Georgia’s Correctional System: Getting Out Alive

The state of Georgia.

Sitting along the coast, right next to South Carolina and Florida, it is one of the hot bed for incarceration in the United States, the country with the highest number of prisoners per 100 000 people in the world (excluding the african country of Seychelles which has a population of just about 90 000).

As I documented before, living inside the walls of Georgia’s prisons is no pleasure. Inmates make it hard on themselves to remain sane. Everyday, the inner frustration in their mind get the better of them and they commit random acts of violence.

I watched Eugene Jarecki’s tremendously well written documentary “The House I Live In” and realized how important was the impact of a person’s past on his future with justice. A lot young kids raised in tough neighbourhoods grow up to have a difficult lifetime where living with a stash of weed under your bed or a gun around your waist is common.

Georgia capital and biggest city Atlanta was listed 8th on Business Insider‘s list of most dangerous city in the United States in 2012. Atlanta is a sort of microcosm of the state. Some say it’s a dangerous city to live in, others don’t think the same. It probably depends on which part of the city you live. Atlanta is known to be the city in America with the largest inequalities, ahead of cities like Miami, New York and Chicago. The city of San Fransisco holds the second spot on the list of cities with the biggest inequality but has a population nearly twice as big.

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Based on a research by the Brookings Institution, a “a nonprofit public policy organization”, “the top 5 percent of households in San Francisco make more than $353,000 a year. In Atlanta, it’s about $280,000. But the bottom 20 percent? In San Francisco that income cutoff is $21,313. In Atlanta, that figure is about $6,500 a year less.”

A reason for such a high number of individuals with low income in the state could be due to the fact that there are so many probationers. Finding a job while on probation is a hard task because you need to declare it when filing an application and chances are, whoever is looking at your application may not even look at your resume if you’ve been convicted. Even if you have a degree, it can be tough.  You end up returning in the spiral of doing second hand jobs or selling drugs which can lead you right back to prison.

Georgia has a astonishing ratio of 6 829 probationers per 100 000 person. The state with the closest ratio is Ohio with 2 802 per. Georgia’s rate is 362% higher than the national average. But since companies benefit from probationers, helping out the state’s economy, it doesn’t seem like the state is in any rush of changing their policies.

Sentinel Offender Services, the biggest company of it’s kind in Georgia, is based in California but operates mostly in Georgia. It was stated as one as a “Major Player” in the Humans Right Watch report named “Profiting from Probation”. The company operated in Los Angeles County in 1995, just a couple years after the Los Angeles riots at a time when the nation’s second biggest city was in crisis and revolt. This shows that the company has received the trust from important cases. Sentinel provided “tactical services” for the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

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Probationers have to pay monthly fees to companies such as Sentinel Offender Services along with the additional fees for the monitors they have to wear on their ankle. The Georgia Department Management stays passive and simply writes that the GPS is “used best” for “sex offenders”, “domestic violence cases”.

Sentinel was under scrutiny in November 2014 when Georgia’s Supreme Court declared that tracking down “misdemeanour offenders” was constitutional but not to extend the probationer’s sentence.  Private companies make a lot of money since they supervise close to 80% of all probationers. One of the reasons to explain why there is so many of them is because Georgians can be “placed on probation simply to give them time to pay off traffic fines they couldn’t afford on the day they went to court”.

But if you can’t pay the privately-owned company making tons of money of your back, you can be back in prison. The Nation published a report in early August 2014 describing how many Georgians end up in prison simply they are too poor to pay their bills for cases as stupid as traffic offenses. Since 2000, when the state eliminated “county-run misdemeanour probation”, the private companies revenues exploded.

This shows how complicated the state’s correctional system is and how it affects the state’s economy. While politicians will support the safety of all and to condemn people for violence, the economic benefits of putting a monitor on an individual are so huge that they don’t care, so much. It’s similar to the tobacco industry. Nicotine companies profit so much of people smoking that they even though they encourage people to stop smoking, they don’t really wan’t you too because they wan’t to fill up their pockets.

Pockets full of money, and peaches.

 

 

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Georgia’s Correctional System: Inside the Walls

Georgia – correctional-wise – is one messed up state.

It is one of the 10 worst states for his correctional system based on the National Institute of Corrections 2013 census. It currently holds up an average of 533 detainees per 100 000 people compared to 395 per 100 000, the average for all 50 states.

With an average of 6 829 probationers for 100 000 person, Georgia’s rate is 362% higher than the national average which is 1 479 . The state with the second highest rate is Ohio with 2 802. These puzzling statistics are somewhat hard to understand but if you dig in a little, I found out how strange the situation really was. The second part of this story will explain this societal trend.

On December 5th, the Gwinnett Daily Post by way of the Associated Press published a report of 3 corrections officers sentenced “for beating an inmate and conspiring to cover it up”. The 3 individuals, all men, are Ronald Lach, Delton Rushin and Sgt. Christopher Hall. During the summer of 2014, 3 other men were cleared of all charges when they were accused of the same crime. Although they were found not guilty, the case shed the light on Georgia’s justice system and penal system. The two articles caught my attention and I wanted to investigate this complicated world.

When I finished reading these two articles, I fell in the awkward hole of boredom and decided to hop on Netflix. It was then that I stumbled on Hard Life, a National Geographic “docuserie” that aired for the first time back in 2009. The first episode gives an overview of what is to come. The viewer gets a sense of what living in a correctional facility in Georgia is like. But more importantly, it depicts the harsh training correctional officers in the state have to go through before they want to become one of them. In a military-style environment, the students learn to earn respect in any way possible, whether it’s using their mental strength the “trainers” wish to implement  or their physical strength. Either way, it has West Point written all over it.

It was funny how I could find a documentary on the very same subject I was previously reading about so I decided to find out more about it. I was happy (sigh) to read in the Department of Corrections’ 2013 Annual Report that their “Vision” was “to be recognize as the best corrections organization in the nation”. We’ll, at least they don’t wan’t to become the best in the World, quite humble. Along with this utopian view, it is their mission to “create a safer Georgia by effectively managing offenders”

How are they creating a “safer Georgia” if all they are doing is putting more and more people in prison? In the same summer in which correctional officers were accused of beating up, the Southern Center for Human Rights published a study called “The Crisis of Violence in Georgia’s Prison” in which they uncover numerous cases of violence between detainees and also those who involve officers of justice. The report doesn’t give the same way the Department of Corrections does. It explains how Georgia has a prison system “in which prison officers have lost control”, it then adds that “men in maximum security facilities have access to lethal weapons including knives, shanks and machetes. Cell door are left broken for years”. Finally the report points out that “protective custody procedures are inadequate, leaving vulnerable prisoners to fend for themselves”. It really goes against their saying that prisons in Georgia are safe.

I found Hard Time ironic in the sense that, while it shows tough training for future officers, it then interviews inmates who explain how they do their own justice. It seems like the two sides want to show that they are the one who manage the prisons. These opposite standpoints stand out in the reports. While the Department of Corrections are saying they are doing things right, the Southern Center for Human Rights reports that inmates really can do whatever they want, creating havoc in the detention institutions.

But there’s not another surreal ambush. How can you keep any man safe if doors can be easily unlocked ? It seems unimaginable that in an institution with thousands of murderers, rapists and burglars, people can roam as they wish. In fact, in 2012, it was reported that in Hays State Prison when 442 locks were tested, 41% could be unlocked without the usage of the guard’s key. When a jail cell is left unlocked, you’re letting someone the freedom he never thought he could have. You’re playing with fire.

Let’s put the state’s money of their annual budget going towards the Department of Corrections and compare it to Florida which has a similar ratio of incarceration, 524 per 100 000, while Georgia holds 533 per 100 000. My theory was there was not enough money spent on the Department. The state of Florida Department of Corrections has a budget of 2,1 billions and has 103 028 inmates so $20 382 is spent on average for each person behind bar. On the other hand, the state of Georgia DOC has a budget of $1 121 908 791 and holds 54 004 prisoners so $20 774 is spent on average. But when I read these numbers, I realized that the budget can not be a excuse for the lost of control since the closest state statistically and geographically, spends just as much.

It seems like the problem is less financial, than human. Are correctional facilities safe enough ? Is the training sharp? It doesn’t seem like it. Since so many murders occurred in Georgia prisons in the past year (from 2010 to July 2014, 33 inmates were killed along with one officer), the problem is surely not only about the budget.

Georgia’s state prisons are a rather rough path to getting out and being just as normal as before. Long lasting effects of living in state prisons have been well documented. In 1990, Georgia hit his all time high in crimes when 768,4 crimes per 100 000 people. From that point on, the Department’s budget sky-rocketed. The number of inmates in the state’s prisons “more than doubled”.

In the next chapter of this story, I’ll go more in depth on the subject such as the case of the probationers.

Venezuela’s Steel Workers and Electricians Want Better

The world is in crisis. There’s no secret to the fact that there are so many political conflicts happening right now that subjects that would normally get at least a little attention, like this one, have vanished under the large dark cloud surrounding the atmosphere. One of those is the rallies by the electricity workers in Venezuela, who, with the help of the Venezuelan Federation of Workers of the Electrical Industry, declared an emergency to demand a higher wages and better working conditions.

But the electricity workers are not the only one that are frustrated, so are the steel workers. On July 28th, they rallied against comments made by Diosdado Cabello , the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela. This man is known to be one of the most corrupted individual in Venezuela and it is estimated that he is worth around 2 billions. He was also involved in a lawsuit by Thor Leonardo Halvorssen Mendoza, a humans right activist in the US accusing Derwick Associates, “one of the biggest and fastest growing energy companies in Venezuela and of a team of motivated professionals” as it said on their Twitter account, of allegedly paying tens of millions of dollars to high-ranked Venezuelan officials under the table “in exchange for their acceptance of overpriced invoices from the companies”. Not a really good résumé for the dubbed “Frank Underwood of Venezuela”.

So what did señor Cabello say to these angry workers you are asking ? He accused them of being “gangsters”. That’s ironic to say the least. It is also a pretty good way to irate an army of steelers. The fact of the matter is, steel workers have a point. Since Hugo Chavez ordered the nationalization of the company , the company’s numbers have only declined says Juan Linares, a retired SIDOR worker. “It went from producing 4,3 million tons of liquid steel in 2007 to 1,5 million tons last year [2013]”, a decrease of about 35%.

This ongoing conflict has not just started yesterday. In 2004, SIDOR employees were already demanding better working conditions as it it reported in the article, from 1998 to 2004, 11 workers died because of the working conditions. The nationalization hasn’t done any good to the company in general and especially the workers. What’s even more scary, is that even though steel workers have a job that is is not thaaaat fun, where you end up alone most of the time, in America at least,  the inflation in Venezuela right now is at a very high point. In an text written on Vivo en un Mundo Locoa blog of a woman who left Venezuela, it is explained how she “bought a meal for 40Bs [4 months ago] Today the same meal costs 80B” ,people just “cannot afford the same things anymore” she says.

You thought that living in Caracas is a walk in the park ? Think about that. Now what about the electricity sector ? It is another very controversial topic in Venezuela. Just like SIDOR was nationalized by the venezuelan government, so was Corpoloec. Following pressure from electricity workers across Venezuela in a way of mass rallies (a national strike was done on July 4th), Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s President, agreed to increase the average salary to 1,5 the minimum wage. The president of the Federation of Electrical Industry (Fetraelec) demanded that the minister of Energy resigned from his position in regards to the working conditions they have. Despite the fact that the workers now have a better wage, Caracas, the capital of Venezuela still is one of the 10 most expensive cities in the World.

The reason why it is so expensive is the “fixed exchange rates” runned by Maduro as well as the fact that he devaluated the money in Venezuela during is tenure, as it reported in an analysis by Jones Lang Lasalle, an investment management company specializing in real estate. For example, in 2013, it would have cost you $9,40 US to buy a 1k loaf of bread in Caracas. Five years before that, in 2008, it was $2,25. Things have changed a lot in Venezuela. So higher salaries may not change anything for the workers, except their pride. But the better working conditions and higher salaries do not help the fact the recurring blackouts in Venezuela.

One of those happened during a presidential speech by Nicolas Maduro on June 27th. So what is the cause of these blackouts ? The reason is that the country relies so much on hydroelectricity and especially on one of the largest dam in the world, the Guri Dam. Situated in a remote location in eastern Venezuela, the dam is certainly one of the premier backbones of the economy. It may well have killed a new specie, kicked out local tribes and destroyed a forest, but at least it worked, more often than not. But when it does not work, that’s when everything real ugly. In 2010, major blackouts were forced because of a very low level of water in the Caroni River which supports the Guri Dam. If the level of water in the river is high, the dam works fine and the Venezuelan family can open the light when they come home. But the demand of these same Venezuelans is increasing tremendously. The country consumes 45% more electricity in the past 10 years but has only increased their capacity by 20%. 

Venezuela is a country that is not talked about a lot in the US and in Canada, the last it surfaced dramatically was following Hugo Chavez’s death but the controversy surrounding the steel workers across the country as well as the electricity that is in tumultuous state right now is something very interesting. Until the government gets their thing straight, considering they own the two major steel and electricity company, things will stay the same in the Land of Grace.

What’s Going on in America’s “Juvi” ?

Teens can be sent to juvenile detention centres when they are as young as 6 in certain U.S states.  Although most of them end up there at the mere age of 10 or so, the fact that you can end up in prison right after kindergarden is pretty early.

On July 9th, 350 teens in “juvi” in the city of Lansing, Michigan, will be sent to adult prisons the rest of their life according to the ruling of the Michigan Supreme Court.  The “Mandatory Life Without Parole for Youth” is in effect in the state, that makes Michigan the state with the most teens that will spend the rest of their life in a jail cell.

This is a controversial statistic because it is reported in an article on World Socialist Web Site “that Pennsylvania has the largest number of such prisoners of any US state” when talking about “juvi lifers”. With no real data being collected on the subject, it is really hard for anybody to tell which states locks up the most teens, but one thing’s for sure, there’s too many of them out there.

The fact of the matter is, whatever states has the highest number of jail mates, this should not be anything to be proud of as the US is the country that locks up the most teens around the world. Whether you are living in South Philly , the Bronx or Detroit , you should not end up in prison for the rest of your life before finishing high school.

PressTv, a Tehran based, and highly controversial news website, reported how  “a disturbing trend called the school-to-prison pipeline” has emerged. It is also that reported that Black and Hispanic groups are sentenced differently based on a research made by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.  The latter fact has also been talked about in a book called Juvenile Justice : Advancing Research, Policy, and Practice, in a chapter written by Dr. Sabina E. Vaught, an Associated Professor at the Department of Education at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. In the text, the trend is define as “a mechanism by which low-income youth of colour are funnelled out of school and into various forms of incarceration”.

Many reasons can explain why there is such a trend and one of those is the fact that teenagers have a feeling that they are held prisoners of their own school whether it is because of the presence of school cops or metal detectors. It is impossible to know how many metal detectors are used by high schools across America but as it is read on the National School Safety and Security Services; “While there are no credible statistics on the exact number of schools using metal detectors, stationary metal detectors used on a daily basis are typically limited to large urban school districts with a chronic history of weapons-related offenses.”

Dr. Vaught continues by stating that “Young Black men are incarcerated at a rate 4 times of their White counterparts-5 times of the White counterparts for drug-related offenses. This shows that the “pipeline ” is way more common for non-white teens.  So in a country where 73% of the population aged between 0-17 is white, it is quite strange that they wouldn’t as close as the Black population in terms of youth incarceration. One of the reasons for such numbers says Vaught is that there is a “nationwide trend of undereducating and overdisciplining youth of colour”.

Of course, not to be seen as selective in the kind of people they put in prisons, cops will sometimes make forced accusations so that the number of white kids in “Juvi” evens up a bit with the number of hispanic and black teens. That was the case for example for the Jesse Snodgrass case in which 22 teenagers were taken into custody in a “21 Jump Street” style arrest, while they were in class and put into “Juvi” because an undercover cop posing as a student at the local high school asked autistic kids and loners for pot. Oh and Temecula, the town in which everything happened was ranked second safest city in America, not bad eh.

It is definitely a sad sight to see.  Now that we know how so many kids get there, what goes on in these juvenile centres is just as frightening. New York being the most populated city in America, it makes sense that one of the largest and most dangerous prison is America is situated there. Rikers Island, a island just outside of the Bronx, who is rank in Mother Jones “America’s 10 Worst Prisons” (Rikers Island actually has 10 prisons of his own), is where teenagers have said to have the worst conditions across the United States. The island houses approximately 10 000 inmates.

RIkers Island is one of the most radical example of the life in “Juvi”. In a report for Solitary Watch, freelance writer Victor Law explains how a teenager can end up in what is called “solitary confinement”  if gets into a fight or gets in trouble in general. Kids are locked in a cell for 23 hours a day and have an hour of “rec time” as it is called in prison. Daniel Bromm, a New York City councilman in Queens who visited the island said that “What [he] saw was cruel and inhumane” So why are they continuing to hold prisoners in these conditions ? Teenagers who could have their whole life to change, instead, they are treated like adults and held in jail cells for years.

As it is regularly the case, adults take advantage of the shyness and then naivety of the teens. “The Program” was an institution in which Correctional Officers indicated to inmates to beat up other inmates, Christopher Robinson’s story tells it all. Rikers Island clearly is disproportionated example of Juvenile Institutions, as it is probably not the same story in a small town in Oklahoma, as I’ve said before, theses kinds of “Juvi” are mostly in big cities, but the fact that people that are not even 18 can live in these conditions every day is beyond me.

The problem is, kids that stay in a long period of time, alone, in a jail cell or in solitary confinement tend to have mental problems when they get out and these problems can stay with them for years. Writing for Serendip Studio, a blog runned by teachers and ex-students of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, Carly Frintner explains how “prisoners who are isolated for prolonged periods of time have been known to experience “depression, despair, anxiety, rage, claustrophobia, hallucinations, problems with impulse control, and/or an impaired ability to think, concentrate, or remember.” The National Institute of Mental Health explains that” [c]hildren who develop depression often continue to have episodes as they enter adulthood. Children who have depression also are more likely to have other more severe illnesses in adulthood.”

Basically, you’re not helping the kid by putting him in a prison cell, you’re just helping him to have a difficult adult life in which there is a pretty food chance he’ll be depressive.

In a whole, teenagers are put in “Juvi” way too young and should not spend all of their life there, especially if they take the school-to-prison expressway to do so. And by all means, every teen, whatever their racial background should be judged the same way. Theses institutions are scary and definitely should help the kid instead of ruining his life.

 

UK’s Food Bank Epidemic

All around Great Britain, the concerns in regards to the mounting use of food banks has british politicians wondering and joining their forces, whatever their political party, to solve this evolving problem. It is believed that the increase in food grants is in direct relation with politics. One of those reasons and maybe the most important one is the controversial benefit sanctions system. The system is deficient and the younger population is mostly paying the price for it. The benefit sanctions system boils down to penalties given to unemployed britons in an attempt to “promote desired behaviour and therefore favourable outcomes” as it is read in a study executed by Julia Griggs and Martin Evans for the John Rowntree Foundation in 2010. Although these sanctions were put in to place to help the society, this clearly hasn’t been the case. Instead, a lot of youngsters who thrive on having a prosperous future, end up having to pay for their misfortunes. If they don’t “sign on”, they will not be receiving their JSA, the Jobseeker Allowance.

“People can see their benefit payments taken away for a number of reasons, from failing to attend a meeting at a Jobcentre to leaving a job without a good reason or because of misconduct. Sanctions can last between four weeks and three years.”

In an article published in The Guardian, Denise Hatton who was named CEO of YMCA England depicts how Jobcentre Plus, the acting role of the Department of Work and Pensions who’s responsible minister is the Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith, “fail[s] when it comes to communicating many aspects around sanctions”. The penalized will receive a letter that has a vague explanation of why they were disciplined.

Some reasons why one would be sanctioned by the government go from “not applying for enough jobs” to “not attending a compulsory training or employment scheme” but frequently it is simply for “being late or not turning up for meetings”.

On June 27th, Tory Member of Parliament David Mundell agreed that the benefit sanctions were related with the increase in the use of food banks across UK. This apology was certainly appreciated by the opposing political parties like SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing who made the most of Mundell’s embarrassment by attacking him.

Though one the most conflicting factors in this difficult debate, as funny as it sounds, are the statistics used.

Like for Annabelle Ewing for example who said that “Given we now have 22,387 children in Scotland relying on food banks, we desperately need a change of direction.”, many politicians, just like in all political debates will use statistics to depict their opponent, but in this case, it is hard.

Most of the statistics are coming from Trussell Trust, an organization that manages 420 food banks across the UK, and supposedly “fed 913,138 people nationwide”, 36% of those being children. The problem is that these facts were denied by the government and were accused of being “misleading and emotionally manipulative”. So how could any politicians use Trussell Trust’s statistics to counter other politicians if the government indicated that the company were only promoting these statistics to help their own cause financially ?

But the debate is about way more than that. If people are using the food banks a lot more these days in the United Kingdom and poverty is way more common thing these days, there must be some important external reasoning for it too, it is not all caused by some benefit sanctions.

It is for that reason that opposing political parties have come together to find a solution. Is it a low minimum wage  ? Is it the sanctions ? Many opinions have surfaced.

The group of politicians is headed by Frank Field. He wants to “bring a degree of clarity on the numbers of people who are hungry in Britain”. His “All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty” plans on understanding all sorts of things regarding poverty across the UK as it is read on his website such as “to investigate the underlying causes of hunger and food poverty in this country”

In another article for The Guardian, the Head of Society, Health and Education at the Guardian, Patrick Butler shows how this low income and difficult life style in which more than 13 millions briton live in is not healthy. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s minimum income standard (MIS),  “[the] increasing numbers of British people on low incomes will never be able to afford an acceptable standing of living”. Despite the MIS not being a sign of poverty, it shows that even though you are not living under the poverty line, you may just be in a less than desirable situation.

So what’s next for the UK ? Politicians probably need to their get up of their chair at Westminster and see how it is to live without a beautiful black sedan and to get up with an empty fridge. Maybe then, measures will be taken and problems will be solved. For now, food banks will still be overcrowded.

@SHITSUNKNOWN

Eviction of Migrants in Calais, France

More and more refugees seek asylum in UK as they try to make their way across the English Channel to England. Most of these migrants have travelled a long way, coming from places such as Africa or Middle-East countries such as Afghanistan, who’s people are fleeing the war between the Afghan army and the Talibans, and making their way through Europe, with one destination in mind, the UK.

Unfortunately, yesterday, the most radical move by the police, yet, was made. The CRS, Compagnie Républicaines de Sécurité, is a french security institution that “fights against urban violence”. 200 of those officers moved in the migrant camp and raided it.  A move certainly not expected by the expatriates. The migrants were sent in different camps around France as far as Paris and in Normandy.

As it is read in Calais Migrant Society, a blog covering the events, ” ‘Activists’, associations and journalists were quickly separated to stop people intervening or bearing witness, so the eviction could happen out of sight.” The police blocked the area but some people living in the area still saw signs of violence such as the use of tear gas and pepper spray.

Of the more than 600 evicted squatters, 121 of them were minors, as it reported in Nord Littoral, Calais’s local newspaper.

Things have changed a lot in a month for these refugees. On the 28th of May, the original camps were destroyed and evacuated by the police and then on the 12th of June, the migrants started a hunger strike because they wanted to talk with officials in the Calais region so that they could be allowed to go to the UK. They also wanted better living conditions and food everyday.

Following the destruction of their camps, they were helped by SALAM, a group helping migrants that are coming to the Nord/Pas-de-Calais region. The group fed the migrants who hadn’t fled Calais since the destruction of the camp a month ago.

Despite the events in the past month and in the past few days, the story was not covered a lot in North America, it was pretty much ignored. This ignorance from the UK, France and most of the rest of World led some of the migrants to think about setting themselves on fire to seek attention.

The Mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart was enraged by the situation saying that “these camps of misfortune are a disgrace to the city, France and all of Europe which refuses to welcome with dignity these people who fled their countries because of the war”

Needless to say that this story needs to be followed and talked about because more and more countries are in civil wars and refugees are fleeing to have a better life, doing whatever they can to survive.

 

 

British Columbia Minister Wants More Temporary Foreign Workers

The Minister of Gas Development in British Columbia, Rich Coleman, wants way more foreign workers to come work in the LNG’s , Liquified Natural Gas. If Ottawa restricts the number of temporary foreign workers working in the oil industry, a law written by Stephen Harper this will be “affect[ing] the cost of construction for these plants,” said Coleman in Calgary this week.

With the province being close to signing deal with top-notch companies in Asia to who they can sell gas at a high price, they do not want to have high salaries to pay. If that was not the problem, Coleman wouldn’t be so hesitant about the cost of construction since the economic falloff will be so high.

Adding to the restriction is a fee to the companies associated with the LNG.

Jason Kenney,  Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, is opposing to the foreign workers cap imposed by the Harper government. He plans on changing the law in 2016.

In a nutshell, Stephen Harper, elected in Calgary, wants a strict law against companies associated with the LNG in Canada West along with a foreign workers cap, while he encourages the construction of a pipeline that will start in a small town in Alberta and will create 42 000 jobs in the United States.

Meanwhile, his own Minister of Employment, the successor of the late Jim Flaherty,  is opposing to the law and wants to eradicate it.

Lack of communication in Ottawa maybe ?

One thing is for sure, money will be flowing because Keystone XL is deemed  “inevitable”  by the Prime Minister.

Montana’s Suicide Review Team

It is clear that suicide is a delicate subject, not in Montana though where a new team composed of a pastor, a psychiatrist, a sheriff and a social worker work together and stand as a group called the Montana Suicide Review Team. Now we’re talking.

We could say that a big step has been made since Montana, a state who has a population of just about one million, is the first one to have a team of this kind in the US.

Kudos to them.

The chairman of the group, psychiatrist Leonard Lantz, is fearless. He wants to comprehend, then solve the problem. “I am here as a person who wants to make a difference,”  he said to the Billings Gazette.

This is going to be no easy task, there have been 678 suicides in the past 3 years, reports the Gazette. And as read in a report published by Karl Rosston, a Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the State of Montana, 

For all age groups, Montana has ranked in the top five for suicide rates in the nation, for the past 
thirty years. In a report for 2009 data released in the National Vital Statistics Report, Montana
has the highest rate of suicide in the nation (219 suicides for a rate of 22.5 compared to a 
national rate of 12)

One of the main causes of suicide in the state is the use of firearm. It should be no surprise that they are the cause of 64% of the suicides in the state as of October 2012, in 2001 the Behavorial Risk Factor Surveillance System asked 3 006 Montanans,  “Are any firearms now kept in around your home ? Include those kept in a garage, outdoor storage area, car, truck or other motor vehicle.  57,7% said yes. That was the third highest percentage in the country behind only Alaska at 57,8% and Wyoming at 59,7%.

What’s even more alarming is that, even though they make up only 6% of the population, the American Indian community have the highest suicide rate which reaches 27,2 per 100 000. In 2009, the suicide rate in the United States was 12 per 100 000. Thats a raise of over 15 individuals per 100 000 in average. Pretty scary.

This review team will certainly help the cause, and hopefully will see this number fall off sooner than later.