Prison & the press – we’re waiting……

…..ON THOSE POWERS IN CHARGE, those powers we petitioned on October 17 and posted on October 23, those powers who can make the necessary happen if they choose, those powers who must find the heart to act.

We’ll wait and keep watch….for now.

A commissioner’s directive for media relations is a reasonable and prudent guide for managing Correctional Service of Canada staff contacts with print and broadcast media.  CSC employees are fertile ground for tabloid-like sensationalism.

But inmates are not CSC employees.  David Jolivet, a paralegal who was for some long years a federal inmate in British Columbia, began a movement in 2007 to unionize prisoners, arguing prison inmates were government employees.  By early 2014 however, and despite a broad range of support amidst his court and committee appearances, a Federal Court of Appeal denied relief from a lower court ruling which said that prisoners were not government employees.  A further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada out of Quebec was either denied or abandoned.

At the same time, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that prisoners do not, by virtue of their imprisonment, lose the guarantee of basic human rights, including freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of expression, nor does their imprisonment remove their protection from unreasonable search and seizure and cruel and unusual punishment.

Correctional Service of Canada operates under the provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and must comply with the Charter and legislation relative to the care and treatment of citizens in carceral environments.  Given this, CSC should have no concerns about prisoners’ contacts with the Fourth Estate.  Journalists, editors, publishers, and broadcasters are well-versed in privacy and security issues.  If we accept that CSC adheres to its mandate, what objections could CSC have with inmate/media relations?

But CSC does have issues and we can only speculate on why that is.  We can refer, as we often have, to the Senate’s interim report on prison human rights, the second paragraph of the Executive Summary from February of 2019:-
“The security features inherent to 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.”

That’s from the interim report.  The final version has yet to be published, if ever, and that’s not due to a tardy senate committee.

Too often when matters arise between the people and their governments and government agencies, we are made to feel like Diogenes, holding high his lantern in the search for an honest man.

The delay in publishing this revised C-022 Media Relations directive has taken on a life of its own, inviting more questions of Correctional Service of Canada than the concerns first raised three years ago for the need of any change at all.

This isn’t going away.


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