Bell, Let’s Talk – Mental Health and the Internet of Things (Part III)

Go to: Bell Let’s Talk: Mental Health- Part I,  Part II – The InternetPart IV – Privacy

So far we’ve observed how Alexander Graham Bell’s inventions revolutionized our world first through his invention of the telephone enabling us to communicate to individuals and loved ones far and wide.  It brought people of distance closer together by communicating through a piece of wire.  The telephone itself  through time, has changed and morphed in its capability and design, we no longer need a piece a wire to communicate to the other recipient.  It’s all done invisibly as if by magic!  We call it wireless communication which forms  a corner stone of today’s telecommunications industry.  Recently, however, (and surprisingly) I learned that wireless communication isn’t new.

Free-space optical communication (FSO) is an optical communication technology that Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Charles Sumner, created in 1880 months after he introduced the telephone to the world!!  He called it the Photophone. Bell believed the photophone’s was his “greatest achievement” as he told a reporter shortly before his death, that the photophone was “the greatest invention [I have] ever made – greater than the telephone!”

Alexander Graham Bell: The Man Whose Inventions Changed the Way We Communicate. Source: Interesting Engineering

In fact, the photophone, was a precursor to the fiber-optic communication systems which eventually achieved popular worldwide usage in the 1980s.  Its master patent, however, was issued in December 1880,  making the photophone the world’s earliest known voice wireless telephone systems at least 19 years ahead of the first spoken radio wave transmissions many decades before the photophone’s principles came into popular use.  Wireless technology has been with us for over 100 years!

The photophone utilize FSO technology that ‘uses light propagating in free space to wirelessly transmit data for telecommunications or computer networking. The technology is useful where the physical connections are impractical due to high costs or other considerations.

A Photophone – Source: BoomerVoice

Recently, I attended a technology networking event at the law office of Fasken’s Martinault downtown Toronto.  We were treated to two presentations; one from a Bell executive who had been working for the company since 1984 and the second presentation, a representative from a cyber security firm.  The executive from Bell gave his presentation first. On his first slide he showed a number and asked if anyone knew what that number represented.  Here’s the number:

340, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

That’s a pretty long number. I hadn’t a clue.  It so turns out that’s the total number of IoT connections available to us throughout the world for us to plug-in!  Now, that’s a lot of connections!  The number reminded me of the infinite possible number of nerve connections we have within the human body, pulsating electrical currents from the hive of our brain – which is kind of what we are doing, creating a ‘hive’ with IoT with all its connections. Then the Bell executive gave us another number and asked if we knew what that number represented:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Again, I hadn’t a clue.  It turns out that’s how many connections we would have if we connected every single device to the “network”  in the whole wide world by the year 2025!! As you can see: 75,000,000,000 doesn’t even make a dent in the overall network of IoT connections!  Are we turning into a world of computer sensors where anything and everything that we can possibly think of can be connected through sensors?  For a world that’s becoming more sensory, how is it that we as individuals have become so insensitive?  To ‘feel’ has a double meaning: to feel your emotions or to feel sensations.  Speaking of “sensitivity” my mind started to think about addictions and the “sensory” overload when one is indulging in their preferred method of substance and for a supercomputer that substance or addiction would be; data (information) – from all data uploads and downloads and all its 340, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 connections, the internet of things is sure capable of handling its addiction!

Bell Let’s Talk the Internet of Things

Today, we are in the 4th industrial revolutionary cycle and internet of things (IoT) is one of its defining characteristics.  IoT can be defined as “data and devices continually available through the internet 24/7/365 .  The Internet of things (IoT) is a wireless network that, in one way, can turn inanimate objects basically into money making schemes. How? “The term Internet of Things was proposed by Kevin Ashton in 1999 in a presentation in which he argued that by associating a physical object with Radio frequency identification (RFID) labels we can ‘tag’ and give each object an identity enabling it to generate data about itself, its perceptions and publish that information on the internet.” And of course charge a fee (or offer for free) to have access to that information.  Based on ‘sensory philosophy’, RFID views everything as the same without discriminating between humans and machine!  With IoT everything comes under one umbrella encompassing all the things.  Since IoT combines “factual and virtual” anywhere, at anytime, attracting the attention of both “maker and hacker”, therefore, no network is free from security threats.

Source: Forbes

IoT intellectualizes inanimate objects by making them “smart” in the data these objects produce that could save you time, energy, money and in some instances make you some money. Its ability to create a new, different and enhanced value proposition by providing conventional objects with Internet connectivity and data processing power in the cloud that is comprised of major types of networks over the Wi-Fi; 2G, 3G, or 4G and the 5G network that Bell expects to roll out by the year 2020.  These mobile networks – allows objects connected to the Internet to keep in touch with the associated services that make them “smart”. With the drastic reduction in the cost of things 5G could make the IoT easier to adopt than expected.

340, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000; that is a lot of connections! What we might do with the remaining connective possibilities?  Well it so happened that the week prior to the networking event, Bell Canada completed their Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health campaign and raised a whopping $7,272,134.95 through 145,442,699 text message interactions within just one day!  Mental health is a hot topic issue these days especially with the prevalence of the opioid crises and the rising number of deaths as a result of overdoses.  Mental health covers a broad spectrum of emotional and psychological issues it’s no wonder mental health facilities are overcrowded to the point where they no longer can treat the volume of patients.  We seem to find them everywhere these days except for where they should be – in a mental health facility.  And, sadly, guess where a majority of mental health sufferers end up?  In jail.

Chris Jackel, chair of the OPSEU’s correctional bargaining team, says the union projects that there will be about 1,400 assaults on staff [2018] for all of last year [2017]. The numbers compare to 321 reported assaults in 2010.” ~

Mental health institutions, especially in the US, have become overcrowded with an onset of sharp reduction in funding for mental health facilities. As such, prisons have become warehouses for those suffering from mental health illnesses. The nation’s jails are not mental health facilities, a role for which they are ill equipped, yet only recently overcrowded prisons have emerged as a “crisis” of importance, (especially in the private prison industry) where these seriously mentally ill inmates have been recklessly integrated into the general population of jail complexes. Their presence presents a very dangerous dichotomy to corrections settings that have now created an out-of-control crisis. Even worse, for profit prisons, especially are less interested in how mentally ill offenders get into prison than with the profit margin they generate.

Fear of harm and consequences of violence are taking a “huge toll” on correctional officers and their families and leading to high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among correctional staff, he added. “This government must make corrections a funding priority. Our lives are at stake,” he [Jackel] said ~

In Canada, Jarrod Shook, on Ottawa writer, activist, poet and inmate writes the following of the prison environment in the September 2018 issue of Canadian Dimension; “a young woman, Ashley Smith with serious mental health issues, after running the gauntlet of the psy-carceral system, ties a piece of cloth around her neck, while correctional officers videotape the act and watch her die.  A young man, Mathew Hines, begs for his life, as he is repeatedly beaten and pepper-sprayed before being killed.  Conditions of confinement reach such levels of inhumanity that prisoner’s riot, and the use of force to subdue them, leads to loss of life and large-scale destruction of prison infrastructure.  Guards are accused by their own colleagues of waterboarding, sexual assault, intimidation, and bullying of every imaginable kind, reminding the public, once again, of how toxic the environment is for everyone who has the ill-fated experience of crossing that divide between us and them.  Although Indigenous prisoners have far greater access to spiritual practices and resource now than they have at any other time in correctional history, these Indigenous programs and the permission to smudge and hold traditional medicines still does little to erase the legacy of colonialism and the evolution of Canadian prisons into the new residential schools.”

There have 27 riots at prisons in Ontario from 2015 and 2017.  “Our working conditions can only be described as hazardous and dysfunctional,” Jackal said. “None of us have signed up to be punching bags.” ~

He continues, “…Even the CCRA and the OCI haven’t been able to prevent women – especially Indigenous women, the fastest growing prison population – from being ignored in their pleas to access mental health resources or being denied the dignity of appropriate access to basic hygiene items like sanitary pads, as confirmed by a recent fact-finding trip to the Joliette women’s prison by senators on a special committee investigating human rights in Canadian prisons.”

Jarrod who is currently obtaining his second degree at University of Ottawa in criminal law writes extensively about human rights and prison reform which is inspired by his lived experience in prison and growing up having a father who was constantly in-and out of jail. In one article posted by Canadian Dimension online magazine, Jarrod offers some points for consideration about prison reform, the article is entitled “The Canadian Carceral State: What is to be done? Ask Prisoners!” One of his request were for better telephone access.  As of today, prisoners today can only make collect calls to their loved ones which do not include making calls to cell phones. And a way to pay lesser calls to their loved ones (e.g. $25 long distance for 20 minutes)

Prisoner: “Kurd suffers from mental illness but most recently has been battling paranoia, said his mother. He fears his mother is being attacked and leaves messages on her landline at home. Because of the way the system works, she can’t call him back to assure him that she’s fine.” (Ottawa Citizen, February 1, 2019)

Jackel says the union has lobbied Ontario’s correctional ministry but believe its call for better working conditions is not being heard. “To date, we have received many promises, but no meaningful action.” ~

Coincidentally, a campaign by Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) used the Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health day to raise awareness of the cost of making and receiving telephone calls to prisoners with their loved ones.

“The prison phone system is a justice issue, a human rights issue and a moral issue,” said lawyer Michael Spratt.

Bell, let’s talk about how people with mental health conditions who are marginalized and imprisoned,” said Justin Piché, as assistant professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa. [Ottawa Citizen, February 1, 2019]

“These poor souls are our clients. They can’t reach out for the help and support they need,” he said. “In Ontario, nearly 70 per cent of provincial prisoners are awaiting their day in court. Imagine if your future was hanging in the balance and you weren’t able to call your lawyer’s cellphone to discuss your defence.”  The costs and rules around making calls from incarceration depend on whether it is a federal or provincial institution. In some cases, families can make arrangements for prepaid accounts. The mother of a man who has since been paroled said she has spent between $250 and $600 a month taking collect calls from her son in prison.

 “Corporations discharge their social responsibility when they maximize profit.” Herbert Stein, former Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisers

“OPSEU says the problem of overcrowding in Ontario prisons, which it said are aging and crumbling, must also be addressed.”

Bell Let’s Talk Private Prisons

For prisoners a working telephone is not just a phone line it is often a life line and their only way to stay in touch with family and friends and stay on top of what’s happening on the outside.  Private prisons are a political issue.  The 2016 US presidential election, criminal justice reform and immigration were key issues as well as down ballot in most elections to state legislatures. Some state legislatures have made changes to reduce the power and influence of private prisons but to date Congress has not moved bills to curb the industry’s foothold. In fact, the private prison industry is so entrenched within the framework of corrections that even the president cannot check its influence.  How did private prisons come to hold so much power within the system and what happened to government funded facilities?

Especially in the United States, private prisons were born out of an incarceration binge that was wasteful of taxpayer’s money, produced only and contributed greatly to injustice – especially racial injustice.  Today, private prisons, the shareholders and lending institutions that have billions of dollars invested in them now depend on the continuance of those trends for revenue and growth. In a way, they surmised that they are acting in a socially responsible way when they lobby for policies to further expand the world’s highest incarceration rate.  Sentencing reform and declining crime rates, therefore, to them are “risk factors”.  As more companies generate revenue from corrections, however, there is an increasing concern that misplaced power in the multi-billion dollar prison industrial complex leads to distorted sentencing policy. As such the interest of corporate shareholders became increasingly important, causing an increase in corporate lobbying, while public safety and public accountability has less import.

“Thomas says the combination of chronic overcrowding and understaffing leads to lockdowns, he said. That means inmates cannot socialize, exercise or even obtain proper health care. Inmate frustration, in turn, leads to violence and death, he added. Prisons should have one inmate per cell, he added.” ~

Indeed, just as the “tough on crime” started off as a code for controlling blacks, it [private prisons] soon became code for economic development: build a prison to take care of areas with high unemployment due to lost manufacturing jobs, declining natural resources, or other economic dislocations.  After sharp reductions in funding to mental health facilities, prisons became warehouses for those suffering from mental health issues; only recently it has emerged as a “crisis” of importance to the private prison industry. Broken and in shambles, at least one in six prisoners suffer from mental health not to mention the prison guards themselves.

These seriously mentally ill inmates have been recklessly integrated into the general population and their presence present a very dangerous dichotomy to corrections setting out of control crisis.  The nation’s jails are now mental health facilities a role for which they are ill equipped.  For profit prisons are less interested in how mentally ill offenders get into prison than with the profit margin they generate.

The motivation for relying on private prisons in the first place was for their promise to save governments money.  But we must first ask a more fundamental question; what are the moral implications for profit firms overseeing hundreds of thousands of inmates? Should the authority to administer criminal justice in prisons and jails, to deprive a citizen’s of their liberty and coerce (even kill) them, be delegated to contractually deputized private individuals or ought it to remain in the hands of duly authorized public officials?

In June 2015 lawyers, academics and community organizers in the United States founded in Arizona based nonprofit called Abolish Private Prison.  They focus on challenging the constitutionality of private prisons, using a legal argument that is largely built on the non-delegation doctrine.  Abolish Private Prisons claims that “incarceration is a quintessential government function and the delegation of this into the carceral system turns prisoners into property violating the 13th Amendment’s abolition into property and the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Yet the solutions and resources, both material and symbolic, within reach to solve their human problems are often scarce” writes Jarrod. “Generally, the roots of these problems lie in the structures of our socio-political system, in the classism, racism, colonialism, patriarchy, homophobia, and gender oppression that weigh people down, preventing social mobility and limiting opportunities for leading healthy, happy, and productive lives.  The prison (proper) is but one cage inside another.”

“If this government was serious about transforming our institutions, they would start with reducing overcrowding,” Thomas said. ~

Criminal justice reform emerged as a bipartisan issue; Conservatives increasingly embraced the “smart on crime” mantra, a play on worlds from the four decade “tough on crime” rhetoric.  This smart on crime attitude is the new philosophy that accounts for decades of research on the effectiveness of evidence-based practices alternative to incarceration, and re-entry services to ensure safe communities while also reducing prison population.

Jarrod continues to note that abuses of the criminal justice system find their way into public view but does not dominate the public conversation for long.  We need to promote a truly radical restructuring of our country’s relationships to prisons rather than waiting for a spontaneous wave of resistance to the idea that prison is the best response to complex social conflicts. A broader social movement with and for prisoners is needed which will work toward a radical rethinking of justice – a justice that heals wounds instead of creating new ones.

Thomas says one consequence of a lack of funding is that the need for mental health programs by inmates is far greater than the resources available. ~

Bell Let’s Talk IoT

Presently it costs $25,000+/year per inmate to run a prison. Incarceration is so high even the private prisons are now over populated which additionally feed into the mental health crisis of prisoners.  In the book Punishment for Sale it states: “In 2016, Alabama made headline with news that it packed more than 24,000 inmates into a system that was designated to house about half that number.  In California, one state prison squished 650 inmates into a make-shift dormitory inside the prison’s gymnasium placing bunk beds side-by-side with almost no room to walk. A few years ago some California prisoners were so crowded that inmates slept in triple bunkbeds lining the walls of their prison gymnasium.  Overcrowd prisons become such a problem that in 2011, the US Supreme Court forced California to reduce its prison population because its facilities were so overcrowded and unhygienic that they constituted “cruel and unusual treatment.””

In terms of fulfilling prison term sentences and reforming the ways in which we currently sentence prisoners, first we may ask; what is the role of prisons?  What are the goals of sentencing?  Once they serve their term how should the community welcome them back? Or do you incarcerate them longer to keep them out of the community, for crimes in what was not part of their original sentence?  What are our expectations in terms of punishment and rehabilitation? Alternatively, how can we thoughtfully use the advances in technology to improve prison conditions?

He calls prisons the “mental health institutions of last resort,” with one in two inmates having a mental health problem or an addiction or both. For inmates serving their sentences in the community, he says there are not always enough workers in community corrections to implement mental health programs. ~

Many of the prisoners shouldn’t be in prison but in mental health facilities and there are others who are low risk to the community probably committed their crime because of low social-economic realities of rising costs of living and loss of (manufacturing) jobs and job opportunities, who should be doing community service.  Is there a way to reduce the number of bodies in prisons by allow low-risk prisoners to function with limited and controlled interaction with the community at large?  Is it possible? We do have in fact restorative justice programs that does just that.

While restorative justice typically involves an encounter between the offender and the victim, some organizations, such as the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, emphasize a program’s values over its participants. This can include programs that only serve victims (or offenders for that matter), but that have a restorative framework. We can look to Indigenous communities where groups are using the restorative justice process to try to create more community support for victims and offenders, particularly the young people. For example, Wikipedia report that different programs are underway at Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve in Canada, and at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Lakota nation, within the United States.

Besides “serving” as an alternative to civil or criminal trials, restorative justice is also thought to be applicable to offenders who are currently incarcerated. The purpose of restorative justice in prisons is to assist with the prisoner’s rehabilitation, and eventual reintegration into society. By repairing the harm to the relationships between offenders and victims, and offenders and the community that resulted from the crime, restorative justice seeks to understand and address the circumstances which contributed to the crime. This is thought to prevent recidivism (that is, that the offender repeats the undesirable behaviour) once the offender is released.

The potential for restorative justice to reduce recidivism is one of the strongest and most promising arguments for its use in prisons. However, there are both theoretical and practical limitations, which can make restorative justice unfeasible in a prison environment. These include: difficulty engaging offenders and victims to participate in mediation; the controversial influence of family, friends, and the community; and the prevalence of mental illness among prisoners.  For restorative justice to work in larger capacities we need the offenders out of jails and in the community of where the offence occurred.

In thinking of a proposal that is purely theoretical in an attempt to demonstrate how “radical” and out-of-the-box thinking we need to go to find new solutions to the challenges we face with overcrowded prisons and mental health (in prisons) reform. Building new jail with a capacity to hold more prisoners is not the solution for it will only perpetuate the problem we are currently facing today of needlessly incarcerating more people who really should be in mental health facilities.  For the purpose of this paper I make the connection of IoT technology and suggest to apply the principles of restorative justice with the philosophy of IoT technology.  Crudely speaking by doing so we can “imprison” the brain but not the body.  This can be done by using a portion of the 340,000,00,000,000,000,000,000,000, IoT connections for tracking and surveillance.

He noted the recent the throne speech did not mention corrections. “So when there’s nothing about fixing corrections, you get a pretty good idea of how important it is for them. But I want to tell this government: Fixing corrections is vitally important.” ~

It’s not as crude of a suggestion as you may think and as fun and exciting these gadgets and devices can be it is only matter of time before we stumble on other ways these devices can be of use.  If it tracks our own personal activities what about tracking and surveilling another human being.  It would start off innocently with a concern for a child, an elderly parent with Alzheimer or Dementia, a pet to something even more sinister.   However, in keeping in line with today’s topic these gadgets and devices  can also be used to track and monitor low risk prisoners who are serving their sentence within the community and with mental health patients.  Individual people can and are already doing the very same thing with technology in their everyday lives.  The “commercial” term is called the “Quantified Self”.

Through RFID and bio-nanotechnology, we can ‘track all the data as we go about our daily activities, sleeping, walking, eating, and breathing primarily to analyze our habits.  One of the key signatures of almost all sensor-based web connected products like “wellness” tracking wristbands is that they make the invisible visible revealing data which was always there but had never been measured before.  The new generation of wearable sensors can be likened to the invention of the microscope suddenly, a whole new world of information opens up a new science where you are the researcher and your own habits and behavior is the subject matter being researched.’ [Change, contributing author, Juan Ignacio Vazquez,]

Back to my “radical” proposal.

For restorative justice, a courtroom process might employ pre-trial diversion, dismissing charges after restitution. In serious cases, a sentence may precede other restitution.  In the community, concerned individuals meet with all parties to assess the experience and impact of the crime. Offenders listen to victims’ experiences, preferably until they are able to empathize with the experience. Then they speak to their own experience: how they decided to commit the offense. A plan is made for prevention of future occurrences, and for the offender to address the damage to the injured parties. All agree. Community members hold the offender(s) accountable for adherence to the plan. This new radical way of rethinking justice that heals rather than creating new ones can be best found in the process of restorative justice.

Brain Computer Interfacing, optical and nanotechnology

Brain–Computer Interfaces (BCI) is another piece of equipment allows the control of external devices by decoding the users’ intentions from their central nervous system. Using bio-nanotechnology and the internet of things to control the mind, surveillance capacity through the optical-nanotechnology and by providing drug releasing bots that could be used for, in extreme cases, disciplinary or to subdue a prisoner if he/she is uncontrollable or tries to escape their sentence. Also by using drug delivery nano-technology these same medical bots through the IoT would deliver the necessary psychotic drugs, through tele-medicine – in a timely manner as needed  and in the dosage required if they are suffering addiction or from a variety of illnesses including cancer or requires “disciplinary” measures to keep him in line.  Where you can skip the process of using drugs and go holistic by employing trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) techniques that sends electrical therapeutic currents intended to massage the brain to help with those suffering from depression, anxiety and addiction.  The technology is already presently being used by the military, medical and academic facilities.

Injecting implements into the body may at first seem extreme yet by taking a thoughtful and humane approach with judicial oversight we can take a “rehabilitative” and “reconciliatory” approach to sentencing where for the most part offenders are left and enabled to roam within the community working, living, and doing restorative community work, ‘adjusting to society’ that encompasses their sentencing.  Again the focus is on the healing and the rehabilitative aspect of a prisoners’ sentence instead returning the individual to the community broken than he ever was before going in. It protects the community and prepares the prisoner so that he/she doesn’t become a burden to the community (and family) because of latent skills and a messed up head because of the prison experience, once released from his sentence.

For example, a caseworker assigned to the individual could be “inserted” into the individual’s life for what I like to call a “planter” who would befriend the individual but their real intent would be to assess the psychological and emotional status and progress of the offender, observing them in their own natural habitat.  This individual will also review the prisoner’s file by observing the individual’s interaction with the community, assessing his/her propensity to repeat the crime by observing whom and how the individual creates their social networks, secure employment, habits and aspirations (etc). Once their time in incarceration is completed, of course all objects will be removed from the individual’s body, hence the judicial oversight and looking on the positive side, the individual would already have a social network to return to further entrenching himself on the road to re-integration into society.

A whole program can be thrown together that includes “aversion therapy” and “behavior modification”, “social conditioning” to monitor their progress through machine learning (AI) techniques that the social engineer can employ to steer the prisoner and/or mental health patient’s “adjustment to society”.  But who’s society are they adjusting to?  We also must ensure that these prisoners have actually gone through the due process of the criminal justice and courts system that would validate induction into such a program. In any case, the point is, this is all done remotely through use of IoT thus allowing the offender to find proactive solutions to their own problems instead of withering away in self-hatred and regret in a 12 x12 ft. cold damp cell in an overcrowded prison paid by our tax dollars while getting abused even killed by prison staff, or driven mentally insane through the barbaric practice of solitary confinement.

Section 718 of the Criminal Code states:

Contributing…to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful, and safe society by imposing just sanctions.  Section 38(1) Youth Criminal Justice Act….to hold them accountable for their actions through the imposition of just sanctions that promote rehabilitation and reintegration into society thereby contributing to the long-term protection of the public.”  If sentencing is about the protection of the public, we must know whom we protect, from what evil and how effective criminal sanctions are at protecting the public.” [Sentencing, Clayton C. Ruby, 2017]

Now to do some form of what I have suggested would require a major rethinking on our approach to sentencing, reforming of legislation, law and technology because as it stands today, that would be a serious manipulation and infringement of a variety of Charter Rights; liberty and privacy vs property immediately comes to mind.  Is the human body a property of the State if sentenced to jail for committing a crime?  What are the moral implications of private prisons as we use them today and how does that match up with what I have suggested? And who will handle the tagging and overseeing duties; government of for profit private prisons? One thing we can be sure of, “the solutions to crime are found not in the legal system but in society itself.  The criminal justice system cannot be expected to single-handedly solve a problem as deeply rooted and socially complex as crime.” [Sentencing, Clayton C. Ruby, 2017] What is the principle purpose of the criminal law and sentencing; is it only for punishment and for the protection of society?

Presently there are two schools of thought on the Theories of Punishment that have contended for supremacy on the purpose for punishment: the retributive or moral approach and the utilitarian approach. The retributive or moral approach assumes that retribution is the proper object of  punishment….According to Stephen Fitzjames (Sir) retribution is the primary ground for sentencing and is based on the hidden presumption that society is bound together by its collective ability to denounce and repudiate certain conduct.  Thus society is strengthened and thereby protected when, through the medium of criminal law, members of the community join together to punish a wrongdoer. The legitimacy of retributions as a principle of sentencing has often been questioned as a result of its unfortunate association with “vengeance” in common parlance.  Therefore it is important to distinguish punishment based on retribution from punishment based on revenge (or profit as in the case with private prisons); since what distinguishes a criminal from a civil sanction is the notion of community condemnation. [Sentencing, Clayton C. Ruby, 2017]

The Utilitarian Approach – The utilitarian position on punishment argues that sentences should maximize the utility of society by preventing future criminality (see:  John Stuart Mill, Liberty). This statement stresses the effect of the punishment on the offender to the victim and society from a utilitarian perspective, the court ought to impose the minimum sentence that will offer adequate public protection and must guard against the temptation to increase the penalty in response to public outcry….the utilitarian position in its purest form is that all custodial sentences should be indeterminate.  If the primary objective is to discourage further offences at the cost of minimal interference with liberty, then the moment at which  this discouragement is effective enough to warrant a release cannot be forecast in advance: it necessarily depends on the progress of each individual inmate.  Therefore insofar as individual deterrence in concerned indeterminate sentences are necessary.  While deontological theories of punishment focus on the offender and whether he deserves the sentence meted out by the trial judge utilitarian theories consider the offender to be an object to be manipulated in furtherance of a broader social good. [Sentencing, Clayton C. Ruby, 2017]

The Canadian Way

Prior to the 1995 amendments to the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code, the utilitarian approach had taken a position of supremacy in Canadian sentencing.  Focusing on deterrence, prevention and reform was consistent with a treatment ideology that characterized crime as a sickness requiring social or quasi medical intervention at various points in the offender’s life.  Nonetheless, the moral position on sentencing still had some part to play in sentencing practices.” ~ Sentencing, Clayton C. Ruby, 2017

“Courts do not impose sentences in response to public clamoring, nor in a spirit of revenge.  On the other hand justice is not administered in a vacuum.  Sentences imposed by courts for criminal conduct and by large must have the support of concerned and thinking citizens.  If they do not have such support, they will fail.  There are cases, as Lord Denning has said where the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should reflect the revulsion felt by the majority of citizens for them.  In 1995, Parliament codified the common law of sentencing.  Section 718 clearly combines elements of both moral and utilitarian theories of punishment.” [Sentencing, Clayton C. Ruby, 2017]

With the advancement of technology what I have suggested is a future that’s already here, and worse, these tracking and surveillance techniques could be used by private vigilantes circumventing law to administer their own form of justice or satisfy curiosity (ie. Parents, teachers, employers, intimate partners etc.) or even to commit a crime. As you will see in the last installment of the Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health series, technology is already ahead of us in that tracking and surveillance is more prevalent then we have imagined.  Our personal data is consumed and stored by government, institutional and commercial entities that freedom will soon be a thought from yesterday.  What I have suggested theoretically could only be successful if applied compassionately and humanely to the practices and theories found in restorative justice.

Every technological advance should move humanity forward in some way.

Go to: Bell Let’s Talk: Mental Health- Part I,  Part II – The InternetPart IV – Privacy

Many thanks to Criminalization and Punishment Education Project

for allowing the use of their video.www.


Appeal court imposes new conditions on solitary confinement while it considers its decision

Posted on Monday, January 7, 2018
Update:  For immediate release

Josh Paterson, Executive Director, delivering remarks at a solitary confinement press conference prior to the BC Court of Appeal hearing.

BCCLA Blog:  Fight to End Indefinate Solitary Confinement Continues

Become The Change We Need

Did you like my story?  Well let’s do something  about it and become the change we need for those suffering from mental health stresses.

Questions, comments or feedback 

Leave a message 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.