Questions about Toews’ latest prisoner “reforms”

Earlier this morning, Public Safety minister Vic Toews announced that they were going to start making even more restrictions on inmates in federal penitentiaries, including things like charging more for room and board, limiting the kinds of work that inmates can get, and charging more for things like phone calls.

Memorial University criminologist Justin Piché, who has been studying the politics of this government’s crime agenda, took to the Twitter Machine shortly thereafter to ask a series of questions about what these changes will mean (edited for formatting):

  1. How do these measures restore the imbalance in a ‘justice’ system that largely excludes the victimized and criminalized from the process as a result of its focus on the needs of the state?
  2. What does any of this have to do with victims’ rights? Should what can be done for victims be measured by what we can take from prisoners?
  3. Does one agree with increasing room and board for prisoners if it means that it will become easier for the state to deprive us of our liberty?
  4. Will the eliminated incentive pay for prisoners working for CORCAN go in the pockets of CSC or their private sector partners?
  5. Will some or many prisoners stop working for CORCAN because of the elimination of incentive pay?
  6. What impact will this have on institutional morale and security? Does the government care if there is an impact?
  7. Are the rates paid by CSC institutions and via CORCAN for prisoner labour fair in the first place or do they amount to slavery?
  8. What does “Streamlining and standardizing” the goods prisoners can buy mean? Do certain suppliers stand to benefit from this policy?
  9. Not only do prisoners already use and pay for prison telephone systems, are they now going to pay for the surveillance of their conversations?
  10. What impact will rising telephone costs have on the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to maintain contact?
  11. How does making it more difficult for prisoners to maintain links to their loved ones and communities enhance ‘public safety’?
  12. With grievances sure to flow from these announced measures, will CSC’s Commissioner designate prisoners who make them as “vexatious complainants” as allowed under Bill C-293? Who will hold the state accountable for the victimization it perpetuates?
  13. If feds are concerned about reducing the costs of prisons why don’t they abandon their costly, ineffective, and unjust punishment agenda?

Good questions, all of them. I guess we’ll see if any of the opposition parties pick up on them if these changes get any kind of study in the Public Safety committee.