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Correctional Culture And The Limitations Of Oversight: A Bourdieusian Analysis Of Penal Governance

1094 words - 5 pages

In an era dominated by a political culture promoting rhetoric centred on being “tough on crime,” protecting “victim’s rights,” and creating “safe streets and communities,” the study of injustice, and the pursuit of protection for prisoner’s human rights within the correctional landscape might be perceived as a losing battle. However, in the wake of the coroner’s investigation and subsequent finding of homicide in the death of Ashley Smith, questions are being raised regarding the care and custody of an inmate population that is increasingly racialized, gendered, and medicalized. Accountability and transparency in corrections are words that flow freely, but frequently contradict the reality. ...view middle of the document...

Using a Bourdieu inspired lens, I position the relationship between the Correctional Investigator of Canada (further CIC) and the Correctional Service of Canada (further CSC) as one which embodies specific “divisions of labour,” each having contradicting priorites (Bourdieu 1987: 818). Thus, an inevitable “symbolic struggle” (Bourdieu 1991/2011: 454) manifests as each agent seeks to establish their sense of place, and ultimately their position of power, within the correctional “habitus” (ibid: 448). It is my intention in this essay to structure my analysis of the power dynamics inherrent in Canada’s correctional institution using Bourdieusian theoretical constructs, in an effort to highlight their applicability to social phenomena, and to showcase his contributions to contemporary sociological debates.
Agents within the Correctional Habitus
The CSC is, “responsible for 57 institutions and 84 parole offices and sub-offices in Canada” (Correctional Service of Canada 2010). The CSC’s responsibility includes the care and custody of federally sentenced adults, with a minimum sentence of two years. The number of federally sentenced inmates in the custody of the CSC is estimated between 13,000 and 15,000 (Brosnahan 2013, Waller and Piché 2012). The Commissioner of Corrections reports to the Minister of Public Safety, who in turn, reports to Parliament on the activities of the CSC.
The primary mandate of the CSC is public security; accordingly, the CSC seeks to control offenders while they are in custody (Correctional Service of Canada 2008). However, CSC is responsible for ensuring safe, secure and humane conditions of confinement for inmates and staff, and must additionally provide opportunities for offender rehabilitation prior to community release (Correctional Service of Canada 2008). The CSC is governed by several key pieces of legislation, not the least of which includes: the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
In Bourdieu’s terms, these legal “texts” form the basis for the moralization of not just the offenders, but for the CSC as well. They work to responsibilize the agents working within the correctional habitus, but also, they provide a public demonstration that the law embodies, “impartiality and neutrality” which suggests that we are all equal and accountable under the law (Bourdieu 1987: 810). Further, Bourdieu asserts that a social field...

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