I am very thankful that I have never been a guest of her majesty. Except for a rather scary 90 minutes touring the ‘big house’ in Prince Albert years ago, I have never spent time in prison. It’s an experience I find difficult to imagine.
We have two very interesting stories in the news recently. The first was the closure finally of the Kingston Pen which was built more than 30 years before Confederation. It’s remembered mostly as the home of some of Canada’s most notorious psychopaths like Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson. The word inhumane scarcely begins to describe life behind the walls at Kingston. It undoubtedly served to inspire the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry Societies which advocate for better treatment of those who are incarcerated.
It’s not a cause that’s very popular. It’s not at all surprising that prison inmates are being ridiculed and abused this week for going on strike. They do a variety of jobs while serving their time, and for the past 30 years, they were allowed to earn about three dollars a day. The money was mainly spent on snacks and other meager privileges.
To share the load when it comes to budget cuts, the inmates have had those tiny earnings reduced by 30%. The jobs they do, in places like the kitchen and the laundry are not getting done in prisons like P A and Stony Mountain.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for CUPE to certify the convicts and act as their bargaining agent. Chances are most of us would say “keep them on bread and water, and throw away the key”.
But the vast majority of us have no idea what it’s like in there. Not all of them are monsters like Olson or Bernardo. Some of them turn their lives around, and we shouldn’t be kicking them when they’re down.
I’m Roger Currie