Is it proper that Canada's federal inmates are losing their cows?
I'm not too opposed to getting rid of prison farms if they are not contributing to inmate employment upon release. I would think making Canadian prisons into industrial work complexes, where useful goods and services were produced would be most beneficial. Inmates could be subjected to 72 hour work weeks to pay back their debts to society, and to pay for their incarceration. A 72 hour work week would probably be a deterrent for recidivism, as there would be no time for the usual recreation, card games, drug use, gang activity, etc.... that our cons currently enjoy. During the 72 hour work week, creating real goods and services that could be sold on the market; our cons could have the opportunity to learn real skills, tool and die, machining, welding, blueprint reading, etc... and develop a proper work ethic that would prepare them for productive jobs on the outside.
We should also give the opportunity for all inmates who are released to receive pardons after going straight for a period of time, so they can get jobs and reintegrate. Punishment at the time of sentencing and hard time is good for reparation and deterrence. Pardons had a 96% success rate for those who did their time and went straight. Not sure why Harper had to fix that when it was working better than any other aspect of our justice system.
Bill WhatcottStephen Harper missed the boat on cows, inmates and lessons in tenderness
Jan 20, 2012 – 3:30 PMhttp://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/201 ... /#Comments
In Kingston this week, in another courtroom in another courthouse far from where I was at the notorious Shafia honour-killing case, eight people went on trial for mischief.
They are the holdouts from a group of 24 who were arrested in August of 2010 in protests to save the so-called “prison farm” at the Frontenac Institution facility in this prison-heavy part of southeastern Ontario. The judge will deliver his verdict next month.
The eight had refused the chance to walk away with a charitable donation through a diversion program and demanded a trial: Essentially, they objected to the six prison farms once located at minimum-security institutions across the country (two near Kingston, and one each in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) being shut down by the federal government.
The protesters failed – the Frontenac dairy herd was eventually trucked away and sold – just as those who fought to save the other farms failed.
At the time, Ottawa’s rationale – I use the word loosely — was that agriculture has changed so much the prison model wasn’t useful any more, that the farms cost taxpayers $4-million a year (I can find no evidence the government ever proved this, and some of the farms even made money) and that the work trained inmates for nothing practical.
It would seem to be all over but the last bit of shouting, so to speak, in court.
But aside from the closures being an illustration of just how dopey the Stephen Harper Conservatives can be on crime, I have to say how very much I think they missed the boat on this one.
I say this as one who has only ever been gentled and ennobled by my contact with animals – any animals, including cows but especially my pets – and who believes that they make us better and kinder.
Because of changes to the law – more mandatory minimum sentences and doing away with two-for-one credit for time served in pre-trial custody – Canadian federal prisons are already more crowded and are going to get only more so in the coming years.
In some minimum-security joints, for instance, inmates are already being double-or-triple bunked. In such conditions, even the illusion of any privacy is impossible and tensions naturally rise. Programming, usually minimal, will become more so. (Not too long ago, while purging my house, I donated boxes of books to a barren prison library, where the selection was old, dated and lousy to boot: Who wouldn’t want to encourage inmates to read?)
I write about the criminal courts for a living. I know the justice system is not without weaknesses.
For instance, I am all for more honesty in sentencing (by which I mean that when judges pronounce sentences, it should be better understood that six years doesn’t mean six years, etc.) and for tougher sentences for crimes I consider under-rated, such as the sexual abuse of children, particularly by parents or those in positions of trust. I’d like to see the judicial appointments system be made much more transparent. And I wish more trials would be run the way the Shafia case has been run, with press and public actually accommodated (at this trial, you can actually hear the witness and see exhibits; good God, who knew it was possible?) and welcomed.
But whatever image Canadians may have of their prisons – the convicted killer Colin Thatcher once wanting to fly in his own horse to ride while he served out the last part of his sentence contributed heartily to the view of the jail as spa – and for all the occasional lunatic decisions made by correctional bureaucrats, prisons are by definition hard and hardening places.
I don’t think inmates should be coddled, but having lost their liberty, neither do I believe they should be made to suffer other cruelties.
They should have books to read; they should be able to take programs and pursue education (if not online, for obvious reasons, then by correspondence); they shouldn’t be housed in sub-standard, crowded conditions.
And where it is possible, at minimum-security institutions where inmates have earned their way to less oppressive controls by dint of good behaviour or length of sentence or both, I think many of them would benefit from exposure to animals, for the simple reason that almost everyone else does.
The government should have kept the damn farms and the cows and corrections should be looking for more ways to bring inmates into contact with animals, perhaps even fostering unwanted pets.
The care and feeding of other living creatures is good for all of us. It offers lessons in responsibility, tenderness and the preciousness of life itself.
For the lengthy Shafia trial, I rented a small house from a friend in Kingston, not far from the penitentiary as it happens, solely so I could have my dog with me.
In the evenings, when my work was done and my head full of images of three dead lovely girls and their pretty aunt, my white bull terrier Obie and I would go out for a long forced march. In the snow, he danced and spun in circles; in the rain he sulked; in the mini ice storm, we slipped about.
But always, at some point, I’d bend down and catch his big concrete head between my knees, nibble on his lips and, looking into them, praise his beady dark eyes.
I swear, he’s the most-kissed dog in the country. My suspicion is those cows on the prison farm were among the best-loved too.