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Dispatches From Burnside, Episode One: Of shitbombs and trading meds

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
[Photo via flickr]
[Photo via flickr]

By Phoenix

BURNSIDE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Nova Scotia - In the time that I have been here, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that its better to have a shit-bomb and not need it than to need a shit-bomb and not have it. I'm reporting this 'gonzo-style' because I'm currently in lock-down for being in possession of, you guessed it, fecal ordinance.

Now this shit-bomb was never used on the battlefield, but it was inadvertently triggered by a guard, thereby presenting a strong biological deterrent to all those within olfactory range.

Prior to ending up in here (Burnside Correctional Facility), for a crime which I did not commit, I used to teach elementary school science, like, biology and stuff. Now thanks to the “correction” I have received, I realize that biological waste must sometimes be deployed in self-defence in our neo-medieval torture chambers we call prisons.

If this seems the least bit disturbing to any of you, then perhaps we can agree that some significant restructuring needs to take place right away. If this is Canada, giving puppies to prisoners is all fine and good, but that's sort of like spending all your money on a new sports car when you don't even have a pair of shoes. There are bigger problems here people.

For instance, they don't even have a rudimentary classification system for the psychological and social profiles of inmates. There's no way to track any progress or behavioural improvement. But none of that frankly matters, in light of the fact that nobody improves in here. The only actual categorization is whether you are 'GP' or 'PC', that technically means: General Population or Protective Custody.

In practice, there is no real difference other than sexual predators are required to be labelled 'PC'. This results in nothing more than them being 'shit-bombed' on a daily basis when they first arrive and are placed in a lock-down area. According to the unwritten jail politics, anyone who is classified as 'GP' upon encountering someone who is 'PC' is required to immediately launch a full-scale physical attack on the “mutt, goof, rat, piece of shit.”

If its not violence, its drugs. The biggest source of drugs isn't even the anal-smuggling culture, its the nurses and doctors. The market for prescriptions sold out here for unspecified and/or non-existent medical conditions is phenomenal. Medication time in jail is like sprinkling a multi-coloured rainbow of psychoactive smarties into an unsupervised daycare. For someone like myself, who isn't into drugs, the perpetual running around, trading blue pills for yellow ones, eating the red ones last, is simply mind-boggling. I'm most definitely in the minority, so the guards and nurses just allow this behaviour to persist despite all the damage it causes.

It certainly reinforces substance dependance.

Sure, there's not much else to do in here. But watch out when someone gets their hands on some tranquilizers. Those are notoriously known as 'violence pills', because any inmate who gets on a sufficient dosage of the 'nerve pills' instantly turns into Hacksaw Jim Duggan or Hulk Hogan.

The sad irony is that I am someone who actually requires proper medication and health care for my femoral non-union (a broken leg in layman's terms). So I need a regimen of medications because they simply will not give me the actual health care I require, because they're far to busy servicing the dangerous drug addicts. The only way to get relief from the torturous pain is to trade my meals for meds, go hungry or go on in pain. Not a pleasant choice, I assure you.

Now let's not kid ourselves. This is not a simple cut and dry problem that can be solved at one minor governmental or institutional response. This is a provincial facility. So they finish serving time here and are out in less than two years. That's really not enough time to correct a dysfunctional, fully-grown adult. Anyone who has raised children knows about the 'terrible twos', when you have to put your foot down and instill a little discipline, despite the screaming tantrums. There can be no giving in and rewarding the bad behaviour, even though it solves the behaviour in the short term. It just reinforces that acting up gets results.

This is why most of these people ended up here.

So they have the social maturity of a two year old, but the physical body of a twenty year old. That can be a dangerous combination and takes way more than two years to correct in most cases. Past history with some inmates here has demonstrated that staff who stand firm in trying to instill discipline will have to confront an angry offender on the outside in less than two years. These people get released on their mandatory release dates, whether they are corrected or not. So for the sake of staff safety, bad behaviour must be rewarded. Scary but true.

There are at least two ways to solve this problem, but it requires political change on the federal and provincial levels. The immediate solution is to go the route that the USA has taken, which the Harper Conservatives are working overtime on: Three strikes and you are permanently inserted into the matrix.

The almighty prison industrial complex is just another term for modern slavery. Pretty soon, people will just be hooked up to machines that use their bio-thermal and neuro-electrical energy as a human battery.

It's a lot easier to get away with this by targeting minorities; fewer people to actually see what's happening to a loved one and complain.

The other obvious solution would be a dynamic progress-based system with no fixed release dates. But rather, an objective, scientific matrix to determine placement and incremental freedom. In fact, I have an entire sociological architecture in mind, with major overhauls to the policing and justice systems.

But that is the topic of another article.

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