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Mandy Hiscocks: Am I getting jail-lite?

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In my last blog I wrote about the anger management program I'd just started. Well, I slogged through all five sessions and while I did learn a few things I have to say that ironically it just made me more angry. After reading the last post someone kindly dug up an article on anger management in prison from The Guardian in 2003 and sent it to me -- one paragraph in particular jumped out:

[T]he only controversy there had been around the issue was that voiced by Noam Chomsky, in 1977: “Behaviourist therapy is pretty empty as an intellectual pursuit. . .[but] in schools and prisons. . .it provides a palatable ideology for the application of techniques of cohersion.” In other words, this therapy teaches people how to operate in society without causing trouble and, in the interests of so doing, teaches them not to strive for fairness, or justice, not to assume that “the world must be easy.”

Bingo. In the class we talked a lot about how it's important to find the underlying source of our anger -- is it fear? Shame? Jealousy? The thing is, the underlying source of my anger is injustice, undeserved authority, power tripping and other such bullshit. This place and this world are full of all that, and I'm not all that interested in doing some self-care to calm down every time I encounter it. On the last day, one of the participants tried to express her frustration that nothing can be done about the things that make her angry in here because there is no recourse for inmates. The facilitator advised us to realize that there are limits to what can be addressed in here, that we need to remember that we're not serving life sentences, and to focus on our goals for getting out. I disagreed. I suggested that sometimes anger can be useful when something is unfair and change needs to be made, and that an attitude of “this won't last forever” sort of ensures that the injustices will. This made her very uncomfortable and the discussion was cut off. “a palatable ideology for the application of techniques of cohersion”, indeed. I'm with Noam on this one.

In other news, I had an interesting interaction with a white shirt recently. It happened after a search in which I lost the extra mattress I've had since my pregnant cellie was transferred to medium security. Now I sometimes wake up with bruises like everyone else...easy come, easy go. Also, once again, I was singled out for having too much paper and told to send a bunch of it to property. This time they dumped out an envelope clearly labelled “RECYCLING” all over my bed which was kind of unnecessary since it was sitting beside the door. Also beside the door was a property envelope, clearly labelled with my name, inmate number and the contents and ready to go. This was also dumped out on my bed and the newspaper clipping were taken out of it and thrown out. Also tossed out were some newspaper articles about the G20 Investigative Report findings that I had just received in the mail and hadn't read yet. Which means, presumably, that any news articles that pass the censor guard are still considered contraband if you happen to be searched. So while they are in your possession, despite them having been handed to you by a guard, they are illegal. And, not only that, but if you haven't filled your property envelope and handed it in by search day, everything on newsprint heading to property (where it is supposed to go according to The Rules) is ALSO contraband. So i guess each article or news clipping shall now have it's own property envelope? Oh but wait...there's only so much space in storage, so that would also be wrong. I love how much the (lack of actual) rules and procedures make sense, don't you?

Anyway, despite that very minor fuckery, I did notice that the carnage in my cell was minimal and it didn't look like anyone had even gone into the property box at all. I asked the white shirt on duty about the newspapers, we argued for awhile, and finally she said “look, they’re not going to mess about with your stuff. I know they are being very careful with you because you are monitoring.” This echoed something i was told by another inmate once, we were talking about some of the really shitty things she'd experienced and seen in this place (violence from guards, long and unwarranted stints in the hole and so on) and I remarked that since I've been here there's been very little of that. She replied “well the guards aren't going to play on this range with you here.” As I see it, if these statements are true, it means a couple of things:

  1. Perhaps my experience is not representative of most people. Am I getting jail-lite? It's something to keep in mind from now on as you read this blog.

  2. Apparently, the key to being treated somewhat decently is to make your jail experience as public as possible. Perhaps this can help others on the range too. I was worried it would make me a target but it would appear the opposite is happening. So the more people who speak out the better.

On the topic of prisoners speaking out, my most exciting project at the moment is the special summer issue of The Peak magazine. This one is going to be all about Ontario prisons, with a significant amount of the content coming from past or current inmates. It feels really good to be able to help out with a project that's being co-ordinated on the outside -- these kinds of projects help to make this sentence feel productive and therefore bearable. check out the call out. If you're good at spelling and spotting typos and have a bit of time to spare after June 25, The Peak could really use your help :) there is a Peak work party on Wednesday, June 20 -- please attend and help if you can ( more info here).

Finally, in terms of G20 legal developments, the next month will be a mixed bag. Alex will be sentenced on June 26, two years to the day after our arrest. Of all the G20 main Conspiracy group, Alex is the one the state took the most pleasure in fucking over. He expects to serve about nine months, so please show your support. Shortly after Alex goes in and in less than one month now Leah gets out, which is really good news for the community. one more excellent organizer back to work! The jail has kept us apart the entire time we've been here, which I take as a compliment, but I'll still miss catching glimpses of her over on 2A and waving illegally (waves and smiles are very dangerous). And then there's Kelly, who will be sentenced on July 14. I have no idea what kind of sentence she's looking at but I do know it's happening Friday, July 13 ,10 a.m., Superior Court 361 University Ave. 4th Floor. If you believe, as I do, that all G20 charges should be dropped, call the attorney general and let them know. more information about this campaign can be found at http://julianichim.wordpress.com/.

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