location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 1 / Chapter 2 "Good Corrections": Organizational Renewal and the Mission Statement

Even if the everyday language of correctional planning, in contrast to the high-flying language of the Mission Document, no longer carries the traditional message of virtue and morality, that does not mean the everyday practices of the penitentiary regime convey no moral message or lessons. The significance of the latent pedagogy of institutional practice is well captured by Garland:

Institutions do inevitably address a specific rhetoric to their inmate audiences, even if it is only the amoral and dehumanizing rhetoric of a regime which treats prisoners primarily as bodies to be counted and objects to be administered. For the daily practices of an institution, no matter how mundane, tend to take on a definite meaning for those who are subject to them. And whatever meanings the judge, or the public, or the penitentiary reformers meant to convey by sending offenders to prison, it is the day-to-day actualities of the internal regime which do most to fix the meaning of imprisonment for those inside. If this regime is just, fairly administered, caring, and humane, it is possible that its recipients will learn some of the lessons of citizenship, though prison inmates usually form a formidably sceptical audience. However, if, as is more usual, the prison regime belies its good intentions, and in the name of administrative convenience allows a measure of injustice, or arbitrariness, or indifference, or brutality, then it is likely to inspire nothing but resentment and opposition from this particular audience. Any moral message which the authorities may wish to hold out will be spoiled by the signs of hypocrisy, by self-contradiction or simply by the extent to which inmates are already alienated from the legal system and all that it stands for. (at 261-62)

In the chapters that follow, the voices of Canadian prisoners, expressed in rather less measured prose than that of Professor Garland, will speak no less eloquently of the lessons of modern corrections as learned through its administrative practices.

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