Bioethics Blogs

Crime and Healing

El Jones asks us to think about incarceration in terms of health, not punishment.


I just got off the phone with a man in Quebec – a lifer – who has recently been transferred from a maximum security prison to a medium security prison. This means that he can have more freedom of movement, more access to programs, and more opportunities for interaction with other inmates. It also means that he has two weeks to find a job. If he doesn’t have a job by then, he will be locked in his cell during work hours.

He applied for a number of jobs that weren’t available – the job postings were outdated. He applied to work in the prison hospital, but he was turned down because he was perceived as a “risk.” He applied to work as a range cleaner (sweeping and mopping housing areas) and as a food server.

The one job he doesn’t want is a job with CORCAN, which he describes as a “sweatshop.” CORCAN is Correctional Services Canada employment “training” program. CORCAN work mostly involves mass manufacturing of such things as mattresses, pillows, blankets, office furniture, and other products that are sold primarily to federal government departments.

A former member of the inmate committee at a federal institution, describes CORCAN jobs as exploitative. A prisoner who works for CORCAN will be working in a highly supervised environment, in a job that offers no real skills training, without labour benefits or incentives, and where there are quotas that have to be met.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.