Hope is not a carrot.

…….one last ‘switch’.…..

Jason Godin, former national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and a founding member of the organization representing 7,300 federal correctional officers in Canada, left the top post on May 9 after three years in office, and 18 years on the union executive after its 2001 inception.

He is a man of long and broad experience. And yet, in a brief interview last year when commenting on changes Correctional Service of Canada was making to the inmate grievance mechanism, he welcomed the revisions as a foil to what he considered nuisances. Disparaging inmate protests is self-serving when Mr. Godin knows offenders often have legitimate cause, and he’s only too familiar with the use prison guards themselves make of a grievance system when they claim management is not acting in their best interests.

As it was, filing a grievance was cumbersome and potentially risky for an inmate, responses often slow in coming….sometimes up to a year or more…, and upwards of 95% were summarily dismissed without community standard due process. The modifications are unwieldy and discouraging, and while they may not be intentionally inhibiting, there’s no question that they are. It all comes across as only a sop for appeasing the prison population.

Inmates have two redress tools. They can hire a lawyer and take CSC to court, or they can file a grievance. One is out of reach for most, and the other is out of touch. How does this square with the rehabilitative ideals of ‘corrections’?

Prison reform activists have been challenged for decades by questions around accountability and transparency issues within our penal systems. Correctional Service of Canada protocols for candid dialog, for ‘opening the books’, for welcoming scrutiny is like the pendulum of a great clock. It swings freely and with abandon, but the scope of the arc is strictly confined.

There are places out of reach. Or is there? As an example, it’s here that one difference prison guards have with firefighters and police officers is apparent. No matter what perspective one has of police conduct in our communities, the shield sheltering the integrity of cops against charges of impropriety is not as insulating as the firewall that protects and ensures the security of guards. (see “The Firewall” posted November 4 of 2018) Why is this necessary? With the constant interaction between guards and inmates, the efficacy of the prison landscape benefits from the viewpoints of all parties.

And what does hope have to do with carrots? Inmates know. CSC assessments maximize the negative and minimize the positive, battering the hope offenders may clutch for a better tomorrow. While the correction plan assigned to all prisoners offers pathways to that new day, too often the lures are the proverbial carrots on a stick that lead down a road of hope-bashing obstacles.

Lastly, here’s a question. Who will finally take the lead and rectify the joke our last Conservative government made of inmate pay scales?

……two spotlights on the way.

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