Posts Tagged ‘con code’

Prison officials are experts at euphemism. Just a reminder as to what euphemism is:

The substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit, as in

Pre-owned for used or second-hand

Enhanced interrogation for torture

Wind for belch or fart

Convenience fee for surcharge

“Neutralize” for “kill”


Correctional Centers for prisons. Very few get ‘corrected.’

Convicted offenders are called ‘inmates,’ labeling them as institutionalized and powerless, instead of calling them ‘prisoners.’

‘Feeding Time” is for prisoners. ‘Meal Time’ is for staff.

Guards are just that, they keep prisoners from escaping.

They are not ‘correctional officers,’ living unit officers, classification officers etc.

For more on this, see the latest edition of Out of Bounds, from the prisoners at William Head Prison, page 23

I, for one, fail many times to avoid the euphemisms associated with prison. It’s something to work on.

Each of my students in prison affected me in a certain way. I called one man, My Mirror Image.

Davi was about my age, 58 back then. We were similar in artificial ways, about the same weight, the same height etc. But one day he mentioned a word that caught my attention, “Selma.”  He too had been in Selma, marching for the rights of black Americans.

I was a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, he was an American who had entered Canada in a very wrong way. The FBI and the drug squad were literally on his heels, so he took over a rural border crossing with a gun.

As we talked, we discovered that we shared a lot of beliefs, from picketing for the grape boycott to what America should look like.

There were also many differences between us. I went home at night and he didn’t. He was raised by a series of foster homes and I was raised by a loving Irish Catholic family. I did not believe in violence and apparently he did. But the more I talked to him, I knew he could change. It would take time and long discussions about change and freedom and respect. I also knew that nothing in prison was going to help him.

He was an excellent poet, who could put so much in a few lines of poetry, ideas that would take me an essay each to convey.

Canada turned him over to the US, who offered him a deal – give them a list of all his drug connections and he’d get a lighter sentence. He refused and he’s now in his seventies in a federal prison in Oregon. If he’s anything like me in his seventies, doing crime does not seem like a good idea. The cops are not his enemies anymore, type 2 diabetes is.

Crime is individual and prison should be also.

What is your opinion? Should he have given the authorities a list of his drug connections? Could a prison help him?


Posted: April 20, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
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A guest post by an area inmate. This man, who’s posted before, is a prison leader.

otherAs I walk these dim corridors, I hear the same thing over and over. Guys complaining about guards, their Internal Parole Officers (like a caseworker) and the institution in general. There is a negative attitude that is nurtured by other inmates without a thought.

This pervasive sense of otherness is perpetuated by the very environment that has been constructed for our rehabilitation. This otherness is built up over time and becomes a serious barrier to rehabilitation for some inmates.

In older prisons like the one I’m in, prisoners live on cellblocks with barriers at the ends to keep the cellblocks separated. Guards have their offices outside of the cellblock end and do not have much contact with inmates except during counts and rounds. This strengthens a feeling of otherness between guards and inmates. It is not just inmates that nurture this attitude, but guards also who prefer to see us just as inmates and not as people. This doesn’t lend itself to a respectful relationship between people.

This not to say that all inmates are haters of guards and that all guards are haters of inmates, but rather that the environment nurtures that kind of separateness. An inmate can’t be seen to be too friendly with the guards lest he be ostracized by his peers. While I can’t say for sure – I’m not a guard – I suspect there is probably the same type of attitude on the guard’s side.

What is the solution? This is difficult and requires a shift in attitude from people on both sides of the fence. For an inmate it is much harder to accomplish for we are a ‘captive’ audience, and have to consider out choices more carefully in the environment that we live in.

otherI like to think that there is a solution and that we can all just get along, but maybe I’m just a dreamer, in the words of John Lennon’s Imagine. Imagine a prison system that rehabilitated rather than punished.



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By: A Guest Blogger, a thoughtful inmate in a Fraser Valley institution.

CommunityCrime is a community problem that requires solutions that involve the community. As it stands right now, the community has very little involvement in the rehabilitation of offenders but instead entrusts this duty to the Correctional Service of Canada and blindly hopes they are doing the job of rehabilitating offenders and preparing them for re-entry into society.

The problem with corrections is that the Correctional Service of Canada is expected to rehabilitate people in the absence of meaningful community involvement. In our institutions, inmates are locked away and offered programming that is only marginally effective in the hope that when they are released to the community,


It takes a Village

they will be better citizens.

Many inmates do not feel themselves connected to the community, at least to the regular community at large, and it is this disconnection that makes it easier to commit crime. In fact many inmates, and criminals in general, feel themselves part of a different community, a criminal community or a jail community.

There is some community contact in prisons but not nearly enough. There are volunteers that come in for various activities and programs within the institution but for the most part inmates are locked away with only other inmates for company.

I like to think that if communities were more involved in the rehabilitation of offenders rather than leaving the entire job to the Correctional Service, there might be more successes. Eventually most offenders are released from prison and they are going to communities. Those communities should want to be involved in the rehabilitation of offenders for their own peace of mind.

Prisons could use restorative justice programs that connect offenders with victims or with representatives from the community so that there may be a dialogue that could lead to a sense of connection. Building a connection to the community, in this writer’s opinion, might be one of the most important steps in the rehabilitation of criminals.Community

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Us and Them

Posted: January 26, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
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Us/ThemUs and Them. That’s what really bothers me about prison.

There are many situations of us and them in our lives. The bosses and the workers, the students and the teachers, my car and all the other cars on the road, average guys like us and the rich, the one percent and the ninety-nine percent.

Nowhere is the us and them stronger than in prison. There’s the inmates, men or women, and the guards and staff. When a person applies for a job in prison, he or she is told many rules about “fraternizing” with the convicts. They are warned that all convicts are manipulators (as if we all weren’t).

One woman told of working very well with a young man in a half way house. He called her by her first name and she used his. But he broke his parole conditions and was returned to prison. On her first week on the job, the young man saw her and came up to her, calling out, “Hi XXX.” She hesitated for a moment and then knew she had to freeze him out if she wanted to keep her job. She did and it bothered her ever after.Us  Them

Convicts, too, are told by older convicts to “follow the con code.” No fraternizing with the enemy – the staff and guards. No walking along with them, no chatting about stuff, business only and nothing more.

mike oulton

Mike Oulton

A friend of mine, Mike Oulton, (I wrote a book with him) told of being reprimanded, even threatened by more experienced cons for talking to staff and guards in a pleasant way. Mike thought nothing of saying hi to the warden or asking a guard how his son did on the high school football team. He suffered for this friendliness from both inmate and staff.

How can therapy happen in such an environment? How can there be real learning? It’s an undeclared war zone.

A director of programs in an area prison took a good step forward. She arranged for a university class to be taught in prison, half the students were inmates and half were regular college students. Multiply that by a thousand and we’re getting somewhere.

What is your opinion of the prison us and them?us them

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  • mike Oulton