By Joey Clavette
This post is based on an article I had published in the Ottawa Leveller
Over the past summer I made friends with my social movements professor. She’s an avid prison abolitionist meaning that she believes prisons ought to be abolished altogether. This past February I wrote an article in The Leveller titled Punishment at What Cost? in which I alluded to this idea that prisons actually do more harm than good.
In the context of an interview about the spiking rates of imprisonment in Canada coupled with a declining crime rate, I asked a local NGO worker and PhD student, Laura McKendy, whether punitive justice is worthwhile and she replied that, “harsh conditions of confinement, along with virtually no programming, literally increases recidivism…If you just want to hurt people then you can embrace punishment but if you actually want a safe society, it only makes things worse.”
Prison is punishment. In a sense, imprisonment is an act of violence. If I were to abduct someone and lock them in my house, that would be kidnapping. Now, obviously prison has a different end. It finds justification through an assumed capacity to suppress possible societal dangers. However, this does not detract from the fact that forcibly confining someone is an act of violence, an act of ‘socially acceptable’ and federally enforced revenge. We ought to look for viable alternatives which better foster societal safety.
With that said let me talk about the trip I took to Millhaven Penitentiary on February 10th to visit a group of lifers. In Canada a life sentence is 10 -25 years. I took this trip with my professor and three other individuals as part of OPIRG’s Millhaven Lifer’s Liaison Group.