Federal inmates who keep complaining about one thing or another are on their way to being shut up for a year.
James told The Huffington Post Canada there are about 20 to 25 prisoners who together log more than 4,000 complaints a year about the conditions in federal penitentiaries. Some of the top complainants file more than 500 grievances a year.
"Some of these complaints are as ridiculous as their ice cream is too cold," James said.
"I’ve heard also my light bulb is too bright and my omelette is too small," she added.
"Someone even complained that there was no white history month. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
James said there are about 29,000 grievances filed on average each year, that but 0.1 per cent of offenders submit 15 per cent of all complaints. Inmates who complain can appeal the responses they receive all the way up to the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, a process that is time consuming, expensive and annoying, James said.
"It’s a real hardship on our front-line corrections officers ... [and] it delays other legitimate complaints from being heard," she said.
James’ bill would allow the Commissioner to designate an offender as a “vexatious complainant” which would prevent him or her from complaining for a renewable 12-month period. “If the complaint is related to the safety of the person or the life and liberty of that person, the complaint would be heard,” she added.
The NDP is not expected to support the bill. NDP MP Sylvain Chicoine told the House of Commons earlier this year that many of the grievances filed by serial complainers were actually done on behalf of other inmates who didn't have the ability, aptitude or education to complain themselves.
In addition, Chicoine said James' bill would give the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada "disproportionate discretion" to designate inmates as vexatious complainants. James' bill was also amended at committee to give cabinet the power to make new rules governing how vexatious complaints would be treated and how they might be allowed to rid themselves of the label.
James, who was elected in 2011, told HuffPost she wasn’t sure what issue to champion for her private member’s bill, but was told by colleagues that putting an end to frivolous prisoner complaints would be a popular move. She said she’d spoken to correctional officers who were pleased with the proposal but that she had not discussed her bill with any inmates.
"They should be focusing on their rehabilitation instead of playing games and filing complaints," she said.
Also on HuffPost:
Robert Dale Conklin
Robert Dale Conklin was executed July 12, 2005 in Georgia for the murder of his ex-boyfriend. For his last meal he requested: Filet mingnon wrapped in bacon, de-veined shrimp sauteed in garlic butter with lemon, a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives, and real bacon bits, corn on the cob, aspara- gus with hollandaise sauce, French bread with butter, goat cheese, cantaloupe, apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream and an iced tea.
Hastings Arthur Wise
Hastings Arthur Wise was executed November 4, 2005 in South Carolina via lethal injection for the murder of four of his ex-coworkers. For his last meal he requested: a lobster tail, French fries, coleslaw, banana pudding and milk.
Serial killer Ted Bundy had confessed to being responsible for 30 murders and was executed by the State of Florida on January 24, 1989 by way of the electric chair. He made no special requests and was offered the traditional meal of steak and eggs, that he didn't eat.
John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy received a lethal injection from the State of Illinois on May 10, 1994 for the rape and murders of 33 young men and boys from 1972 to 1978. Dubbed the "Killer Clown" by the media, his last meal included: a dozen deep-fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe chicken from KFC, French fries, and a pound of strawberries.
Dennis Wayne Bagwell
Convicted of murdering his half sister and her 4-year-old daughter, and two more women, Dennis Wayne Bagwell was executed in Texas on February 17, 2005 by lethal injection. He asked for a larger last meal than most, requesting: A beef steak, medium rare with A1 Sauce, three fried chicken breast, three fried chicken thighs, BBQ ribs, a large order of french fries, a large order of onion rings, a pound of fried bacon, a dozen scrambled eggs with onions, fried tatters with onions, sliced tomatoes, a salad with ranch dressing, two hamburgers with everything, peach pie or cobbler, ketchup, salt and pepper, milk and coffee, ice tea with real sugar.
Timothy McVeigh was responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1996 that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. McVeigh was executed via lethal injection in Indiana on June 11, 2001 and had another unusual request: two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Philip Workman was convicted of the murder of a police office that occurred during a failed robbery of a Wendy's in Tennessee. He was executed on May 9, 2007 via lethal injection. Workman actually declined a special last meal for himself, but rather asked that a large vegetarian pizza be given to a homeless person in Nashville, Tenn. Prison officials denied his request, but homeless shelters across the state received pizzas from all over the country honoring his last request.
Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner was already on trial for the murder of one man, when he fatally shot an attorney in an failed attempt to escape. He was executed June 18 2010 by firing squad in Utah. Not only did Gardner request steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7-up for his last meal, he also spent his last hours watching the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Convicted of five murders, Velma Barfield was the first women in the US to be executed after the 1977 return of capital punishment and the first woman to receive her sentence by lethal injection in 1984. Like Eddie Duval Powell, she made no special last meal, but rather a can of Coca-cola and a bag of Cheez Doodles.
James Edward Smith
With perhaps the strangest request, James Edwards Smith, was convicted and executed on June 26,1990 for a robbery and murder in Texas. Smith requested not a meal, but a lump of dirt that was apparently for a Voodoo ritual. As dirt was not an approved list of prison foods his request was denied and he settled for a small cup of yogurt instead.
15 Things Critics Fear In The Tory Crime Bill
Opposition parties, professionals working within the corrections and justice systems, the Canadian Bar Association and various other interest groups have raised wide-ranging concerns about the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/omnibus-crime-bill" target="_hplink">omnibus crime bill</a>. Here is an overview of some of their objections. (CP/Alamy)
15. Harsher Sentences For Young Offenders
Changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act will impose tougher sentences for violent and repeat young offenders, make it easier to keep such offenders in custody prior to trial and expand the definition of what is considered a "violent offence" to include "creating a substantial likelihood of causing bodily harm" rather than just causing, attempting to cause or threatening to cause bodily harm. The new legislation will also require the Crown to consider adult sentences for offenders convicted of "serious violent offences" and require judges to consider lifting the publication ban on names of offenders convicted of "violent offences" even when they have been given youth sentences. Some of the concerns around these provisions raised by some of the professionals who work with young offenders include: (Alamy)
14. Young Offenders - Naming Names
The publication of names of some young offenders will unjustly stigmatize them for life. Quebec has asked that provinces be allowed to opt out of this provision. (Getty)
13. Young Offenders - Stiffer Sentences
Stiffer, longer sentences will turn young offenders into hardened criminals and undermine any potential for rehabilitation. (Alamy)
12. Young Offenders - Minorities Take The Brunt
As with other parts of the crime bill, critics says harsher sentencing rules and increased emphasis on incarceration will <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/20/bill-c-10-omnibus-crime_n_1289536.html?ref=omnibus-crime-bill" target="_hplink">disproportionately affect aboriginal</a> and black Canadians, who are already over-represented in the criminal justice system. (Alamy)
11. Young Offenders - Forget Rehabilitation
The changes shift the emphasis of the Act from rehabilitation to "protection of society," which critics say will put the focus on punishing young offenders rather than steering them away from a life of crime. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/22/crime-bill-quebec-canada_n_1107717.html?ref=omnibus-crime-bill" target="_hplink">Quebec, in particular, which prides itself on the success of the rehabilitative aspects of its youth justice system, has argued for stronger language prioritizing rehabilitation</a>. (Alamy)
10. Fewer Conditional Sentences
The legislation will eliminate conditional sentences, those served in the community or under house arrest, for a range of crimes, including sexual assault, manslaughter, arson, drug trafficking, kidnapping and fraud or theft over $5,000. It will also eliminate double credit for time already served. Critics say these changes will: (Getty)
9. Fewer Conditional Sentences - Spike Costs
Cost the federal and provincial justice and corrections systems millions of additional dollars a year. The parliamentary budget officer, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/28/omnibus-crime-bill-costs-conditional-sentences_n_1306528.html?ref=omnibus-crime-bill" target="_hplink">Kevin Page, has estimated that the average cost per offender will rise from approximately $2,600 to $41,000</a> as a consequence of the elimination of conditional sentences. (Alamy)
8. Fewer Conditional Sentences - More Trials And Hearings
- Lead to more trials as those accused of crimes will be less likely to plead guilty if they know there is no chance they will get a conditional sentence and will be more likely to take their chances on a trial. Some have predicted this will lead to greater backlogs in an already backlogged court system. - Result in more parole hearings. Page's analysis predicted that with the increase in the number of incarcerations, there will be more offenders coming up for parole, which will increase costs for federal and provincial parole review boards. A single review by the Parole Board of Canada costs an estimated $4,289, Page estimated. (Alamy)
7. Mandatory Minimums
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/22/bill-c-10-drugs-mandatory-minimums-omnibus_n_1292894.html?ref=omnibus-crime-bill" target="_hplink">By far the most criticized aspect of the bill is the introduction of mandatory jail sentences for certain crimes, including drug trafficking, sex crimes, child exploitation and some violent offences</a>. Opponents of the measures have argued that this type of sentencing has been tried in other jurisdictions, most notably in the U.S., and has created more problems than it has solved. Critics say that coupled with other changes in the bill, such as increases in the maximum sentences handed down to some drug offenders and sexual predators and elimination of conditional sentences in some cases, mandatory minimums will burden Canada's prison and court systems in ways that are unfeasible, untenable and have little benefit. In particular, they argue that mandatory minimum sentences will: (Jupiter Images)
6. Mandatory Minimums - Higher Costs
Increase the costs of prosecuting and incarcerating offenders and leave fewer funds for rehabilitation programs. (Alamy)
5. Mandatory Minimums - Overcrowding
Lead to overcrowding in prisons. (Alamy)
4. Mandatory Minimums - Make Judges Less Powerful
- Remove judges' discretion to tailor sentences to the specifics of a particular case and offender and force them to apply blanket, one-size-fits-all sentences regardless of circumstances - Limit the use of alternate sentencing measures of the type currently applied to aboriginal offenders. (Alamy)
3. Mandatory Minimums - Over-Punish Drug Offenders
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/02/omnibus-crime-bill-pierre-claude-nolin_n_1316481.html?ref=omnibus-crime-bill" target="_hplink">Disproportionately punish small-time drug offenders and have limited effect on the drug producers, organized crime bosses and serious drug traffickers</a> the government says it wants to target. (Alamy)
2. Mandatory Minimums - What's The Point?
Have little rehabilitative effect on offenders and rather leave them more, not less, likely to re-offend. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/27/tough-on-crime-conservatives-doubt-tough-sentences_n_1115012.html?ref=omnibus-crime-bill">Critics point to numerous studies showing harsher incarceration laws do not have a deterrent effect on criminals or lower crime rates</a>. (Alamy)
1. Mandatory Minimums - What Charter?
Violate provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and open up the government to legal challenges on grounds that the sentencing rules violate certain rights that offenders have under the Charter, such as the right to liberty, the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. (Alamy)