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Dispatches From Burnside, Episode Two: The Blue Wall of Misinformation

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
photo via flickr
photo via flickr

The Halifax Media Co-op features the work of 'Phoenix', currently incarcerated at Burnside Correctional Facility, in Nova Scotia.

Phoenix's first dispatch can be found here.

By Phoenix

Almost everyone has had to deal with an immature shit disturber at some time in their lives. Even the most kind and compassionate person has probably endured moments when thoughts have come to mind like: “That little brat needs to have a metal rod wrapped around his head for his own good.”

Ironically, I witnessed just this in Burnside last year. It was an aluminum power bar and unfortunately the price which was paid was the loss of our ability to power our video games for a few weeks. Like most instances here, no charges were laid. In fact, I would estimate that over fifty percent of incidences of violence aren't even documented by staff. The ones that are documented almost invariably get written up as: “Fell in the shower.”

Try a freedom of information request on that.

Instances are so frequent that they now have a form designed to prevent police from investigating the matter. I had to sign three last month; only one of them resulted in a hospital stay.

The most important thing after being assaulted is to insure that the justice system is not able to convict the offender. In terms of jail politics, by helping the justice system you'll forever be labelled a “rat”. The only thing this will accomplish is that every single inmate will be out to get you and your next assault will very likely be life-threatening.

It's easy to cause serious injuries to a person in jail. For instance, one recently reported incident was allegedly a tiny, one hundred pound man, who jumped on his cellmate's head when he was asleep. One hundred plus pounds, ramming your head into a concrete floor, is going to hurt no matter what. The overcrowding in here is so bad that many people have to sleep on the floor, with two people in a single cell.

The policies which are designed to ensure the safety of inmates actually make it very easy to inflict serious damage on someone you don't like. For instance, when someone new comes in, he is placed on a twenty-four hour lockdown to determine if he is compatible with certain other inmates. So all you have to do, if you want to hurt someone, is to offer to bunk with him in your cell. The guards will escort him over and lock you both in.

Someone literally lost an eye last year because of this policy. I guess its not fun and games anymore.

Looking outside of jail politics for a moment, I still say that helping convict someone of violence is really stupid. The end result will be a lifelong animosity from a violent person. Not only that, he will go to jail and learn to be even more violent and make friends with other violent people, and gang members, and get better access to guns.

Also, Burnside's policies encourage people to become more stealthy and learn sneaky ways to not get caught for assaults. Inmates learn to carefully premeditate their violent actions and cover up evidence afterwards. This is what your tax dollar are paying for.

Most guards are supportive of covering up violence, because it means they can collect a healthy government paycheck with far less paperwork than would otherwise be required.

The main problem with aiding and abetting the judiciary is that the only remedy available to the Canadian justice system is to cause social harm. This operates in practice by harming an individual who then harms society in return. It teaches that vengeance is the answer.

Like Gandhi, this is not my idea for a remedy. An eye for an eye cycle which becomes harder to break, and social myopia increases as a result.

I've heard a number of inmates complain openly that they're trying to learn better behaviours, but this place won't let them. Let us take off our blinders of rage before we bring about another Holocaust. We need to mature our society past the medieval principles rooted in our justice system. This requires way more than an inquiry.

A government inquiry into Burnside probably isn't going to turn up anything useful, because there is a blue wall of misinformation which is nearly impenetrable. This very series of dispatches was initially blocked. Sneaky ways of getting the information out had to be engineered. Even still we are in imminent peril of being shut down.

Staff have informed me that they know it is me, despite my “pen name”, and that they will do everything in their power - legitimate or otherwise - to stop the truth from getting out. Right now, in fact, I am locked in solitary for trying to acquire the ability to mail documents. Staff have been seizing my mail to the courts, and to the Media Co-op, and to the CHA, and to the John Howard Society, and anyone else who could help. I had an acquaintance try to mail something for me, but they caught it.

They usually call it “detrimental behaviour” on my part. I suppose it would be detrimental to somebody, because if I were able to gain access to the courts to prove that they've had an innocent man locked up or four years, with an untreated broken leg, and subjected to over 650 days of solitary, somebody would probably be liable.

As I was a highly experienced IT analyst in my former street life, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve to get past the censors. One staff member jokingly said that: “This is a whole other state in here.” My observations in here indicate that this is very close to the truth.

These difficulties that I face are likely reminiscent of common conundrums which have encumbered many during times of war and oppression. It sure doesn't feel like the Canada I remember anymore.

The complications are compounded by not having a lawyer. If anyone knows someone that would represent me, that would be a God-sent. Please do let me know on the blog.

As for future topics, please post your requests on the blog and I will do all that you ask of me. In the meantime, I will try to think back to what kind of now-mundane details would have fascinated me prior to experiencing the matrix for myself.

Possible topics include:

'Toilet brews and the time alcohol rained on me in my sleep.'

'Dropping the soap in the shower: Dangerous vulnerability or common pass-time?'

'Top ten weirdest pranks people play on one another when incarcerated for too long.'

'Fishing for drugs in segregation using blanket string and a sugar packet.'

Phoenix out.


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