Prison Law, Human Rights, Criminal Justice System
Every Canadian academic conducting research with humans must submit an ethics application with their university’s Research Ethics Board. One of the key questions in that application inquired into the level of vulnerability of the interviewees. Filling in that question, I had to check nearly every box: the interviewees were incarcerated, old, under-educated, poor, Indigenous or other racial minorities, and likely had mental and physical disabilities. However, it was not until I met John that I understood what all those boxes actually meant. They were signalling that I was entering a universe of extreme marginalization—the universe of the forgotten. I learned then what we, as a society, look like at our worst, when no one watches, when there is no money to be made and no votes to be gained. Entering this universe has allowed me to identify some broader socio-legal issues, applicable across prison demographics, from gaps in prison health care and punitive carceral responses to health needs, to substantive and procedural access to justice for violations of rights in prisons and the role of health care and access to justice in achieving the rehabilitative and reintegration goals of sentencing.
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Adelina Iftene, "The Bad, the Ugly, and the Horrible: What I Learned about Humanity by Doing Prison Research" (2020) 43:1 Dal LJ.