Posts Tagged ‘ashley smith’

Are arrogant people attracted to jobs in prison? I’ve certainly known some who were not arrogant. I think of a chaplain who was paid by the prison system. He went as far as he could in helping the guys. By the way he talked to them, he affirmed for them that they were good human beings.

When I went into the prison, I was usually surrounded by a bunch of guys in the hallway as we waited for the guard to open our classroom. We were all laughing and joking around. A certain high ranking prison official would pass us by, and I could see the scowl on her face. This official did everything she could to slowly move me out the door. That’s not arrogance, but it’s something.

It seemed to me that when Harper became Prime Minister, this arrogance got worse. Of course I can’t prove it. It was like “We can do anything we want. The government will back us up.” Witness the Ashley Smith case where prison personnel went way outside the rules.

This is a correctional institution?

abuse in residential schoolsYears ago a very quiet, polite man came to me after class one day. He waited until everyone else had left the classroom.

I had made a negative comment about the residential schools the government forced on first nations young people. I thought the man was going to confirm my comments about how terrible the schools were.

But he didn’t. He and his wife taught in one of the schools. “You know, Ed, they weren’t all bad. I tried hard to teach a good course and…well, it was a different era.”

The man was embarrassed that he had taught there.

This started me thinking about the relationship of the residential schools to our prisons today. Of course, most of the people in prison are guilty of a crime and that’s one big difference.

A hundred years ago residential schools were considered the right course of action. Very few people asked questions like, “Is it right to take children from their parents, from their culture?” Most people assumed it was right.

Today we pay compensation to those who were hurt through the residential schools. Turning to prisons, in the recent case of Ashley SmithAshley Smith that we talked about last week, no doubt the government will have to pay compensation for what happened. Will this continue? Will people get compensation because they contracted a dangerous disease while in prison? Will they get compensation because guards bullied them? What about being raped as many male and female inmates are?

There are people who try to do a good job in prison, teachers, psychologists, general staff. Will they prison industrial complex. Who profits?be embarrassed by the fact that they once worked there? Will the pharmacists, the grocery people, the rural unemployed, the people in the prison-industrial complex, will they feel bad because people suffered under a system that they profited from?

What about the volunteer teachers of creative writing? Are they guilty, too?


I don’t know. I’d like your opinion.

Images courtesy of:


Ashley SmithI was very upset this week with the story of Ashley Smith and the absolutely gruesome pictures of what the staff did to her. The young woman’s crime? Throwing crabapples at a postal worker. Prison officials kept adding on to her short sentence for misconduct. She was moved from prison to prison seventeen times.

I worry that the problem is more widespread than just those few officers and the warden and deputy warden who were fired over this incident.

Most would admit that there is a clear US and THEM in prison. How can one group help another change when there is almost us/thema war going on between them? Are prison staff required to learn psychology?  Are they given sensitivity training? When a parole officer spends an hour telling a newly-released inmate that he’s going to fail, what is that? When the officer brings up every bad thing the inmate’s ever done and no mention of his abilities, is that a form of abuse? If a psychologist in prison ignores an inmate’s greeting and walks right by him, what is that? When guards openly imitate a hearing/speaking challenged man behind his back, is that abuse? And when an inmate tries to report this, he is told to forget it for his own health.

What’s going on in our prisons? Those who resist change cry that people will lose their jobs. No, they won’t, not if they’re willing to take courses, to take on sensitivity training. It’s up to the staff to change first.

For those not from Canada, the articles and videos are here:

Images courtesy of: