“Go clean your room!”

Toronto’s Star and Globe both ran front pages on August 20 covering Ontario’s Advocate for Children and Youth’s 78 page review of practices in the province’s juvenile prisons, focusing in particular on the use of solitary confinement. While this research paper is likely the first of its kind in the country, the recommendations are far from new and the government bodies involved have been presented with similar and like material in the past.

As the advocate noted, if parents treated their children in the same way the juvenile penal system often does, the province would be apprehending those kids. “On what planet who would think that that kind of treatment of anyone, let alone a young person, would help?” is how chief advocate Irwin Elman characterized the use of solitary confinement in some cases. Other issues also surfaced, none a surprise to a seasoned observer.

We’ve argued that our politicians and their principal civil service staffers can’t know what goes on in the trenches, and apparently don’t want to know. Deniability ensures tenure. Just as strongly we’ve made the point that, up and down the line, our penal systems’ primary programming appears to stress job guarantees.

August 21, 2015

The Honourable Tracy MacCharles,
Ministry of Children & Youth Services,
14th Floor,
56 Wellesley Street West,
Toronto, ON M5S 2S3

Re: Advocate of Children &Youth report

Dear Minister MacCharles:

“Go clean your room!”
How many times would you expect to say that to a child before the work actually gets done?
The children/youth advocate’s new report on the use of solitary confinement in youth detention centres makes a number of recommendations. This is far from the first time your ministry has seen the same or like proposals, and while incremental improvements are in place, there’s still a long way to go. Your response calls for a yet another “thorough review”.
My suggestion? “Go clean your room.”
You’re aware too you have some civil servants in our detention centres, living off the public purse, who are contravening ministry policy, and even violating the law. Yet, they’re still on the payroll.
Again, “Go clean your room.”

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen
cc Kathleen Wynne

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