I was just reflecting on all of the things I’m upset about with regards to Girr’s incarceration, other than the fact that, you know, he’s in jail… and realized how ignorant I feel for how extremely limited my knowledge was about the life someone who has been imprisoned by the Canadian state until the love of my life started experiencing it.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m some vault of information now, because I’m definitely not, but I have learned a huge amount over the last few months. I’ve already mentioned a few of these things in previous posts but I’d just like to make an outline of what I’ve learned about the reality of Canadian provincial jails, starting out by clearing up a few myths.
Myth: If you request to see a doctor or a nurse, you will be able to do so.
It would definitely be untrue to claim that this is never possible, as Girr in fact did talk to a nurse while he was at Penatang. However, since shortly after arriving at Maplehurst he has been requesting to see a nurse (for apparent reason, not just because he feels like it…) and has been unable to do so. It has been almost a month.
Myth: You are given clean clothing to wear.
At Penatang and the Don, inmates are provided with clean jumpsuits twice a week. At Maplehurst, however, you have to ask a guard to provide a clean jumpsuit when you need one. Which means of course that if the guard decides for what ever reason he doesn’t want you to have one… you don’t get one. Girr has requested a clean jumpsuit multiple times and is still wearing the one from when he first got there. On top of that, all of the inmates are only provided with two pairs of boxers and two pairs of socks every week. I’m pretty sure it’s a fairly standard social norm to change your socks and underwear everyday… but apparently in jail this is not necessary.
Myth: You can send books and magazines to jail.
Okay, you can send them, but not just by sticking them in an envelope and sending them off. All books and magazines must be sent directly from the publisher, which of course means buying them new and paying their shipping costs. For a little while at Maplehurst a few guards were allowing books and magazines in, but they’ve recently all been reminded that this is not acceptable and are no longer doing so.
Myth: In Canada, you are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Maplehurst is separated into two halves: the detention centre, or DC, and the correctional centre, or CC. The DC is supposed to be for inmates who have not yet been sentenced, and the CC for inmates who have already been sentenced. I’m under the impression (but may be incorrect) that it is normal for people to stay on the DC side for a short amount of time before being transferred to CC, but for whatever reason Girr is still in the DC. Of the people on his range, only a very small amount have actually been found guilty of committing the crime that they are being incarcerated for, if they have been convicted of a crime at all. I just did a bit of research and apparently in 2005 approximately half of every person in Canada who was imprisoned was either awaiting trial or had not been convicted of a crime. However this number had increased by 83% from 1995 to 2005, so I feel certain that it’s significantly more than that now.
Myth: You spend a large amount of the time either outside (in that huge field you can see from the highway) or out on the range.
Think about it, if you live near Milton and have driven passed Maplehurst on the 401 have you ever actually seen the inmates outside? I know I haven’t. When Girr’s range is allowed to go outside (at Maplehurst this is a few times a week) they are let out into a small, crowded courtyard. Right, surrounded by more walls. Normally he doesn’t even bother to go outside because it just depresses him, he uses the time to call me instead as it means the range is pretty empty. For 18 hours a day, Girr is locked in his cell with his cellmate. For the other six, in three intervals of two hours, he’s allowed out on the range, where he can shower, make phone calls, play cards, or just walk around.
Myth: There are programs and work opportunities available in jail.
Though Girr doesn’t particularly need any of the programs a jail might offer and doesn’t want to help run the institution that has stolen his freedom, he has expressed willingness to participate in programs or obtain work in jail in order to help the time pass more quickly. However, he has been unable to access any programs at all and the work available is very limited. There are servers, and guys who distribute the mail, and guys who push the book cart, but from what I understand that is pretty much it, and these jobs go to the ones who have been there the longest (understandably). I call these jobs, but I’d just like to clarify, they don’t actually get paid for doing them. They just get little “treats” like candy and stuff. You know, like rewarding a dog for fetching you the morning paper. It’s disgusting.
Myth: There are no children incarcerated in adult Canadian provincial jails.
Kinda seems like a given, eh? Not the case. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, when Girr was at the Don there was a boy there with him who was only fourteen. I’m going to be totally honest, when he first told me that, I automatically assumed that this child had done something absolutely terrible, like the shit you see in horror movies where the kid kills their family while they are all asleep or something, because of course he couldn’t have been tried as an adult if not. That wasn’t the case… I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote about it in the earlier post because the story was fresher in my memory then. “His father was really drunk, and was beating the shit out of his mom. He was going to kill her. So he grabbed a knife, and he stabbed him in the back. He probably saved his mother’s life. He said after he stabbed him his father then attacked him, the knife still protruding from his back.” As he is now 14 and has already been sentenced, I’m guessing he was 12 or 13 when this took place. He essentially saved his mother’s life, and not only was he sentenced as an adult and given jail time but he was sentenced to 8 years jail time.
Myth: If you go to jail you are likely to get raped.
Okay, finally, I’m actually going to say something positive. Well, sort of. I really don’t know much about federal prisons, and I know it’s extremely different in the USA, but people do not get raped in Canadian provincial jails. Though this is of course absolutely fantastic, the reason for it isn’t exactly good. Jails tend to be extensively homophobic, so it was pretty much explained to me that if a guy were to rape someone in jail other inmates would probably end up cutting his dick off because they are so anti-homosexuality. I don’t know if this is an exaggeration, or if in a provincial jail it’s actually more because the vast majority of the inmates are actually good people who don’t think rape is acceptable and would stand up against it if it were to occur, but either way rape really doesn’t take place in provincial jails.
Alright, I’ll probably think of more later, but that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading. Solidarity, love and rage.