“I HATE INMATES!…….

…..WHO DO I OWE A BEATING TO TODAY?”

This rant by a guard walking onto a range a few years ago at the defunct Toronto West Detention Centre is one variation of a mantra endemic in Canada’s prison industry. Only inmates, the source of this guard’s livelihood, and other staff members were within earshot, and this guard was intentionally threatening and intimidating, daring a challenge, and looking for any excuse to assault an inmate.

“Hate” and “beating” were words expected to incite contempt by inmates for a system that is mandated to positively redirect future decisions but instead is primarily correctional in name only. In the end, recidivism is a key component in maintaining a stable work environment for everyone employed in the business. Most job actions directed at sustainability in provincial and federal institutions are less obvious than that guard in Toronto West years ago, they’re frequently passive, and may even appear benign, but are equally effective, nonetheless.

Provincial jails house men and women convicted of an offence and sentenced for relatively short periods, but often a majority of inmates are held on remand, awaiting the disposition of charges. For these, the vegetative wait for technically innocent people can stretch into years, two, three or even four. An inadequate bail program, insufficient public resources, underfunded legal aid support, backlogged court dockets, and a lack of political will keeps many in custody who otherwise could benefit from opportunities in the community.

There is little work, few programs, a phone system allowing only collect calls, and no direct contact with family/community support. Worse, there’s a move away from visits where barriers separate inmates and people from the outside to ‘video visits’, where both parties see only the head and shoulders of one another on a monitor and communicate over a phone. To boot, there’s no dedicated resource for inmates to air concerns, and what little is available is of no consequence to provincial jail staff or management. How bad can it get?

“Toronto South…..again!”, posted April 21st examples how a lack of accountability enables contempt of both prisoners and their keepers for ministry policies, and even the law. Jails are laboratories developing the building blocks of an industry’s foundation. We followed up our March 15th letter to the Ontario minister with a May 6th request for comment. Bets?

More looks under the rock coming……

CANADA’S PRISON INDUSTRY……

……is not a CORRECTIONAL SERVICE!

For prison guards, job security means having prisoners to guard. No prisoners, no guards. Reduce the number of prisoners, reduce the number of guards. Job security is a concern everywhere, and so it is with employees in federal and provincial institutions and the agencies that oversee them.

The federal Corrections and Conditional Release Act stipulates in Section 3.1 that, “The protection of society is the paramount consideration for the Service in the corrections process.” With the mandate and mission federal/provincial/territorial agencies have to return offenders safely to the community as contributing law-abiding citizens, Correctional Service of Canada and its provincial and territorial counterparts’ first responsibility is to make prisons redundant…..and every employee’s primary directive is to put themselves out of a job.

So why aren’t prison populations dropping in Canada? We’ve written earlier that the Dutch had closed prisons. The Washington Post reported in the summer of 2016 that the Netherlands shut 19 prisons in 2013 alone, with five more likely to close. The paper also referenced Sweden’s falling prison population, some prisons were shuttered, and an “expert who spoke to the Guardian in 2013 suggested that the humane and comfortable nature of Swedish prisons had led to a better chance of rehabilitation for prisoners.”

Again, why are there not fewer prisoners here? Federal and provincial institutions must accept who the courts send them. As a start, it is the courts and the judiciary who can best inform and educate the provincial and federal attorneys general to the benefits of alternatives to incarceration. In the meantime, our politicians seem content to allow interests with regressive agendas to lead them by the nose. No matter, the agencies that operate our prisons have both an obligation to reduce inmate numbers and the resources and authority to make that happen.

What our institutions do with men and women in their custody defines the difference between a prison industry and a correctional service. Progressive programming prioritizing the best of medical and social sciences supports positive outcomes. But, when a ‘prison population maintenance initiative’ becomes the go-to plan to satisfy employee interests for the future of their jobs, correctional services are sacrificed to corporate sustainability and stability.

A closer peek under this rock coming up next………

“Any system that allows us to turn a blind eye to hopelessness and despair, that’s not a justice system, it is an injustice system.” Barack Obama

Carding……STILL?

What do we have to do to end this?

Toronto’s Globe and Mail published “Boxer takes another shot at banning street checks” in its April 13 edition. Kirk Johnson, a 1990s Olympic boxer, was pulled over in 1998 by a white Halifax police officer and his Ford Mustang was impounded as a result.

Why? He was black, and Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission later agreed. Mr. Johnson had filed a human rights complaint, and after five years, the decision exposed racial bias in the Halifax-area police and mandated change.

“The rights commission’s order that police collect street check data and analyze it for racial bias fell by the wayside for more than a dozen years. Although police collected the data, no analysis was done until media inquired about it in 2016,” the Globe reported.

An independent academic report released last month looked at police data for a 12-year span from 2006 to 2017 showing the equivalent of two street checks for every black person living in the Halifax area compared to only one street check for every three white people. The report found that blacks in Halifax are still stopped five to six times more than whites.

Kirk Johnson reluctantly jumped back into the controversy, feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. “To realize you do this work to help the situation and the situation isn’t getting better…..the bottom line is racism is a bad disease. It’s destroying a lot or people, white and black. In order for us to live in harmony, that type of stuff has got to go.”

We reminded the Halifax police chief in an April 16 note that street checks……’carding’……is code for police state.

A few days after the press ran the results of the analysis of police data, Nova Scotia’s justice minister ordered a ‘moratorium’ on street checks of pedestrians.

Over and over and over we are challenged and dared. People….each of us, all of us….must stand up, speak up, and act up…. or the bullies will have their way.