Joel’s Blog: Carrots and Sticks

April 20, 2014

This week I was finally transferred from Unit 5 to Unit 6, a move I was
dreading.  In jail, change is a bad thing and can cause a great deal of
stress.  It feels like whenever I begin to feel comfortable on a range, my
roots are pulled out from under me and I have to readapt to a new space.  Most
inmates agree that these constant transfers, along with the fear of the
unknown, makes our lives much more difficult.  When the time came for the
transfer, I was strip searched in the shower stalls (boxers off, open your
mouth, turn around, and touch your toes) and had my possessions sorted

Many of my belongings were trashed or confiscated pushing me to say to a
guard, “This isn’t ok, we have rights.”

She responded, “You gave up your rights when you decided to commit crimes.”

I challenged her on this because I found the response ignorant and
insensitive.  It was also filled with a reactionary disrespect for me as a
human being.

“If we don’t have rights, why are we given three meals per day, given beds
to sleep in, or brought to yard every day?”

 Of course we have rights, I don’t think there is any debating this.  Many
of our rights have been won through struggle by inmates before us just how
wage earners enjoy rights won by workers before them.  If we don’t
constantly assert those rights, those who have power over us will do their
best to take them away.

I am now writing this from Unit 6, which is advertised as the “privileged”
unit by staff.  There are benefits to being here (like fewer lockouts and
access to books), but I’ve observed that the privileges are dangled in
front of us like carrots in order to keep us in check and passive.  The
interesting thing is that we do not have many of the things that are
standard on Unit 5 like weight bags, workout equipment, or adequate laundry.
Most people on Unit 6 don’t want to accept the status quo for fear of being
moved back to Unit 5.  I’ve also noticed that, here, we are babied and
observed a great deal more.  It’s interesting how authoritarian systems use
privilege as a way to better control populations.

After getting settled a Canadian Border Security agent came to see me.  The
purpose of the meeting was to arrest me so I can’t walk out the front door
of the jail.  Instead, when my sentence is complete, I will promptly be
deported.  Most likely, they will drive me to the border and leave me there.
He also told me that if I’m granted parole in August, the same thing will
happen.  I will simply get deported with the one condition that I am never
to return to Canada.  He also said that being American will work in my
favor because they would rather get rid of me than continue to pay for my

It’s definitely tempting to get my hopes up, but I don’t think things will
be that easy for me.  Even though my chances of returning to jail are
essentially zero, I believe that people high up in government (both
Canadian and US) want to make an example out of me.  They call it a
“deterrence factor”.  Why would they set a global precedent for extraditing
a US citizen across an international border for property damage charges,
and then just let me go at the earliest possible date?  It’s very tempting,
but I’m not getting my hopes up.  I refuse to let them crush my spirits by
letting them take away something I might desperately want.  This isn’t to
say that I won’t apply for parole in earnestness; I’m just trying to be
realistic about the potential outcomes.  Besides, it’s not so bad here –
what’s another six and a half months in the grand scheme of things?