Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Will the Real 'Correctional Grunt' Please Stand Up?

My ex-blogmate Raphael Alexander was one of several bloggers who posted about the Conservative government's plans to toughen up Canada's youth crime laws a few days ago. One of the people who commented on his post was an anonymous corrections officer calling himself "Correctional Grunt" who regaled us all with tales of the unrepentant young hoodlums he has to deal with every day and the many ways in which he and his fellow officers have been hamstrung by politically correct government and social policies.

As a youth correctional officer, let me give you guys an insider view of the YCJA, programming, and rehabilitation.

I am one of many Correctional Officers in a Young Offender facility in Ontario; or at least we USED to be. During the last Government's tenure we saw our job titles changed to "Youth Services Officer". That tells you exactly what our current and former provincial and federal Liberal Government's attitude was and is towards young offenders; that they are to be "serviced".

We are are not even allowed to refer to them as "young offenders" when we write and report them for in-facility infractions and incidents. Now they are "young persons", or "clients" and the word "criminal" or "offender", which is exactly what they are, is forgotten for fear of damaging their already tender sensibilities and self esteem.

It goes on and on like that, for fourteen paragraphs, and sounds like a sincere, if somewhat angry and one-sided, first person account from the front lines of our youth justice system. In fact, Raph was so impressed that he re-posted the comment in its entirety today, claiming it had changed his mind on the whole issue.

The trouble is, it all sounded so... familiar.

One person mentioned another blog where an anonymous commenter had posted the exact same comment a week earlier - right down to the same typo near the beginning of the fourth paragraph. So I decided to do a little digging.

Unfortunately, the comment sections of most blogs don't get picked up in a Google search, but just by looking for blog posts about Canada's youth justice system it didn't take long to find more recipients of Correctional Grunt's insightful, if repetitive, commentary.

The Turner Report
, July 2008
Joanne's Journey, January 2008
Blue Like You, January 2008 (that one splits it up between two comments)
Kitchener Conservative, October 2006
Small Dead Animals, April 2006

The one on SDA was the earliest incident I found, and was also somewhat shorter with slightly different wording, which makes me think this might have been the original version.

A couple of these actually had follow-up comments from 'CG', so it may well be that this is, or was, a real person - if a somewhat unimaginative one. Then again, what kind of person keeps a copy of something like this for almost two and a half years just so they can paste it into the comments section of every blog post they find that mentions our youth justice system? And how often has the identical 'comment' been sent to newspaper editors or pasted into newspaper comments sections?

So. Just to satisfy my curiosity, would the real 'Correctional Grunt' please drop me a line? I promise not to reveal your Secret Identity - I would just like some evidence that you really are who you say you are.

And if anyone else has seen this comment appear elsewhere, or knows where it came from originally, please let me know. It would be nice to know if it is actually the same person posting this thing hither and yon, or if this isn't just the blog version of the classic conservative chain letter.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I usually blog under the handle "Kai Wolf". I used "Correctional Grunt" as a sock puppet for this because in this instance, its more much more appropriate.

  3. And no, in case you are wondering, I'm not one of the mouth breathing knuckle draggers that is so often prominently alluded to as a typical correctional officer. Does that sterotype exist? Unfortunatley, it does! But you'll find that is becoming less and less the case. Back in the day, all you had to do was show up with a high school diploma, and you were asked if you could fight. if you were a former hockey player, you'd be a show in, lol! Now they are looking for university graduates in a related field, whih is what I am.

    I treat those under my supervision with respect and dignity, even with a sense of humour that they often appreciate. I'm not there to judge them, because that has already been done; that is not my job. I don't belittle them, I afford them every right that they are entitled to, and I do my best to make sure that they take advantage of the programming that is available to them - for the ones that desire positive change.

    I've worked in the adult system. Everyday I try to impress upon the ones that glorify what it is to be part of the violent "thug life" that its NOT what its cracked up to be. But you know, many don't care. Many of them have moms, dads, brothers, sisters, hell even grandparents that are or have been part of the adult system. They glorify that kind of life, too. Now how in the HELL are you supposed to compete with that?

    Am I bitter because of all this? Well, not for the reasons you probably think. I'm bitter because though I love my job and used to support the original idea and philosophy behind what we are supposed to be doing, its obviously not working. Years ago, we used to usually get the ones, for example, stealing cars. But now seeing how many are violent and literally murderous, it makes me wonder how, other than simply warehousing them, we are supposed to engage them as regular, but misguided teenagers that the Ministry tells us they are when all they really want to do is smash you for what you are as easily as looking at you.

    Ever hear of the IRCS program? At its most basic premise, they set aside about $100,000 for long term (?) youth offenders for programming and such. In theory, perhaps a good idea. But some of the dubious things I've seen the money spent on leaves me with my head shaking. Such waste when you start to wonder how $100,000 could help a family in desperate need that plays by the rules.

    In my opinion, and for what its worth (probably not very much in your eyes, lol) the pendulum has swung too far left on this issue. That being said, however, I really shouldn't advocate it swinging too hard right either.

    Anyway, h/t to you as well for the invite and providing a venue. :) Perhaps one day there will be a common middle ground on this issue that we can all accept.

  4. Actually one of the changes I do appreciate is the way some disruptive inmates are handled.

    For example, if an inmate was refusing to change into secure isolation clothing, the shift supervisor gave an ultimatum to change, and if it wasn't obeyed, then it was pounce and force strip. I always hated that, especially when you think about how some of these inmates were victims of sexual assault. Or if they were suicidal and needed to changed prior to being put on suicide watch. That was the LAST thing either should be experiencing. It doesn't matter what they did, I've always believed that was an absolutley terrible policy and it pissed me off everytime we were told we had to do it.

  5. I used "Correctional Grunt" as a sock puppet for this because in this instance, its more much more appropriate.

    Well, that explains a lot. I hope someone tracks down who you are and makes a complaint to your employer.

  6. Well, I certainly appreciate your coming by and clearing that up. Although I'm still not convinced that you and Correctional Grunt aren't two different people - not unless one of you is actually Bruce Banner :)

    Now that I have you in person and not your pre-recorded message, I'm interested in your response to this, from the DOJ website:

    "The U.S. Surgeon General's recent study on youth violence concluded that boot camps, custodial programs with strict military-style rules, fail to make a positive difference and can actually increase the rate at which participants commit new crimes. [6] The same study found that youths transferred to adult criminal court are more likely to re-offend than young people who remain in juvenile courts.

    In 2002, the federal government released a review of 111 studies on the effects of criminal justice sanctions on more than 442,000 offenders. It found that harsher punishments had no deterrent effect on repeat offences. In fact, it suggested that punishment caused a 3% increase in recidivism among all groups of offenders, including youth.[7]"

    I would also like to point out that the original issue here was the government's desire to make it mandatory for the courts to bump youth offenders into adult court for violent crimes. Aside from the fact that this approach has been proven ineffective (see above), mandatory anything in a court of law means that there is no way to distinguish between a chronic career gangbanger and, say, one of my son's asshole friends.

    Everything you have said tells me that youth crime is an incredibly complex issue, and that there is no single solution that will address every crime or every criminal. Which is precisely why mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory adult court for violent youths are such monumentally bad ideas.

    I'm still waiting to hear a better one.

    Two suggestions: formally recognize the direct link between poverty and crime, and get rid of the "two-for-one" credit for time served.

    (And ti_guy: settle down, that wasn't the point of this.)

  7. Thanks for that, Jennifer. Its definelty food for thought,and much appreciated.

    I've e-mailed you, as you've requested to continue this off-blog. I did so as Correctional Grunt to prove to you that Kai Wolf and CG are indeed one and the same. I very much appreciate the dialogue.

    I can't say that what you've said has won me over(yet), but if its convicing enough, I can't say that I'd be opposed to the idea. :)

  8. And ti_guy: settle down, that wasn't the point of this.

    For me it is. I take these issues very seriously, and I am very much on the side of police and correctional officers and anyone else who occupies a position that, by consent, allows them certain powers that the average citizen doesn't have. I know how difficult those jobs are.

    I expect, above all, a certain level of professionalism, and Kai_Wolf's sock-puppetting to copy and paste a rant all over the place is not a proper reaction to whatever difficulties he's having. It undermines the faith all of us have to have to believe these people are capable of doing their jobs.

  9. ti_guy -

    I understand that and yesterday I would have agreed, but today cooler heads are starting to prevail. We're actually starting to engage in some productive dialogue now and I don't want to screw that up.

    Given his more recent statements here and in his email to me, I am willing to accept the explanation he has given of his words and his behaviour, and I'd like to just move forward. Besides, I don't think we'll be seeing that same cookie-cutter rant being posted again (right, kai?)