Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of July 25, 2005)

Porn, Drugs and Hard Time

  By John Martin

Itís no surprise that inmates in Canadaís prisons routinely possess contraband such as drugs, knives and alcohol.  But how about Play Stations, Nintendos and G strings?  Itís all revealed in a just released report by MP Randy White. 

Randy has long been a critic of Corrections Canada and his latest revelations are outrageous.

Using a smuggled cell phone, inmate Rivo DíOnofrio organized a cocaine smuggling operation from Costa Rica to Miami.

Another inmate in Ontarioís Don Jail ran an international fraudulent telemarketing scheme while he was supposedly being rehabilitated. 

Inmates at the Hamilton Community Correctional Centre used prison phones to ring up more than $800 worth of calls to sex chat lines.

Reach out and touch someone, indeed.

Thereís more.  Corrections Canada pays for tattoo parlors, needles exchanges and sex change operations.  Which is to say, you pay.

Prison guards, who are not allowed to wear protective vests, must deal with inmates armed with home made knives, zip guns and contaminated needles.  An Alberta judge actually ruled that an inmate was justified in carrying a concealed knife for personal protection while incarcerated.

Arrows and tennis balls full of drugs are routinely sent flying over institutional walls.

Magazine subscriptions in Canadian prisons include Hustler, Barely Legal, Porn Stars and dozens of other pornographic publications.  If this is rehabilitation, what exactly are we preparing these people for?

It gets worse.

Convicted murderer Anthony Laidlaw was bored at Ferndale Institution.  So he stole $500 from the prison canteen and went for a walk.  Laidlaw got a room at a nearby hotel, a bunch of liquor and a hooker.  Three days later he was broke so he turned himself in.  Howís that for hard time?

Barbeques, pitch and putt, tennis, baseball and other recreational activities are readily available.  These are supposed to normalize the environment and keep inmates occupied.  But escapes, riots, damage to public property, stabbings and assaulting staff are still common.

One inmate actually escaped from the Regina Correctional Facility by telling guards he was someone else who was scheduled to be discharged.  They opened up the doors and he walked away.  Sounds like a Canadian version of The Great Escape, doesnít it?

Given that very few criminals are ever sent to prison we should assume that only the worst of the worst are actually confined.  Yet it appears many prisons are being run like youth summer camps.

Thereís an on-going gag in Trailer Park Boys where Ricky keeps explaining that jail isnít so bad.  He notes thereís lots of dope, you can get drunk every night and thereís always a party on the weekend.

Trailer Park Boys is a low budget sit-com. 

But based on whatís happening in Canadaís prisons, one could be forgiven for thinking itís a documentary.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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