Hudak & Slavery

This post originally featured in The Silhouette's paper edition, in September of 2011.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has concocted the idea of forcing prisoners residing within Ontario provincial correctional facilities to partake in unpaid forced labour as an integral part of of his campaign platform-- playing off of the ideal that prisoners shouldn't be given a free ride. Tim Hudak, in reference to the policy stated

"We're not asking convicted prisoners to do anything more than what hard-working Ontario families do every day: work.

And, you know, I don't disagree that Ontario families work hard.

I commend the leader of the Progressive Conservatives for recognizing this fact.

I do, however, disagree entirely with his plan to force Ontario's prisoners to work unpaid compulsory full-time jobs, for several reasons.

First and foremost: the plan is in direct defiance of the United Nation's Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners. Principle eight of this resolution states "Conditions shall be created enabling prisoners to undertake meaningful remunerated employment which will facilitate their reintegration into the country's labour market and permit them to contribute to their own financial support and to that of their families. It's quite clear that Hudak's plan of forcing unpaid labour upon Ontario's prisoners with a workload that is the equivalent of a full-time job is a completely ignorant defiance and violation of this principle.

On top of the fact Hudak's plan runs contrary to a United Nations resolution, promoting a goal of instilling fear of punishment in prisoners, rather than focusing on their rehabilitation and normal reintegration into society through an educated understanding of their actions, is flawed logic.

A prisoner should not be taught to feel alienated from the society around them, but to learn to once again become part of it.

The goal of prisons should be to imprison those convicted of crimes-- and then, throughout the course of their sentence, rehabilitate them in a way that they learn why their actions are not acceptable within society, so that they have an actual understanding of why their actions were considered criminal and ultimately increase their respect for the expectations of our society.

Yet, if this integral part of the Progressive Conservatives' platform is allowed to go forward come election day, it will do anything but.

It will serve only to further decrease prisoner's respect for society by allowing them to be subjected to such demeaning punishment and will, if anything, provide to them a mistaken moral justification of further defiance of the law in the future.

Allowing this policy to come to fruition, will assert that we, as Ontarians, believe that forced compulsory labour is a justified means of punishment for our prisoners. Can we truly claim to be a free, democratic society, if we're willing to support what is quite essentially slavery?

So that about covers why Hudak's plan is unethical, but let's touch on the nonsensical part:

Ontario's prison base is made up entirely of prisoners that have been sentenced for no longer than two years, as sentences that are any higher than two years are within the jurisdiction of federal and not provincial penitentiaries. This means Hudak would have no say over those in federal penitentiaries.

So then, with sentences no longer than two years under provincial jurisdiction, that means that the nature of the crimes committed by the people Hudak would be forcing unpaid labour upon would be of lesser severity.

And with that, I'll leave you to consider this tidbit:

In theory, one could land a prison sentence for the theft of a mere chocolate bar. Forced compulsory unpaid labour as punishment for an improperly satisfied sweet tooth.

The thought leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.