Author Archives: cariannecomeau

Concerns of Students filling out ATI/FOI Forms

When some students are first introduced to the topic of Access to Information (ATI)/ Freedom of Information (FOI) they have some concerns. This includes that filling out a report might ‘put them on radar’ or identify them as ‘people to watch out for’. It has been noted that it is a particular concern to those who plan to seek employment within the government (example police officer).

“Access to Information gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or any person or corporation present in Canada a right to access information that is contained in government records (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat – Access to Information).”

Freedom of Information allows “the public to request and obtain copies of records held by B.C. government ministries or the Office of the Premier, when those records are not routinely available (B.C. Government – Freedom of Information).”

The Official Version of Law is supposed to be impartial, neutral, and an objective system for resolving social conflict. As well as her decisions are supposed to be measured and precise. However this does not seem to be the case since some students have expressed concerns about filling out a report(s) to obtain ATI and FOI record(s). If the Official Version of Law was actually neutral and objective students wouldn’t feel like it would ‘put them on radar’ or identify them as ‘people to watch out for’. However no student would ever be straight out told that they are being denied the job because of the information they wanted to obtain about the government as a student as that would violate their rights. This being said it does not mean that just because people have rights to access these records that it will not be used against them, which I believe, goes against what the Official Version of Law is supposed to be.

I think this concern is relevant as just because one has the right to access ATI and FOI records it doesn’t mean that it won’t be on record and someone might use it against them in the future after they have graduated school and now are applying for jobs that may be in the government. As no student would ever be able to prove that they are being denied the job over their request for records it does make it more challenging. I think social jurisprudence would help explain this to some degree as it is interested in the study of the actual social effects of the law. The law states that you can fill out a form and get information however it does not include anything about who can access what you have requested or not and if your name would be attached to it.

Legal realism by Frank can also help explain this as he says all judges view facts of a case differently based on their internal psychological processes and perceptions. This can be applied to this as employers may few someone viewing files as something that matters or something that is no big deal. Also the files someone accessed that are viewed as bad or not depending on the department of the government or what the person exposed opening up public access to government records. This may make the employer wonder what else they make expose to the public at a later date and time something about the government.

There is no way to predict the outcome of filling out an ATI or FOI report. This being said with the ‘theory of law’ in mind that it should have no implication on a government job, as it is a legal right to access documents about the government. The laws were made so that citizens could have access and study some of the information that only the government has access to. In Canada we have the rights to access information and freedom to information if they did not want this they would have no made these rules.

Overall I think it is a valid concern of students however I do not think it would stop me from filling out a report for ATI or FOI. The laws and rights were put place to protect the government information and at the same time give me access to some information.

References:

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat – Access to Information

http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/atip-aiprp/tools/administration-application-eng.asp

B.C. Government – Freedom of Information

http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=191474C489EC421BB160EA26B14CAECA

Mike Larsen Lecture Notes

Week 3 – Positivism and Sociological Jurisprudence

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Parole, the Parole Board Process and Max Weber’s Typology of Law

Parole is the bridge between an offender being incarcerated and returning in to the community. It is a conditional release, which allows some offenders to serve the remaining time of their sentence in the community. Parole gives offenders the opportunity under supervision and assistance from a parole officer to become a member of the community again. The Parole Board gives the offender conditions of their conditional release and if they are not met the parole board has the right to revoke parole and the offender returns to prison.

Most offenders are serving a fixed length sentence and will eventually be released back into the community. “Parole helps offenders re-integrate into the community through a gradual, controlled and supported release with conditions (Parole Board of Canada, 2011).” There are two types of parole: day parole and full parole; day parole allows the offender out of jail during certain times of the day to participate in community based activities preparing them for full parole, which is where the offender serves part of their remaining sentence in the community under supervision and conditions preparing them for their release into the community without supervision.

Parole Board members make parole decisions either via a hearing, which is face to face, or a file review. Board members consider all information in making the decision to grant or deny parole. They consider information from “police, courts, crown, attorneys, mental health professionals, correctional authorities, private agencies and victims (Parole Board of Canada, 2011).” Public safety is the primary consideration in all-conditional release decisions. Offenders must apply for parole otherwise after a specific amount of time a parole review will automatically be scheduled.

On the day of the hearing the offender is lead into the hearing room by their parole officer. Their parole officer talks about the case and their recommendations about the offender to the parole board. The parole board may ask questions to help them make their decision as well as information from the people stated above. Victims may attend the meeting as well as the public. Victims may be allowed to give a victim impact statement, including how the crime has affected them and changed their life.

If an offender is denied parole they have 60 days to appeal the decision by sending a notice in writing to the Appeal Parole Board. If this is unsuccessful an offender must wait 18 months if serving a sentence of less than 7 years or wait 24 months if serving a sentence 7 years or more before they can reapply for parole.

Sociologist Max Webber created a theory of how society is made up of social relations or human interactions. Weber states the probability that specific commands will be obeyed by a given group of people, as not everyone obeys the rules. The same goes for offenders, every offender will react differently to parole. This if partly why some offenders may be given day parole verse full parole right away, as parole officers may want to see how they reintegrate, act in the community and if they are obeying their conditions of parole during activities in the community.

Weber has four basic categories of legal thought: substantively irrational, substantively rational, formally irrational and formally rational; which describes how a process or a community operates. I think the parole board fits mainly into substantively irrational and a bit into substantively rational as well. Parole only fits into substantively rational, as there is some predictability in the outcomes of decisions in like cases. However some mitigation and aggravation factors like victim impact statements may changes the offenders outcome of parole making it more substantively irrational as it would be hard to predict the outcome of parole board members decisions. Victim impact statements may hit a particular board member differently than the next depending on his or her past experiences. Each offender is granted or denied parole based on their case, statements from people listed above and the parole boards view if the offender opposes harm to people in the community or not, making it hard for there to be consistency between like cases all the time.

Weber talks about the bureaucracy that the parole board falls into, as it is a formal hierarchical structure and is the management by rules, which can be learned. Offenders must learn and know their conditions of their parole and follow them. The parole board and their parole officer hold all the power into the decision making if they are ready or not for parole. Including if parole should be revoked.

The parole conditions are similar to Weber’s contracts as it is a voluntary agreement of rules and obligations an offender must follow. If an offender breaks the agreement then the parole is revoked and the offender is sent back to jail, as they broke their “contract” of parole.

There are many ways to approach and understand the law according to Weber. Also there are many ways to interpret the laws surrounding parole and the conditional release of offenders. Parole board members have guidelines to follow to decide if the offender should be granted parole; however at the end of the day the parole board members make the decision based on the parole hearing and information from other people confirming again how parole is substantively irrational and the outcomes are sometimes hard to predict.

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