Imagine what would happen to you if someone took you, against your will, and locked you, incommunicado with your family and friends, in a bathroom for one day. When you would be rescued and released, everyone would assume that you had been traumatized psychologically. There would be no shortage of professionals and organizations lined up to assist you in healing from the trauma. Any strange behaviour on your part after that would be attributed to your victimization and the ‘assumed’ trauma suffered. Indeed, you would have been traumatized.

And yet, we blithely lock our brothers and sisters up in equally deprived settings for weeks, months, and years. We supplement the punishment by ensuring that the person becomes as disempowered and ostracized as possible. We hire keepers, and decision makers of release, to remind them on a regular basis that they are “guilty”, “criminal”, “deviant”, “unsalvageable”. There is almost always no acknowledgement of the traumatizing effects of this imprisonment. But, there can be no question at all that those we imprison and punish further in various mean and cruel ways are traumatized.

To keep our collective heads buried in the sand about the legally-sanctioned traumatizing we righteously impose is completely counterproductive to our desire for a safe and healthy society.

We are loath to acknowledge the fact that we are deliberately traumatizing and damaging our brothers and sisters, and then further disempowering and demeaning them by discriminating against them when they are released from prison. We euphemize the process by calling the prison agencies “correctional”. But, there is less and less “correction” supposedly because of budgetary constraints.

So, the result of this societal “denial” is that we have large numbers of brothers and sisters who have been deliberately damaged and traumatized, sitting in cement and steel cells or wandering in our society. These people are wounded, but we justify our abuse of them in the ‘prison/punishment’ system because they hurt others or violated our current laws. Yet, we deliberately abuse them. The lack of rationality in this hypocrisy should be alarming to us.

Until we come up with more rational and humane and sensible consequences for the “mistakes” our brothers and sisters and parents and children make, we can at the very least acknowledge the trauma of imprisonment and psychological battering in the “correction” system. We can then, relatively easily, offer counselling, peer support, financial assistance, retraining, and advocacy for those released from their captivity. The result will be a greater degree of healing of these supposed “criminals” and “deviants”, and a smoother and safer reintegration into our society, making Canada a safer place for all of us.

Since almost no other political party or community organization seems interested, or qualified, to oversee and challenge this process, the John Howard Society could step up their efforts to challenge and reform prisoner treatment, and help to heal those damaged by the “correctional” systems. And they can do it to help create a safer Canada.




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