Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Oct 25, 2010)

We all scream for ice cream

By Bob Cooper




Will Rogers once said that it was easy being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.  Whenever I’m short of material for a column, which isn’t too often these days, I just Google Corrections Canada and always come up with something.

Before I get into it let me be clear that I’ve worked closely with Corrections Canada on numerous occasions and have nothing but respect for the front line sworn personnel like the Guards and the Institution Security Officers who perform the Intelligence function.  The criticisms in this and previous columns (Canada needs Sheriff Joe) are directed solely at Corrections management, a sorry lot who cringe at words like punishment or deterrent.   Mr. Toews’ failure to go in and sack the bunch of them strains his own credibility and that of his ‘law & order’ government.

I recall going to interview an inmate at Kent Maximum Security Prison some years ago.  As we were being escorted through the prison we stopped at a gate.  On the other side was an inmate who was arguing with 2 guards and a supervisor in civilian clothes.  He was telling them that he wasn’t going to rake any f**king leaves and they could shove the rake up their a**, etc. etc..  The supervisor waved the guards off and just took this, saying “Now Roger, you have to understand……”.  This went on for quite some time while we waited for the gate to open.  The Security Officer with us, clearly embarrassed, finally asked how long this would have gone on in the City Jail.  The detective I was with turned to him and said “It’s already over and they’re on the Intercom calling for the nurse”.  When we got to the interview, the inmate who was a pleasant young guy mentioned that this was his first federal sentence.  We asked him if he found a difference between federal and provincial prisons and he said, “You can’t believe it.  The cons run the place and there’s guys in here who don’t even think they’ve done anything wrong”.  

If you can believe this, Corrections Canada has just called for bids on a $43,000.00 yearly contract to supply ice cream to federal prisons in Quebec.  Yes, ice cream.  Like most government documents the call for tenders goes on forever with various requirements for the successful bidder.  One that jumped out at me was that the supplier must be prepared to deliver on an ‘as and when required’ basis or ‘within 24 hours in an emergency’.  I’d love to hear Corrections Canada’s definition of an ice cream emergency.  Catered Prison weddings and such I’d imagine or as a bargaining chip during a prison riot.  “If you go back to your cells we’ll give you ice cream”  when it should be “If you go back to your cells you won’t get hit with rubber bullets, bird shot, or tear gas”.

Since the contract deals solely with prisons in Quebec I’ll assume they do this sort of thing on a regional basis as opposed to Quebec inmates being the only ones in Canada who get ice cream.  Then again, the way the government panders to Quebec it wouldn’t surprise me especially with the disproportionate number of politicians there who currently get to choose between chocolate, vanilla, or pistachio.  So multiply $43,000 by the other Provinces and you’ll get the total cost.   By the way, another inmate who will be getting the same choice is Clifford Olson.

The disconnect between Corrections Canada and the rest of society is stunning.  It’s as if they don’t even realize there’s a recession out there and they’re paying for this with our tax dollars.  David Martins-Toner of FACT put it very well on the news when he remarked that ice cream is a treat commonly given to children as a reward for being good.

When a lot of average Canadian families can’t afford to buy ice cream on a regular basis the only time convicts should get it is with their last meal and we haven’t served one of those since 1962.


Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.


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