Reform? One good reason.

Political malpractice, dubious policy, sanctioned abuse….gotta go!

Toronto’s financial district’s steel, glass and concrete canyon walls tower over congested streets, where hurried pedestrians crowd the sidewalks… time to notice, late, keeping up, running away. It’s not a friendly oasis for society’s disadvantaged, for the addicted, the homeless, and the lost. Yet, these corridors of corporate power and wealth attract numbers of hopeful, desperate men and women who don’t fit into the boardroom profile or the trading floor hustle.

Outsiders, sometimes tolerated but not welcome, nuisances, obstructions. But still, a few years ago there was one Bay Street heavy hitter with a different perspective. On his way to the club for lunch one afternoon, and stepping over and around people who made the streets their home, he recognized a missed opportunity. Here was a population of lost consumers and potential contributors to community growth and prosperity. What if progressive and inclusive social programs replaced rejection and exclusion?

What if?

‘What if’ is good for the street. ‘What if’ is good for the cellblock, too. This country spends billions of tax dollars annually supporting provincial and federal prison industries, and though prisons will always be with us, the agencies that operate them misrepresent the word “correction” that is in one form or another always a part of their corporate names. Public safety may be the priority and isolating a few thousand people partly achieves that, but “correction” gets a failing grade.

What if cutting recidivism was a top priority? What if the efficacy of programs and their delivery was under constant review? What if there were no restrictions on the availability of services? What if every inmate was judged as potentially the next commissioner of ‘correctional’ services in Canada? What if, what if, what if?

The last four ‘Justice & the Penal System’ posts pry open a window on Correctional Service of Canada, our federal prison agency, the largest of these operations in the country. That there is so little public interest in prisons and the inmates they house is one of the intended aims of this tax-supported industry. The lack of accountability and scrutiny that results are black marks on Canada’s claim as a human rights champion, and a loss to good order and prosperity in our communities.

Let’s open that window wider.


FORD & buck a beer

…….the second of two brief interruptions to the “Political malpractice” series.

If there’s anything positive to be said about Ontario’s new provincial government, it’s how easily its policies can be targeted by the majority of voters who don’t support a regressive agenda.

Mr. Ford’s “buck a beer” campaign promise is a frivolous and silly sideshow to more serious issues, but it offers an opportunity for a little fun.

We dropped him a note:-

August 7, 2018

Doug Ford,
Queen’s Park,

Re: Buck a beer!

Mr. Ford:

This is a good idea! Adding incentives to bring more breweries on board and offering the consumer a greater range of choice may increase alcohol consumption.

That’s good for you and the rest of the conservative infestation at Queen’s Park.

People won’t feel the pain when your “efficiencies” screw them.

Keep it up. It’s good for the opposition.

How could we resist?

TRUDEAU & human rights

…….the first of two brief interjections between entries of the “Political malpractice” series.

So, the Saudi crown prince doesn’t like being told his country is afraid of its citizens, treats them shamefully, and expects the rest of the world to be passively pliant. Saudi Arabia’s response to Canada’s criticism of its human rights record is simply a shot across our bow. Canada is an easy target with little to risk on either side. Our government made the right move, and we said so in a letter to Justin Trudeau, but we needed to remind him too that we live in a glass house.

August 10, 2018

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada,

Re: Saudi Arabia

Dear Prime Minister:

Thanks to you and Chrystia Freeland and the government of Canada for its criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Thanks too for standing your ground.

Unfortunately, this country is not the human rights paragon in practice that it champions in principle. True, abuses in Canada are not the extremes common elsewhere, but none the less there are violations in every part of this land.

You and your ministers should stand up for the rights of all people, and that includes Canadians. Don’t hide your head in the sand and pretend we’re virtuous and angelic simply because the mandarins around you insist all’s well.

Stand anywhere in this country, move one of your feet and kick over the rock that’s under it. Take a close look.

Dubious policy……

…….through sanctioned abuse, and political malpractice

Okay, so we know it’s the inmates who pay for their phone service…that’s according to the government itself. On top of that, the government gets a kickback from what inmates spend on their phone service.

Now we move to October of 2013. Stephen Harper is still the prime minister. He and his government initiate a move by Correctional Service of Canada to CUT inmates pay by 30%. One source noted CSC’s enthusiasm for the policy. The new directive also took away the pay incentive for CORCAN jobs, what CSC calls its ‘training centre.’ CORCAN is a business run by the prison system using inmate labour to produce products and services which are primarily for prisons and the military. It offers inmates both work and work ethics experience, but there are very few positions available relative to the size of the prison population.

The agency claimed these cuts were to pay for room and board and the inmate phone system. The government added that this would make inmates more accountable and save the system about $4 million on its $2.6 billion annual budget. The government should also have noted that this was the basest kind of b.s. But then, perhaps the obvious didn’t need to be labelled.

So, what challenges inmates faced as things were now entered the realm of farce. An environment already rife with a vibrant underground economy, and ever-evolving inventive contraband pipelines, only spurred a stimulus that CSC cannot fully contain for a problem of its own making.

A group of inmates took the government to court in the fall of 2014 to contest pay policy. Jarrod Shook was one of the lead plaintiffs, and a Google search using his name will bring up a wealth of insight into this and other prison practices. He’s worth a read. In any case, the inmates lost, the court ruling they hadn’t proved the harm in the changes, and that it wasn’t up to the court to rule on the ‘wisdom’ of government decisions.

With the change in government, and Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould calling for a review of the criminal justice system, it was hoped an intelligent assessment of prison conditions would yield enlightened and progressive legislation.

More on the way……..