Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Canadian Prisons and Public Perceptions

The Canadian Public's apathey is sickening, so why should they care about the demographic of which I am a part? Our government consistantly chisels away what is remaining of the working class, invests billions on programmes that ward off the odd symptom but neglect the real sources of poverty and we take it all on the chin, give our head a shake, and then re-elect the bastards. And let's talk elections: who, really are we going to elect? The only parties with any vision or ideological foundation are the Greens and the Marxist-Leninists!!!! Honestly, 35 million Canadians and look what we have on offer to lead us! I think this country needs a Sweden Party as, after visiting that fine nation, I see the potential of my homeland.

...But I digress.

My microcosim is that of being a Correctional Officer in a men's Maximum Security Prison. I actually started out as a school teacher, and before that was the lead singer in a punk rock band, but that's another story in itself. My issue here is apathy and the prison system in Canada.

When Karla Homolka was released this summer, the public was in a right tizzy. That made me shake my head and chuckle, thinking to myself "boy, if only the public knew..." The fact is, inmates are released into the public every day straight from maximum security. I was walking downtown one day with a friend and an inmate who was incarcerated on the Unit I was working on walked past us (he was on stat release). I turned to my friend and told him, "last night that guy was in the max and had he jumped the fence I would have been obligated by law to use whatever force necessary including lethal force to prevent his escape, now he's walking on the street". They are out there folks and they are dangerous.

Then there's what goes on inside. Guards are not the knuckle draggers people think us to be. It sickens me to see movies like "The Longest Yard" or "Escape for Alcatraz" that makes villans out of Officers and heros out of inmates. How perverse is that?!!!! The good guys are the bad guys or is it the other way around???!!! Our image is definitely a myth. Yes, we do walk through hell every day. I've had death threats (and coming from inmates who are already doing life you kind of guess that they have little to lose by making my missus a widow), had human excrement thrown on me not to mention the usual physical handling that is sometimes necessary. I have seen inmates murdered, nearly had to employ lethal force myself on one occasion, seen numerous slashings, stabbings and assaults. I have had inmates set their cells on fire, assisted my colleagues in putting out the fire, saving the inmate's life then have to give him fresh bedding. And how do we prepare for this? You are given a week's worth of self-defense when you first sign on with no refresher, and re-qualify on firearms once per year. Further to this, we only just received the right to wear handcuffs and, in the next two years, will actually be issued stab resistant vest.

...An interesting note on the vests: until this summer, we were not permitted to wear such things (or carry cuffs) as it was "intimidating" and would not foster a sense of trust between the offenders and officers! I'm not making this stuff up folks!!!!

So, what priveldeges does an inmate have? Sattelite TV, gym privledges, three catered meals (including the odd food drive when McDonald's or a similar item are brought in) per day, free clothes, rent, permission to own a playstation, kick ass stereo and all the CD's they can burn... Oh yes, they also have socials where families and friends come in and have a dance (yes, this is at a maximum security institution!) and Private Family Visits (small cabin like structures where an inmate can have his significant other or girlfriend stay overnight for a few days) And what do we give our families on welfare or our war veterans or even the average two income family who are still trying to make ends meet? Nada.

Now I'm not advocating being cruel as these offenders, for the most part, will one day re-enter society. My question is how can we justify treating the child molesters, murderer's and drug dealers who are destroying the fabric of our society better than those who are contributing and law abiding members of society?

Just a wee something to think on....


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