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Them Today, Us Tommorrow

"In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn't speak because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me - and by that time no one was left to speak up."

--Pastor Martin Niemoller

The position of this newsletter is that divisions within the prison populations on the basis of crime (or offense) makes our captor's job of oppressing us a lot easier. The point we want to get across here is that what they do to the sex offender today they will be doing to you tomorrow. We also want to give you a peek at how Canadian prisoners have dealt with this issue, so you can decide if you want to follow their example. Let's start with a little local history.

About five years ago a bill was introduced into the Washington legislature to reinstate post-release supervision for sex offenders sentenced under the SRA (this state's new determinate sentencing scheme). A pitiful few of us advocated a campaign to resist the new form of parole. "To hell with the rapos," people said. Today that post-release supervision includes just about everyone sentenced under the SRA.

Couple years later and another bill is introduced that would limit sex offenders to only 15% of their good time, and it too passes without opposition. Surprise! Effective July 1, 1990, a new law will restrict good time in the same way for whole categories of violent offenders.

The last session of the legislature passed a bill into law that authorizes the civil commitment of violent sex offenders even after they have served all of their time. There was no interest on the inside in opposing this bill either. In about a month a 36-bed facility will be opened at Monroe to house sex offenders who have been subjected to civil commitment. And the beat goes on...

If you think Washington's prisoners are messed up in the area of offense discrimination, you must take a peek at the mess created by Canadian prisoners in their approach to sex offenders.

"Sixteen years ago," writes Canadian prisoner William Makey in the recent issue of Prison Journal (#8), "was the first time I heard about guys in protective custody - twenty or so out of a thousand federal prisoners in B.C. By 1978, there were 1,000 federal prisoners doing their time in protective custody units (PCUs) - roughly ten percent of the total federal prison population across Canada. Today nearly half of the (B.C.) prison population is housed in PCUs.

Charles Berg, writing in the same issue of the Journal, places responsibility for this situation on prison administrators. "Before the present split between General Population and PC," he says, "the division was between prisoners and staff; and the inmates made up a community of their own within each prison. In order to break this up, staff adopted the time-honored policy of divide and conquer; namely, segregate certain inmates and get the two groups fighting between themselves. The advent of PC status accomplished this."

In today's Canada rapists (or "skinners" as they are called) and other sex offenders are not permitted in the general population. Their fellow prisoners check them in with this result: "The degree of prison disturbances in the 1980s is almost minimal when compared to... the previous decade, when the protection policy was just beginning." Mackey, supra.

One can get a sense of the intensity of feeling around this subject through the words of Erle MaCaulay, a Canadian prisoner who believe the current method of dealing with sex offenders is just fine. "those convicted of committing acts of sexual violence against women and children are not permitted in the General Population of any worth prison...We prisoners refuse to be classified alongside these State-created and cultured abominations. We refuse to share anything with them. They are not prisoners." Journal #8.

We do not pretend to have any answer to the problem of protective custody. Our concern is one of how our populations are relating to sex offenders, not PC residents. Are we going to blindly stumble down the dead end path taken by our comrades in the Canadian prisons, until we can't do anything but fight each other? Let's hope not.

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