WCR EDITORIAL

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May 14, 2012

While some maintain that convicted felon and former media mogul Conrad Black got a sweetheart deal from the Canadian government in being allowed back into the country, all we can say is, "Welcome home, Conrad."

Black, we trust, will become a leading opponent of the Conservative government's malicious prison "reform" scheme, a cause in dire need of a high-profile, non-partisan critic. From the distance of his U.S. prison cell, Black has already blasted the government's massive prison expansion plans and its policy of institutionalized unforgiveness as "sadistic and malicious."

As for mandatory prison sentencing, Black has compared the government's contention that it will reduce drug crimes to the folly of "archaic cultures that clung to the belief that the Earth was flat." Such programs, the U.S. has abundantly proved, are "both extremely costly and ineffective."

As for the inmates, although they acted wrongly and foolishly in getting thrown into jail, "many are victims of legal and social injustice, inadequately provided for by the public assistance system, and over-prosecuted and vengefully sentenced."

A country, Black says, only testifies to its own pathetic education, social service and justice systems by throwing so many millions behind bars.

Is this an admission that Canada also wants to make? If so, would it not be better to challenge such injustice head-on instead of throwing those whose lives have been demolished into prison? If billions of dollars are available to build and operate a fleet of new prisons, would it not be smarter and more compassionate to use that money to improve the battered systems that create criminals?

The way inmates are treated "implicitly assumes that all who are convicted are guilty and have no remaining claim to decency from the state," says Black. If rehabilitation is one major goal of prison - and it ought to be - then treating prisoners humanely is an essential part of rehabilitation. It is unreasonable to expect those treated as caged animals for an extended period will become paragons of virtue once returned to the community.

Sadly, prisons will always be needed, mainly to protect the populace from violent offenders. However, the predilection for using incarceration to treat any and all criminal offenders is a sign of barbarism every bit as much as is society's willingness to kill its own unborn.

Maximum security should be reserved for those who are a threat to society. Those who do not represent a clear danger should be treated with intelligence and insight to enable them to become full members of society.

Conrad Black we urge you to employ your experience to be a voice for those who have no voice.