classification, discrimination and human rights
today i'm filing a Human Rights application against the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Vanier Centre for Women. i hope to initiate some changes in their security classification system, which is opaque and discriminatory and contains no fair grievance process.
in previous posts i've tried to describe the difference between the maximum and medium security units but i probably haven't done it justice. you'll have to trust me on this: the freedoms i enjoy now may seem limited and the privileges minor, but they make a world of difference. so who gets to live in which world and what are those decisions based on?
in my case the decision seems to be political, although i can't say for sure because nobody here has ever told me the reason. i was kept on maximum security (Unit 2) for seven and half months. i never had a misconduct, was never sent to the hole, was occasionally argumentative and sarcastic with guards but never violent or aggressive towards them, and i had no run ins with other inmates. i tried for months to find out why i wasn't being given a chance on a medium security unit but my questions went unanswered by Classifications, the Superintendent and the Regional Director. eventually i was told that it might have been something i once said to a social worker - this shocked me, because during our one conversation i'd told her i was uncomfortable with her question and she'd gone to great lengths to assure me that everything was confidential. i've since learned that "don’t trust the social worker" is fairly common knowledge in here, but i didn't know that then. in august i was told by the head of Social Work that she'd find out what it was that i'd allegedly said. to this day i haven't heard back from her, but i was moved to medium security (Unit 4) about a week later. i don't believe there ever was a good reason to have kept me on Unit 2 for so long. this process (or lack thereof) is unacceptable - there should have to be a clear reason and inmates should have the right to know it and grieve it under a fair process if we disagree. this is something i hope can be addressed at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
another concern that i hope will be addressed is the way the classification system discriminates against groups of people who are already marginalized in society. this happens in a few different ways: by refusing medium security eligibility to certain groups as opposed to evaluating individual circumstances and behaviour (this is true for people detained on an immigration hold), or simply because the institution is unable to accommodate inmates’ needs (for example, the medium security units are not wheelchair accessible). finally, the rating system used by provincial institutions to give inmates a security designation is stacked against certain groups: women, poor and indigenous people and people of colour to name a few. what it boils down to is that those who are privileged on the outside continue to be privileged on the inside. at Vanier, Unit 2 is full of migrants, people with disabilities, people of colour and the poor while Unit 4 is a predominantly white, younger, relatively better-off crowd.
i realize that this is merely one injustice among many, and that in a system that is fundamentally rotten it may not seem like the biggest deal. but it's one injustice that i'm in a position to do something about. prisoners are deprived of liberty but shouldn't also be denied basic human rights and equal treatment.
you can click here to see the full application and here to read the Toronto Star article. i'd like to encourage others to join me - if you feel like anything in this application applies to you (or someone you know) and you (or they) are interested in becoming a co-applicant or getting more information, please email email@example.com.
This was originally published on bored but not broken and is reprinted here with permission.