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Op-ed: CBC’s Springhill advertorial

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I am a lousy reporter, an amateur really, but if I were asked to do a story on condition that I do not talk to the people affected I would pass.

It seems the CBC doesn’t share those concerns.

CBC reporters Nina Corfu and Phlis McGregor recently went on a tightly managed tour of the federal penitentiary in Springhill, Nova Scotia.

Reporters were not allowed to ask “tough questions”, inmates “were kept out of sight,” and the story shows it.

Everything the journalists report is good news.

We get to meet a very cute drug detection dog named Red, who once sniffed out 0.01 grams of hash.

The newer buildings are beautiful.

And the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CORCAN) Industries building, where prisoners build furniture for government offices are an inspiring place to learn about “working with people, managing your emotions, showing up for work on time.”

However, Springhill is about more than cute dogs, and photos of beautiful apartments devoid of people.  

This is the same Springhill penitentiary where prisoners are paid a take home amount of  $1.95 per day, after a conservative pay cut of 30% in 2012. Is that really sending the right message about the value of work?

It’s the same place that was under lockdown for days on end after a disturbance that involved 19 inmates less than three months ago.

People died violent deaths in Springhill in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, something then Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Saper considered part of “a disturbing trend.”

Lots of stuff for a journalist to check out here, and often the CBC has been front and center on these investigations.

Which makes last week’s prison advertorial all the more disappointing.

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One Comment

  1. I volunteered in this institution for a few years and in a number of other institutions throughout Canada. Not having any illusions about prisons, having worked for many years with adults and young offenders. None the less, I had many disturbing, discouraging, eye opening experiences. I learned how very dysfunctional prisons and the correctional system really is. Many inmates start of as youth in care, then into custodial facilities, aging out of the system, which quickly sets them up for adult prison, in a society that looks upon too many troubled kids as disposable youth.

    Too high of a percentage are marginalized individuals to begin with, in a unjust judicial system, more often than not Indigenous, sexually abused, with complex mental health issues that rarely are addressed.

    The fact that the CBC failed in reporting as was discouraged in doing so, does not surprise me at all. It simply affirms once again how the, “out of site out of mind” attitude is perpetuated and how prisons are big business. Disturbingly the money is not going where is should in order to provide mental health support and other programing desperately need to “rehabilitate” and prepare individuals to reintegrate eventually back into society. What comes to my mind is the truthful adage, no justice, no peace.

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