Posts Tagged ‘secrecy’

What goes on inside prison? We know what goes on inside a hospital. The public can visit their friends and family easily. hospital visitThey don’t have to fill out papers ahead of time, they don’t need clearance by the police. The authorities place hospitals near where people live and they make the visiting hours convenient.

Not so with prisons. Despite what their official statements say, prisons don’t want the public nosing around. When you visit an inmate in prison, you are often greeted by an attitude – “If you’re here to visit a scumbag prisoner, you must be a scumbag yourself.”

Cameras observe you in the visiting room. The chairs are attached to the tables so you can’t move them around and sit where you want. Each table has a microphone in it, so everything you say is recorded.

Compare this to a Mexican prison. My friend, Mike Oulton, spent two years in such a prison. He tells how families used to come into the prison, wives and children, and they brought meals with them. Since Mike had no family in Mexico, they often invited him to join in family celebrations.

Despite what they say, prison officials don’t want the public in their prisons. The way they have it now is good – Keep outonly the convicts see what they do and who listens to convicts? Even though the public is paying for the prisons, they can’t get in to see them. Officials feel that as long as no one escapes, then there’s nothing to worry about. Never mind that millions of dollars are spent for rehabilitation, which never happens.

We’re paying for an inefficient bureaucracy to care for the men and women in prison. What can we do to change things?

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  • open

Open Closed signPrison is a closed system. We, the tax-paying public, don’t know what’s going on behind those walls and prison authorities don’t want us to know. It’s a great system for them – as long as they keep inmates inside the walls, they can do what they want.

If a teacher does something wrong, children tell their parents and the parents go to the school board. If a nurse or doctor mistreats a patient, the next day the family of the patient are on TV or pounding on the door of the hospital administration.

But what happens if a guard mistreats an inmate or a staff person punishes someone beyond the reasonable? What happens? Nothing. As long as no one escapes, the public is quiet. Who cares if an inmate closed systemobjects to something?

Yes, there is an office of correctional investigators (ombudsmen) in Ottawa which issues reports from time to time, good reports about abuses in the system. They have 34 employees for this vast prison system. Why isn’t there an ombudsman in every prison? In my twenty-three years of teaching in prison, I have never met anyone whom the ombudsman helped.

And there are procedures inside the prison to deal with complaints (for those who are courageous enough to complain). Isn’t that like the foxes investigating the other foxes to see who raided the chicken coup?

The tax-paying public is kept out of prison. No cameras are allowed, no cell phones, and no recording devices. Naturally some situations in prison demand restrictions, just as the public can’t waltz into the Operating Room and watch an operation.

But why can’t the taxpayer come into prison and see what they’re open closedpaying for? Why can’t they see the dirty walls, observe staff sitting around chatting or playing solitaire on their computers? Why can’t they talk to the staff and to inmates? They’re paying for this place.

“Sorry, folks, it’s a closed system,” the prison says. “We’re warehousing these people, not changing them, and that’s all the system demands. We’re doing our job. Stay out.”

Should prisons be closed to the public?

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