Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ABC's of Justice

While the national media focuses on H1N1, the ABC virus continues to spread unabated.

The latest casualty is the Provincial Department of Justice. The ABC virus used to be confined to the long-standing agitation for a federal penitentiary in NL. As Labradore noted at the time, the Williams government was putting new rhetorical wine into an old political bottle:

But the ABC virus has since mutated into a new form that afflicts provincial as well as federal jurisdictions. In response to mounting public complaints about the poor condition of Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's, the Williams government is apparently lobbying Ottawa to pay part of the cost of building a new provincial facility.

The VOCM story on 18 July neatly blurs the line between HM Penitentiary (a facility run by the province) and the long-standing campaign for a new federal penitentiary: "The province has been asking the federal government to help build a new prison in the province [a provincial penitentiary?], but the feds have yet to jump on board."

It's unclear whether this is part of the new federal-shaming policy that Fisheries Minister Hedderson announced last week, but it's certainly a sharp departure from Premier Williams' public declaration in the House of Assembly less than three months ago:

Or perhaps, like all agitprop, it's a hybrid of the two. Whatever the case, today's coverage in the Telegram shows that even inmates are well aware of the politics of prisons. According to the Telegram, a former inmate said, "federal politicians who refuse to fund a new [provincial] prison should be fired." (It appears that only the Premier is allowed to say publicly that officials should be shot).

When asked by the Telegram, Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan released a statement saying, "As this is a provincial facility, the prison and its future are entirely the responsibility of the province."

Meanwhile, the Provincial Department of Justice refused to comment on the matter. I wonder why.

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