……WE’RE SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE FOOT BEHIND THE WALLS.
Always worth repeating:
“The security features inherent in federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out. As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny. Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
The Senate of Canada, Human Rights Committee, Interim Report, February 2019
In this second installment of Brennan Guigue’s testimony from Millhaven Institution, he lays some groundwork for this debate assessing the efficacy of prison practices: –
“To continue, this is about food quality, inmate pay scales, inflation as it relates to the rise in canteen prices and inmate buying power, and how all of these things can tie into the mental and moral state of inmates in general. How things which can affect all of us as human beings don’t just stop because some of us are locked up. Fundamentally on a certain level we are all affected by the same things, and to deny this is simply pure-purposeful ignorance.
In 2016-2017 the Correctional Investigator produced his annual report. Now, we all know that the position carries no real weight to effect change within the system, but this report is the only thing out there which actually corroborates the hypocrisy my father speaks about in many of his writings on the subject. Just to note. Very little if anything has changed within the Correctional Service of Canada to date. In fact, conditions affecting the mental wellness of inmates continues to deteriorate.
As anyone who bothered to read the report knows, some of the key issues targeted for improvement were healthcare services, food and diet, inmate pay/employment (the gap between pay and inflation). In fact, we like to call the Healthcare Department the health ‘don’t care’ department.
Here’s the thing; the report stated that ‘although inmates have not had a pay scale increase in 30 years, CSC’s own numbers indicate costs have risen about 700% in the same period.’ If you don’t believe that, just ask the guard’s union. It’s one of their major pay arguments presented during contract negotiations.
The Harper government decided that if would be a good idea politically to target crime and criminals, that to be ‘tough on crime’ would certainly win many votes. In doing so, this country’s prisons became more concerned with crime and punishment, and less worried about reform and rehabilitation. There is now a system in place where not only have we not had a pay raise, but takes 30% of what little we earn for ‘room and board’. It breaks down to 22% for food and accommodation, and 8% for the inmate telephone service maintenance.
Sure, from a taxpayer’s point of view, that sounds like a great idea; why not have those damn criminals pay for their own incarceration. That is not where the problems arise. Add that 30% to 10% saving account, and 1-2% inmate welfare fund. Savings and IWF come off before anything else, then the other 30% comes off the rest, for a total almost 50% of an inmate’s full pay. An inmate’s full pay on average is about $5.85 daily at Level C. An inmate can increase his pay level every 16 weeks with good behaviour, good attendance, good performance, and so on. One needs ‘excellent’ ratings for these categories in order to get an upgrade to Level B or Level A, but he cannot receive more than $62.90 for 10 days work, and that’s only provided he actually gets a full 10 days in.
He may miss days for any number of reasons which may be caused by an institutional lock-down. Regardless of whether of not he is at fault, an inmate’s pay will still be cut in half for that day. Except for a couple of specific institutional jobs, a pay increase is almost impossible to achieve as it is very unlikely an inmate will every gain such a high ‘excellent’ rating on all seven or eight categories reviewed. It’s nothing personal; it is just a matter of principal to always have ‘the offender’ reaching for that carrot, so to speak.
In the past a Level C paying job used to earn an inmate about $47-$49 a week – gross. Now that same job earns the inmate, on average, about $28-$30 a week, provided he gets in all his 10 days. Factor into that institutional lockdowns, staff shortages, inmate escorts, etc. and the result in inmate earnings will be cut considerably.
This may seem tedious and boring, and I apologize for that; however, I ask that you bear with me as you will need this background information to understand my point. All of the things I speak of, and will speak of, have a cumulative effect on the attitudes, emotions and overall outlook of inmates living in, and getting out of these institutions.”