A light switch #1…….

…..it’s a start!

A Culture: There are two criteria which must be met for actions to be considered part of the culture of an organization. The actions must be widespread in the organization, and they must be persistent.

‘Widespread’ assumes that the actions often occur in the organization – not all the time, but with considerable frequency so that when they do take place no one thinks twice about them, they just say, yes, that’s the way things work here. Not everyone has to take these actions, but those who don’t, realize there’s not much they can do about them. The actions are frequent enough that there’s no thought of penalizing or criticizing the actors, and there’s no allegations that the actors are ‘bad apples.’

‘Persistent’ means the actions continue over a relatively long period of time, usually measured in terms of years.

If deviant actions are widespread and persistent, it is fair to conclude that those deviant actions are part of the culture of the organization. They define the way the organization functions.

….from Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 114, June 25, 2019
info@tpac.ca

A Reality: Referencing Lee Chapelle of Canadian Prison Consulting once more, about 20% of inmates in federal institutions are incorrigible according to his estimate. These men and women can’t be reached, and aren’t motivated to be more than they are. All the same, these few are protected by the same laws and policies as other prisoners, (“Inmates are Clients”….June 2), and pathways to a future must be among their available options.

The majority of inmates present viable opportunities for CSC to exercise its correctional mandate. This is not a homogeneous one-size-fits-all group though, and tailored programming targeting specific needs are more likely than not to be better received and potentially offer the most positive outcomes.

continued…..

Lights, lights, lights!

Who can see in the dark?

Correctional Service of Canada is charged with safely returning offenders to the street as responsible, law-abiding citizens. Observation says it can do better. Over the last few years, and most notably, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the John Howard Society, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Elizabeth Fry Society, as well as print/broadcast media, and along with provincial and federal courts have worked to redirect CSC policy and practice, in particular referencing solitary confinement.

Our federal prison system has an extensive and experienced bureaucracy capable of trending towards the most progressive principles, formulas and programs to meet its mandate. It should lead the way, rather than reacting to outside opinions that appear better informed. Why do our courts have to order CSC to overcome its reluctance to change? Why does CSC then twist itself into knots trying to comply with court decisions on the one hand while angling to end up in the same place its always been on the other?

We have a government that continues to kowtow to CSC ‘traditionalists’ and intervene on behalf of the Agency to stifle proposed changes to policies governing solitary confinement for example and restrict or eliminate independent and non-governmental monitoring of policy practice. And then there’s the release this month of the West Coast Prison Justice Society’s report, “Damage Control: Use of Force and the Cycle of Violence and Trauma in BC’s Federal and Provincial Prisons.” It underscores how use of force in our prisons more often exacerbates “an adversarial environment that compromises safety and wellbeing for both prisoners and staff.” Yet, Correctional Service of Canada isn’t prepared to fully embrace progressive and tested alternatives.

Attempts to encourage accountability and transparency beyond the walls and razor wire is a difficult and frustrating exercise. For the sake of the community at large, it’s a trial the’ villages’ from which our prisoners sprang need to play as much a role as the activists and advocates who point the way.

More to come…..

NOTE: APOLOGIES. IT’S BEEN THREE WEEKS SINCE THE LAST POSTING. UNNECESSARY DISTRACTIONS INTERFERED WITH PRODUCTION.

 

INMATES are CLIENTS…….

…….not fodder for the maw of our prisons.

Okay, a qualifier first. Perfection is a goal, not an expectation, and what we call our correctional services can’t bear sole responsibility for reshaping society. It takes a village to raise a child? Villages criminalize children too, indoctrinated more by neglect and abuse than intent. And when those children later end up in our justice and carceral systems, villages consign them to prisons with “fix ‘em”…..or, “keep ‘em ‘til they’re fixed.” Or maybe, just “keep ‘em.” Sorry folks, it doesn’t work that way.

There are some bad people in our prisons, people who should never see the inside of a Tim Hortons again, or shop for groceries or buy a case of beer. And, even if the mess inside their heads is unscrambled and they are choking on a glut of remorse, some crimes are so heinous only God can forgive. All the same, these few are protected by the same laws and policies as other prisoners and must have opportunities to build a life inside the walls, to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, to be treated humanely and held safely, and in the end, to die with dignity. Otherwise, we make ourselves less than human.

Prison practice must match policy. Prison practice must follow the law. That this is often not in evidence is as much the responsibility of the villages that send men and women to prison as it is the obligation of the keepers of these men and women. The very few who will live their entire lives in custody are as entitled to fair practice as the great majority who will one day return to the community. In particular, since almost all our prison population will one day be released, the only question of note is, “Who do you want your new neighbours to be?”

Offenders are sent to prison as punishment and not for punishment, to parrot Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger. Lee Chapelle of Canadian Prison Consulting begins presentations on the realities of a prison sentence by reminding his audience that people do not comprehend how traumatic the loss of freedom can be. Living in a cell the size of an average bathroom, in an environment charged with risk, and under the thumb of public servants whose priorities are not always rehabilitative is a challenge difficult to master.

So, how do we make a prison industry into a correctional service, and why is community involvement important to good governance?

More next time……