No inmates have tested positive yet, but it’s only a matter of time, experts say.
To call these numbers of incarcerated Indigenous people a crisis would be the understatement of the century.
While we may not have the same incarceration numbers, private prisons or overt existence of a prison pipeline, Canada has seen an increase in incarceration over the last decade, and this population continues to be over-represented by black, brown and Latino youth. This highlights a need for open discussion.
Resiliency is the ability to recover -- in other words, to return to a prior state of health. That's great, but what if you start life at such a deficit that you never had that state of wellness to begin with? If your life then slides even further downhill as an adult, the best you can hope for under the terms of resiliency is to return to your previous condition.
Four months ago, I began teaching inmates in two of Ontario's maximum security jails. The experience has taught me a lot in a very short amount of time. I'm learning about an alternative universe that exists in parallel to mine. I'm accessing a dimension which is completely divergent from the one I was born into, and I'm still trying to digest it all.
Canadians might be surprised to learn that many health and social services widely available in the community are not available in most of Canada's correctional facilities -- this needs to change. We are missing a critical window of opportunity to reframe the period of incarceration as a time to help people improve their health and well-being before returning to our communities.
It surprises most people to know that about one in 200 Canadians is detained or incarcerated in jail or prison every year, and that the average length of stay in these facilities is only a few weeks. Time spent in jail or prison can serve as an opportunity to improve health. But achieving this goal will require a change in attitudes about health care in custody and reforming health care in correctional facilities.
The legal threshold for police to obtain a warrant to arrest individuals who have committed no crimes would be lowered. Canadians could be held in custody for up to seven days without charges. Bill C-51's gives powers of "preventive detention," which means jail time for individuals even when there isn't any suspicion criminal activity has taken place.
I use humour to deflect fear. The more freaked out I am, the more jokes I make. The day I went in to The Clink, I was hilarious, cracking jokes about what I should wear. And then I started comparing my job as a humourist to theirs. "Oh, you were part of a hostage-taking? That's nothing. I worked with Mike Bullard."
The Ontario government should not be afraid to resist Harper's misguided crime agenda. Instead of selling out another generation for political expediency, Ontario should commit the crime that Harper fears the most: sociology.