Sunday, November 13, 2011

Angry Old Men

Last week, in The Globe and Mail, Brian Topp  wrote that a little discussed part of the government's Omnibus Crime Bill represents a significant change in policy at Canadian prisons:

To be specific, the Tories want to amend article 4(d) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (1992). The relevant clause establishes the principle “that the service use the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members and offenders.

Apparently that change had been recommended in a report to former Public Security Minister Stockwell Day back in 2007:

The panel believes that this principle has been emphasized too much by staff and management of CSC, and even by the courts in everyday decision-making about offenders. As a result an imbalance has been created that places the onus on SCS to justify why the least restrictive measures shouldn't be used, rather than on offenders to justify why they should have access to privileges based on their performance under their correctional plans.

Anyone who has followed this government over the years should not find this bit of information surprising. In fact, it is entirely consistent with the worldview of the present powers that be. But as a former senior official of Corrections Canada told Topp:

I've had meetings with prison administrators, and then I've explored every corner of our prisons right down into the hole. I know what's going to happen if they take that clause out of the Act. What's going to happen is that guards are going to feel free to use more force, a lot more force, to control inmates. There's going to be an enormous rise in violence in our prison system. 

All of this confirms what should be perfectly obvious by now. The Harper government is a government out for vengeance. Topp writes:

In all of this, the Conservatives are demonstrating the real character of their government. This is rule by angry old uncle. A character in many families, not without his charm and soft side, who shouts his angry views for the hundredth time, demanding firm measures and an end to many abuses, even if the facts all point the other way.

These folks aren't simply grumpy old men.They are angry old men. Even Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt, when she muses about declaring the economy an essential service, sounds like an angry old man. The Prime Minister of Canada -- at the ripe old age of fifty-two -- is an angry old man. One gets the impression that he was an angry old man when he was in diapers.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is interesting that inmates vote in large numbers for the Conservatives. Hmmm!

Inmate who wnat something they cannot get within the system, knowingly go outside the system to get what they want and accept the notion that the cost may be punishiment. The conservative government believe that those who break the law should suffer punishment. Inmate and those who are conservatives are two sides of the same coin. Enlightened correction policy tries to break this bond between crime and punishment by offering alternatives to both inmates and society by helping inmates to find a constructive place in society and thus abandon the feeling that they deserve to be punished. Society, in turn, sees the penal system as "correction" and not punishment.

Punishment is best understood as violence. The proper response to violence is not more violence as any educator of young children will tell you. And, of course, Christianity used to advocate "turn the other cheek".

Our Conservative government would like to return to 19th Century view of "corrections." Jails only exist to punish prisoners and any harsh treatment within them is acceptable and part of the price inmate should pay.

Owen Gray said...

The government's response is the same as Ebeneezer Scrooge's response to a request for a charitable donation: "Are there no prisons, no workhouses?"

All in all, it is an attempt to turn back the clock.

thwap said...

Seriously. When they fall from power, they should just be ignored.

When they ask questions in Question Period, the Minister being addressed should just stand up and stare at them in contempt.

Owen Gray said...

Given the damage they've done -- and continue to do -- I understand how you feel, thwap.

The opposition is trying to slow the freight train down, but, in the end, they will get their way -- at least for the next four years.

sassy said...

What thwap said!

Owen Gray said...

There you go, thwap!

Beijing York said...

Harper isn't angry, he's malevolent.

He's more concerned with destroying what is than with ushering in anything new.

As for prison guards, the propensity for them to be more violent with prisoners will probably increase with the destruction of their union and privatization of facilities.

ChrisJ said...

Angry old prison guards will be the wedge that leads to angry old teachers and angry old anyone else who deals with and has power over others.

It's not that the left is without fault, but cruelly beating others about does not seem to be one of them.

Owen Gray said...

"Malevolent" is strong but accurate, Beijing. He's simply a nasty piece of work.

The problem is that his adolescent voice and pudgy presence have led some people to think he's harmless.

Far from it.

Owen Gray said...

These folks would have you believe, Chris, that what drives them is a particular economic theory.

That's partially true. But when you dig a little deeper, you discover that what really drives them is social pathology.