States shows that family annihilators rarely have a prior criminal record. However, many experts believe there is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse.

Hardly surprising, eh? After all, these killings usually occur when relationships are breaking down. And so they do not come out of the blue. As such, one might well expect the amount of interpersonal abuse to escalate during such insecure times.

In fact, only a fool or a feminist would suggest otherwise.

I certainly cannot really imagine how I would feel if it looked as if my wife was going to leave me; taking away the home and the children – especially if these were my ‘everything’.

But I reckon that ‘murderous’ would very likely be a good description of how I would feel.

Notice, however, how Ms Lorna Martin tries to fob off the very idea that men have any justification for becoming enraged over the prospect of losing their homes and their children.

I suppose she reckons that they should just shrug it off! …

‘To the outside world, these crimes seem to come out of nowhere,’ continued Levin. ‘The perpetrators have not previously been involved in criminal behaviour. Nor do they tend to be on drugs or drinking heavily when they commit the crime. However, if psychologists had seen them in advance, they would have spotted the warning signs. They would have noticed how the person reacted to things not going his way – the irrational rage and the blaming of others. These people often also regard their partner and children as their own possessions.’

These men are ‘irrational’!

These men treat their partners and children and, presumably, their homes as their ‘possessions’!

How outrageous, eh? How strange! What kind of insanity possesses these men?

And women, of course, would never do or feel such things, eh? 

No Sir. When women fight tooth and nail to keep hold of their homes and their children – through fair means or foul – they are not treating them as ‘possessions’. No Sirree. They are victims

But here we have Ms Lorna Martin and the Guardian newspaper trying to demonise men for reacting badly when they are undergoing almost unbelievable torment.

Men “reacting badly”?  Be still my heart.  These stories are unbearable.  The Guardian article cited here tells stories so very similar that you could change the names and not know the difference.  The stories are all the more unbearable when they are reported as though there is no critical work that leads to an understanding of what’s happening in this patriarchal frickin’ world.  It’s fucktaballooned.

I’m as mad as Angry Harry but I wouldn’t dream of trying to rationalize murder just because I’m pissed!  And you know what?  If I did, I wouldn’t feel free to hang my rationalizations up on the web.

Germaine Greer on “Rage”

Germaine Greer, with more than a little help from the MSM and their inability to render complexity, has set off a bit of a firestorm in Australia with her essay on rage in aboriginal communities.  Here’s part of an interview:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: And with me in the studio now is Professor Germaine Greer. Thank you for coming in. What I would like to do is take you through points raised in that story so we could hear your responses. But if I could start more generally, for people who have not read your book, what is your central objection to the Federal intervention?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER, ACADEMIC AND AUTHOR: It is not about the Federal intervention. It is about rage, it’s an essay on rage itself. It begins with a white example of somebody who feels his people have been unfairly discriminated against by government policy. I am talking about Bob Katter trying to deal with what’s happened to his people in the Northern Territory and in Queensland in particular who have been disenfranchised and driven to the wall in fact by government policy. The farmers who are killing themselves. What it tries to do is look at the spectrum of hunter gatherer violence, not just Aboriginal violence but hunter gatherer violence which has a particular shape. It involves self-destruction, high levels of suicide but also high levels of extraordinary violence against the people closest to the perpetrator, the perpetrator’s own children and the women folk in his own family.

LEIGH SALES: And this is what you think is happening in indigenous Australian communities?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: I don’t think there is any doubt about it. If you read the women’s task force report on violence, they talk about these extraordinary levels. This is not the same as free floating violence in a football crowd, for example. This is different and it’s, we’ve had, you know, clever essays about do we need a new sue Sinology [sic] to understand what is happening in black communities and I say no. If we begin to understand that suicide is caused not by grief, you can live with grief forever but you can’t live with rage because rage involves body chemicals that literally rip you to piece pieces. And everything you do will be made part of that self-destructive scenario. So you will abuse alcohol or petrol or your car or anything. So I am trying to talk about why these levels are there. I am not actually, most of what is extrapolated is wrong. I think the intervention will fail, unless the problem of rage is addressed. And then you have to ask how do you address it. I would say first of people all people have to find a way to express it because it’s never been said that it’s so particularly noxious and poisonous. So what we need is a political structure. What I’ve argued for is a treaty. What is so tough about that idea?

LEIGH SALES: Why would that allow people to express rage? Wouldn’t it just be something symbolic?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, I don’t think Aboriginal people are uncomplicated and I do think that many things that appear symbolic to us do not appear at least in symbolic to them. That they’re real things. If you believe this is your country, if you believe it’s your bauxite they’re taking out or your uranium, then to have somebody to say we need to talk to you about what we’re doing to this country is not merely symbolic.

LEIGH SALES: OK, but surely isn’t the first step that the violence has to be controlled and some sort of intervention is the only way to do that in the short term so you can look at the bigger, long-term issue?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Look, if what you’re talking about mainly self-destruction and we have to take into account para suicide, the extraordinarily high number of accidental deaths that afflict Aboriginal communities, we’re not even going to deal with them because there is no criminal profile there. You see, one of the things that bugs me is that a lot of the mischief is still being done by white men and we could fix it. We could stop them. For example, lorry drivers abusing under age girls in Nhulunbuy. We know about that. There is not an auto train in this country that we can find whenever we want to, 24/7. Why have we never arrested those people? Why have we let them go on and doing that? Why in dry communities for the last 10, 15 years, boot legers have brought in booze after dark? Dumped it in the bush and all that kind of thing. They’ve left a paper trail a mile wide. Why do we never pick them up?

LEIGH SALES: If I can look at some of the points raised in the package and have you respond to them. You write that Aboriginal women humiliated their men by seeking the white fellas help in the intervention.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Hang on a minute. That is not how it’s put.

LEIGH SALES: Well, page 86, ‘once more the white man was being chosen over the black man as the protector of children, the defeat of the black man was absolute’. In those circumstances what option did the women have?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, what I am saying there is that when we had all the sort of black meritocracy saying, yes, yes, we have to ride in now and rescue women and children from their own men folk who, by the way, are their children. Remember the book is dedicated to Mum Shell, and remember Mum Shell dealt with young men in prison in Sydney. What I am saying is that’s how it’s set up to appear. It’s set up to appear as if the black man is disenfranchised yet again. He is seen as the perpetrator of the violence.

LEIGH SALES: That might be true.

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: And there are plenty of statements about that.

LEIGH SAKES: What other option did the women have? They couldn’t go to the men for help because those men were the perpetrators of the violence. What else could they have done other than ask for government and ask for outside assistance?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: It’s also view true that there are other men in the community who are managing and there are male elders in the community who are managing. Well, I do see that it was a recourse in emergency here. All I’m saying is that unless we deal with the pathology that underlies it we won’t get anywhere. We won’t actually stop the violence. we may even cause it to escalate. But it’s not a viable proceeding unless you look at the pathology. It’s, I don’t think it’s a simple situation at all. I also in my worse moments I think we might be way too late.

LEIGH SALES: And what does that mean?

PROFESSOR GERMAINE GREER: Well, it probably mean s annihilation of black communities. But there are some people who would say to you that they’re pretty well annihilated already, that everything that’s happened has gone wrong, that even allowing black communities to acquire land rights and to have their own territory and to have a system of self-government has been totally undermined. And is now, now it’s all to start again. What do we do now? We already had a problem that black land rights were not like anybody else’s. You could rescind them if you felt like it and there was a problem in international law which we never got to grips with about that. And, again, this very dubious title that people struggle so hard for that cost them more in resources than they had to spend is suddenly whipped away from them again because they’ve been set up for failure. And this has happened again and again and again. We have to think of something different. Now I quite understand that we cannot leave children in danger but those children and the young men are not a dis continuum. They’re the same people.

The rest is here

Sure wish I could ge holda that essay.

Drugs, Race, Crime, Science & Women

At Health Beat, Maggie Mahar and Niko Karvounis discuss how a science-based view of the use of illegal substances could lead to more enlightened methods of dealing with related individual and social problems than that currently used in the US and increasingly, Canada: criminalization of those who buy, possess and use them:

… rather than engaging in yet another political argument about personal responsibility vs. society’s responsibility to help its poorest citizens, it might be helpful to take a look at what medical science has been learning about drug addiction over the past few decades.

Addiction Treatment: Science and Policy for the Twenty-first Century (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2007) does just that, and in the process “highlights the amazing discord between scientific knowledge and public perception,” according to a review by Stanford University’s Dr. Alex Macario in the June 4th JAMA.

In this collection of short, incisive essays, the authors don’t always agree on specifics, but they do reach a consensus of sorts: the scientific community needs to educate the public about drug addiction—and our approach to treatment should be based on medical evidence rather than personal ideology.

Today, medical technology allows scientists to observe first-hand what happens inside the brain when it is, in the words of William R. Miller, a psychiatrist at the University of New Mexico, “hijacked by drugs.” Thanks to brain imaging, for example, we know that regular drug use disrupts the frontal cortex, which regulates cognitive activities like decision-making, planning, and memory. In other words, drugs affect an individual’s capacity to make the choices that the Reaganites insist addicts “should” be able to make (Just Say No!). Undoubtedly the drug user could have said “no” the very first time he let desire over-ride good judgment. But after that, Miller notes, “neuroadaptation involves biological changes in response to drug use that increase the likelihood of repetition and escalation, undermining the person’s capacity for volitional control.”  Recent studies have even shown that drug addiction changes our brains at the genetic level, influencing how our DNA is translated into enzymes and proteins.

As a result of this new information, experts are increasingly incorporating the recognition that addiction is, in part, a “brain disease” into their treatment recommendations. This perspective has even made headway in the halls of power. Last year Congress introduced the Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act, which would institutionalize the disease model by changing into the name of the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction and change the name of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to the National Institute on Alcohol Disorders and Health.

The text of the act embraces the disease model, noting that “the pejorative term ‘abuse’ used in connection with diseases of addiction has the adverse effect of increasing social stigma and personal shame, both of which are so often barriers to an individual’s decision to seek treatment.”

All extremely interesting and helpful.  But since we are still arguing the merits of scientific theories of evolution versus faith-based adherence to the myth of creation by a divine deity, I’m afraid it may take too many hundred years to convince people that the possession and use of illegal drugs is a medical rather than moral problem.  Much as it might be more interesting and less troublesome to escape to the world of science, it’s just not a good idea to try to de-politicize a highly political problem.  I’m not denigrating the science.  It’s important.  It provides informative ammunition.  It just won’t ever be a sufficient replacement for organized action on political grounds.  The brain medicine that leads to good rehab practices is only available to rich people or those with good private health insurance anyway.  Even in Canada.  Yes it is!

Recently, certain Canadian laws with respect to drug possession and trafficking were struck down as unconstitutional by the B.C. Supreme Court.  InSite is a safe-injection site in Vancouver’s downtown east side.  It’s been in operation since 2003 under an exemption from the drug laws, granted by the Federal government of Liberal P.M. Paul Martin.  The exemption was due to expire on June 30th of this year and it was pretty clear that Health Minister Tony Clement wasn’t going to extend it, so Insite, along with several habitual drug users, challenged the drug prohibition laws in the courts.

In May, Justice Ian Pitfield found that sections of Canada’s drug laws are inconsistent with section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Pitfield says in his ruling that denying access to the site ignores the illness of addiction.

“While there is nothing to be said in favour of the injection of controlled substances that leads to addiction, there is much to be said against denying addicts health care services that will ameliorate the effects of their condition,” he wrote.

“I cannot agree with the submission that an addict must feed his addiction in an unsafe environment when a safe environment that may lead to rehabilitation is the alternative.”

Sometimes, logic does creep in to judicial decision making.

Pitfield’s decision gives the Feds till June 20, 2009 to bring the law into accord with constitutional principles of fundamental justice.  Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, points out that the decision is in line with the trend toward understanding the use of addictive drugs as a health problem rather than a problem for criminal law.  However, he pointed out on the day of the decision that it wasn’t likely the end of the story, as several levels of appeal were and are still available to the Feds.

Sure enough, a day later, our illustrious Health Minister indicated Ottawa’s intention to appeal Pitfield’s decision.  Of course. 

“We have been offering drug maintenance rather than drug treatment,” said Clement. “We have been sending a message [to addicts] that says we have given up on them, and that we do not expect them to recover.”
Clement said that Insite only saves about one life per year, and that up to 97 percent of injections occur outside of Insite. But he refused to answer whether or not the research he was presenting had been peer-reviewed.
Thomas Kerr, a research scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and the chief researcher for Insite, has actually conducted a series of peer-reviewed studies on supervised injection sites.
In his studies, Kerr concluded that Insite does in fact lead to a reduction of syringe sharing and the number of overdoses resulting in deaths.
“How many peer-reviewed papers does the government need before they believe us?” said Donald MacPherson, the City of Vancouver’s drug policy coordinator.
“The only negative result we’ve found from these safe injections sites is that there aren’t enough of them to really make a big impact.”
Clement argued that a decision about harm reduction should be based on public policy, and referred to the scientific evidence around the facility as “mixed.”
He said that he instead wanted to focus government spending on treatment and prevention programs, as well as increasing the number of beds available to sex workers in Vancouver’s downtown eastside.
“Injection drug users are not dying — there is still hope for them,” said Clement. “Even if they fail treatment the first time, we can help them to get up and try again.”
Many MPs were frustrated with the fact that Clement did not seem to understand the importance of harm reduction programs for drug addicts.
Few drug addicts will move to abstinence overnight, they argued. This is why harm reduction programs are essential in terms of getting those addicts in the door first, and then gradually moving them towards treatment.
“To have low threshold programs is a critical policy, and I don’t know why you don’t get that,” said NDP MP Libby Davies, voicing her frustration towards Clement.
“It must be because of an ideological reason that you can’t move on,” she said. “Practically everyone else on this committee is on board with [Insite] except for you.”

“You are the only barrier to Insite’s continuation.”

 Since the best available information, and there’s plenty of it, tells us that putting people in prison doesn’t cure addiction and hasn’t put an end to the purchase and sale of banned drugs, what could the problem be?  Is Stephen Harper just an incredible blockhead?  Are the leaders of the free world in the US just as thick?  We like to think so sometimes.  I think not.

In order to understand these hyper-conservative strategies, we have to look at who is hurt by them, and who benefits.

The US has managed to imprison 65% of the male African American population of the country.  I would venture to guess that these men also tend to reside in the lowest of socio-economic brackets, since middle-class and wealthy people are criminalized at a much lower rate.  The numbers of female African Americans in prison, while smaller by 15% than males, is the fastest growing prison population.

In Canada, rates of incarceration are actually falling.  Except among women, and Aboriginal peoples generally.  Indigenous people  represent


  60% of all those incarcerated in Canada are on remand.  This is a direct result of “law and order” agitation about criminals on the loose and a growing urge among judges, who have been much critisized, to err on the side of caution when dealing with accused (and assumed innocent) people awaiting trial.  There is a high correlation between custodial remand and conviction.  So, the more people imprisoned on remand, the more people convicted.  Remand may not be a direct cause, but it would be disingenuous to say that it has no effect.  Release on bail isn’t necessarily related to the seriousness of the offence.  Rather, to the likelihood that the accused person can be depended upon to return to court for trial.  Having a home, a job, a secure place in a community and mental wellness contribute to the view of an accused’s reliability.  As does freedom from drug or alcohol abuse.

Suicide rates in Canadian (and US) prisons are higher than in the general population.  But most people who die in prison die of acute and chronic health problems.  As in the US, many of the imprisoned suffer from a variety of mental illness, which makes them more likely to be held in segregation for long periods of time.  Especially women.  Which means, especially Aboriginal women.  African American women.  See?  We care.

Alchohol and substance abuse is very significantly related to crime in Aboriginal populations.  The stats are similar for Aboriginal crime in the US.  And for African Americans.  Do we know how much white collar crime is committed because of the cocaine or alcohol addled brains of managers and CEOs?  You tell me.  Does a love of single malt scotch contribute to tax evasion?  Does anyone care?

But we have a very hefty investment in the prison industry which, in America, has become the prison industrial complex.  We’re headed in the direction of privatization in prison “services” in Canada too.  Once we get that kind of investment in putting people in prison and keeping them there, it’s hard to take it away.  There’s a real commitment to keeping it going and growing.  There are jobs involved in an economy that is turning into a “service” economy.  There are corporate profits involved.  Stockholders – pensioners and everyday Jill and Joe investors.  Sometimes, the whole economy of rural areas and small towns is dependent on the prison economy.

Stacked against the economic arguments, conveniently buttressed by smug assumptions about the reasons for drug dependence, is the idea that we need to commit society, through our politicians, to solving problems related to the history of slavery, Jim Crow, systemic racism and economic inequality in the US; colonialism, genocide and the destruction of Aboriginal culture and custom in Canada.  It will take a concerted, organized, political effort to convince men like Harper and yes, even Obama, to embark upon that course.  Because the problems are long-standing, endemic and complex.  Collective acknowledgement of root causes and a profound commitment to equality is required; the collective will to begin a journey towards rehabilitation – the rehabilition of us all – and justice is required.

Brain science can give us many things.  But it can’t give us that.

Growing up in Prison

Every now and again, the insanity of our penal system coupled with our disintegrating mental health care system claims a victim who stands out from the crowd for the overwhelming brutality exercised against her, unto death.  Such a woman is Ashley Smith, who committed suicide in a Canadian penitentiary, at the age of 19:

In effect, Canada punished Ashley Smith for her severe mental illness, and did not stop until she was dead.

Ashley Smith’s story is horrible and tragic.  Ashley Smith is one among many who have lost their lives due not just to our indifference, but also to the obsessive nature of our attention to the “law and order” agendas of powerful people like Stephen Harper.  Perhaps Ashley Smith’s case is getting this attention because of that combination of youth, mental illness and harsh imprisonment that characterizes her life.  If we removed the issuesof mental illness from her story, I hope we would be no less shocked.

If we were as ashamed as we ought to be about the story of Ashley Smith, we would insist upon a structural redefinition of our entire criminal imprisonment programme.

From CBC news:

Howard Sapers, the ombudsman for Canada’s federal prison system, made the comments as he handed over his final report to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.

Ashley Smith was found unconscious on Oct. 19, 2007, in her segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., and later died in hospital of what police have described as “self-initiated asphyxiation.”

She had been serving a six-year, one-month sentence for offences committed as a young offender, including assault with a weapon and assaulting a peace officer, and would have been eligible for release in November.

‘Litany of serious failures,’ report says

Although Sapers said the report won’t be made public because of a continuing criminal investigation into the matter, he said it “discusses a litany of serious failures leading up to the tragic and, I believe, preventable death of Ms. Smith.”

“During her brief period of incarceration in the federal correctional system, this young woman did not receive the care, treatment and support that Canadians expect from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

“This troubling case illustrates what can go wrong in federal corrections, and I urge both the minister and the commissioner to immediately implement my recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths,” Sapers said.

Several investigations were conducted into Smith’s death, by Correctional Service Canada, local police, the federal prison ombudsman and the youth and child advocate in New Brunswick.

From 2003 to 2006, Smith had been incarcerated at provincial correctional facilities, the New Brunswick Youth Centre and the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre.

While at the youth centre, she was the subject of over 800 incident reports, over 500 institutional charges and 168 self-harm incidents. She spent nearly two-thirds of that time in segregation.

A year in segregation at penitentiary

She was transferred to a penitentiary at age 18, where she spent nearly a year in federal custody, in segregation the whole time.

Sapers said she did not receive a comprehensive psychological assessment while in federal custody and was not given adequate mental health services.

He also noted that a correctional officer was charged with assaulting Smith six months prior to her death.

“Ms. Smith’s journey through the courts, correctional and health-care systems started at age 13 and ended tragically at age 19. It is clear that none of these systems adequately responded to her needs.

“A concerted effort involving provincial/federal/territorial partners is required to ensure that cases like Ms. Smith’s do not happen again,” said Mr. Sapers.

Among his recommendations, Sapers said there needs to be improvement in responses to medical emergencies, use of force and segregation policies.

In a report released earlier this month, New Brunswick’s ombudsman called for significant changes in how the justice system handles young people with mental health problems following his probe into the death of Smith.

Bernard Richard said that his six-month review of the time Smith spent in the youth criminal justice system “tells a pretty tragic story” and highlights the need to change practices, particularly to divert youth with mental illnesses and behavioural problems away from the justice system by boosting services and foster care.


Producing Atrocity

“The real consequences when America is at war” by Chris Hedges at Salon:

Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in “atrocity-producing situations.” Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.

Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or Marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless, and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing — the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm — to murder — the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.

The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13 percent increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq.

The Shocking Story of Lavena Johnson

Is There an Army Cover-Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?

The Department of Defense statistics are alarming – one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begins – before they are even recruited.

But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq, and in the United States, following rape. The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”


From the day their daughter’s [Lavena Johnson] body was returned to them, the parents had grave suspicions about the Army’s investigation into Lavena’s death and the characterization of her death as suicide. In charge of a communications facility, Lavena was able to call home daily. In those calls she gave no indication of emotional problems or being upset. In a letter to her parents, Lavena’s commanding officer Captain David Woods wrote : “Lavena was clearly happy and seemed in very good health both physically and emotionally.”

In viewing his daughter’s body at the funeral home, Dr. Johnson was concerned about the bruising on her face. He was puzzled by the discrepancy in the autopsy report on the location of the gunshot wound. As a US Army veteran and a 25-year US Army civilian employee who had counseled veterans, he was mystified how the exit wound of an M-16 shot could be so small. The hole in Lavena’s head appeared to be more the size of a pistol shot rather than an M-16 round. He questioned why the exit hole was on the left side of her head, when she was right handed. But the gluing of military uniform white gloves onto Lavena’s hands hiding burns on one of her hands is what deepened Dr. Johnson’s concerns that the Army’s investigation into the death of his daughter was flawed.

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