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...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Justice, Rehabilitation and the Canadian Correctional System

There were two stories that caught my attention in today's Edmonton Journal. The first was on the front page about a Sudanese immigrant who was convicted of rape and is now being deported because he is deemed too dangerous to be released back into society. The second piece, on page A11, is titled "Federal system fails aboriginals in prison" and goes on about how more needs to be done to assist in the rehabilitation of First Nation's inmates who make up a disproportional amount of our prison population.

I spent half a decade working in a Canadian federal maximum security prison as a teacher and as a Correctional Officer. I witnessed idealism, political correctness and benevolent naivety, fuelled by noble compassion. I myself struggled with my feelings as I got to know inmates and their stories, seeing them as human beings rather than by race or newspaper headlines, against their atrocious and unforgivable acts. I am a compassionate person, and, while this may be a difficult concept to understand by many, that compassion has lead me to support of the death penalty as a means to first and foremost, protect society, but also to end the suffering that has lead so many career inmates to their present situation. Unless you have spent a lot of time in jail and witnessed the things that I have seen, I'm certain you will find this statement as being incomprehensible.

In today's articles, more is being demanded to assist Aboriginal inmates, while an African inmate is deported. I respect the compassion for First Nations inmates, but the public needs to be made aware that they host pow wows in the Edmonton Max where families and friends come in to celebrate and eat take-out food which has been ordered in. There is a Native Brotherhood centre in the prison, as well as a sweat lodge. If making these cultural things available to these inmates help, then I am all for it, but I am skeptical. During my time at the Max, many elders were dismissed for smuggling in contraband, perpetuated negative attitudes towards Officers, as well a racist attitudes toward non-Aboriginals. The Aboriginal gangs were given their own living units, and it was on these units that many of the riots, assaults and drug deals were schemed.

In contrast to this, the immigrant population is also on the rise in our prisons, particularly from the troubled regions of Africa. What steps are being taken to assist these inmates? There is no denying the difficulties in Canada's Aboriginal communities, but what are we doing for and what is our expectation of a Sudanese refugee who comes from a place where human life had no value, where they witnessed genocide, starvation and displacement? And while I support the deportment of the rapist, Samuel Luin, I ask how we can justify releasing inmates deemed too dangerous to re-enter society? If this had been any other offender, than that person would be back in society and most likely seeking out their next victim.

Demographics aside, every inmate has a story. In seeking to rehabilitate these individuals, we should not be seeking to do so according to race, any more than a doctor would seek to cure a room full of sick people with different ailments according to race. Going further, no inmate should be released if they are still deemed dangerous. Period. I believe a country is judged by the way they treat their prisoners and I embrace the compassion that we Canadians have. What we need to do is reflect on what being truly compassionate means.

Submitted to the Edmonton Journal on Nov. 14th, 2009


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home