Monday, September 04, 2006
PRISON, PRESS, AND PISSED!
Okay, so maybe pissed isn't a nice word for a great grandmother to be using but I find I don't care, nice is not what is happening. To any of us. Not to prisoners, the press, and/or the public at large. Prisoners are being mistreated at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women and the press is not allowed in to report it. Are the women being beaten?
Yes and no. Not with whips, but with privatization. Women are required to work at Alouette as do I when I'm there. Prisoners pay? Two dollars and fifty cents a day. That's a day, not an hour. Before privatization, women prisoners were paid four dollars and fifty cents a day. Cut it in half, was Campbell's solution. And privatize everything. Including the food. Especially the food. Eggs? Well, we won't have to worry about cholesterol. Two eggs a week. Fruit? Four pieces a week. Milk? A little powdered milk poured out of a pitcher by an attendant on a half a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a cup (that's a cup, not a glass) of powdered milk for supper. Meat, when there is any, has been frozen for awhile (a long while, I know freezer burn when I see it) and sometimes can't even be cut with the plastic knives. And the paucity of fresh vegetables is a crime. There were ten pregnant women in that prison when I left August 2 and the diet fed to them (the regular with only slight modification) is outrageous. But this is a private food service and they have to make a profit out of the prisoners. Prisons have becme a business and the canteen is also privatized.
All of the items on the canteen list cost more than they would outside and they are of the cheapest, poorest quality available. And the beauty of this arrangement for the private company is that the ruling of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General is that they won't allow anything to be brought into the prison for the inmates, anything at all. Everything the women need has to be bought from the canteen. Isn't this a lovely set up for the canteen company? A captive group of women who are forced to buy the crappiest brands of everything for inflated prices. And that's not all.
Due to a sweetheart deal with Telus, we at Alouette (and I'll be back there soon as my trial begins on September 18 and Madam Justice Brown wants to teach me a lesson) must pay ninety cents for a local phone call. That's a local phone call, one that would cost a quarter on the outside. But women who make two dollars and fifty cents a day must pay ninety cents for a local phone call. There's more. But I want to get to how Campbell handles members of the press who request prison interviews.
Just before I was released from Alouette a reporter from the Georgia Straight came and took some photos of me sitting in front of a blank wall. He was told by prison authorities in no uncertain terms to delete the photos and after he left I was advised that in the future there would be no more private interviews which meant that any reporter who wanted an interview would have to come in during regular visiting hours. The hitch is that there are no private visits. It is communal visiting at Alouette. One crowded room, lots of noise, no privacy. And no visitor can bring in anything for the visit, not even a pencil or a writing pad. And that means reporters, too.
So freedom of the press seems about like my own freedom, just swallow the lies and don't do anything to upset Gordon Campbell and his offices and the courts. However, in the final analysis freedom of the press is up to the press,both main stream and alternate. To honestly have freedom of the press, the press has to demand access to wherever they want to go, to investigate whatever they want to investigate, to film whatever they want to film. It's enshrined in our constitution, for Pete's sake. Betty Krawczyk