To begin I will restate the proposed change, as written in the internal memo provided to us:
“With respect to visiting, an amendment is being sought to change the legal test that must be satisfied by an institutional head or a staff member when granting a visit without a physical barrier to an inmate. Currently, S.90 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations indicates that every inmate shall have a reasonable opportunity to meet with a visitor without a physical barrier to personal contact unless the institutional head believes on reasonable grounds that the barrier is necessary for the security of the penitentiary or the safety of any person. The regulatory proposal would amend the legal test to that of “suspect” on reasonable grounds that the barrier is necessary for the security of the penitentiary or the safety of any person.”
This change may sound small, but what it creates is a position where guards can arbitrarily apply restrictions to some, and not others.
It was recently ‘family day’ at GVI, a day where select approved visitors were able to come in for a few hours, where funds collected by us imprisoned supported food and children’s entertainment. From my position in max, I was able to watch families as they entered in the parking lot. I was one of few in max approved to attend, and was pleased when my family was quickly and easily admitted. Others were not so lucky. For all, the process involved entering the parking lot, speaking to local police, being sniffed by drug dogs, and turning their cars over to be searched and sniffed by police and dogs.
I worried as I saw cars being towed out, faster than they had come in, when I saw handcuffs on people waiting to be hugged. I learned later a few young people had been arrested for having small amounts of marijuana in their cars, but I learned something else.
Everyone seemed to agree that the lighter a family’s skin, the sooner they were processed. My family had been treated respectfully, but I spoke with a separate family who were repeatedly subject to having their car drug sniffed, who felt as if the prison had suspected them of trouble from the moment they arrived. I worry, had staff been able to deny the family on suspicion alone that they would have ( this family of course was eventually found to have no contraband and were permitted in).
A situation is never good, where rules do not have to be equally applied. Suspect is a vague term, and not taken in isolation, but considered alongside all the other many changes regarding visiting that the prison is currently implementing, it seems as though, like in many American prisons, CSC wants to phase out non-restrictive visits.
Further, even if this amendment was not a disastrous blow, which I believe it will be, why are they making it virtually impossible for our families to provide input – where their input is legally encouraged? The memo states “the process requires that consultation be conducted with all stakeholders affected…” but none of my visitors, or any other max woman’s visitors will have a chance to contribute, given the 2 day window. I wonder, if CSC are not doing anything wrong, what have they got to worry about? Why not let our voices be included?