Dumb and Dumber

With the conservative government dragging their heels on anything proactive regarding the recommendations put forward by the inquest into the Ashley Smith homicide I must speak.

Sometimes surfing the internet is a vice but I have been fortuitous in stumbling on the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner’s Directive. The Commissioner’s Policy Objective Regarding Health Services is:

1. To ensure that inmates have access to essential medical, dental and mental health services in keeping with generally accepted community practices.

From personal experience and more radically from the circumstances of Ashley Smith’s death I feel obliged to point out to the commissioner or anyone else who doesn’t care, that community practices do not include solitary confinement as a default. It seems individuals in corrections feel solitary confinement is a panacea. We leave medicine up to people who are trained to turn keys and push food carts. I can’t believe we pay correctional officers $50 000 a year to call surnames, inspect anuses, turn a key and distribute diets. In Canada we need at least two guards and a lieutenant to orchestrate the ordinary.

Please don’t assume I am a disgruntled delinquent. The same stupidity can be found in many public services. Last month the London Fire Department was experiencing some form of inefficient insomnia or doing some sort of safety blitz. On three separate evenings a full size fire truck pulled in front of my house. I tend to self-isolate and have a degree of agoraphobia so I ignored them the first two times when they knocked on my door. I finally relented and decided my discomfort was less important than the tax dollars that were blowing down the street.

It took two “blueshirts” or regular firemen and one “whiteshirt” or supervisor to canvas me about having fire detectors on each floor and a carbon monoxide detector. It was costing Londoners about $153.00 per hour to have these bored but brave men go door to door and that doesn’t count whatever the hell it cost to fuel a fire truck at $1.39 a litre. Get a Smart car dumbass! I may be an idiot but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a 15 year old who needs volunteer hours to pull a Radio Flyer wagon full of batteries and smoke detectors through the same neighbourhoods to hand out to citizens without? We could save money as taxpayers and probably save more lives. I understand the dilemma. What would fire services have to bargain with if they did less than less?

I digress but it is an honest diversion. While I was in jail I also had “blueshirts” or guards come to my door with the odd “whiteshirt” in the background making sure my captors didn’t screw up simplicity.

According to the Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner and their Response to Medical Emergencies: the primary goal is the preservation of life.

• Non-health services staff arriving on the scene of a possible medical emergency (like a ligature around the neck) must immediately call for assistance, secure the area and initiate CPR/first aid without delay.
• Non-health services staff must continue to perform CPR/first aid until relieved by health services staff or the ambulance service.
• The decision to discontinue CPR/first aid can be made only by authorized health services staff or the ambulance service.

Here I can only wonder why “whiteshirts” were making decisions they were not authorized to make. “Blueshirts” overrode the commissioner’s directive as well. Insubordination and insanity.

Any poor “blueshirt” or guard who can read or remember must have been pacing frantically at watching Ashley choke when we consider the following directives.

• Initiation of CPR by non-health services staff is not required in the following situations:
• Decapitation (i.e. the complete severing of the head from the remainder of the body)

Correctional officers must be known to be overzealous in administering life saving measures if they have to be formally called off when a head is not attached to a body. The correctional officers outside Ashley’s cell must have been convulsing with compassion when they could see she was not dismembered. “But Boss, her head is still on.”

Another instance that does not necessitate CPR is:

• Decomposition (i.e. condition of decay, deterioration, disintegration of the body)

This directive has a place in a correctional setting considering the care many inmates receive. One would assume that an ordinary citizen wouldn’t require i.e. and an explanation of decapitation or decomposition but apparently correctional officers are so thorough in their first aid they need “too far gone” spelled out.
Only in a correctional setting where charges are checked every 20 minutes could one find a corpse in a state of decomposition. “But Boss, I counted him for the past three weeks.”

Considering these directives it seems incomprehensible that Ashley Smith was watched by corrections officers as she choked to death. How is it that when she fell unconscious with her head attached and in no way decomposing no one intervened? It seems ironic that inmates are in these facilities for not following written rules but those who are charged with assisting and encouraging offenders to become law-abiding citizens can pick and choose or even fabricate their own. In Ashley’s case the result was both sadistic and sad.

http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/plcy/cdshtm/800-cde-eng.shtml

Cicadas

With this heat wave the Cicadas have been screaming somewhere in my vicinity. They are an interesting insect. In some varieties the nymphs burrow into the ground for two to five years, some even seventeen years. They all come out like the Pied Piper was leading them somewhere. Their predators don’t have a life-cycle that coincides with theirs so they can survive to serenade you and me. I remember listening to them when I was in the hospital. My friend Ed informed me of their significance. Like insects our dark moments can be a prelude to a metamorphosis.

Off and on I spent a couple of decades in a darkness not of my own choosing. None of it seemed natural but possibly it was. I wasn’t joined by droves in similar circumstances. Had I been a Cicada I might have taken comfort in the fact that there were others buried with me. It often seemed to be just Ed and myself. I can’t argue that it was a prelude to something better.

Some of what I lost needed to be lost. When we are stripped of most of what we recognize, we are in fact given a gift. When we emerge we have the unique ability to make choices. As I was left with little I could choose once again what to fill my life with; I had the freedom to metamorphosize though many other freedoms were denied. I chose to surround myself with better people and undertake things that provided personal meaning. Hopefully my acts are less self-centered than they once were. I am more conscious than I ever was and attempt to occupy myself with endeavors that also benefit others. My bank account reflects this but money can sometimes be difficult to emerge from itself. Migrating from purchase to purchase can be like standing still. When you are beneath the “material” there is no view and subsequently little perspective.

I’m not sure I feel like something singing from a tree but I do not feel buried. To be embedded in turmoil and pain can seem like a curse in the moment. When I was able to emerge I cannot put into words how sweet even the air was. I was able to see and experience things I was unable to before. I remember my first trip into London after several years from home. The skyline was like New York, I was in awe and inspired. Obviously I wasn’t given much of a different view. Some of the people and places in my life were exactly the same as before I was submerged. In some strange fashion I did metamorphosize and in doing so I gained a perspective that was quite different. Some of my life is like getting a new television. The channels may be the same but the picture is a welcome improvement.

When you can’t see your children for over a decade every child you see reminds you of your loss. On some of my weekly passes I came into contact with a relative’s daughter who was the same age as mine. I had no idea what my daughter might even look like. In my sadness I was still able to share my life with this individual as I would have had she been my own daughter. Like the song says “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” We often don’t get the opportunities we would choose but we are given opportunities.

I could easily stare at the Hole I emerged from. I could curse the sky for what I lost and endured but that would only cloud what I have gained. I would not have a song to offer if I considered what I now have as second rate. I wouldn’t have chosen some of the people who are in my life but now that the choice is mine again I would not trade a single one.

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