DEFUND PRISONS!… ’bout that?

Just because the movement to defund police won’t gain traction unless people exercise the control they have by right of the power a democracy gives them doesn’t silence the call to action.

Likewise, prison reform has been a part of societal dialogue at least since the nineteenth century.  While the ebb and flow of incremental changes have benefited the effort in Canada, outcomes still don’t warrant the use of  “corrections,” “correctional,” and “correcting” in labeling what our jails and prisons are, as opposed to what they are intended to be.  After all these decades, the work goes on.

Over long years. innumerable organizations, groups and individuals have contributed voluminous and often repetitive entreaties, arguments, lawsuits, and demands for progressive initiatives to prioritize rehabilitation, recovery, and reintegration.  Ignored, denied, shunted aside, the responses spill from a yellowed and tattered ancient partisan script in use across the penal landscape.

Even the annual reports of the federal Office of the Correctional Investigator, along with human rights agency surveys that monitor provincial jails, bodies whose purpose is to work with the public service to encourage constructive upgraded practices, are patronized, humored, and neutralized.

But, the resistance cannot dampen the chorus for change; impediments only invigorate.  New voices will always replace those that drop away.  And as for this space, it’ll continue to press arguments for custodial sanity.


“The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.”

That is the Mission Statement of the federal prison industry and it could summarize how the provincial penal systems across Canada see their purpose as well.  The men and women who wrote and approved and adopted this summary of objectives for Correctional Service of Canada no doubt believed it upheld the highest principles for improving the lives of those who come into conflict with the law, while protecting the best interests of the community.

One can wonder if the authors of the mission statement assumed these ideals would flow down through the ranks of institutional staff to be taken on as professional goals.  Or would they assume that?  Like it or not though, management’s mission may not be celebrated in the trenches….would that it was otherwise.


Our reaction to that lofty mission statement, to that declaration of a vision guiding the objectives of the prison industry, is reminiscence of an unrelated event of recent memory.

On January 20 in 2017 Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States in Washington.  As Mr. Trump took the oath of office and addressed the crowd on that day, he was surrounded on the dais by dozens of VIPs, including previous presidents and first ladies.

As the newly sworn-in president finished speaking, George W. Bush leaned toward Hilary Clinton and said, “Well, that was some weird shit.”



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